Iron Fist #1 (Nov. 1975) "A Duel of Iron!" Chris Claremont -writer John Byrne - artist Al McWilliams -inker
Karen:We've had a lot of discussions about how much an inker can affect an artist's work, for better or worse. I think this issue provides an interesting example of that. Although drawn by John Byrne, Al McWilliams' inks are so over-powering that folks used to seeing Byrne inked by Terry Austin or himself might have a hard time recognizing his work here.
Karen: Iron Fist had been appearing in Marvel Premiere for some time prior to getting his own title. During the 70s it seemed like Marvel loved to feature another, already established character in first issues and this one is no exception. The 'other' Iron hero, Iron Man, makes a major appearance in this book.
Karen: Claremont follows the same narrative pattern here that he began in Marvel Premiere, with captions that read, "You are Iron Fist -and tonight you are breaking the law" or "Iron Man's attack is blindingly fast -but you are a fraction faster." It's an interesting idea, although I found it a bit tiresome at times. It does have the effect of removing any need for thought balloons for Iron Fist, since we are being told the story from his perspective any way.
Karen: Iron Fist's friend, Colleen Wing, has been kidnapped, and the evidence points to a plot coming from - Stark Industries? Grade B villain Angar the Screamer gives up this info before he escapes. Iron Fist breaks into Stark's corporate HQ and runs straight into Misty Knight, who is sporting a really goofy pseudo-super-hero look here (complete with an 'MK' belt buckle!). Misty has a contact inside Stark and has come to meet with him, but they find the man, Don Cauley, dead.
Karen: While they are having their fun running around and breaking into the computer room, the security systems alert the big man, Tony Stark. Stark gets out of bed and sees the image of the dead man and then Iron Fist and concludes that IF has killed him. He then goes for his handy-dandy briefcase and pops it open, revealing the Iron Man armor. Just as an aside: the idea of Stark lugging around his armor in a standard size briefcase just seems so ridiculous now, doesn't it? At least they made it work in the Iron Man 2 movies, although that case was considerably larger, and the suit was not his standard suit.
Karen: Next up, an interlude, where we see Colleen Wing trying to escape her kidnappers at an airport. She manages to get away from them but runs into a huge man who stops her. She claws at him and tears his shirt, and sees something that startles her. He knocks her out and hands her over to her captors, who decide not to mess with him. Moments later we see our mystery man on the phone to Ward Meachum, who was the partner of Iron Fist's father. The final panel reveals that our mystery man has a serpent tattoo on his chest, one very similar to our hero's. And he wants to find Iron Fist. Karen: As Misty continues to hack the Stark computer, Iron Fist searches the premises for the Cauley's killer. Of course, he runs into a very pissed off Iron Man. In the fine tradition of Marvel comics, the two have at each other. Now you might think that Fist should have no chance against IM (I would), but it is his book, so of course he puts on a good show. Iron Man lands a solid punch to the face and tells Fist "You're playing in the big leagues now, mister!" He then uses his image inducer (?) to make multiple images of himself to confuse fist. OK, did Iron Man ever do this before? It's certainly not a standard part of his repertoire. Claremont would have Nightcrawler over in the X-Men use Stark's image inducer too, at least initially, to hide his demonic appearance. Being the trained fighter he is, Fist has no problem locating the real IM and giving him a whack.
Karen: But it looks like Fist really isn't being able to take down IM. IM tries to get him to give himself up but of course he won't. As they get ready to go after each other again, there is a huge explosion from the computer center, where Misty was working. Presuming her dead, Fist grows furious and basically takes a cheap shot on IM, kicking him in the back! Not very honorable. He follows up with blow after blow, finally unleashing the power of his iron fist, in a nicely drawn full page shot. Karen: Iron Man rises from the debris of the lab and tells IF he's had enough, cutting loose with his repulsor beams. Just as Fist is about to get a REAL iron fist to the face, who should show up but Misty Knight and -Don Cauley? Yup, looks like Misty's friend was not only not dead, but working for the bad guys. The whole meeting was a set-up, to try to get Misty and possibly Iron Fist as well.
Karen: With this revealed, IF and IM shake and bury the hatchet. Oddly enough, IM says he'd like to help find Colleen but he has more urgent matters to deal with! I guess you have to explain why he wouldn't help some way, other than just 'we can't have Iron Man running around in the book'.
Karen: This was such a typical Marvel "two heroes meet -two heroes fight" story. Because it is so centered on battles, there's little of the trademark Claremont character development here. Byrne's art seemed to be still evolving here, based on his layouts. Honestly, the McWilliams' inks make it very difficult to really see Byrne's style. All in all, an enjoyable little story, although certainly not the best from the original Iron Fist series. That was yet to come.
Our collaborators, Martinex1 and Redartz, have opened a new blog called Back in the Bronze Age... If you have liked the sorts of topics seen here on Bronze Age Babies, then you are going to feel right at home at Back in the Bronze Age... Give them a visit!
Karen and Doug
Bronze Age Babies, Unite!
On Sunday, 4/23/17, Martinex1, Doug, and Redartz gathered for a day of fun at C2E2 in Chicago. It was great to finally meet in person after years of online cameraderie.
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
Believe it or not, the Bronze Age Babies have never spoken to each other...
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Dig Karen's Work Here? Then You Should Check Her Out in Back Issue!
BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
As if Karen's work on Spidey in the Bronze Age wasn't awesome enough, she's at it again with a look at the romance of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in Back Issue's "Odd Couples" issue -- from TwoMorrows!
Karen's talking the Mighty Thor in the Bronze Age!
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