Based on an unreleased comic book series and story created by Marvel maven Lee and Graphic India co-founder and CEO Devarajan, the film will follow New York City archeologist Li Yong who discovers an ancient prophecy about the Chinese legend of The Monkey King that brings him to India where he uncovers a hidden power that transforms him into a modern-day superhero – the Monkey Master.
In 2016, Lee had discussed “Monkey Master,” saying: “I have always been fascinated by the Chinese and Indian cultures which are so philosophical and rich in tradition and morality. I’ve written countless superheroes of every nationality and every part of the world before, I’ve even created many heroes from other planets and galaxies, but ‘Monkey Master’ will be unique in how it interweaves myth to create a modern day hero that will entertain fans across the world with his martial arts skills and unstoppable super-powers.”
Lee and Devarajan previously collaborated on Indian superhero project “Chakra: The Invincible,” which spawned graphic novels and three films. Woo and Devarajan will serve as producers for the adaptation along with Gill Champion, POW! Entertainment president and Lee’s longtime business partner, and Lori Tilkin, head of production at Woo’s Los Angeles-based A Better Tomorrow Films.
“I have always wanted to make a film based on the Monkey King story of China but have struggled with a new way to present it,” said Woo, who is renowned for his Hollywood and Chinese blockbusters including “Face-Off,” “Mission Impossible 2” and “Red Cliff” and has a cult following for his Hong Kong action films like “Hard Boiled,” “A Better Tomorrow” and “The Killer.”
“The story by Stan Lee was such a unique version of it that incorporated the mythological characters unexplored journey to India and had all the elements I enjoy in filmmaking – great characters, action, and adventure. I am excited to work with Sharad and Gill to bring Stan’s vision for this new superhero character to the screen.”
Lee sold POW! to Chinese company Camsing International in 2017, but subsequently claimed that he had been tricked into selling more than he bargained for. He dropped that case in July 2018, a few months before his death in November 2018. There was a subsequent lawsuit actioned by daughter J.C. Lee to recover Lee’s IP, but that case was dismissed by a California judge in June 2020.
Camsing has been in turmoil since the arrest in Shanghai of its chairwoman Lo Ching in July 2019 on unrelated matters. Camsing has changed its name to MH Development and remains listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. In the six months to December it reported revenue of just $2.06 million from POW!.
Lee’s characters, spanning the Marvel universe and beyond, have previously generated over $32 billion at the global box office.
“Stan Lee was a mentor and friend who was one of the most influential creators of the twentieth century. His characters are the modern mythologies of our time, transcending nations and culture and speaking to us in the primal language of human imagination,” said Devarajan.
Champion said: “’Monkey Master’ is an exciting superhero adventure that will capture the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide.”