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Friday, February 26, 2016

From The Vault - Marvel Premiere #15 - First Appearance of Iron Fist

Iron Fist is here!


The Toylab Vault holds a large collection of comic books and every once in a while one is pulled out, and dusted off.  Lets see what secrets it holds...

Published: In May 1974
 Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Gil Kane
Cover/Artist Gil Kane
Inker: Dick Giordana
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino L.P. Gregory
Iron Fist casting is going to be announced soon and there may be some controversy involved.  Iron Fist is a character steeped in Asian culture and folklore but the main Iron Fist (It is a mantle worn by others) Danny Rand is a Caucasian.  There is currently a petition by some Asian groups to make Danny Rand Asian.  For the record there is another Asian character named Shang Chi who is Asian and a kung fu artist but he is perhaps less colorful than Iron Fist.  On the other side of the divide are Iron Fist fans who are attached to the version of Danny Rand that has been depicted in comics for 40 years.  Iron Fist fans also point out that Iron Fist's origin story are about Rand growing up as an orphan in an Asian temple as an outsider.  One of his major enemies is Steelserpent who is Asian and has a beef with an outsider taking the Iron Fist mantle that he sees as rightfully his.  The story really is pretty awesome.  I think the question many are asking is would the story work with say an American Asian who might still be seen as an outsider.  Keep in mind Bruce Lee was treated as outsider in the martial arts community for being 1/4 Caucasian through his mother. Most people look at racism he experienced by Whites in America and forget about the part where he grew up with constant discrimination for not being pure Han Chinese. It would be easy to take that true story and intertwine it into the Iron Fist origin story.  One thing is for sure if Marvel wants to make their heroes more diverse changing Iron Fist into an Asian would add a great Asian character to their universe.

Lets go back and look at the original story.  Luckily, I have a trusty copy of Marvel Premiere #15 on hand.

First friends to understand Iron Fist we must go back in time.  A time before I was born, the 1970s.  What do you know about the 1970s.  Disco?  We are going back before Disco,  Yes before disco my friends there was...

Everyone was Kung Fu Fighting! (1974)

 The early 1970s was the age of Kung Fu in the United States.  This was the era where Kung Fu was king.  There was Bruce Lee tearing up people in Fist of Fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972), Game of Death (1973) and Enter the Dragon (1973).  There was also Kung Fu the TV show with David Carridine.

Marvel sees the Kung Fu craze going on and decides to create some Kung Fu based characters.

The first is Shang Chi created in 1973 by Engelhart and Starlin.  Shang Chi's story is that he is the son of the evil Fu Manchu but decides to become a hero instead.  Shang Chi has some strong Bruce Lee like similarities. About a year later Marvel beefs up their Kung Fu masters further and introduce Iron Fist.  Iron Fist was supposedly based on a character called the Amazing Man.

 The origin of Iron Fist is told through a series of Flashbacks
One thing that I always find interesting about this book and story is that it has aged rather well.  It is a good story and the art / writing from the 70's still hold up today.  A kid today could pick this book up, read it, enjoy it and understand it and that is not always the case.  

Danny Rand's origin is a story similar to many heroes he is an orphan.  Orphans make damn good heroes it seems.   Similar, to Bruce Wayne's origin we learn how his parents died. 

A young Danny Rand, his parents, and Harold Meechum a close family friend are marching through the Himalayas.  Danny's father takes a spill and Harold takes the opportunity to get rid of Sr. Rand by stomping on his hand.  It seems Harold has eyes on Rand's business and his Wife.  In a Darth Vader like moment Harold appeals to Danny's mother to let him help her up.  If you don't do it for yourself do it for the boy he appeals.  Danny's mom is like screw you dude.  Her exact words are "Let my son grow up to kill you with his own two hands --or let him die like his father."  Wowza, those are cold words for a kid to hear.  Both of his parents are tough cookies, tough like...IRON. Ok, so that was cheesy moving on.

Mom and Danny manage to climb up the cliff and start searching for the city of Kun Lun.  As they approach the bridge to the city they are attacked by wolves.  Danny's mom realizes they can not outrun the pack and sacrifices herself so Danny can make it to the temple.  Kun Lun soldiers arrive shortly later and save Danny but it is too late for his mother.

So young Danny is a bit angry.  His Dad fell to his death and his Mom was eaten by wolves...damn.  This story is not in the travel brochure to the Himalayas for a good reason.  Imagine Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Danny Rand comparing the death of their parents.

Peter:  I am so sad my parents died in a car crash.
Bruce:  Wuss, my parents were killed by a murderer because of me
Danny:  You are both pansey asses... my dad was dropped off a cliff by his business partner and my mother climbed up a cliff only to be eaten by wolves right infront of me.
Peter: Wow you are more scary than Dr Octopus!
Bruce:  ....errr....damn...Can I give you the name of my counselor

The Kun Lun soldiers bring young, angry Danny to the nearby Temple City of Kun Lun.  Kun Lun  happens to be home to bad ass kung fu artists who decide to train the boy.  While the boy is initially consumed by the thoughts of getting revenge for his parents, the monks hope over time and through training he will drop his vendetta.


There Danny is introduced to his trainer the bad ass Kung Fu master Lei Kung the Thunderer.  The Thunderer looks a bit like an Asian super hero / Mexican wrestler.  This is the bad ass that will train Danny Rand to be a bad ass himself.  Kun Lun is a magical city that appears and disappears so Danny can not leave.  He trains and becomes the most bad ass of the bad asses under the tutelage of Lei Kung.  He then defeats a dragon and sticks his hand into its heart giving him the power of the Iron Fists.  When Kun Lun returns back to Earth, Danny takes his leave to go find Harold and get his revenge and fulfill his destiny as Iron Fist.

So yeah about as bad ass of an origin story as they come.

In the present day, Iron Fist beats up stooges and then cuts through a robot with his bare hands, because they are strong as Iron Hands!

So what do you think?  Could Marvel keep the character same and his origin story the same while changing his race to Asian?  Should they?  If not, maybe they should introduce Shang Chi or Amadeous Cho into the Defenders series.  I will be honest either way they go I am going to love it.  I just love the character and his relationship with Luke Cage.  I love his kung fu 'ness and I love his relatively calm monk demeanor.

More Fun Stuff to check out:

The Toylab Vault - Full of special comics

More - Iron Fist

Defenders Saga HQ
Will Iron Fist be Racially altered to be Asian? 
FROM THE VAULT - Quasar #32 First Appearance of Korath
FROM THE VAULT -Where Monsters Dwell #6 - 2nd Appearance of Groot 
FROM THE VAULT - Nova #19 The First appearance of Blackout
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