By Tim Stevens
Introduced during the height of the kung fu fad of the 70's, Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, has always enjoyed a cult following… and little else. Sure, he's had five solo series—including the current IMMORTAL IRON FIST—but none, until now, have reached beyond issue #15 and that happened back in 1976. The last shot at an Iron Fist title lasted all of six issues in 2004. Iron Fist fit nicely into the lower rung of the Marvel Universe and that seemed just fine.
Fortunately for Danny, about a year and a half ago, Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker—with plenty of assistance from artist David Aja as well as contributors like Howard Chaykin, Travel Foreman, and more—showed up with passion and a plan.
Spinning out of Iron Fist's appearances in Brubaker's initial DAREDEVIL arc, THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST hit the ground running, garnering unprecedented attention and critical praise for the man in the green pajamas.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. But before Brubaker and Fraction hand off the reins to Duane Swierczynski (CABLE) with July's issue #17, they took a moment to look back with us and tease how their run comes to a close.
For Brubaker, the desire to work on Iron Fist started many, many years ago.
"Iron Fist was one of the first characters I got into as a kid," the award-winning writer explains, "The day I bought my first CAPTAIN AMERICA comic, I also bought Iron Fist's second appearance in MARVEL PREMIERE #16. [However], by the time Marvel wanted an Iron Fist book, I didn't have time to do it [alone], so I invited Matt to co-write it with me."
"We were friendly, and I absolutely [loved] his work," recalls Fraction of receiving the call from Brubaker. "I was brand-new at Marvel and the chance to work with him was too good to pass up. Nobody cared about Iron Fist but Ed, [editor] Warren [Simons] and me. Blank slate. We could go nuts,"
And so the book began with humble goals. Brubaker aimed "to make it to issue 16 – one more than any other Iron Fist comic has made it." Fraction remembers it being more about "[getting] to see a man get kicked through a train."
Regardless of perhaps less than grand ambitions, the title proved to have a magic to it.
"What made the book special was that it was more than the sum of its parts," explains Brubaker. "[It was] a constantly moving organism that we were trying to get right. Matt and I have talked about it being the only book we work on that we can actually read when it's published, because we both have no idea what will end up on some pages."
Whatever got the book from plotting to final product, fans and critics alike responded to it. The good will came as a surprise for both writers.
"It was a shock to see how much people dug the book," says Brubaker. "It has more fanatical fans than any book I've ever been a part of. [IMMORTAL IRON FIST] seems to have been the exact right book for a certain kind of reader, I think. It was having fun in all the right ways while a lot of comics were getting darker, maybe. I don't know."
"I'll tell you what was the best, though," Fraction confesses, "[It was] all the guys and gals at Marvel that took us aside and gushed about the book, and all the retailers and other pros that dig it, too. Like, when you eat and breathe and sleep comics and still find one you can love—that meant the world to me."
Looking back on their time with the book, the duo sees a lot to be proud of.
"Watching Matt and David grow as storytellers throughout this run has been almost as much fun as all the kicking and craziness, honestly," insists Brubaker. "The John Severin scene [was a favorite moment], for sure. The old train station under the city. The day Matt sent over the names of the other six champions. Fat Cobra."
"That guy getting kicked through the train," adds Fraction. "Orson and Danny waiting in the elevator."
With the end nigh, Fraction promises him and his partner plan to leave Danny as "the kung fu billionaire everybody loves to love." To that end, after issue #15 chronicles
another "Tale of the Iron Fist," issue #16—the swansong for Brubaker, Fraction and Aja—tells a story entitled "Happy Birthday, Danny" which Fraction says revolves around, "kung fu, cake, and sex." Brubaker predicts it will be a bang of an exit, describing the script as "probably my favorite thing [Fraction has] ever written for Marvel."
High praise, indeed. At least as exciting as a man getting kicked through a train.
We'll have more IMMORTAL IRON FIST tomorrow as we speak to artist David aja, but while you've got a break, read the first issue on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.