There are many ways to stop a villain’s nefarious scheme. They can be out witted with cunning or intelligence, they can be intimidated by a show of overwhelming force and they can be attacked with everything from weapons, to magic, to super powers and a variety of high technology. Sometimes, though, the most effective method of taking down a villain is with aa simple punch.
That means super-humanly strong characters and hand to hand combat experts are important parts of most super teams. In December, the latest incarnation of Marvel Comics’ super team known as the Defenders comes together for an all new ongoing series by writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson, and their ranks will, of course, include its share of pugilistic powerhouses. In today’s installment of DEFENSIVE MEASURES, our week long look at “Defenders,” Fraction joins us CBR to discuss two more of them: Iron Fist and Red She-Hulk
In 2007, Fraction and co-writer Ed Brubaker kicked off “The Immortal Iron Fist,” a highly acclaimed series that focused on Danny Rand and the long legacy of his costumed identity as the chi powered martial arts master Iron Fist. Though the series lasted 27 issues, Fraction left the book with issue #17 believing that he had told all the stories he wanted to with the character.
“When the notion of ‘Defenders’ became a book about everybody I would love to write, Danny popped back into my head. During ‘Fear Itself,’ I started to have all these Iron Fist ideas again. Maybe it was because I was using Danny outside the realm of a book I had already written — I don’t know.” Fraction told CBR News.””The stuff I loved about Danny back then I still love about him, and now I want to do even more with him. He’s still everybody’s favorite kung fu billionaire space cadet. It seemed like Danny would be a perfect fit for a group that has to solve all these reality-warping and universe-bending problems. The Defenders will be happy to have somebody who’s particularly zen about all this stuff.”
Iron Fist’s Defender teammates will also be happy to have such a wealthy character in their ranks. In fact, it’s that wealth that leads to his initial involvement with the team.
“Danny is getting Rand International back together with the help of a Chinese company. He is the central figure in this new enterprise. He’s somewhere between Steve Jobs and Richard Branson — very much a public face and the Chief Visionary Officer as well,” Fraction explained. “The gag we start with is, ‘How do you fly this particular group of people around the world? What if they capture Nul? Where do you put him?’ So quite simply, Doctor Strange needs a plane. He says, ‘I know somebody who has a plane.’ Cut to Danny. It’s one of those cases where the guy ends up in the band because he’s the guy with the van. That’s why Danny’s here, but it very quickly becomes important that he sticks around.
Iron Fist’s skills as a martial artist and his knowledge of the mysticism and high technology used in secret, ancient cities like the one he trained in, K’un Lun, will also be invaluable assets for the Defenders. “One thing that every member of the Defenders will come to realize right away is that they’re each unimpeachable masters of their own corner of the Marvel Universe,” Fraction said. “You can look at someone like Red She-Hulk or Silver Surfer and break out the rulers and measure yourself, but there is no better kung fu billionaire in the Marvel Universe than Danny Rand. Danny is the only one who can do what he does. That is important. That is vital to the team.”
Readers will get their chance to see all that Iron Fist brings to the Defenders in the first issue of the series. When Fraction sat down to pen those initial scenes, he found himself as enthralled by the character as he was when he wrote the first issue of “Immortal Iron Fist.”
“It’s a 20 page book ,and the first time I wrote Danny again, the scene was more than five pages long. So it was very clear that I missed the character,” Fraction said. “It’s nice to write him again, and who doesn’t want to see Danny Rand do things like invent zero g kung fu? That’s just in the first issue! Wait till you see what he does further down the line!”
As the wife of the Hulk and the daughter of General Ross — the man who spent years hunting her husband — Betty Ross’ life is one of constant turmoil. In fact, she lost her life when one of the Hulk’s enemies used her as a pawn in a revenge scheme against the Jade Giant.
It was the super criminal think tank known as the Intelligentsia that not only resurrected Betty but transformed her into the Red She-Hulk. When they revived her, they also brainwashed the new crimson-hued powerhouse and turned into one their top operatives. Betty was able to break free from their conditioning and since doing so has done her best to combat the various dangers and evils of the Marvel Universe. She got involved in the recent “Fear Itself” storyline when the Hulk was transformed into one of the Avatars of the malevolent fear god known as the Serpent.
“When I was writing ‘Fear Itself,’ I found myself unexpectedly drawn to Red She-Hulk. There’s something about a character that, for all her great strengths and convictions as Betty, as a human never got to live her own life on her own terms precisely because she was ‘just’ human. Betty was always stuck in the war between the magnetic north and south of her father and the Hulk. So the idea that she’s now nine feet tall and bulletproof and can live life unequivocally on her own terms without physical fear was very exciting to write,” Fraction explained.
“We don’t have enough women characters like that in comics, at Marvel or, really, anywhere. Writing a superhero for my daughter is thrilling. Betty is the kind of woman who makes a Red She-Hulk-sized hole in every room she leaves. She goes rushing headlong into adventure. If she got a tattoo, it’d just say ‘Yes.’
“I’m writing her like a cross between Indiana Jones and Johnny Knoxville,” Fraction continued with a laugh. “In her past life, she was threatened, captured, beaten, killed a couple times, turned into a Hulk — and now she’s nigh-invulnerable and free of her past. So she’s going to go out and live life by her rules for a change.”
Betty is like the original green She-Hulk, Jen Walters, in that she enjoys her new super-strong physical form and spends most of her time as She-Hulk. “She’s been adjacent to superheroes her whole life, and now she gets to go out and be one. Plus, she’s the new kid. This is a grand adventure to her. She’s like the kid with asthma who could never got to go out and play and then is suddenly cured. She’s making up for lost time by grabbing life by the throat and squeezing,” Fraction remarked. “The only downside is that Betty’s Red She-Hulk form does affect her personality. It sort of makes her a little more keyed up, a little adrenalized and she clearly enjoys it. Down the road, it’s going to get her into trouble, but for now, it’s all good. For now, she’s nine feet tall and bulletproof,” the writer joked.
The Defenders are willing to tolerate the more aggressive side of Red She-Hulk because of all the things she adds to the team. She’s a physical powerhouse, has a firm understanding of the Hulk and his gamma-powered world and recently, she’s become quite handy with bladed weaponry.
“She has a big-ass sword,” Fraction said with a laugh. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to get away with calling it the big-ass sword, but she refers to it as such. She has this sword because when I was writing ‘Fear Itself,’ the phrase, the title ‘The Savage Sword of She-Hulk’ popped into my mind and it just sounded like a book I would read. Who wouldn’t want to read that book? She-Hulk has her savage, big-ass sword and loves it.”
While combat skills, an understanding of the Hulk’s world and pure physical power are all well and good, the most important thing Red She-Hulk brings to the Defenders is a sense of wonder. “These guys can all get in their own heads and be weighed down by the heaviness of things. It’s Betty who is the one that’s constantly reminding them, ‘Isn’t this amazing? Look at where we are! Look at what we’re doing! This is great!'” Fraction stated. “She’s that voice that’s constantly turning into adventure blindly. Where the rest of these guys can be tired old men, she’s not. She’s the spirit of life itself, unlocked and unfettered, and the team is better off for it. Even if, beneath it all, she’s running away from everything she used to be, for now — it’s all magical to her.
“The nature of the mystery that the Defenders stumble into in this opening storyline prevents them from telling anyone else about it,”Fraction continued. “So it’s not like the team was picked with any specific strategy in mind on the part of the players. If you have to go up against a cosmos spanning conspiracy that makes playthings out of space and time, who would you choose? The Defenders didn’t get to choose. They’re going to war with the army they have rather than the army they wanted. Like it or not, Betty’s a part of the group now. And she’s not going to let go.”
Join us tomorrow for part four of DEFENSIVE MEASURES where Fraction joins us for a look at two more members of the Defenders, master spy Nick Fury, and the Sentinel of the Spaceways, the Silver Surfer.