On January 20, Danny Rand returns to the Marvel Comics spotlight in a new five-issue limited series titled Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon, which delves into his mystical origins as the Iron Fist.
To take Danny on this new journey, writer Larry Hama returns to Iron Fist, one of the characters that launched his comic book career as a penciler in the '70s. Now a legendary writer and skilled martial artist in his own right, Hama returns to the mythology he helped build around Iron Fist and the dragon whose fiery heart gave him his powers.
Newsarama spoke to Hama ahead of Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 to discuss the writer's return to the character, working alongside longtime Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist David Wachter, and how the philosophy of martial arts plays into the story of Iron Fist.
Newsarama: Larry, this Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon limited series is actually a return for you, as one of the creators who helped define his supporting cast and even introduced the dragon from whom Danny Rand got his powers. How does it feel coming back to Iron Fist after all this time?
Larry Hama: It's like going home and finding everything has changed, but for the better. Love the new supporting cast, and the dynamics of the interplay. Exploring the complexities of the Seven Cities, and the Heart of Heaven, and delving into the back story of the dragons has been an invigorating challenge.
Nrama: Speaking of dragons, the mystical elements of Iron Fist seem to be front and center in Marvel's announcement of what's coming in this story. What can you tell us about what Iron Fist is up against in Heart of the Dragon?
Hama: Ultimate evil, and existential threat to All Under Heaven. The title is a little misleading because this is about all the hearts of all the dragons. It's also about regeneration, redemption, and the quality of mercy.
Nrama: How has your perspective on Iron Fist changed in the time since you first worked on his comic books? What do you see as the core of who Danny Rand is?
Hama: It's a completely different perspective since I am now scripting, and back in the beginning, I was penciling. It was my first monthly Marvel title, and I was following the great Gil Kane, so I felt I had to give it 200%. After 47 years, a lot has been added to the mythos, and some brilliant work has been done on the book, so again I feel obligated to give it the best shot, and more.
Nrama: As a skilled martial artist yourself, how do you incorporate the knowledge and philosophy behind martial arts into a story like Iron Fist, where they are central to the action?
Hama: The action is just choreography. The philosophy of organized martial arts is rooted in Buddhism. The Zen martial arts are all about One Mind. The Shaolin Temple in China is a Chan (Zen) temple. Shorin-ryu Kempo is the Japanese extension of Shaolin, etc, etc.
It is a non-intellectual approach to the unknowable some call the Gateway of the Stillness Beyond All Activity. Hard to explain without hitting you upside the head with a stick, but in more earthly terms Sensei Mas Oyama summed it up by saying "to conquer fear is to conquer death, and to conquer death is to conquer life."
Nrama: You're working with David Wachter, who is no stranger to drawing ninja action after his long TMNT run. How has it been building that working relationship?
Hama: I've never met him, nor have I spoken with him, nor communicated directly with him. I love what he is doing, and he makes my end seem better by how amazingly beautiful and clear he handles his part of this.
His imagery always exceeds my expectations, his acting is dead-on, and full of wonderful subtleties, and his visual storytelling is clear as a bell. I've worked with Michael Golden, Marc Silvestri, and Adam Kubert, and David is right up there with them in my book.
Nrama: How closely are you working with David on the depiction of the combat and fighting styles on display in Iron Fist? How has that visual language developed for this series?
Hama: He pretty much draws what I describe.
Nrama: Iron Fist has remained a perennial fan favorite Marvel character, even though he's rarely been a household name. What do you think gives Iron Fist that staying power?
Hama: Beats me.
Nrama: Bottom line, what do fans need to know going into Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon?
Hama: Leave your preconceptions behind, and have a good time.
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