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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So WHO Killed Iron Fist?

In this feature we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today, we take a look at how John Byrne spent about two years’ worth of Namor retconning the last year or so of Power Man and Iron Fist, including the death of Iron Fist!

Christopher Priest (then Jim Owsley) took over Power Man and Iron Fist with #111, where he introduced an interesting new character known as Captain Hero, who was actually a young boy…

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Even more surprising is the revelation that the young boy has only a few months to live…

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A few issues later, Iron Fist was exposed to some serious levels of radiation and began suffering from a deadly case of radiation poisoning. He and Power Man headed to K’un-Lun to see if they could cure Iron Fist mystically in a storyline in #118-120 that also involves longtime Iron Fist enemy Master Khan.

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They manage to do so, but only by unlocking a dark force within Iron Fist…

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In the end, they save Danny’s soul and he is seemingly cured…

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However, the red suit still comes out when Danny gets angry. That is the status quo for the next few issues, which takes us to Power Man and Iron Fist #125, where Bobby takes a turn for the worse…

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Eventually Bobby is seemingly healed through the use of the Nega Bands (after Iron Fist used his mystical healing energies to keep Bobby alive until the Nega Bands solution was discovered)…

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But later that night, Luke Cage leaves…

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And while Luke is absent, Bobby wakes up in tremendous pain and is near death. He is so distraught that he ends up accidentally killing Iron Fist…

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So that was the end of the series. Power Man on the run and Iron Fist dead.

Meanwhile, Priest had introduced a new supporting character – a cop named Tyrone King. You saw him above. He was a mysterious guy.

At the end of the issue, he is blown up, but…

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Ooooh…mysterious!

So this was the status quo for a surprisingly long time, over FOUR years! I think various writers intended to resolve the story at one point or another, but ultimately it came down to John Byrne in the pages of Namor.

Here, in #8, Iron Fist seemingly returns!

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After a bunch of issues, it is revealed that “Danny” is really the Super Skrull!!

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Misty believes Danny must still be alive somehow…

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And a couple of issues later, Tyrone King shows her she is correct…

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Then in Namor #24, we see the whole deal revealed. It is actually pretty damn crazy. The whole THING was a plot by Master Khan!!

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Khan was working with the plant people, but he later reveals he betrayed them…

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(Eventually Namor re-discovers himself and kills Khan)

So…yeah, the last 10 issues or so of Power Man and Iron Fist starred THREE people who weren’t who they said they were! Captain Hero, Tyrone King AND Iron Fist!

Well, at least Iron Fist was back now! By the way, he was still dying of the radiation poisoning (since the fake Iron Fist replaced him before #118) but he cured himself while being held in stasis by the plant people.

51 Comments

Captain Haddock

July 21, 2013 at 7:57 am

On the one hand, I’m glad we got Danny back so we could get that amazing Iron Fist series from a few years ago.

On the other hand, yeeeeesh. What an explanation. Super Skrulls, Plant People, Master Khan…what a doozy. And all just exposited out for us in the most clumsy manner possible.

All I can think was that Byrne realized he had spent so much time teasing the answer that it was just too long to do any more teasing and with Jae Lee taking over on art on the series soon he wanted to just get the plot finished, hence the pages and pages of info-dumping.

I remember the ending of Power Fist/Iron Man and found it incredibly forced. Rereading hasn’t improved it.
But the retcon is every bit as clunky. It’s like one of those “choice of dooms” stories–which bad plot do you prefer?

ParanoidObsessive

July 21, 2013 at 8:44 am

However, the red suit still comes out when Danny gets angry. That is the status quo for the next few issues

Quick fix – it wasn’t so much that Danny wore it when he was angry, as much as he no longer considered himself “worthy” of wearing the green costume anymore. From his perspective, he wore the red to symbolize the fact that he was now tainted by his failures and the innocent blood that had been spilled due to his mistakes.

Also, I’m not 100% sure of the timing, but I’m pretty sure that Byrne’s story involving Super Skrull’s return from the radiation belt came after the Silver Surfer issue where it had already happened, completely ignoring the actual events of that issue and the person behind it in favor of his own interpretation, so Byrne was retconning more than one previous story…

Some dang good drugs were floating around then it seems!

It was overly complicated but it was fun and put Danny and Luke back into play. That last part would have made even a bad story worthwhile!

Les Fontenelle

July 21, 2013 at 9:56 am

I personally prefer my own “fix”: none of that ever happened. The Shazamoid little-boy-turned-supahero never happened, the absurdly anticlimactic hollow death of the Iron Fist never happened, Byrne’s nonsensical infodumped retcon never happened. Iron Fist never died, that’s silly. Customized continuity solves all continuity problems.

Let’s face it, the best way to handle the continuities of these decades-old IPs is to treat the whole mess as a salad-bar: pick the parts that you like, leave behind the parts that don’t. That’s the same process through which I discarded the ludicrous “Bruce Wayne Murderer” flustercuck, Spider-Man’s clone saga and the Human Torch’s poorly-conceived marriage (and divorce) to skrull Alicia Masters.

Trying to tie together into a consisten whole all the gibberish-foam formed by half a century of stories by countless different creators is a recipe for insanity. Of COURSE Tony Stark was never replaced by a teenage version of himself, that would be ridiculous. Any colorful pamphlet that claims otherwise is clearly apocryphal.

Les Fontenelle

July 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

And if I were in Byrne’s place, I would have shown Luke Cage waking up and realizing that the whole shebang had been a bad dream, with Danny alive and all the previous demented nonsense swept away. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but it would be WAY better than claiming that an unrelated evil-mastermind had the Superskrull perform various different roles while plant-people duplicated a hero to troll his friends.

I’ve never read John Byrne’s “Namor”, but, if the above pages are any indication, he certainly devotes a lot of time and space to characters and plot-lines that have nothing to with the Sub-Mariner! Was this typical of the entire run?

From now on, anyone who dies is a Skrull, a clone, or an alternate from another timeline.

Krishna Sadasivam

July 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

What was the purpose of the H’ylthri Iron Fist duplicate? Was it just meant to throw Luke and company off, while the real Iron Fist was being consumed by the plant people?

I’ve never read John Byrne’s “Namor”, but, if the above pages are any indication, he certainly devotes a lot of time and space to characters and plot-lines that have nothing to with the Sub-Mariner! Was this typical of the entire run?

Byrne definitely used the title as a sort of a viewpoint into the Marvel Universe, likely informed by the fact that the book was starring Namor, ya know? Not exactly a hot superhero. But no, for the most part, the book centered on Namor. The Iron Fist diversion and a Spitfire from the Invaders diversion, as well (where Byrne de-aged her), were more exceptions than the rule for the run.

Cool, thanks for covering this one, Brian! Coincidentally I’d been rereading some of Iron Fist’s earliest appearances from Marvel Premiere and was put in mind of this hugely complex retcon again.

I’d wondered for a while if Marvel had intended to resurrect Danny pretty much from the outset, but were sidetracked for whatever reason. Case in point: he has no entry in OHOTMU Deluxe #6, which hit shelves a few months before the final issue of PM/IF, suggesting that like the equally doomed Snowbird, he’d been saved for the Book of the Dead. Power Man’s entry in #10 contains no cross-reference for Danny at all (and is suitably vague about the conclusion of the concurrently-released PM/IF #125) but just one issue later, OHOTMU Deluxe #11′s Sabretooth entry gives a distinct cross-reference to the soon-to-be-published Book of the Dead – “(See Deceased: Iron Fist)”.

Oddly enough, there *is* no Iron Fist entry in the Book of the Dead! That would have to wait until the 1989 OHOTMU Update, where he’s listed among the living characters (only the unfortunate Madelyne Pryor is shunted to the end of the last volume as being definitively deceased), his entry ending “whether Daniel Rand is indeed truly dead remains to be seen.”

So, looks like they’d decided to try and bring him back not long after declaring him dead… and yet it still took a couple more years after the OHOTMU Update to bring him back for real!

You can tell I have far too much time on my hands, can’t you? :-)

I’d be interested in one day reading a list of all the comics Byrne revamped continuity on. He seemed to get away with a lot of this during his career with the big two. I’d also be curious to know how he’s handled it when it’s his work swept aside.

When I got back into comic in the ’00s (after sitting out the ’90s), the biggest shock I got was that Jim Owsley was somehow still getting work (It was less shocking that he’d felt the need to change his name). The meaningless deaths of both Ned Leeds and Iron Fist were not just terrible writing, but the two most contemptuous F.U.s that comics fans had ever received: “F.U. for caring about this character– I’m the writer, and I don’t, so you shouldn’t either.” I know that “Christopher Priest” has his fans, but I wouldn’t touch any of the guy’s books with a ten foot pole.

What was the purpose of the H’ylthri Iron Fist duplicate? Was it just meant to throw Luke and company off, while the real Iron Fist was being consumed by the plant people?

It was part of some plot to take over the Earth. They wanted Iron Fist out of the way to keep him from stopping their plans. Khan went along with it just to further his own plan (which seemingly was just to fuck with Fist and his friends, in Misty’s case, he did so literally) but then split from the H’ylthri when the real Iron Fist escaped as they were no longer useful to him.

so Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest) and Mark Bright (M.D. Bright? ) were together on this title way before Quantum and Woody?

so Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest) and Mark Bright

Yep. They also did Emerald Dawn before Quantum and Woody.

I think the reason Byrne used the Super-Skrull is because he realized there was an Englehart story he hadn’t retconned yet.

As someone once pointed out, there were probably actually FOUR characters in those last issues of Power Man and Iron Fist who weren’t who they said they were. By that point in time NYPD officer Kris Keating had probably already been killed behind the scenes, as revealed in Spectacular Spider-Man #129, so the “Keating” seen in that story is either The Foreigner or one of his agents in disguise. Talk about crazy confusing!

I do not have any real attachment to Iron Fist, but if he had to be brought back I prefer the ‘it was all a trick’ to just ignoring things. Decades long continuity is a tool there to be used, not a problem to be overcome, and if creators are doing work with characters that is original, that is moving forward, then ‘continuity constraints’ will not be an issue.

So yes, if Marvel (or Byrne) want to undo a bad decision (killing Iron Fist) I am okay with this approach.

@Matt K
Thanks for the link.

Man, that is a seriously clumsy retcon. I’m surprised Byrne didn’t add that D.A. Tower was secretly the Chameleon, Luke was a Space Phantom, Lei Kung the Thunderer was a Dire Wraith, and Captain Keating was an LMD.

Oh, and Dr. West is Mystique, but that should be obvious.

@Gareth- Priest has said the he had an out for Danny’s death- Captain Hero had absorbed Danny’s life force. (He also claimed that Denny O’Neil was the one that suggested killing Danny but take that with a grain of salt since O’Neil was no longer at Marvel at that point.) Roger Stern has said in interviews that he WAS planning on bringing Danny back before he was fired from Avengers. Stern’s idea was that everything after Luke fell asleep was an illusion created by Khan’s dark magics. Stern didn’t like the portrayal of DA Tower as a racist trying to railroad Luke. (The heroes have always trusted Tower- among other things Carol and Logan played poker with him with their masks off. And Tower’s always been portrayed as a rational man.) They never did explain Tower’s out-of-character behavior.

Thanks Michael – it did rather seem that the powers that be at Marvel weren’t quite sure what was happening with Danny. And I did wonder about the odd portrayal of DA Tower, I remember at least one of those poker games and his PM/IF appearance really didn’t sit well with what I knew of the character. Both Priest and Stern’s suggested solutions seem less convoluted than Byrne’s, and it’s interesting that Stern was also going to use Master Khan.

I, for one, miss ‘info-dumping’.

Back then it was just good comics, with tons of back story and extras. SO much better than multiple splash pages, or the current decompressed ‘writing for the trade’ nonsense that takes 6 months to get one tiny point across.

Oh well, to each his/her own.

Info-dump is fine.

But the plot sure was convoluted. Four impostors in the same stories, Superskrull developing a full human identity out of the blue and pretending to be a child as well, Master Khan meeting him and cooperating with him to the point of brainwashing Superskrull, and then the intelligent plants of Kun-Lun… and why would they even attempt an alliance with Khan? And why would Khan accept?

A worthwhile goal, but a very clumsy path towards it.

Matt, I had the same reaction when I realized Priest’s Black Panther was written by the same guy who’d done so much stuff I utterly loathed (and while I hadn’t realized Emerald Dawn was his, that’s on the list).

It’s not really, I think he only wrote first issue.

I remember beign really impressed by the trick of the Super Skrull combining the powers of the Thing and the Human Torch to make a convincing Iron Fist double. And I was pleased enough with the slow reveal on that trick that I barely even -noticed howover-the-top and ultra-convulted the explanation was about how Danny Rand returned. To my mind, that makes it good comics. Almost any aspect of Sci-Fi/Fantasy can be laughed at it you decide not to care about what’s going on, but if you make someone care enough, you can forgive/ignore almost anything.

That said, I am less inclined to like Byrne comics now than I was in the 1990s, when I didn’t know what a tool he was/is.

Also, I felt a bit short-changed that they didn’t do more with Luke Cage during the 4 years when he was a fugitive accused of murdering his best firend, that’s not a bad place to put a character in (cf Bendis leaving Matt Murdock in jail at the end of his run on Daredevil).

“I’d wondered for a while if Marvel had intended to resurrect Danny pretty much from the outset, but were sidetracked for whatever reason.” – Gareth J.

The sidetrack was the end of the series.

I’m pretty sure that, when I met him years ago at a convention, he said that the cancellation was sort of sudden, and he decided to keep his subplots going anyway.

Iron Fist was going to eventually come back in a typical comic book “mystical mumbo-jumbo” manner.

And Tyrone King was secretly a vampire. Apparently, there was panel in an issue where he didn’t have a reflection and that was a hint to the readers. It wasn’t clear to me where that subplot was going.

Brian, did you ever run as a comic book legend the story that Denny O’Neil dictated the ending to PM/IF #125 as a protest against the book being cancelled to make room for the New Universe titles? I’m pretty sure the story is over at Priest’s blog.

Also, I remember a bit in Marvel Age when the issue came out that said that there had actually been an earlier Marvel comic (a Western, I think) that had ended in the same way — one partner dead and the other on the run, wanted for his murder.

Weirdly enough, having never heard of Tyrone King, as soon as I saw him in the above pages I thought “I bet that guy ends up being a vampire.” Part of it is the trench coat and color scheme, and, admittedly, part of it is just that his name reminded me of Hannibal King from “Blade”.

From Priest’s site: “King, who seemed impervious to harm, favored the night, cast no reflection and had no shadow, was not a vampire. Doc wanted to make everyone think King was a vampire, but he wasn’t. 13 years later, I don’t remember who King was, but he wasn’t Master Khan, Iron Fist’s nemesis, as revealed in the pages of NAMOR (with my blessing, BTW; John Byrne called and discussed this with me beforehand).”

Matthew, I think that comic was Gunhawks.

TJ, I had exactly the same reaction.

I… er… wha huh?
Strangely enough, I’m okay with the ending of PM&IF, but I wish we knew what the original intention was with regards to Tyrone King and all that.

Frankly, instead of all the weirdness Claremont went with, I’d have come up with a much simpler explanation for Danny’s return. The free-floating energy atoms of the kid go into the body and bring it back to life, and Danny then has to live every day while trying to keep the kid’s memory alive… knowing he was the last refuge for the kid’s spirit and energy. As for Tyrone… I dunno, but I’m sure something interesting could have been done. Heck, what if he’d been another Immortal Weapon?

None of this Super-Skrull and plant people nonsense.

According to Priest, the plan was to make people think Tyrone King was a vampire and then reveal he was something else:
http://digitalpriest.com/legacy/comics/powerfist.html
It’s not clear what Tyrone was supposed to be, since he was obviously something superhuman.

As far as I know, the idea of there being Immortal Weapons other than Iron Fist wasn’t really a thing until Brubaker & Fraction introduced it 21 years after Iron Fist’s death in Power Man and Iron Fist, and 17 years after Byrne’s Namor story.

Like we’ve never waited a few decades for an explanation…. :) It still would have been better than Master Khan somehow did it all.

The pro of Byrne’s retcon: We finally got the true Iron Fist back.

The con: We lost Tyrone King. I liked him and wished his mysterious origin had turned out differently.

My biggest problem here is not the info dump or the crazy X pretending to be Y stuff but how the kid punches IF to death just so Luke can be framed. It’s so clumsy that it ruins the horrible moment that Luke finds his friend dead.

When was the next time Iron Fist appeared in a good story after this? It looks to me like Danny might as well have stayed dead another decade.

Which could be a column/discussion in itself: Which characters were so poorly used they should have stayed dead?

FuryOfFirestorm

July 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

So basically, John Byrne wrote Secret Invasion before Bendis did.

Odd, my comment is in moderation now (it was just linking to Priest’s explanation of writing the story).

Anyhow, as much as I love the character it really wasn’t until the latest volume that Danny get a decent story and seemingly not much since. I hope that one of these Marvel Now books ends up being a new series but considering the evidence it seems unlikely.

It’s funny you guys got the “vampire” vibe from Tyrone King just in those few panels – because they were going for that. Priest: “King, who seemed impervious to harm, favored the night, cast no reflection and had no shadow, was not a vampire. Doc wanted to make everyone think he was a vampire, but he wasn’t.”

I would guess that the comments that went into moderation did so because Brian plans to address the point in a future Comic Book Legends Revealed or some other feature on the blog.

I always thought that either the Super-Skrull fake out or the plant duplicate story would have been fine on their own. Smushing the two storylines together made things overly complicated though.

Roger Stern had planned to bring back Iron Fist in Avengers, before he was fired from the book.

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