Welcome to the four hundred and thirtieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and twenty-nine. This week, the whole column is devoted to legends about the final issue of Power Man/Iron Fist and the “death” of Iron Fist in that issue.
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
Recently, I did a column about how John Byrne eventually retconned the death of Iron Fist in the last issue of Power Man and Iron Fist in the pages of Byrne’s run on Namor. So many folks wanted to discuss various legends about the “death” of Iron Fist in Power Man and Iron Fist #125 that I figured it best to just do a whole edition devoted to the issue.
COMIC LEGEND: Christopher Priest (then Jim Owsley) was ordered to have Iron Fist killed due to his editor’s anger over the cancelation of the title.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
As noted in the linked piece above, the death of Iron Fist in the final issue of Power Man and Iron Fist (which was written by Jim Owsley and penciled by M.D. “Doc” Bright) was a total shocker. Iron Fist had just seemingly succeeded (with help from the Avengers and Mister Fantastic) to keep a super-powered child (who turned into an adult “Captain Hero”) from dying.
Everyone left and Power Man and Iron Fist both went to sleep…
The boy, though, suddenly woke up in extreme pain and, in his Captain Hero form, beat Iron Fist to death and then died, turning into energy, leaving only Luke Cage as a suspect in Iron Fist’s murder…
So that was the status quo for a few years, Luke Cage on the run, falsely accused of the murder of his best friend.
It’s a pretty downbeat ending to a series, right? Well, as it turns out, that was exactly how editor Denny O’Neil wanted it.
Christopher Priest (who wrote the series at the time under the name Jim Owsley) discussed the situation on his website a number of years back:
The expedient thing to say is, Iron Fist’s death wasn’t my idea. It was my idea in the sense of that is how I chose for him to die— brutally and senselessly. I was ordered to kill IF because the editor was deeply resentful of Marvel’s decision to cancel the book, a book the editor (comics legend Denny O’Neil) invested himself in and worked _very_ hard with myself and artist MD “Doc” Bright. We were all pretty upset, but Denny was outraged. POWER MAN & IRON FIST was a critical success and was selling in excess of 100,000 copies; not a major hit in those days but the book was certainly profitable. Then the company, for no apparent reason, decided to change the publishing schedule from a monthly release to bi-monthly, which automatically depresses sales, and, once the sales projections skewed downward, that became justification enough to cancel the book to make room on the schedule for a new line of books that became the infamous and notorious “New Universe.”
Angered by the slight to our work on the book, in an editorial meeting Denny’s assistant suggested we kill Iron Fist and cast the blame on Power Man. Doc and I really did not like the idea, but the editors were adamant, insisting if we didn’t write the story he’d assign it out to someone else. I agreed to write the story on the condition that IF’s death be senseless and, actually, extant to the story itself. The story and plotlines had resolved themselves by the time Iron Fist fell asleep in the hospital and was subsequently killed. It was shocking and unexpected and completely meaningless— which is how we all felt the company had treated us.
Oddly enough, when O’Neil left Marvel soon afterwards he went to DC to become an editor there. O’Neil was in charge of Action Comics Weekly a few years later when he then hired Owsley (who had by then also left Marvel) to write the Green Lantern feature and once again, in the very first issue, O’Neil had Owsley kill off the retired Green Lantern Katma Tui…
Owsley got quite a reputation there for a while based just on stuff that O’Neil had him write!
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On the next page, learn which writer was going to bring Iron Fist back in the pages of the Avengers!
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