With ‘Endgame,’ Chinese Superfans Renew a Love Affair With Marvel

Some watch it for the thrills. Others say it gives them a fresh view on identity and gender.

BEIJING — It’s close to midnight on April 23, and the entrance hall of Sanlitun District’s underground Megabox cinema is noisy and packed. Under brightly colored screens, visitors armed with popcorn, soda, and coffee pose for pictures besides life-size statues of Iron Man and Ant-Man.

They’re about to watch the midnight premiere of “Avengers: Endgame,” the three-hour finale to the Marvel series about Earth’s mightiest superheroes’ battle to save the universe. The blockbuster, which has smashed local records by racking up presale ticket sales totaling 700 million yuan ($104 million), is being released in China two days before the United States.

Fan art of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. Courtesy of Weibo user @阿枫41

“China will be the earliest place in the world to know the ending. It feels so good: I’ll be able to go on foreign websites and spoil the plot for others,” jokes Ling Quan, a 35-year-old IT worker who’s come to Megabox to watch the premiere with his wife. “When the third Avengers movie came out, I had to go to Japan to watch it, because it was released pretty late in China.”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has developed a large and dedicated fan base in China since its first installment, “Iron Man,” was released in 2008. Since then, three of the MCU’s now-22 blockbusters have individually raked in over 1 billion yuan at the domestic box office. When “father of Marvel” Stan Lee passed away in January, an outpouring of grief followed from fans across the country. Beyond gorging on movies and digging into Marvel’s 70-year comic-book archive, China’s Marvel community busies itself creating and sharing fan art, writings, translations, and films. But the franchise is more than just fun: Fans say it offers personal inspiration and has opened the window to fresh perspectives on issues such as identity and gender.

Zhu, a master’s student of translation in Shanghai who declined to give her full name out of privacy concerns, tells Sixth Tone that when she started exploring Marvel, it was the women of the universe who really caught her eye. “I found the women to be strong, and independent! And they weren’t in the slightest bit shy in the presence of their male co-heroes … I was instantly drawn in,” she says, adding that these superwomen — in particular Captain Marvel — stand in stark contrast to the gentle and docile female characters found in traditional Chinese culture. Continue to read the full article here.


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.