Iron Fist: History, Controversy & Essential Reading

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. For the Irish that means beer flowing freely and corned beef, and for those fully engrossed into Marvel/Netflix’s The Defenders series, that means one thing : Iron Fist.  But who is Danny Rand, why is their controversy surrounding the show, and what should you be reading to get better acquainted with the character?


The original Iron Fist, Danny Rand, was first introduced in a series beginning in Marvel Premiere #15, in 1974.  There was no coincidence that Marvel chose to write a “Kung-Fu” character in May of that year, as the Kung Fu craze of the 1970s was in full effect.  The character itself was named after the movie The Ceremony of the Iron Fist” and Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon, Fists of Fury Enter the Dragon had already invaded the States and made a star out of the legendary kung-fu master/actor.

Marvel decided to make their Iron Fist the son of a wealthy American entrepreneur, a 19 year old Daniel Rand.  While finding the mystical city of K’un-L’un, a city his father had been to years earlier, tragedy strikes the family, leaving the young Rand a resident of the magical land.  He becomes the best of Master Lei Kung’s students, eventually defeating the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying and attaining the power of the Iron Fist, joining a long list of those who had earned the title.  Over the last 40+ years, the character has had a slew of his own solo comic book runs, as well as the more famous team ups with his BFF Luke Cage as the “Heroes for Hire.”Marvel Netflix are now adapting their series based on the character and his history.



“But you said there was controversy surrounding the character!”  Ah, thank you. I’m glad you brought that up.  So here’s the thing: when the Iron Fist was first created, most American purchasers and comic book readers (or, ya know, most Americans in general) would not have batted an eye at a blonde haired/blue eyed American venturing to the Far East and essentially being better at Far Eastern Martial Arts than the people who have created it, and lived it, their entire lives.  Many have said that Danny Rand’s Iron Fist falls into the outdated, racially insensitive category of the “white savior” trope, and the casting of Game of Thrones’ actor Finn Jones was the wrong decision made.  They argue that Marvel had the chance to change the game, and cast an actor of Asian descent to play the role of Danny.  Those on the other side of the spectrum argue that casting an actor of Asian decent to play a master of Kung-Fu in itself represents a stereotype in a negative way.


Danny Rand himself, Finn Jones, has also chosen the route of “hmmm, let’s see what this gasoline does to this fire…” when it comes to his controversial casting.  While not his fault he was hired for the portrayal of the Iron Fist, he has used twitter to react to his critics, as well as blame President Trump for the luke-warm (to put it nicely) reception to his Netflix series.  I, for one, am willing to blame President Trump for damn near anything, but I’m not sure that was the smartest way to put an end to the dumpster fire known as the lead up to Iron Fist.  With that said, Marvel is the one that dropped the ball here.  Finn Jones did not make the casting decision or choose the direction of the series.  Take your actor off the hook and answer said questions directly.

More Iron Fist Tees Than You Can Karate Chop

Personally, I have changed my view on superhero castings over the last few years.  I was often the “ohhh, it has to be comic book accurate!” guy when it came to castings, but I realized I was painting with a rather broad, narrow minded brush.  As a white male, I had the privilege of most of the iconic superheroes I grew up reading being like me, i.e. white males.  My friends who were a) not white and/or b) not male, did not get that privilege, and it wasn’t until I started to look at things through other people’s views that my own viewpoint began to change.  For some characters, race/gender/sexual orientation is an integral part of the foundation of who that person is.  For others, race and/or gender can be changed and yet the integrity of that character hasn’t changed.  Why not give different variations of the character?  If the comic book version of Danny Rand is white, and I can turn on Netflix and watch a version that is Asian, who is losing out?  The story line could very much look the same, and the makeup of the character wouldn’t have to change.  To me, as long as what I love about a character stays the same, which has never been that that character is white and/or male, I’m fine with it, and excited to see a new take on the character.


Essential Reading

  • Let’s start with Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1, because it is quick, easy way into the character, and it also has the word “essential” in the title.  It gives you a chance to read his origin story within the Marvel Premiere issues, as well as the first dozen or so issues of his first solo book.
  • Essential Power Man & Iron Fist, Vol. 1 because my favorite thing about this character is his friendship/partnership with Luke Cage.
  • Immortal Iron Fist introduces the Iron Fist riiiggghhhhtttt before Danny Rand, Orson Randall, and includes HYDRA, the tournament of the Seven Champions, the reconnection with his love Misty Knight, and a crazy ass tale of saving K’un-L’un.  Really, just read it.  It’s nuts.
  • Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is a darker take on the Iron Fist mythos which shakes up everything you’ve come to know about Danny Rand & K’un-L’un.  This was the first run I read that made me actually LIKE the Iron Fist, so there’s that as well…
  • He also has a team up mini series with Wolverine…right, I know, that IS awesome.


Wrapped in controversy or not, I’m looking forward to making my judgement on Marvel/Netflix’s Iron Fist.  Knowing that the series then leads directly into The Defenders crossover series, followed by my man Frank Castle in his The Punisher stand alone, I’m hoping for an entertaining, successful bridge to these other highly anticipated shows.


Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time father, full time husband & full time superhero enthusiast.  You can follow has rambling and incoherent responses on twitter @Sweetest_Lou

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