With issue #17 of Immortal Iron Fist, the regular creative team of Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and David Aja will hand over to the new creative team of Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman.
Comics Bulletin’s Dave Wallace spoke with the incoming and outgoing Immortal Iron Fist creators – current writers Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker, and their successor Duane Swierczynski – about their work on a unique book which has redefined the Iron Fist character and concept for modern-day audiences.
Ed Brubaker (EB): Well, I had already been quietly doing less and less work for a few months on the book, and was planning to make the end of the second arc my official exit, since it was clear that Matt didn’t need me anymore. We’d plotted out the first two arcs together, and I had written parts of each one, and done some rewriting on the book every issue, just as Matt does, but I was starting to feel like more of an extra editor or overseer or something other than a co-writer, since Matt had come so far so quickly. Monthly comics have a steep learning curve, but Matt got it faster than most people do.
Matt Fraction (MF):It just felt like the right time. Both of us were getting hammered, schedule-wise, and something had to give. With Immortal Iron Fist it felt like we were as good as we were going to get, so why not go out on what we’d never be able to top? It felt almost… without getting too weird about it, it felt almost dangerous to leave it, like we were turning our backs on a sure thing. So in a way, the book had become safe and reliable. Better to leave at your best than to slouch into mediocrity and disappointment.
CB: You’re certainly going out on a high. Matt, did you always plan to leave the book after the first two arcs, or did you have longer-term plans for the book?
MF:“Longer-term plans” suggests a degree of organization and forethought we never actually possessed on the book. Were there places we wanted to go, ideas we had, storylines to mine? Sure. Does it feel like we were robbed of our opportunity to get there? Absolutely not. We chose to get off the stage.
CB: How closely will you be working with the creative team that’s following you? Have you got any ideas that you’re keen to pass on to them?
EB: I suggested Duane as the new writer for the book, and then once he took the gig, he sent us a lot of questions and notes about his ideas, and we gave him a lot of feedback about what worked or needed to be adjusted to fit with how we were ending the second arc. But after reading Duane’s outline for Iron Fist, I couldn’t be happier.
He’s got all the right parts there, and he’s going to knock it out of the park, I think. It’s a book I actually am really looking forward to reading, but that’s no surprise, because I’m a big fan of Duane’s writing already from his novels (which you should all seek
MF: We worked together so that the transition between [issue] #16 and #17 was seamless. And Duane’s pitch was so good it meant keeping me around as a reader. He has no use for the likes of me, I promise.
And Duane’s was the Iron Fist pitch I actually wanted to read as a series. I was hoping to just walk away like after a bad break-up, but Duane’s pitch was so good I’m not going anywhere.
EB: Shocking. I don’t think we had any idea people would dig the book as much as they do. We were just doing something that Matt and me and David and our editor Warren Simons thought was cool and fun, and very indulgent of our own interests and pulp sensibilities. That it somehow became like this cult phenomenon was kind of crazy.
MF: It’s all been pretty stunning. I’m just incredibly grateful we had the opportunity and freedom to tell the stories we had.
CB: Can either of you see yourself returning to the book and/or its characters at some point in the future? Is there any chance of handling more one-shots or annuals? I need my Orson Randall fix!
EB: If there’s time, yeah, I’d love to write some more annuals or one-shots. I’ve had the idea for the WWI Iron Fist, who became Orson Randall, rattling around in my head for years, so I’d love to spend some more time with him. And I’d love to see Matt do more with him and his crazy confederates that he invented.
MF: I would write a Confederates of the Curious Marvel MAX book in a New York minute.
CB: I hope that the powers that be are listening. Make this happen, Marvel!
Finally, guys, if your run on Immortal Iron Fist was going to be remembered for a single scene, or a single line, what would you like it to be?
EB:“Bring me my victory wenches!” or the John Severin scene. A lot of stuff, really. I’m really happy with all the K’un Lun flashback stuff, with Danny and Orson in the first arc, and Wendell and Davos in the second. I’m really proud of the whole run, though, and proud of the whole team and what we’ve all created together. It was a very non-traditional creative process, and I think that helped the book become more than the sum of its parts. It really took on a life of its own some of the time.
MF: The Cowgirls From Hell bit for Russ Heath. Ed’s bit with Severin. The guy getting kicked through the train.
Most of all, I think it’d be great if our run was remembered as the slow, bad, forgettable Iron Fist before Duane and Travel came on and executed the definitive Iron Fist run.
CB: That leads us nicely onto your work on the book, Duane. What drew you to the character of Iron Fist? What makes this a fun book to write?
Duane Swierczynski (DS): Honestly, it was Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction—I see their names on a book, I buy, no questions asked. Same with Iron Fist, which I’ve been reading since Ed and Matt’s first issue. But once I got into their first arc, I went back to the original series and really got into it. I was always aware of Danny, but he honestly wasn’t one I’d known and loved since I was a kid. But he should have been, because starting at age 4, I was fed a steady diet of Saturday afternoon cr
eature features and Kung Fu flicks. There are some rather embarrassing photos of me striking various Kung Fu poses in my friggin’ underwear circa 1976, and if I’m not mistaken, all to the tune of Carl Douglas’s smash hit, “Kung Fu Fighting.” God help me.
CB: Sounds like perfect training for any writer who wants to take on Immortal Iron Fist!
I seem to remember a recent interview with Publisher’s Weekly in which you mentioned a secret horror project that you were working on with Warren [Simons, Immortal Iron Fist editor]. Was that a separate project, or was it a smokescreen to avoid speculation about Iron Fist?
DS: Oooh, damn good memory. But no, this isn’t that project. There is an actual secret horror project we’re working on. Which, again, was influenced by Saturday afternoon TV viewing. (And my parents thought I was just screwing around all that time.)
CB: What elements of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s run on the book will you be picking up and running with after the changeover? Are you keen to maintain the tone of the Brubaker/Fraction issues after the book changes hands? Or do you want to take this book and make it your own?
DS: Um… all of the elements? Seriously, Ed and Matt have set up this beautiful pulp story machine, and I’d be an idiot to suddenly dismantle it just to make it “my own.” I want to do my part to grow the Iron Fist universe, which means more side stories about other Iron Fists, stand-alone pulp adventures, and of course, Danny Rand’s next moves. Danny is the core of the book, and will always be, until the day, of course, that his mission gets him killed.
CB: Can you let us in on any of the new ideas that you’ll be bringing to the world of Iron Fist?
DS: I really don’t want to spoil anything, because Matt has cued up something extremely cool in issue #16, and my story picks up more or less a split second after that.
But you will see another Iron Fist in the next arc. A bit of Orson Randall lore that may explain some of his antisocial behavior. And we haven’t seen the last of Jeryn’s mom!
Pages from Immortal Iron Fist #17