Part of the appeal of Marvel’s catalog is the wide range of characters. There is one for every genre. African king who moonlights as a superhero? Black Panther. Cold War secret operative? The Winter Soldier. Badass Kung-Fu fighter? Danny Rand, the Iron Fist. Created in the 70’s, at the height of Kung-Fu fervor, Iron Fist has perpetually been a B, or even C-list character. Like Iron Man before him, that will soon change.
First appearing in Marvel Premire #15 (1974), Iron Fist is the brainchild of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. The hero as a simple, but serviceable background. Danny is the son of Wendell Rand, a wealthy entrepreneur. Wendell was raised in the mystical city of K’un-L’un (no idea how to pronounce it), one of the seven cities of Heaven, appearing on Earth every 10 years. Wendell, as an adult, lead an expedition into the mountains to find the city. He brought his business partner, Harold Meachum, wife Heather, and 9-year-old son, Danny. The family falls, hanging from a ledge. Meachum, in love with Heather, convinces Wendell to kill himself to save his family. Meachum offers to rescue the two, but they refuse. On their own, they discover a rope bridge leading to the city, but are surrounded by wolves. Heather protects Danny, allowing him to reach the city.
Danny is raised in K’un-L’un, training under Lei Kung, the Thunderer. Eventually, Danny earns the right to challenge Shou-Lao the Undying, an actual dragon. Danny wins, obtaining the power of Iron Fist, the Living Weapon. Iron Fist is a line of mystical warriors that are expert martial artists, capable of controlling their chi. They can use their chi to heal, mind meld, and whatever other cool Kung-Fu powers you can imagine (depends on the writer). Most importantly, he can channel his power into his fists, allowing him to strike with superhuman strength, impervious to injury. Hence, Iron Fist.
Danny, after leaving K’un-L’un, and seeking vengeance on Meachum, bummed around for a while, having his own adventures. In an attempt to avoid cancellation, he was partnered with Luke Cage in his book, Power Man, another floundering series. The title was changed to Power Man and Iron Fist, with the supporting cast from both, such as Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, making appearances.
The series changed to Heroes for Hire, featuring the two in A-Team like scenarios where they would help those in need for money, though they often refused payment. At one point, Danny died, but didn’t, and was cloned by Hydra, or something. It doesn’t matter. He’s alive.
Heroes for Hire failed, but not for lack of trying. Marvel tried to revive the series several times. Both Danny and Luke were relegated to background characters, only utilized, sparingly, in Brain Michael Bendis’s Avengers run. When Daredevil’s identity was revealed, Danny took up the role, trying to dupe the public. He was in this guise during Civil War.
Thanks to Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, Iron Fist received an amazing run with The Immortal Iron Fist. This dealt with the lineage of Iron Fist, and a martial arts tournament between the seven cities. It is an amazing run, the best the character has had, which is sad considering his long existence. He was continually utilized by Bendis, but mostly in a supporting role. He hide most of the Avengers, including Hope, during Avengers vs. X-Men, training Hope to become Iron Fist to battle the Phoenix-powered X-Men.
Iron Fist has been on Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Ultimate Spider-Man. He’s made a few game appearances, including Marvel Lego Super Heroes, and will have his own Marvel Studios Netflix series along with Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones.
Iron Fist is the distilment of martial arts action. He’s had difficulty finding success solo because of the niche genre he occupies, or the inability of the writers to capture that essence. There’s proof that it’s possible for Iron Fist to be an A-List character. Hopefully, his series will bolster his popularity.
Love Kung-Fu action? How do you pronounce K’un-L’un? Comment below!
Fast as lightning.