Chinese superheroes Sword Master and Aero join the fight against evil in Marvel universe
Comic franchise teams up with internet technology giant NetEase in bid to build brand in East Asia
The first ever Chinese superheroes created by the Marvel franchise made their online debuts this week on the website of NetEase, one of China’s leading internet technology companies.
Sword Master and Aero are the central characters in two new online comics designed to attract more fans in China and across East Asia. The former made his debut on Wednesday, while the latter made hers the following day, both on 163.com.
While the pair exist in the modern world and their storylines are heavily influenced by Chinese culture, they will also interact with other characters from the Marvel universe, NetEase said in a statement.
That fantasy world is home to such globally recognised names as Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk, to name but three.
NetEase and Marvel signed a deal to create the characters last year, and worked together closely on their development.
“The world views of the Chinese superheroes, their design and story development were all discussed by both parties,” the statement said.
But, significantly for local audiences, although Marvel editors were responsible for vetting designs and storylines, the original artwork for Sword Master and Aero, as well as their environments and adventures were conceived by Chinese artists, it said.
“So it’s fair to say they are Marvel’s first official Chinese superheroes.”
In the Sword Master comics, the leading character is a young man called Lin Lie, who is given an ancient sword by his archaeologist father who found it while excavating a 5,000-year-old tomb.
The weapon had once been owned by one of the three Chinese emperors alive at the time and Lin uses it to battle Chiyou – a reincarnated villain from the imperial period intent on destroying humankind.
Many of the characters depicted in the stories are taken from or influenced by genuine Chinese folklore and legends.
Aero lives in a contemporary Chinese city, the landscape of which bears more than a passing resemblance to Shanghai, including its landmark buildings such as the Oriental Pearl Tower.
The leading character is an architect whose “other job” is using her superpower – the ability to harness the power of the air – to save her city from assorted bad guys and villains.
The two comics are currently available only via NetEase, but the partners plan to launch them at a later date in the United States.
In his online review of the superheroes’ first adventures, a Chinese fan said he enjoyed both comics as they were “dotted with traditional Chinese elements”.
“It’s very interesting,” he said, though added that he liked Sword Master more than Aero.