Along with the recent Black Widow and Loki trailers, fans are looking forward to the marketing campaign for the other 2021 Marvel releases, which includes Eternals, Shang Chi, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now, a recent Funko Pop leak has unveiled a new look at a dragon character from Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings!

The post comes from Twitter user @SCBRMidia, and gives us an interesting look at the dragon (which is simply called “The Great Protector”), as well as some other characters from the film. The design is similar to what we saw in a previous leak from a Lego set, but gives us a better look at the beast, who sounds more like a good-natured friend than a deadly foe. While the leak obviously doesn’t give us much in the way of plot, we do have an idea of how this “protector” will factor into the film’s story, so get a good look at these pics and then let’s dive in…

During the apocalyptic wasteland that was 2020, fans were able to capture several photographs of one of the biggest set-pieces of the Shang Chi film, which depicted a Chinese town with a large hut surrounded by smaller huts and a massive green screen. A few months later, Murphy’s Multiverse was able to get their hands on the some details surrounding the identity of the site, which they identified as the “Valley of the Sleeping Dragon.” This location first appeared in Iron Man #261, where it was the resting place, not of “The Great Protector”, but of a more sinister dragon known as Fin Fang Foom. In the comics, Foom was a member of the alien species known as the Makluan, which was a race of shape-shifting aliens who came to Earth from the world of Kakaranthara. This species landed in ancient China, where they intended to use their abilities to mimic the human form and blend into mankind’s society before ultimately taking over the world. Foom was the navigator of this species’ spacecraft, and he elected to stay back during the invasion, serving as a failsafe for the Makluan’s evil plan should something go wrong. He went into a deep slumber and was entombed in the Valley of the Sleeping Dragon, to be awakened if the rest of the species ever failed in their mission, which they ultimately did. When the Chinese people discovered his resting place, they assigned a group of elite warriors to guard the beast and keep it asleep lets it’s power be unleashed on the world. This role was passed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years until the modern era, which is where we come in.

As part of their exclusive scoop last year, Murphy’s Multiverse theorized that these elite warriors of the valley may have had their own dragon as well…a dragon that would help them fight off invaders and keep Fin Fang Foom asleep. After all, the warriors in this valley were said to wield shields and weapons made from dragon scales, which would be difficult to harvest from Foom without waking it and unleashing it’s wrath on mankind. If this is true, that friendly dragon just might be the “Great Protector” from these Funko Pop leaks. Perhaps in the MCU, the dragon will be portrayed as one of the Makluan species that decided to betray his alien race and protect humankind, helping them seal away Fin Fang Foom in the Valley of the Sleeping Dragon. While it’s unsure if that is the direction that Kevin Fiege would want to take with the movie, it does offer an explanation for the name of the beast, as well as giving us a nuanced look at dragons within the context of the MCU.

Dragons are obviously highly revered in Chinese culture, and depicting them in this way would showcase them as not only a force for evil, but for potential good as well. Similar to the way that Eternals is giving us a history of ancient cultures within the MCU, Shang Chi could give us an in-universe explanation for the existence of dragons in Chinese lore, as well as throughout the other cultures of the ancient world. It will be interesting to see if the dragons have the ability to shapeshift like they do in the comics however, because that could be seen as too similar to the Skrulls. Instead, I could see the dragons being the original owners of the ten rings that give the Mandarin’s terrorist organization their names. The rings may have been the way that the dragons first came to Earth in ancient times, and how they planned on conquering the planet during their initial invasion. When they were defeated, the rings were passed down by the Chinese people until falling into the hands of the Ten Rings organization. The ownership of these rings could be what’s up for grabs in the massive tournament that we know will be a major plot point of the film…a tournament that is rumored to take place in the Valley of the Sleeping Dragon.

Either way, it looks like dragons will factor heavily into the movie’s plot, which gets us excited no matter how they decide to do it. Here’s to hoping for a trailer in the near future!

Source: Twitter, Murphy’s Multiverse