I first encountered Marvel’s Iron Fist character several years ago while randomly browsing my local comic shop. I saw the cover of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story graphic novel, turned a few pages and decided to give it a shot. Before too much longer, I was borderline obsessed with the guy—I read the entire Immortal Iron Fist run, started collecting old back issues from the 70s and 80s, and even wore an Iron Fist costume to a costume party. (Side note: I got a lot of weird looks that night.)
I’m not exactly sure what it is about Iron Fist that I liked so much. I think part of it is that he has always been such a forgotten character. Everyone knows Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four … but Iron Fist? He’s a largely unknown dude, and something about that has always to me. I suspect it’s the same reason I was drawn to B- and C-level WWF wrestlers in the 80s or why my favorite baseball players as a kid were never the superstars.
Now, though, the iron cat is officially out of the bag. Netflix’s Iron Fist show debuts in March and a whooooooooole lot more people are going to know who he is. I’m a huge fan of Netflix’s Marvel programming, especially both seasons of Daredevil, and I’m hopeful they can finally make Iron Fist a popular, well-known character. Before that, though, I thought I’d share a few random tidbits about the man, the myth, the superhero from K’un-Lun: Iron Fist.
1. Iron Fist’s origin story is bizarre and convoluted—but it’s also awesome.
Batman watched someone murder his parents at a young age. Superman crashed on Earth in a tiny rocketship and was found by a loving family in Kansas. The X-Men, well, they were all just born different, OK? Iron Fist’s origin is … well, it’s a little more complex. I hope you’re comfortable, because this will take a while …
Danny Rand’s father, Wendell Rand, once discovered a magical, mythical city called K’un Lun. Wendell eventually left K’un Lun, went back home and became extremely wealthy and successful. Years later, Wendell became obsessed with finding K’un Lun again and he took his wife and young son, Danny, along on a long expedition to find it. Wendell also brought his business associate, Harold, along for the trip—and then Harold killed Wendell when they were out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by deep snow. (I warned you this was convoluted, didn’t I? We’re not done yet, folks.)
Danny’s mother ran from Harold and took young Danny with her, but she was soon—wait for it—eaten by wolves while trying to protect her son. At that point, the people of K’un Lun saved Danny and took him to their home. Danny learned martial arts in K’un Lun and became one of the greatest warriors they had ever had. Eventually, it was his turn to attempt the impossible and fight Shou-Lao the Undying, a big ol’ dragon that lived on the top of a mountain in K’un Lun. Nobody thought he had a chance, but Danny defeated the dragon, earning the powers of the Iron Fist and gaining a wicked tattoo on his chest. Boom! Long story, right? And that’s not even all of it, but I think you get the idea.
The first step of Danny’s journey usually shown in comics is when he leaves K’un Lun and goes back home to reclaim his family’s fortune. Judging by the trailer, that’s exactly when the Netflix TV series will begin, though I’m sure we’ll get plenty of flashbacks along the way.
It’s also worth noting that the TV show appears to change the origin up a bit. The trailer seems to indicate that, in the show, a plane crash was responsible for the death of at least one of his parents. It’s honestly hard to fault Netflix there … a plane crash would speed up the story a bit, and nobody wants to sit there and watch wolves eat Danny’s mom.
2. Want to read some Iron Fist comics? Read The Immortal Iron Fist series from the 2000s first.
I should first point out that Iron Fist was created by Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane, two legendary comic creators, in 1974. The character debuted in Marvel Premiere before eventually getting his own book. Those early issues feature enjoyable, straightforward stories that occasionally feature appearances from bigger names such as Iron Man and Captain America. The legendary Len Wein wrote some of those issues as well.
If you’re new to the character, though, I have to recommend that the first Iron Fist issues you read are The Immortal Iron Fist series, which ran from 2006 to 2009.
Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s The Immortal Iron Fist is phenomenal from beginning to end. It did for Iron Fist what Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil run did for that character, but it’s even more impressive because Daredevil was still fairly popular when Bendis and Maleev took over. Iron Fist, meanwhile, was so obscure that many readers likely thought he was just a brand new character.
The Immortal Iron Fist ran for about three years. Fraction and Aja did most of the heavy lifting before handing it over to writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Travel Foreman for a while. It’s primarily the story of Danny Rand, with cameos from other characters avid comic readers may recognize, but it also goes in surprising amount of new directions, introducing new characters and concepts to the Iron Fist mythos. The writers introduce fascinating warriors with names like Fat Cobra and Bride of Nine Spiders, and you also meet several other Iron Fists who have lived over the years. That’s right, friends—other Iron Fists! It turns out that there have been many others who faced Shou-Lao the Undying and lived to tell the tale. Cool, right? Right!
David Aja’s art early on in the series is also worth mentioning. He and Fraction worked together on an excellent Hawkeye series a few years back, and The Immortal Iron Fist is where they first joined forces. I didn’t always love all of the backup artists they brought in, but when Aja was the man drawing those pages, it always looked exceptional. The way he drew the book’s many fight scenes was incredible, and he could turn around and draw funny, more lighthearted moments as well.
3. Iron Fist and Power Man are best friends forever and ever. They always have been and they always will be.
In the 70s, both Iron Fist and Power Man had their own solo series, but neither book was selling very well. Luckily, instead of canceling both, Marvel decided to put the two characters together and see what would happen. Iron Fist was introduced to Power Man’s series in Power Man 48. Then, when issue No. 50 came out, the book was officially changed to Power Man and Iron Fist. The series lasted 50 more issues before officially being cancelled, and those 50 issues featured the duo starting their own business, Heroes for Hire, and pretty much being the two best pals in the whole world.
The two heroes have remained connected ever since. Power Man will show up in Iron Fist comics, Iron Fist will show up in Power Man comics, and so on. And now that they both have their own Netflix shows, and are scheduled to unite in The Defenders, one has to imagine we might just get a Power Man and Iron Fist show instead of Luke Cage season 2 or Iron Fist season
4. Iron Fist once patrolled the streets of Hell’s Kitchen posing as Daredevil.
It’s true! That legendary Daredevil run I mentioned earlier ended with (spoiler alert, I guess) Daredevil behind bars. And while he was in jail, Danny Rand put on the red outfit to help keep Hell’s Kitchen safe. I admit that this isn’t necessarily a crucial fact, but I think it’s fascinating. So now you know!
5. Netflix’s Iron Fist will not be the character’s first TV appearance.
Did you know there’s a cartoon called Ultimate Spider-Man? Well, there is! It’s on Disney XD and is actually very good. Anyway, the show gives us a young Spider-Man who is still in high school. He takes orders from Nick Fury and is joined by some other young heroes: Iron Fist, Power Man, White Tiger and Nova. It’s a bit random, sure, but I was just excited to see an animated Iron Fist running around on my TV screen.
He also had a brief cameo in The Super Hero Squad Show, another cartoon aimed at young kids. When my daughter was 3 or 4, we watched a lot of that show together, and I only caught Iron Fist one time, but he was definitely there. And he was with Power Man!