Netflix and Marvel have finally launched Iron Fist, a TV series focused on the martial arts superhero Danny Rand. While Marvel Comics diehards are surely pumped to sit down and binge the new show based on the “Fourth Defender,” most people are probably wondering who the heck Iron Fist is and why they should care about a 13-episode season devoted to a white billionaire who likes to punch people. Unfortunately, we don’t have an answer for the latter question, as you’ll just have to make up your own mind about whether Danny Rand’s adventures are to your tastes, but we can give a bit of insight into the character and his long crime-fighting history in Marvel Comics. Consider this an Iron Fist primer before sitting down to watch the TV show!
Iron Fist Was A Response To The Kung Fu Film Craze
Much like how fellow Defender Luke Cage was inspired by the blaxploitation era from the early 1970s, Iron Fist was birthed out of the kung fu film craze. However, the inspiration for Iron Fist arose out of much more than just the Bruce Lee era. According to a piece written by co-creator Roy Thomas in Iron Fist’s debut comic Marvel Premiere #15, Iron Fist’s origin and creation was a product of the 1940s Bill Everett character Amazing Man, an orphan raised by monks in Tibet for the first 25 years of his life. The Amazing Man parallels can be seen in Iron Fist’s very first story, “Fury of Iron Fist!”, which saw an adult Danny Rand reflect on he first came to train in K’un-Lun, a mystical city full of legendary masters of the martial arts that only manifests itself physically once every 10 years.
His Origin Story Is Both Tragic and Kinda Badass
Much like Bruce Wayne, Danny Rand is an orphaned son of wealthy parents whose motivation for fighting crime/being a superhero evolve out of a desire to avenge his parents’ deaths. That being said, Batman wishes the details of his parents’ deaths were as epic and tragic as Iron Fist’s.
Rather than witnessing his parents being gunned down in an alleyway, Danny’s father is betrayed by his business partner Harold Meachum while on an expedition to find K’un-Lun — an expedition, by the way, that he brought his wife and son on — and falls to his death while his family looks on in horror. It only gets worse from there, as Danny’s mother is forced to sacrifice her life to save her son from a pack of wolves and it’s only after both of his parents are gone does the city of K’un-Lun reveal itself. Danny is taken in and trained in the ways of kung fu and mystical powers, all the while swearing vengeance on Meachum for his parents’ deaths.
Iron Fist Has Legit Mystical Powers
In addition to being a master of kung-fu, Danny Rand also derives his powers from a freaking dragon and actually had to defeat one in combat to finish his extensive training. After defeating the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, Danny plunges his fists into the dragon’s molten heart and attains the power of the Iron Fist (as well as the dragon mark on his chest). Essentially, this means that Danny can summon and focus his chi or life-force energy and punch people really hard.
He possesses heightened senses, agility, strength, and durability, and even has the ability to heal his own injuries or those of someone else. In some cases, Danny can even channel his chi to sense his surroundings (dragon-sense?) or meld with someone else’s consciousness. While it remains unclear how many of these powers will be utilized in the Netflix series, expect to see a lot of his glowing fists. He does have the nickname “The Living Weapon” after all.
He Has A Close History With Luke Cage
Iron Fist got his own self-titled comic book in 1975 from Chris Claremont and John Byrne but 15 issues in, the comic was on the chopping block facing cancellation. In a last ditch attempt to save the character from disappearing entirely, Marvel made the decision to pair Danny Rand up with another character whose comics were also facing the scrap heap: Power Man, better known now as Luke Cage. Iron Fist’s debut adventure with Luke came in 1978 with Power Man #48 and it only took three issues for the comic to be renamed Power Man and Iron Fist. The series ended up lasting until 1986 and actually ended with Danny dying.
Of course, comic book characters rarely stay dead and Danny reemerged half a decade later in an issue of Namor the Sub-Mariner, which revealed that the Iron Fist who died in Power Man and Iron Fist had actually been a doppelganger. Danny would go onto to appear in another solo series during the ’90s, as well as appearances in the crossover series Iron Fist/Wolverine and Heroes for Hire.
Danny Isn’t The Only Iron Fist
While Danny has been the only official Iron Fist in the comics, it’s made clear that he is but one of many Iron Fists through the ages and that the power he wields is not his alone. As already mentioned, Danny became the Iron Fist when he defeated the mystical dragon Shou-Lao but according to The Immortal Iron Fist series, the power of the Iron Fist is cyclic and with Shou-Lao having reincarnated 66 times, this would make Danny the 66th Iron Fist. In fact, the series even introduces Danny’s direct predecessor, a gun-toting incarnation of the Iron Fist named Orson Randall, who was thought to be long dead by the time Danny began his training in K’un-Lun.
In recent years, Marvel has also been teasing potential future incarnations of the character, like the as yet unreleased series from Kaare Andrews and Afu Chan called Iron Fists. In the limited artwork released from this series, we can see Danny fighting alongside a young girl who appears to possess the same powers as him, suggesting that we could be seeing a whole new version of the character before long.
Danny Has Had A Romantic Relationship With Misty Knight
Given Iron Fist’s close connection with Luke Cage, it should come as no surprise that Danny has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Cage character Misty Knight. In fact, this romance led to the first interracial kiss between superheroes back in 1977 (who says comics can’t be progressive, at least sometimes?). More than that, Misty played an important role in Iron Fist and Power Man meeting up in the first place and was a mainstay in their comic adventures, even helping the Heroes for Hire fight crime at one point.
Unfortunately Simone Missick, who plays Misty in the Luke Cage Netflix series, is not part of the Iron Fist show, but she has been confirmed for The Defenders, so there is potential of that show at the very least acknowledging the romantic history shared between her and Danny.