By Ben Morse
The massive martial arts tournament currently taking place in the "Seven Capital Cities of Heaven" arc has brought a wide array of colorful and unique warriors flocking to the pages of IMMORTAL IRON FIST, but for co-writer Ed Brubaker, one stands head and fist above the rest: his brother in penmanship, Matt Fraction.
"It went like this: I said we should have a big kung fu tournament for the second arc, and that K'un-L'un should be one of seven cities, each with champions," recalls Brubaker. "Then Matt did the rest, because...that's how Matt is."
With the help of the visual wizard of IMMORTAL IRON FIST, artist David Aja—and occasional insight from that Brubaker fella, Fraction created a field of competitors for Danny Rand and his Iron Fist that would make Bruce Lee himself stand in awe.
"I kind of figured out the animal totems and then just made a big list and swapped words around until they all sounded cool," explains Fraction. "I think I made a list of about 30 nouns, adjectives and verbs then scrambled them looking for names that felt right. When you can't actually write and don't have any interviews to do, it's useful to have stuff like that going so your fingers stay busy."
As the tournament gets set to roll on December 19 with IMMORTAL IRON FIST #11, Marvel.com got Fraction to share more details on the unorthodox origins of these living weapons.
DOG BROTHER #1
Dog Brother #1
While his packof truant canines and children proved unequal to the Bride of Nine Spiders' eight-legged army, the mangy swordsman called Dog Brother #1 left an impression on the competition before bowing out.
"I liked the idea of there being a kind of alpha dog so alpha he became a man," muses Fraction. "I had just taken in a stray at the time and I suspect thinking about the king of strays, taking care of all the other wayward souls he'd encounter, influenced the character. The #1 part came from a movie called 'Eight Diagram Pole Fighter'—or maybe a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion record. David designed him with the sideburns and the sword."
BRIDE OF NINE SPIDERS
The Bride unleashes
Among the creepiest of the competitors in the "Seven Capital Cities of Heaven" tournament, the Bride looks like a Hot Topic employee from hell and uses the spiders that compose her form as her weapon of choice. Her arachnid vomit (ew) proved enough to down Dog Brother #1 in her opening round contest.
"When we first wrote her [in IMMORTAL IRON FIST ANNUAL #1], you'll notice her power was very vague there," notes Fraction. "Then David drew her as this pretty and delicate little thing and the 'Black Milk of Hell' was the grossest, spookiest thing I could think of—a pretty porcelain doll that was really a hive of spiders!"
The massive sumo who upended Iron Fist in what readers must have considered an upset, has quickly become a fan favorite. Hey, if Danny Rand becomes incapacitated for any reason, we wouldn't mind watching Fat Cobra take a star turn!
"Fat Cobra is the name of a bar a friend told me about once and I never forgot it," shares Fraction. "I love sumo and knew one of the weapons had to be a sumo guy. I wanted him to be fast and funny and super vital. Calling him Fat Cobra was just perfect. My friend now claims he was the inspiration for Fat Cobra and has named his Guitar Hero 3 band accordingly—thank you, Han."
TIGER'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER
The living weapon we've seen the least at this point, Tiger's Beautiful Daughter remains shrouded in mystery, but will get a chance to shine in upcoming issues.
The Prince of
"Well, there had to be a tiger," chuckles Fraction. "There needed to be more than just one woman. A Maggie Cheung tribute? I dunno. She's a kung fu queen. And wait until you see how David dresses her for her match…"
PRINCE OF ORPHANS
Another cipher, the enigmatic Prince seems to have a past with Lei Kung the Thunderer, Danny Rand's mentor, but he also shares his origins with another character.
"We agreed that one of the champions should be loosely based on the character that Iron Fist was inspired by according to his co-creator, [writer] Roy Thomas in early letters pages," chimes in Brubaker. "That became the Prince of Orphans."
"He's the ultimate loner and the name just fits," concludes Fraction.
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #11 goes on sale December 19. Look for sketches and commentary from David Aja on "The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven" coming soon to Marvel.com.