Saturday, December 10, 2016

Exploring the Marvel Netflix Shows: Part Five (Iron Fist)

This is a continuation of my exploration of the Marvel Netflix shows (part one, twothree, and four).  I'm a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and out of all its current expressions the Netflix shows are my favourite--the ultimate highlight of the format.  The fan service surrounding these shows lack collated, contextualized, and expository material, so what follows addresses those elements.

Unlike my previous posts, this one is looking forward into the future, so beyond what's been confirmed I indulge in some speculation.  Potential SPOILERS below.

Iron Fist (March 17, 2017)

Background: Iron Fist was created to take advantage of the 70s martial arts craze (in 1974 by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, and Bill Everett).  Originally scheduled to be the third character to debut on Netflix, he was swapped for Luke Cage to take advantage of Mike Colter's popularity after Jessica Jones aired.  The show had to deal with white-washing complaints when casting Finn Jones as Danny Rand (who is white in the comics), which I found very odd--this isn't Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai (Doctor Strange's Scott Derrickson offers a master class on how to properly deflect such complaints, incidentally)--showrunner Scott Buck addresses the issue via the link.  Executive VP of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb and the creative teams behind the Netflix properties have done a good job in diversifying their casts and I'd find it bizarre to alter the lead character when his original version still exists as-is in the comics (unlike, for example, the varying versions of Thor, Wolverine, Spider-Man, etc).

Showrunner Scott Buck is best known for his work on DexterRome, and Six Feet Under (having worked with Jessica Jones' showrunner Melissa Rosenberg on the former; he's also just been tapped to showrun the upcoming The Inhumans on ABC).  The only writer we're sure of is Whedonverser Tamara Becher (known for BuffyThe Good Guys, and Covert Affairs among others).

Let's briefly go over the various Iron Fist hints from the other Netflix shows (chronologically):
Daredevil (season one): Rand Corps (Danny's company) is responsible for blinding Matt Murdock and giving him his powers (it's their truck whose chemicals spill on him); Madame Gao (aka Crane Mother, more about her below) is a partner in Wilson Fisk's criminal consortium selling heroin called "Steel Serpent"--it's unclear what her motivations are in doing this, but given that she participates in Leland Owlsley's attempt to have Fisk's girlfriend Vanessa killed, clearly the consortium and the success of her operation was important to her
Jessica Jones: in the comics Jeri Hogarth is the lawyer for Rand Corps and it appears that will remain the case in the show (more about her below)
Daredevil (season two): Madame Gao appears again (in episode eleven, ".380"), still dealing heroin (this time in competition with the Blacksmith), but other than implying the Hand are the real threat to New York, doesn't add anything Iron Fist-related

Personal history: I'd never heard of Iron Fist until I started paying attention to the Netflix shows (he'd been killed off before I started reading comics (1986) and returned just as I was leaving (1992)).

Select Character Notes

The Meachums' (the family partnered with Danny's father in Rand Corps, see below) comic book tenure is very slight (none have more than 23 comic appearances (vs Danny's 669+)), albeit their importance to Danny's origin can't be underestimated; however, I expect the show to give them considerably more depth and weight--much as Luke Cage did with similarly short-lived characters.  We know that none of the other Defenders will appear in the show, as Finn Jones hadn't met any of them prior to wrapping the season's filming.  At a guess I think we'll see elements of those very early pre-Chris Claremont Marvel Premier stories (15-22), which follow Danny's conflict with the Meachums.  I'd thought we'd see a mix of the much later Immortal Iron Fist material (2006-09, from Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and Duane Swierczynski), because of the involvement of Crane Mother (as well as Joe Quesada saying Danny would face more enemies than any other Netflix hero), but given what IGN said about the footage shown at New York ComicCon, it appears as though the Hand is his primary opposition; this has little precedent in the comics, albeit leads nicely into The Defenders.  Of equal (or greater) interest to me are Jeph Loeb's comments that the show will take a hard look at the 1% (the wealthiest of the wealthy), specifically referencing "Big Pharma," making me think there will be an IGH tie-in. which directly connects to Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and potentially Daredevil (if what spilled from the Rand Corps truck was related to IGH--for more about what that is see my Jessica Jones article).
  • Danny Rand/Iron Fist: debuted in Marvel Premiere 15, he's unlikely to kill a dragon to earn his powers (as per his comic book origins); he's been significantly powered down for the show (much like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage)--as Scott Buck put it, "All he can do is punch really hard" (later in the piece de-emphasizing the magical element to him); Buck also said, "if you do go back and read the comics, they have completely different origin stories from one series to another.  It did give us that freedom to create the character we specifically wanted."
  • Colleen Wing: the martial artist is Danny's long-time ally and was an early addition to the Iron Fist comics (Marvel Premiere 19), it's unclear how much of her background or abilities will be kept; some of it will change because in the comics she and Misty Knight (introduced in Marvel Premiere 21) were already a team when Danny meets her
  • Harold Meachum: the business partner of Danny's father has been adapted at least partially as he's not confined to a wheelchair when Danny finds him; he dies very early in Iron Fist's run (Marvel Premiere 18) and while I think the show will include his death, I don't think it will occur so quickly
  • Joy Meachum: we can expect some adaptation of Harold's daughter, but how much remains to be seen; from comments that have been made she seems like a potential love-interest (something explored in the very brief (5 issue) Fred Van Lente Power Man and Iron Fist (2010-11)) and probably represents the "good" side of the 1% storyline
  • Ward Meachum: now the son (instead of brother) of Harold, we know from comments made that he's not going to be a direct adaptation; he's been dead in the comics for quite some time (Namor the Sub-Mariner 18, in 1991); I'd guess that after his father's death he's the primary opposition to Danny taking over the company (which would be similar to the comic)
  • Zhou Cheng: a short-lived and newer Iron Fist antagonist (appearing in 2008, issues 17-20); while the heart of the Swierczynski arc will probably remain the same (an assassin for Ch'i-Lin whose goal is to kill Iron Fist), the specifics of how he does so are likely to change
  • Jeri Hogarth: she's primarily an Iron Fist character in the comics (she's the lawyer for Rand Corps) and from what Scott Buck has said it sounds like we'll get quite a lot of her in the show
  • Madam Gao/Crane Mother: returns in some fashion fully unmasked as the Crane Mother (a Brubaker/Fraction creation in 2007; she's appeared just 3 times); in the comics she's the ruler of K'un-Zi, one of the Legendary Cities of Heaven (Danny's city is K'un-Lun), who is an antagonist of Iron Fist; she's been depicted as a villain in Daredevil so that's likely to continue here, although perhaps the enemy of my enemy (the Hand) will bring them together
  • Claire Temple: it's unclear if the nurse has a simple cameo (ala Jessica Jones) or a larger role (the recent photo shared by IGN seems to imply a more active part); from comments made we know that she's involved in at least one fight scene (Rosario Dawson mentioned that she kicks ass) and will receive training from Colleen Wing; we're well beyond her comic book character at this point so the door is wide open for her development
  • (Michael Maize): we don't know his role yet, but given that he wrapped shooting months before the rest of the crew it must be a small one
IMDB lists a number of other named characters, which I'll briefly go over with the caveat that the site is sometimes wrong (for example):
  • Misty Knight: this is almost certainly true (for her breakdown see my Luke Cage article), albeit CBR speculates she won't appear
  • Ringmaster: I think this is an actual ringmaster (ala for an MMA or boxing) as opposed to Maynard Tiboldt (the criminal Ringmaster) who debuted back in 1962 (as a Hulk villain)--I say this because he has no real history with Iron Fist and we've seen clips (in the trailer) showing Colleen fighting in an MMA-style cage
  • Caleb: there are no less than seven Marvel characters named "Caleb", along with the possibility that it's simply a new character with the same name; among the choices the only one with a connection to Iron Fist is Caleb Alexander, who appeared in the same John Byrne-authored Namor the Sub-Mariner arc referenced above that included the Meachems (sadly one I haven't been able to read as it's currently unavailable)--he was later killed off by writer Glenn Herdling in 1994, but as the Wiki has no other information on Caleb there's nothing else I can add
  • Rusty: there are a few Marvel Rustys, but none seem likely
  • Gabriella: the only possibility is Gabriella Sapristi, a very minor Thor character who has appeared exactly twice (her father Guido "Jerry" Sapristi has connections to Nick Fury)
  • Thembi Wallace, Andrei Veznikov, Melvin Orttiz, Jim Pierce: no apparent comic correlation
I'd like to see some adaptation or reference to the Tournament of Heavenly Cities, where the champions of the Seven Legendary Cities square off against one-another (a Brubaker/Fraction arc, Immortal Iron Fist 8-12), which would give us fun characters like The Bride of Nine Spiders, Fat Cobra, The Prince of Orphans, and so on.

There are a number of Iron Fist trailer breakdowns available (to my mind this is the best), but there are a couple of things I haven't seen mentioned in any of them:

To me this looks like Joy Meachum being taken by ninjas (as part of the same clip in which we see Danny trying to fight them off).  I've seen no one bring this up, but presumably it's an important (likely early) plot point.  As for the ninjas themselves, the default assumption is that they're the Hand, but Daredevil worked very hard to dress them in red (and never armed them with axes), so we can't be absolutely sure.  The following image may be related:

This could be Joy with Danny.  Wherever they are it's the records room--just something to note since it's gone unmentioned in anything else I've seen.  The final thing I'll show carries forward my hope that we'll see the champions from the other cities:

It might be a stretch, but I certainly disagree with the guys at New Rockstars (whose image this comes from, link above) that this looks like Colleen Wing--to me it looks like The Bride of Nine Spiders (absent her impractical collar).

Needless to say I'm excited and looking forward to the show's debut.

[If you spot any errors or omissions, please let me know!]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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