By Kiel Phegley
Unlike some of the films that inspired the comics' tone, the gig for writing Marvel's acclaimed THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST can not be earned by snatching pebbles from Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction's collective hand. But for incoming IRON FIST writer Duane Swierczynski, the job still feels as if he's swiped it from the clutches of a legendary master.
A new face on the comic scene, crime novelist Swierczynski has already racked up considerable buzz with his time-traveling take on Marvel's military mutant Cable. But stepping onto an acclaimed book like IRON FIST would have any new scribe itching to prove that his Kung Fu to be true. Swierczynski explains that despite his shock at landing the job he's out to prove that the mythology of Iron Fist remains in good hands, that Danny Rand will prove to be one of the most confident heroes in the Marvel Universe and that folks who think they've figured out CABLE have some surprises in store.
Marvel.com: Duane, I'm sure you've answered this a thousand times already, but what were your thoughts the first time Marvel floated the idea of writing IMMORTAL IRON FIST by you? With all the acclaim the book got under the pen of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, you must have been a little nervous…
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It's funny; I've been receiving a strange mix of congrats and condolences ever since the news broke. But I wouldn't have taken the gig if I didn't have an Iron Fist story I was dying to tell.
Marvel.com: Once you accepted the gig, was there a lot of back and forth you did with Brubaker and Fraction to make sure the transition was smooth?
Ed and Matt are like the cool parents of a hot girl you're dating—by no means overbearing, yet genuinely concerned about their little girl, and willing to give you a hand, some friendly advice—or even gas money—if needed. That's not to say that Danny Rand is a little girl, or that Ed and Matt are domestic partners…ah, you know what I mean.
Marvel.com: With the book, you're inheriting an all-new status quo for Danny and a lot of new ideas and characters. Are you going to be bringing those elements that we saw in the book's first year into your story in a major way, or are you going to let some of that stuff cool for a bit?
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No, what Matt cued up in [issue] #16 is pretty much setting the course. He left an astounding number of cool toys and ideas in the Iron Fist sandbox for me.
Marvel.com: While I'm at it, what exactly is your first arc about? How do you launch your run on IRON FIST, and what are you doing to make this first adventure a fresh starting point to some extent?
At the end of #16, Danny Rand makes the rather unpleasant discovery that pretty much every Iron Fist—save Orson Randall—died at the tender age of 33. And guess who's just turned 33?
My first arc picks up the story pretty much a second later, and we soon learn that the death threat is indeed real—it's this nasty thing called the Ch'i-Lin—and it's directly tied in to the source of Danny's power: the chi of Shou-Lao the Undying. In fact, Danny's chi is almost acts like a GPS for this new foe.
Marvel.com: From your standpoint, who exactly is Danny Rand? What kind of place is he in emotionally and mentally when your run on the book starts, and what is his bigger goal for himself—outside kicking lots of ass?
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Danny's a big goofball—and yet he's serious as a heart attack when it comes to his friends or helping people. Don't forget that he was orphaned as a child, and grew up in a very freaky place, so it's like Danny's still a big kid in many regards. You saw this in the first arc, when he and Orson had this gruff dad/clueless kid thing going on. And you see it in how he interacts with his friends, like Luke Cage—who acts like a big brother—or even Jeryn Hogarth—who acts like a stepfather. It's almost as if Danny's gathered a surrogate family to replace the one that was stolen from him.
And now he has Uncle Fat Cobra!
Danny in this arc will be coming to grips with his mortality—which is kind of funny for a
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guy used to having the prefix "immortal" in front of his name. He has big plans, but he can't execute them if he's dead—so he's trying like hell to find a way to escape the fate that's befallen every other Iron Fist throughout history.
Marvel.com: Are you going to be pulling in any of the previous Iron Fist continuity or characters?
Oh yeah. That's part of the huge appeal to me—the legacy of the previous 66 Iron Fists. You'll see an old favorite—rhymes with "Morson Handle"—as well as an Iron Fist we haven't met yet.
Marvel.com: What's artist Travel Foreman's style shaping up to be for this project, and what's the coolest thing you've seen him draw so far?
Travel's amazing. And the coolest thing, hands down, is the Ch'i-Lin transformation at the end of #17. It's just insane
Marvel.com: Shifting gears for a minute, your first arc on CABLE wraps up this week is issue #5. We're getting to a "final" confrontation of sorts between Cable and Bishop. What can readers expect out of this fight and what it means for the status quo of the book?
I don't want to be guilty of overhyping anything…but this fight does change everything. Cable has a certain limitation that has potentially disastrous consequences for the X-Men—who are counting on that baby to return to the present. And it's going to change the way Bishop hunts his quarry.
Marvel.com: With issue #6, you're doing a stand alone tale checking back in with the present X-Men teams. What specific territory do you want to cover with this story, and how often do you plan on connecting CABLE up to the modern Marvel U?
"Homefront" is very much a "meanwhile, back at the ranch…" story. No one—not Cyclops, not the rest of X-Men—really knows for sure if the baby is the messiah, or what her destiny will be. And the leap of faith that Cyclops took at the end of "Messiah CompleX"—giving the baby to his son—is going to haunt him, and push him to make some surprising decisions.
Marvel.com: We're also going to be seeing the KING-SIZE CABLE SPECTACULAR later this year. What's the attraction of doing a special like this, and how will this one-off story influence the action in the regular title?
This was originally meant to be a two-part cliffhanger, but when Axel and I were working on the beat sheets, we thought it would be better as one big blast of time-travelin' action. And even though Cable's name is prominent in the title, this is Bishop's tale—we're going to be seeing the hunt from his P.O.V., in light of what happens at the end of CABLE #5. How do you track a man through the timestream, when he could be literally anywhen
? You'll find out in this issue.
Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the story for the book's second big arc taking off in issue #7?
I don't want to give too much away, but some preview art has a few interesting hints: Bishop squares off against X-Force. Cable is married, bearded. And something really, really weird has happened to the world a several hundred years down the timestream…
CABLE #5 ships this week while Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman debut on IMMORTAL IRON FIST #17 on July 23.