The last of Netflix’s Marvel adaptations before The Defenders finally arrived in the shape of Iron Fist, featuring Finn Jones as Danny Rand, the titular hero, returned to reclaim his place in his father’s business empire after being thought dead for years. However, Rand has used his time away to become a martial arts expert who can channel his ‘chi’ (life-force) into his hand until it becomes a thing of iron! If some of this sounds a tad familiar then it was ‘’homaged’’ in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, but then again that’s similar to Green Arrow’s origin, or is it The Shadow’s or Amazing Man? That’s the thing, there’s a small pool for superhero comics to draw upon.
Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Iron Fist was designed to cash in on the 1970’s kung fu craze (Marvel also had their Master of Kung Fu title) , and although the Netflix series is being accused of ‘’whitewashing’’, it’s only adapting the source material which as pointed out, is only copying what is a common type of origin on comics. First appearing in Marvel Premiere #15 in 1974 the character was given a run in what was then Marvel’s main try-out comic which gave new, or minor characters a chance to prove they were worthy (sales wise) of having their own series. Iron Fist proved he was and launched into his own 15 issue run written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne in a run that pre-dated their seminal X-Men run. After this run, Iron Fist drifted around the Marvel Universe before being linked up with Luke Cage, another character created to cash in on 70’s exploitation films. Power Man and Iron Fist proved to be a smallish cult hit and lasted until issue 125 where writer Jim Owsley killed Iron Fist off in a shocking final issue.
Of course this being superhero comics Iron Fist didn’t stay dead for long and by the early 90’s he was back in various Marvel titles but was never really more than one of Marvel’s ‘’C-list’ characters. Sure Marvel tried to do something with him, but various attempts were poorly received so Iron Fist started cropping up in team books; a sure sign a company doesn’t know what to do with a character who isn’t selling a book by themselves but is still cultish enough to draw an audience.
That changed with 2007’s The Immortal Iron Fist written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker with art from David Aja and Travel Foreman. It may only have lasted 27 issues but it changed the perception of the character and provided Danny Rand with the first critically acclaimed run since Claremont and Byrne 30 years previously. Sadly cancellation came Iron Fist’s way again, and another Power Man and Iron Fist title appeared for a short time before Iron Fist: The Living Weapon put Danny Rand in another solo title which again, was short lived before yet another Power Man and Iron Fist title which so far, hasn’t been cancelled. There’s also a new ongoing Iron Fist solo title to cash in on the Netflix series.
So that’s Iron Fist. A character created to cash in on a passing fad that has stumbled through highs and lows for over 40 years and is now enjoying his own Netflix series, and I imagine, another flurry of cancellations not to mention other lows and highs for as long as the character maintains a level of popularity, cult or otherwise.