In 2006, writers Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction and artist David Aja showed Marvel Comics fans their Kung Fu was strong by reintroducing the world to Danny Rand in the pages of the new ongoing series, “The Immortal Iron Fist.” Since than, the title has received much acclaim and become one of Marvel’s most popular series. This summer, Brubaker, Fraction and Aja’s run comes to an end, but Danny Rand’s story does not. In July, with issue #17, the new “Iron Fist” creative team of writer Duane Swierczynski (“Calbe”) and Travel Foreman (“Ares: God of War”) take over chronicling Danny Rand’s journey. CBR News spoke with Swierczynski about his plans for the series.
It was Swierczynski’s work with “Immortal Iron Fist” editor Warren Simon on an unrelated project that landed him his new assignment. “Warren floated the possibility, which was a huge thrill. I’m an 'Iron Fist’ junkie,” Swierczynski told CBR News. “Of course, I had to fight staffers from Marvel’s fabled 'Seven Cubicles of Heaven’ to get the gig, and let me tell you: Fat Intern is not to be taken lightly.”
Like many of the current crop of “Iron Fist” fans, it was the work of Fraction and Brubaker that turned Swierczynski on to the character who first debuted in the 1970s. “I read every book with their names on it, and that’s what got me reading 'Iron Fist’ starting with issue #1,” Swierczynski explained. “Only then did I realize what I’d missed back in the 1970s -- which is strange, because I was the perfect demographic for the book back then: a young nerd-in-training, obsessed with Kung Fu flicks and superheroes.”
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with taking over such an acclaimed and popular book like “The Immortal Iron Fist,” but Brubaker and Fraction’s input helped Swierczynski ease into his new gig. “Matt and Ed were a huge help, but they also were really good about letting me do my own thing -- it’s not as if they handed me a big laundry list of stuff I absolutely had to do,” Swierczynski said. “Just a few friendly suggestions, which I was more than happy to take.”
Fraction and Swierczynski planned out a story to make sure readers’ transition between “Iron Fist” writers was just as seamless. “We’re definitely following the cliffhanger model,” Swierczynski stated. “Matt [who wrote issue #16 on his own] cued up something really devastating in his last issue, and then my run begins, oh, about one second after that.”
Swierczynski feels Danny Rand’s personality is defined by two seemingly incongruous traits: youthfulness and responsibility. “Danny may be the ass-kickingest billionaire in the world, but I think he’s also a big kid -- probably because his childhood was stolen from him. He needs father figures, mentors, big brothers, and it shows in the surrogate family he’s surrounded himself with,” Swierczynski remarked. “But Danny also has an incredibly adult sense of his mission and obligations, and he honors them, even if it means his own personal ruin.”
Rand’s sense of mission and obligation has lead to him assuming a number of roles: Immortal Weapon of the mystical city of K’un-Lun, billionaire business man, superhero, and most recently, member of his friend Luke Cage’s team of New Avengers. “It’s not so much a single role as the collision of roles that interest me as a writer, like a dad who’s also a hit man, or a priest who plays in a punk band,” Swierczynski explained. For Danny, it’s his job description as 'Kung Fu Billionaire’ (courtesy Matt Fraction) that fascinates me. He’s upper crust, yet he’s very street. He was raised in a mystical city, yet is very down to earth. He’s an immortal weapon, but as I mentioned before, he’s also kind of a big kid.”
By establishing that Danny Rand is just the latest in a long line of Iron Fists, Brubaker and Fraction made “Immortal Fist” a series that was as much about the past as it was the present, and under Swierczynski the book will continue to be steeped in history. “I love the historical component of Iron Fist -- I consider it not just a monthly comic, but the latest installments of a centuries old saga, of which Danny Rand’s story is the latest chapter,” Swierczynski stated. “I’m being handed the keys to an incredibly rich world, and I’m going to take full advantage of that.”
In fact, Swierczynski plans on playing with the Iron Fist saga right out of the gate. His opening story pits Danny Rand against a new foe who’s run afoul of the previous Iron Fists, “I can’t say much about my first story without ruining something Matt set up, but I will say this: there’s an Iron Fist they haven’t told you about yet.”
Another element Swierczynski will hold onto is the supporting cast Fraction and Brubaker established for “Immortal Iron Fist.” “There are a few new characters in Danny’s world, and you’ll meet them in my first issue. But keeping Danny’s surrogate 'family’ together was important,” Swierczynski said. “I couldn’t imagine writing Iron Fist without Luke Cage somewhere in the mix.”
Swierczynski’s “Iron Fist” stories will be a mixture of multi-part arcs, shorter stories that feed into larger storylines, and done-in-ones. “I’m a huge, drooling fan of those crazy-brilliant pulp one-shots Ed and Matt cooked up ('Iron Fist Annual,’ 'Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death’),” he said. “Right around the time that Annual came out; I’d been reading a lot about those 1930s pulps in books like Ron Goulart’s 'Cheap Thrills.’ I thought it was incredibly smart, rooting Iron Fist in that tradition, so it’s something I want to keep up in the months to come.”
Danny Rand’s membership in the New Avengers means he’s a key player in the Marvel Universe but most of his interaction with the Marvel U comes in the pages of that title. However, this might change when Swierczynski takes over “Immortal Iron Fist. “I like that Iron Fist is in his own freaky corner of the Marvel U, but I wouldn’t rule out some crossover action in the months to come,” Swierczynski said.
Swierczynski is a new creative voice on “Immortal Iron Fist,” but fans of the book will certainly recognize the work of his artistic collaborator, Travel Foreman, who illustrated fill-in issues of the Brubaker-Fraction run. “Travel’s stuff is amazing -- eye-popping, and dead perfect for a book like this,” he said. But you don’t have to take my word for it,” he said. “Check out some of his work in the early IF issues for a taste of the coolness to come.”
“The Immortal Iron Fist” #17 is on sale in July.
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