In early July, Marvel Studios put out a casting call for a Mandarin-speaking actress to portray a character codenamed “Jin” for an untitled animated project. The synopsis for the project sets up the project as one in which “a secret society of humanoid aliens living on earth dispatches a team of spies across the world to collect a series of missing artifacts that threaten to influence mankind…” Marvel Studios has several animated projects in development such as X-Men ’97, Marvel Zombies and Spider-Man: Freshmen Year, but this synopsis does not seem to overlap with anything already known about those series. If that is the case, this casting call is the first indication that the studio has yet another production in the works and one that may have already started production. Taking a little closer look at the information that’s been made available and following and admittedly single-minded line of thought, it’s possible to connect the dots and wonder if Marvel Studios may just be making an animated Ten Rings prequel series for Disney Plus.
It’s worth noting that the casting call for “Jin” specified that the role was for the third episode in the series that would start in late July or early August, meaning it’s very likely they’ve already begun work on at least the first episode. If that’s the case, it’s totally possible that this series could be among the projects discussed during Marvel Studios’ first ever animation panel at SDCC on Friday, July 21st. So, right or wrong, speculation on the nature of the series could be short-lived.
The origin of the Ten Rings was left intentionally vague during the opening of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. By the end of the film, the audience only really knows that they are really powerful artifacts that are almost certainly alien in nature. Where they came from or how they got to Earth is left entirely unclear. In the comics, however, their origin is very clear and leads to the first clue that this animated series COULD explore how they came to be on Earth in the MCU. The synopsis mentions “a secret society of humanoid aliens living on earth” which ties nicely into the origin of the rings in the comics.
Retconned a few times over the decades, the story of how the ten rings arrived on Earth has always had one constant: a shape-shifting alien race known as the Makulans. Mostly known for being the race of Fin Fang Foom, Makulans are actually humanoid shape-shifters some of whom came to Earth at some point before the 8th century. Using their shape-shifting abilities, they infiltrated Chinese society with hopes over eventually conquering the planet. One of their number, Fin Fang Foom, voluntarily went into stasis, where he stayed for…a really long time. As told in the pages of Tales of Suspense #62, another Makulan, Axonn-Karr, arrived on Earth and, while looking very dragon-y, was attacked and mortally wounded. Karr was later found by The Mandarin, who before he killed him took from him 10 very powerful objects: the ten rings.
The animated series, much like the comics and Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, clearly takes place, at least in part, in China. “Jin” is described as a “Chinese warrior” and “perhaps the best trained martial artist in the world.” Her story begins, it seems, when another character named “Bosco” steals one of the series’ MacGuffin artifacts. With the history of the MCU’s ten rings yet to be revealed, there are plenty of scenarios that could result in the rings being scattered “across the world”, including perhaps different dimensions. For what it’s worth, “Jin” is just as likely to be Wu Ao-Shi, the Immortal Weapon of K’un Lun in the mid-1500s, as anyone else.
It’s possible that this series explores the history of the ten rings a little differently than they have been in the comics. As made clear by the synopsis, these artifacts (if they are the rings) have been scattered across the world. What the series might follow is the series of events that lead to them being collected by Makulans and then hidden away, in a tomb or a cave, BEFORE they are found by Wenwu. Marvel Studios has already shown that a tomb that was marked with the symbol of the Ten Rings organization that held the remains of what appeared to be a dead alien. Who’s to say that’s the only dead alien Wenwu left in the dirt?
Is anything presented above strong enough evidence that this series will tell the story of how the ten rings came to Earth and came to be in Wenwu’s possession? Absolutely not. However, there is one more piece of evidence available that could strengthen the case. The showrunner and executive producer of the series is Marvel Studios’ storyboard artist Todd Harris. Over the past 5 years, Harris has worked on 7 Marvel Studios films including, most recently, Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. It’s possible that during his time on Shang-Chi, Harris worked closely with director Destin Daniel Cretton on developing the backstory for the ten rings and that time spent on the story led to this animated series going into development.
Harris’ involvement doesn’t necessarily make the ten rings a lock to be the “missing artifacts” mentioned in the synopsis. Given the fact that the ten rings are just one of at least two alien artifacts hanging out on Earth (Kamala’s bangle being the other), it’s possible that over the next year or so before this animated series debuts, other alien tech will be uncovered in other projects. Ms. Marvel hinted at at least some level of connectivity to the rings, so maybe, as outlined here, the rings are just one of a group of Phase 4 MacGuffins connected to Variants of Kang. Whatever the case, it won’t be too long before Marvel Studios officially addresses the series and the implications of it.