Marvel get its first official Chinese superheroes

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Lin Lie Image copyright NetEase Comics
Image caption Iron Man who? Meet Lin Lie, the star of Warriors of Three Sovereigns

The first ever Chinese superheroes have officially entered the Marvel universe.

Aero and Lin Lie are just two of a batch of Chinese characters making their debut in graphic novels this week.

Co-authored by Marvel and NetEase, one of China’s biggest online comic platforms, they are a clear push by Marvel to attract more fans across the lucrative Chinese market.

We may even see them interacting with Marvel heroes like Hulk and Iron Man.

Who are these new superheroes?

Lin Lie is the main protagonist in one of the new comics, which loosely translates as Warriors of Three Sovereigns.

The story revolves around the 18-year-old boy who picks up an ancient sword to fight against Chiyou – a reincarnated villain intent on destroying mankind.

The second comic, which translates to Cyclone, features Aero also known as Lei Ling – she’s an architect by day, who happens to be able to control air currents.

By night, she uses her superpowers to save her city from various villains.

Image copyright NetEase Comics
Image caption Aero, known also by her Chinese name Lei Ling, is able to control air currents

Will we see them alongside classic Marvel characters?

There’s no official confirmation, but if you look closely there’s an Easter egg in the first issue of the Warriors of Three Sovereigns – a picture of Iron Man’s mask can be seen in Lin Lie’s room.

A sign Tony Stark and his Avenger colleagues could show up some time?

Image copyright NetEase Comics
Image caption Spot the Easter egg?

How did the collaboration come about?

Marvel first announced last year that it would be working with NetEase – one of China’s biggest gaming and tech companies – to create its first ever Chinese superheroes.

Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief CB Cebulski had then said to AFP that the superheroes would be “heavily based on Chinese culture and mythology, but set in the modern world”.

But it isn’t just the superheroes that are Chinese. Artists and story writers from China were also heavily involved in bringing the creation to life.

Image copyright NetEase
Image caption Some of the other characters in the “Cyclone” comics are also visually stunning

Economically, the collaboration makes a lot of sense – Marvel has a huge fan base in China.

“It’s a way to help Marvel reach more of the China market,” Robert Koepp, director of the Economist Corporate Network told the BBC. “Disney [who own Marvel] must think there is a lot of untapped market potential [in China].”

And the fans also translate into real life. On Weibo, China’s biggest social media site, Marvel’s page has more than 3.5 million fans.

How has reception been?

Pretty good. Warriors of Three Sovereigns has already been read more than two million times since its release. Cyclone just in at just under 750,000 on NetEase.

“We finally have Chinese superheroes,” said one commenter on NetEase. “We’ve made it.”

“Maybe one day they’ll be able to fight alongside The Avengers,” another added.

For now, the comics are only available in Chinese and on NetEase’s Comics website – the online comic platform, which already hosts other Marvel comics including Captain America and Spiderman.

According to a statement by NetEase, the characters are meant to appeal to more than just a Chinese audience, with the company saying it hoped they would “promote the diversity of the Marvel universe.”

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