Enter the iron dragon: Iron Fist turns 50 this year and is still kicking on

He may not have his own show right now, but there’s a reason why Iron Fist has been around for 50 years now.

My first encounter with Daniel Thomas “Danny” Rand aka Iron Fist was through the pages of Marvel Team Up #63 (published in 1977), where he teamed up with Spider-Man to battle his arch nemesis, Steel Serpent.

In that “Night Of The Dragon” two-parter, which was presented by Chris Claremont and John Byrne (the same creative team behind the X-Men’s 1980 success), I learned about Iron Fist’s origin, the source of his strength, his rivalry with Steel Serpent and his inter-racial relationship with Misty Knight. In between all this, somehow the idea of a white man martial artist was purely fascinating.

While Shang Chi aka Master Of Kung Fu (Dec 1973) predates Iron Fist by a few months (May 1974), I attribute it to Iron Fist’s creative team for making him a more interesting character. The same cannot be said today, as one has had a reasonably successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) outing, while the other’s TV series barely scraped through two seasons on Netflix.

Shang Chi and Danny comparisons aside, today is about paying tribute to the latter’s 50th anniversary. Despite no MCU movie prospect (yet), Iron Fist – the character and the concept – has a lot of potential to cultivate and we will dissect them today.

Iron Fist made his debut 50 years ago in Marvel Premiere #15.Iron Fist made his debut 50 years ago in Marvel Premiere #15.

Marvel-lous Premiere

Co-created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Iron Fist debuted in Marvel Premiere #15. Thomas explained that Iron Fist’s origin and creation is inspired by a 1930s character – John Aman aka the Amazing Man, who was created by the legendary Bill Everett.

The name “Iron Fist” was picked up from a Hong Kong kungfu flick titled King Boxer aka Five Fingers Of Death (1972), which presented the Iron Fist technique. The dragon brand on Iron Fist’s chest was inspired by a Jack Kirby-Joe Simon western character named Bullseye.

Hence, with this “fusion” mix of inspiration, it certainly led to a lot of expectations (and confusion) in Iron Fist’s five-decade long comic book career.

Iron Fist made the Marvel Premiere title his “home” for 11 issues (#15-#25) before earning his own solo title, which lasted 15 issues. For me that run is Danny’s defining moment as his path crossed with many key Marvel stakeholders, i.e. the X-Men, Sabretooth, Captain America and Iron Man.

Sins of the father

Daniel’s dad (Wendell) once lived in the fabled city of K’un-Lun, until he was cast out and went to become a successful businessman in the United States. Wendell married a socialite (Heather) and they were gifted with Daniel. Longing to return to K’un-Lun, which was only accessible from Earth through an inter-dimensional nexus that opened once every 10 years, Wendell brought his family and his business partner (Harold Meachum).

The journey proved treacherous to the family as Wendell plunged to his death, an accident orchestrated by Harold, who revealed his long-time crush over Heather. Preferring to take their chances with a pack of wolves than accept Harold’s olive branch, Heather succumbed to the predators, but Daniel managed to find refuge in K’un-Lun.

Iron Fist 2Iron Fist 2

The kid from K’un-Lun

At K’un-Lun, Daniel became an apprentice to the martial arts master Lei Kung the Thunderer. Despite the rigorous training, Rand unlocked a few achievements by the age of 16, including earning the Crown of Fu-Hsi, becaming king of the vipers, vanquishing four foes in the ritualistic Challenge of the Many, and more.

At 19, Daniel was given the opportunity to gain the power of the Iron Fist, by battling a fire-breathing serpent, aka Shou-Lao the Undying. During the battle, Daniel won by hugging the serpent’s body and imprinting a dragon-shaped scar on his chest. That move killed the serpent and to complete the ritual, Daniel plunged his hands into a brazier containing Shou-Lao’s molten heart, thus earning him the “Iron Fist” title.

Prioritising revenge over a career in K’un-Lun, Daniel returned to the US to kill Harold. To his disappointment, what awaited him was a Harold who was incapacitated, having succumbed to severe frostbite during the K’un-Lun trip.

Daniel took pity on him and spared him, but Harold was later assassinated by a ninja – a crime that was initially pinned on Daniel, but which he eventually solved, thus clearing his name.

Iron Fist and Power Man is one of Marvel’s more recognisable team-ups over the years.Iron Fist and Power Man is one of Marvel’s more recognisable team-ups over the years.

Hero for hire

On paper, Iron Fist is one character who is strong enough to physically take on any Grade A character and heavy hitter. However, this wasn’t enough to ignite readers’ interest.

To overcome this, Iron Fist has been paired or inducted into many teams, with the most “interesting” (though not most successful) one being with Luke Cage aka Power Man.

Together with Cage, they started “Heroes For Hire” agency, which also included the Daughters of the Dragon duo (i.e. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing). Additionally, Iron Fist has been in the Avengers, New Avengers, Defenders, Immortal Weapons, the Thunderbolts and was even Daredevil’s “body double” for a while.

Danny has been part of the Avengers as well as a few other Marvel teams as well.Danny has been part of the Avengers as well as a few other Marvel teams as well.

Irony of the fist

Hardcore fans of Iron Fist would concur that the stupidest thing concerning the character was his senseless and shocking “death” in the last issue (#125) of the Power Man And Iron Fist series, in which a lethargic Iron Fist took a nap and was accidentally clobbered to death by Captain Hero, who merely wanted to wake Iron Fist up!

Half a decade later, John Byrne “resurrected” Iron Fist (via the pages of Namor The Sub-Mariner #21–25) by revealing that it was not Danny who died but a doppelganger.

Fist of firsts

Danny’s definitely the only Marvel character who has mastered all of K’un-Lun’s martial arts, plus multiple fighting styles from Earth, i.e. Shaolin Kung Fu, Judo, Fujian White Crane, Karate, Muay Thai. Ninjutsu, Wushu and even Wing Chun (thoughts of a showdown with Ip Man is a no-brainer).

He also holds the “record” of having the first interracial kiss in comic books, as well as being part of the first long-term interracial couple, and the first couple with an age difference in which the woman was older than her man ... all with Misty Knight.

Lin Lie has been the Iron Fist, replacing Danny, since 2022 (Iron Fist (Vol. 7).Lin Lie has been the Iron Fist, replacing Danny, since 2022 (Iron Fist (Vol. 7).

Not the only one

Daniel is not the first nor the last Iron Fist, as there are others – Fan Fei (circa 1,000,000 BC), Li Park (730 AD), Gale (11th century), Wu Ao-Shi (16th century) Bei Bang-Wen (19th century), Kwai Jun-Fan (19th century), Orson Randall (20th century), Wah Sing-Rand (31st century), and Lin Lie, who has replaced Danny since 2022 (Iron Fist (Vol. 7).

The long alumni list proves the opportunities and versatility of the Iron Fist “franchise”. Hence, don’t be surprised if Marvel circles back and decides to finally grant him another chance in the MCU.

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Marvel Comics , Iron Fist


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