It’s my personal opinion that Iron Fist is the character with the most untapped potential in all of the Marvel comic book universe.
The core concept of the character—bringing Chinese mythology and pulp Hong Kong martial arts cinema to the Marvel canon—provides a rich vein of ideas and stories to mine, if any of the Marvel writers tried even a little bit to break with the traditional Western comic book formula.
Alas, though, this opportunity is squandered. Danny Rand is yet another billionaire playboy, among a sea of similar billionaire playboys.
Apparently, you can’t be a superhero without a secret bank account in the Cayman Islands.
(Even LEGO Batman doesn’t pay his taxes, by the way.)
This, of course, makes the character of Iron Fist problematic in more than one way. Leaving aside the fact that Danny Rand is a classic White Savior trope, stealing the secrets of the Orient by pure virtue of his superior Western physique, it’s kind of awkward to have Iron Fist slumming it with street-level heroes, before retiring to his penthouse.
Rand’s best friend in the superhero biz is Hero for Hire, Luke Cage, and this makes him a pretty crummy friend, when Cage is worrying about scraping together a couple of hundred bucks for rent, and Rand is checking his gold plated Rolex and saying, “Yeah, that sucks, but I’ve got to go drive my Lamborghini over to the Savoy to have a date with a supermodel”.
Some writers have attempted to fix this problem at the core of the character by making Rand so wracked with guilt over his (ill-gotten, by the way) family fortune that he sets up multiple charities to give away all of his money. This kind of stuff never sticks, though, because comics are inherently cyclical in storytelling, and before long, Rand is back in his penthouse, banging another hot blonde while looking inexplicably miserable.
As footage for Netflix’ Iron Fist has appeared in trailers and teasers, I’ve found myself hoping for the slim chance that the whole billionaire thing would be ditched in favor of a more grounded story—perhaps Rand Industries is a much smaller, Mom and Pop business, in order to make Danny feel less like an awkward poor man’s Iron Man.
Seriously, Iron Fist. Iron Man. Both billionaires? At least Marvel can’t sue themselves for copyright infringement.
As it turns out, though, I was wrong. This latest Iron Fist trailer has proven that the show will be spending a lot of time focusing on Danny Rand regaining control of his corporate empire, after a decade or two spend learning martial arts upon Asian mountaintops.
In other words, the show is going to play out like all the B-footage from Batman Begins that Christopher Nolan decided was too boring for human consumption.
That said, the trailer does do a good job of making the plot (rich white boy returns from traveling in Asia to live a life of luxury) look interesting. There’s plenty of martial arts teacher Colleen Wing on display, which is great, because honestly, she should be Iron Fist instead, as it makes much more sense.
It’s weird, though, that Marvel TV has decided that the whole billionaire playboy thing is essential to the Iron Fist story—especially because it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll wind up dating Misty Knight, his primary love interest from the comics.
All I’m saying is, Marvel will need a pretty good explanation for having Kung Fu Tony Stark in The Defenders.
And if he’s rich, but he doesn’t buy Luke Cage a new T-shirt at least, he’s an enormous jerk.