Born to immigrant parents, his father was crippled by strikebreakers trying to gain rights for his fellow factory workers and uphold the principles of democracy. On his death bed, Shen's father urged his son to fight for the American dream.
Ran Shen became a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and quickly climbed the agency's ladder, competing with Nick Fury as the number one spy in the organization for their time. Very few people in S.H.I.E.L.D. knew of his existence.
In 1966, when tasked to bring in former Nazi scientists the Hitzigs, creators of the Alchemy formula and former associates of Arnim Zola. Shen was up against the very best of Soviet Russia and Hydra.
After infiltrating Hydra's castle hideout to free the scientists, he and Nick Fury were ambushed by the Winter Soldier. He grew close to Mila Hitzig on the closed train to West Berlin and talked of the realities of the world, their pasts, and the impact that the Alchemy formula could have.
The jealous Peter Hitzig, having contacted Hydra, came in on them and tried to take his wife away before Hydra showed up to reclaim them. Lead by the unstable Norwegian super agent called the Drain, who influenced many passengers to commit suicide, Hydra agents tried to kill Shen and the newly arrived Winter soldier.
After forcing Peter Hitzig to kill himself, the Drain tried to leave with Mila Hitzig, who was revealed to be the true creator of the Alchemy formula. Though Mila was freed by Shen, they and the Winter Soldier had to evacuate from the train after the bomb Hydra prepared went off in the engine.
With an awakened Winter Soldier and Mila, Ran hid out in a valley in the Nosvekistani Mountains trying to figure out what to do with a fully cognizant Bucky and a reticent Mila. They formed a plan that would get both Shen's new lover and new friend Bucky out from the pursuing Soviet forces. However, Shen was injured while Fury acted on orders to kill the scientists if he could not retrieve them, orders Shen had ignored, and destroyed the helicopter they were escaping on unknowingly killing Mila and sending the Winter Soldier back into the clutches of the Soviets.
After this traumatizing mission, he was selected to infiltrate China and sidle up with Mao to get information on their activities as a deep cover spy. While he successfully became a confident of Mao, he would also become head of the Sholin Scientist Squad. This angered Mao, who would strip him of his rank and exile him. Shen, having spent his undercover years formulating his new philosophy, knew what he had to do.
War with the West
On January 30, 1968 (the Chinese New Year), Ran was on Mount Everest where he awakened the spirit of what appeared to be a Makluan called Nian. The Dragon pierced Ran's chest with its claw giving him the power to fulfill his wishes.
Shen showed up years later calling himself the Iron Nail, and presumably released former super-soldier Nuke into Eastern Europe, to attack individual countries he perceived as enemies of America and to also have him engage the heroes Captain America and Falcon.
After Steve and Sam arrested Nuke to interrogate him, Ran literally blew up Nuke, destroying the S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Helicarrier where Nuke was imprisoned and killing several agents. As he proceeded with his plan, Ran freed Dr. Mindbubble from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s prison and went on to activate Gungnir, an enormous robot weapon, trying to erase Nrosvekistan and start a new World War. Captain America, alongside Jet, fought him and Mindbubble, who was defeated.
Then, after engaging a short fight with Zola's daughter, Ran started fighting Cap: Steve, as Maria Hill suggested, was trying to arrive to Gungnir's Core, as the only way to stop the robot was destroying its source of energy. Shen fought to stop Rogers since that would ruin his plan to shame the United States of America.
With his power, Ran completely drained Cap's Super-Soldier Serum from Steve's body, but the American hero still succeeded destroying the core thanks to a miraculous shield throw. A bit disappointed about his failure, Shen was happy anyway because he had finally neutralized Captain America and shown him the secret tyranny of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Engulfed in the flames of the Core's explosion, Ran Shen died screaming Mila's name saying that he had done all that he could to bring down S.H.I.E.L.D.
Thanks to the blessing of the Nian, Ran Shen gained several abilities all emanating from the hole in his chest.
- Dragon form: Can transform into a humanoid dragon. This seems to happen through the hole that the Nian pierced in his chest which allows the covering to envelop his body and transform him into a humanoid dragon.
- Tentacles: From this wound, he is also able to fire darts that can neutralize both the Super-Soldier Serum and the Infinity Formula, and produce darts that can replicate their effects.
Full S.H.I.E.L.D. training and experience; once considered on par with Nick Fury
- Was able to hold to gather and lead an international terrorist organization
Mechanical Bronze Dragon
- After being shot multiple times in the abdomen, Shen took a version of the Infinity Formula that allowed him to completely heal. Whether this is the reason for his long life or the Gifts of the Nian are undetermined.
- As we can see in the Red Skull's dialogue with Arnim Zola during the assault on New York, both him and the scientist knew about Ran Shen's history when the Iron Nail still was Mao's right hand.