Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always make it clear that they feel superhero blog posts make for nice, light diversions over the weekend, so here comes another one. This one takes a look at the early stories of Iron Fist from the 1970s.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 15 (May 1974)
Title: The Fury of Iron Fist
Villain: Shu Hu the One
Comment: In the 1970s “Everybody was Kung Fu fight-iiiiing” and Marvel Comics jumped onto the bandwagon with a series of martial arts characters. By this point in 1974 the company had already introduced Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu, the female Avenger called Mantis and the Sons of the Tiger. Now would come Iron Fist, real name Daniel Rand, later modified to Daniel Rand-Kai.
Synopsis: The origin story of Iron Fist is told through flashbacks this issue and the next. This story starts with action and THEN delves into the superhero’s origin, a formula I think works best, but I’m not a comic book expert. In the Himalayan Mountains, in the mystical city called K’un-Lun, Iron Fist is battling four opponents under the watchful eyes of K’un-Lun’s ruler Yu-Ti the August Personage of Jade and his subordinate Dragon Kings.
NOTE: This K’un-Lun is not THE K’un-Lun from Chinese mythology but it uses the same name and many of the inhabitants go by names corresponding to Chinese gods. Yu-Ti is one of them, Lei Kung the Thunderer is another. This K’un-Lun is an enchanted city that appears on Earth only once every ten years before returning to its pocket dimension home for another ten.
Back to the story – Iron Fist defeats his four opponents and, having survived this Challenge of the Many, now asks Yu-Ti for permission to face the Challenge of the One (Shu Hu). Yu-Ti wants Iron Fist to be sure that is what he desires, so he tells him to contemplate the path that has led him to this Day of Days.
Daniel Rand then thinks back to ten years earlier when he was 9 years old and accompanied his father Wendell Rand, mother Heather Rand and his father’s business partner Harold Meachum to the Himalayan Mountains. A decade earlier, Wendell Rand had left his home in K’un-Lun to return to New York City, where he made a fortune in business with Harold Meachum and had also wooed and won his wife Heather.
Now, Wendell wanted his wife and son to see the glories of K’un-Lun and, needless to say, prove that it really existed. Meachum had come along out of friendship, he claimed. At one point in the freezing cliffs, Danny had nearly fallen to his death, dragging his mother with him, but his father had saved them, only to begin falling himself. He asked Harold Meachum for help but instead, Meachum kicked Wendell loose and he plummeted far below.
Like all villains in fiction, Harold wanted his business partner’s half of the business AND his wife Heather. While a furious Heather threw rocks at Meachum, Harold at last admitted his love for Heather and tried to convince her to cover up his deed and go back to civilization to become his wife, for her son’s sake if not her own.
Heather refused and Danny sided with her. Meachum cheerfully left them to die and headed back down the mountain. Danny and his mother continued on the way toward where their father had indicated K’un-Lun was located. End of flashback, for now.
Back in the present, Iron Fist tells Yu-Ti he is certain he wants to face the Challenge of the One and so that “One”, Shu Hu the Lightning, emerges to fight Daniel. After awhile, the battle seems to be going thoroughly against Iron Fist and some of the Dragon Kings assume that our hero will lose and will face the fate of all who lose the Challenge of the One: banishment into the Himalayan snows when K’un-Lun again materialized on Earth, a day fast approaching.
As the battle continues, Daniel flashes back again – cold and hungry, he and his mother dragged themselves onward for days until, at last, the Bridge of Destiny leading to K’un-Lun was there ahead of them. The Wolves of K’un-Lun had gotten loose in the snows upon materialization and unfortunately they now caught the scent of Danny and Heather.
Heather sacrificed herself fighting the wolves alone to give her child time to cross the bridge. He looked back to see her torn to pieces until archers from within K’un-Lun arrived to kill the wolves, then welcomed the newly-orphaned child to the enchanted city. End of flashback for this issue.
Back in the present, despite the beating he’s been taking from Shu Hu the One, our hero manages to ignore the pain and increase his concentration to the point where he unleashes the power of the Iron Fist, his namesake, into his right hand. It glows with that power and he uses it to finish off Shu Hu, revealing it to be merely an android in human form used to test warriors.
The bloodied but unbowed Iron Fist now demands of Yu-Ti and his subordinates the right to make his choice. Yu-Ti tells him that yes, he has won the Challenge of the Many and the Challenge of the One and may now choose eternal life by eating of the Tree of Immortality … or choose death.
NOTE: As this opening story of Iron Fist ends, a note indicates it is dedicated to the memory of the Golden Age comics creator Bill Everett “a most amazing man” the dedication calls him. That line is a clear homage to Everett’s character Amazing Man, who, like many other Golden Age superheroes, gained extraordinary abilities in the Himalayas.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #16 (July 1974)
Title: Heart of the Dragon
Villain: The Scythe
Synopsis: Once again we start with action which will be followed by flashbacks to complete Iron Fist’s origin story. It is an unknown amount of time after the previous issue ended. Iron Fist is walking the night-darkened streets of New York City in search of Harold Meachum so he can kill him to avenge his father and mother.
Four hired killers lure Daniel into an alleyway and state they are planning to collect the bounty that Meachum has put on Iron Fist’s head, dead or alive. The battle goes along for a time, and as it continues our hero flashes back again.
Daniel was raised in K’un-Lun and was taught the martial arts by Lei Kung the Thunderer. He excelled as a student and at age 16 he was swift enough to pass the Test of the Serpent, striking with his hand more swiftly than the snake could move. He wanted still more, however, because he wanted revenge on Harold Meachum. End flashback for now.
Back in the present day, Iron Fist defeats all his attackers, then ponders the price on his head.
Now comes another flashback to how, after he passed the Test of the Serpent, Lei Kung continued his training, getting him to toughen his hands with the usual way familiar to martial arts fans – he would plunge his hands into tubs of sand over and over again, to develop calluses, then move on to tubs of gravel to do the same and finally to tubs of rocks.
Daniel still wanted even more skills and abilities, so Yu-Ti granted him the opportunity to risk death in pursuit of the power of the Iron Fist. Daniel went to the lair of the full-sized dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, who breathed fire and moved like a snake. The dragon had a mystical, dragon-shaped scar on its midsection where its heart had been cut out long ago and stored in a brazier deep within its cave.
NOTE: Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog may be familiar with the common mythic theme of a being’s heart being removed and stored elsewhere, making it impossible to truly kill unless the heart is found and destroyed.
Our hero was familiar with the ritual of the Iron Fist and knew what he had to do. After a lengthy battle spent dodging Shou-Lao’s fiery breath and his serpent-like thrusts he had to squeeze the dragon’s midsection to his chest, blocking the dragon-scar on the creature to cut off its power long enough for it to fall unconscious.
Daniel endured the unimaginable pain, cutting off the mystically transmitted power from the dragon’s heart long enough for it to collapse in defeat, but branding the shape of the dragon’s scar into his own chest. Proceeding further into its cave he came upon the brazier in which burned Shou-Lao’s fiery heart.
Like martial artists toughening their hands by plunging them repeatedly into sand or gravel or rocks, Daniel plunged his hands into the scorching-hot heart of the dragon, thus gaining the power of the Iron Fist. Not to mention a fancy costume and mask like many other residents of K’un-Lun. End of flashbacks for now.
Back in the present, Iron Fist continues searching for leads to Harold Meachum that night in New York. He comes upon a costumed martial arts supervillain calling himself the Scythe, who boasts that HE will be the one to collect the bounty on Iron Fist.
This villain wields a Japanese kusari-gama, a sort of “ball and scythe” similar to a ball and chain in concept: an iron ball on one end and a chain connecting it to a scythe. After a battle royal it looks like the Scythe is gaining the upper hand, triggering another flashback on Iron Fist’s part.
This final flashback picks up where last issue ended – with Yu-Ti granting our hero a choice between eternal life by eating of the Tree of Immortality or death, by choosing to leave K’un-Lun, never to return. Iron Fist says he chooses to leave K’un-Lun to avenge himself on Harold Meachum, even though it means he will remain mortal and die some day.
Yu-Ti exhausts the usual anti-revenge arguments against Daniel, who at length loses patience with Yu-Ti and snaps at him about how the August Personage of Jade couldn’t possibly understand how he feels about his father Wendell Rand’s murder. Yu-Ti pops a surprise on our hero, telling him that he DOES understand, because Wendell Rand … was his brother.
Though stunned by this admission, Iron Fist still leaves K’un-Lun for good the next day, the one day every ten years that the city materializes on Earth. Daniel was 9 when he entered the city, now he is 19 and sets out on his quest for vengeance.
Back to the present day, Iron Fist fights on against the Scythe, ultimately using all his skill and iron-fisted powers to defeat the mercenary killer. The villain loses all his bravado now, beaten and with his weapon destroyed. In a panic he answers Iron Fist’s questions about where he can find Harold Meachum. The Scythe points to Meachum Tower, formerly Rand-Meachum Tower, and our hero stalks off toward it, relishing his impending revenge.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #17 (September 1974)
Title: Citadel on the Edge of Vengeance
Villains: Harold Meachum and the Ninja
Synopsis: Iron Fist storms through the ground floor doors of the Meachum Building, which has plenty of people in the lobby even though we were told last issue that it’s nighttime. (Well, New York IS the city that never sleeps.) In tried and true martial arts movie “gauntlet” fashion, our hero must fight his way to Meachum’s penthouse/ office on the 24th floor.
Iron Fist overcomes assorted high-tech death-traps and automated machine guns, etc as he ascends from level to level. He ultimately has to survive gun-wielding goons, acid, toxic gasses, trap-doors, you name it. Just outside Harold Meachum’s office door, a security camera which is really a laser-gun shoots at our hero, but he is helped by the sudden appearance and disappearance of a supervillain in a Ninja costume, a villain we will eventually learn is, in fact, called the Ninja.
The Ninja blinded the laser weapon with one of his Ninja Stars, then Iron Fist destroyed the weapon itself, though puzzled about the “hit and run” Ninja. He at last knocks his way into the office ahead of him, only to see that this was all a trap. Inside the phony “office” is a costumed martial arts villain calling himself Triple-Iron for the armor and triple-nun-chucks he wields. Triple-Iron says he’s been paid well to kill Iron Fist.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #18 (October 1974)
Title: Lair Of Shattered Vengeance
Villains: Triple-Iron and the Ninja
NOTE: Marvel Premiere is now published monthly instead of bi-monthly.
Synopsis: As their battle begins, Triple-Iron informs Daniel that he has been imprisoned in this cell/ death-trap for several years, with Harold Meachum offering him his freedom ONLY after he would kill Daniel Rand, whom Meachum lived in fear of, lest he come looking for him.
We see that the exoskeletal armor worn by the incredibly tall villain AND the high-tech walls of the room serve to electronically charge his triple-nun-chucks, electrocuting Iron Fist to a certain degree with the merest graze of his weapon as they fight. The battle goes on and on, until the Ninja teleports into the room, throws a Ninja Star to indicate which part of the wall can be used to escape into another room, then teleports away again.
The puzzled Iron Fist bursts through the wall in the place indicated by the thrown shuriken and discovers the control center from which Harold Meachum oversaw the use of all the death-traps he faced last issue. Meachum is no longer in the room and the battle between Daniel and Triple-Iron continues.
At length Iron Fist uses wires to electrocute his opponent, short-circuiting his armor and triple-nun-chucks, plus rendering the villain unconscious. A doorway to another room now opens and our hero enters cautiously, to see a robed Harold Meachum sitting behind a desk.
Iron Fist enters the room, intent on killing Meachum, but is stunned to see that both of Harold’s legs have been amputated just above the knee. He also seems to have aged thirty years even though only ten have gone by since he last saw the man. Meachum relates what happened after he left Daniel and his mother Heather to die in the snows of the Himalayas.
He became lost and nearly died in the freezing wind and snow, but came to in a village near Katmandu, being cared for by an old man and his daughter. He was horrified to see that they had been forced to amputate his legs before frostbite moved any further up his body.
Meachum had to wait in that village until a sledded cart could reach there from civilization, and while waiting a Tibetan monk visited his saviors. The monk rejoiced to report that K’un-Lun really did exist, for he had seen it and had seen an American boy whose father was taken by the mountains and whose mother died at the hands of the Wolves of K’un-Lun.
Yu-Ti himself told the monk he had visions that one day the boy might be one of the enchanted city’s greatest warriors, possibly even gaining the power of the Iron Fist. After that, even when he had been able to return to America and change Rand-Meachum Industries into just Meachum Industries, Harold was obsessed with fears that Daniel would leave K’un-Lun ten years down the road when the city again materialized for a day. And would come to kill him.
The anxiety and fear wreaked havoc on his health, aging him prematurely and causing him to imprison Triple-Iron and make Meachum Tower into a 24-story death-trap out of his fear of Daniel. Now, seeing that it was all in vain and that Iron Fist has gotten past all his traps and mercenaries, he resigns himself and says he welcomes death.
Our hero struggles to rekindle the hatred he has felt for this man for ten long years, but finds he cannot. He just feels pity at the trembling wreck of a human being before him and resolves to just walk away and leave Meachum to the slow death he left him and his mother to. Harold at first begs Iron Fist to come back and put him out of his misery, then, seeing that he won’t, despairingly pulls a gun from his desk drawer and tries to shoot Daniel in the back.
The Ninja appears again and ruins Meachum’s aim enough so that the bullet just grazes Iron Fist’s skull, knocking him out for a moment. He is awakened by the screams of Harold Meachum, and he goes back to the man’s office, only to find him dead with the Ninja’s sword thrust through his belly and a huge hole in the wall behind him.
Iron Fist stands contemplating the dead man and the strange turn of events which made him first long to kill him, then negate his 10-year quest for vengeance by sparing him, only to see him slain by another person. Just then Joy Meachum, Harold’s adult daughter, enters the office from a door on the opposite side from where Iron Fist entered.
Seeing Daniel standing there and her father dead, she assumes Iron Fist killed him and refuses to listen to his claims that he didn’t do it. In tears she damns our hero for the way her father feared that a strange man like him would find and kill him for 10 hellish years.
As Daniel turns and leaves, Joy Meachum continues screaming at him that she’ll spend the rest of her life if she needs to in order to get revenge on him. That she’ll hire a thousand killers if she has to, until the day she sees our hero crawling on the floor begging to die. Iron Fist keeps walking, no doubt reflecting on Yu-Ti’s warning about the destructive nature of revenge.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #19 (November 1974)
Villains: The Cult of Kara-Kai, the Ninja and Meachum Assassins
Synopsis: Iron Fist exits Meachum Tower via the ground floor doors, pondering his next move, alone and friendless in a country he hasn’t really seen since he was 9 years old. A beautiful Eurasian woman named Colleen Wing (FIRST APPEARANCE) approaches him in the rain. After telling him that her father, Professor Lee Wing, knows about K’un-Lun and even predicted her finding Iron Fist leaving Meachum Tower at this time, our hero agrees to get in a cab with her and go to meet her father.
Meanwhile, Joy Meachum informs her Uncle Ward Meachum that the mysterious Iron Fist her father had feared for years has murdered him with a sword. Ward, an amoral scumbag like his dead brother, is grateful to have Harold out of the way but assures Joy that together he and his niece will destroy Iron Fist.
Back with Daniel and Colleen, two members of what we will soon learn is the Cult of Kara-Kai try to kill them with their ceremonial blades before they can reach Professor Wing but Iron Fist defeats them, of course. Colleen introduces Iron Fist and her father to each other and then leaves them alone to talk.
Professor Wing tells Daniel about his lengthy career studying the Far East and details an archaeological dig years earlier in Northern India, where he unearthed an ancient tome called The Book of Many Things. The Indian scholars working with him warned him about the book, telling him that among its dark secrets was a way of destroying the legendary city of K’un-Lun itself.
They also warned him that a death-cult called the Cult of Kara-Kai would seek the book and would kill whoever had found it. Since then, after surviving attempts by the cult to take his life, the professor met the Tibetan Monk called Da Tempa.
Da Tempa had been spending all his time since visiting K’un-Lun spreading the word in India, Nepal and part of China about how the enchanted city really did exist, but few believed him. Professor Wing was one of those people who believed him AND believed his story about a young American boy whom Yu-Ti had foreseen might gain the power of the Iron Fist.
The professor wraps up by telling Iron Fist he wants to hire him as a research aide regarding K’un-Lun AND as a bodyguard against the Cult of Kara-Kai until they can translate and decide what to do with The Book of Many Things. Our hero explains to Professor Wing about how Joy Meachum thinks he killed her father.
Wing tells Daniel to try talking to Joy by phone to see if he can persuade her that he is innocent. Iron Fist gives it a try and the nefarious Joy pretends she is willing to talk, but face to face. She sets up a meeting with our hero at an abandoned arcade, then tells her Uncle Ward to send a small army of assassins to kill Iron Fist at the arcade.
Naturally a huge battle is waged at that site between our hero and the Meachum assassins. Iron Fist defeats all but three of them, simply rendering them unconscious, not killing them. However, the Ninja appears again, slaying the last three assassins with his sword, so the Meachums will be even more convinced that Iron Fist was the sword-wielding man who murdered Harold.
The Ninja stands over the dead bodies, refusing to answer our hero’s questions and tosses him a newspaper with a headline naming him the killer of Harold Meachum.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #20 (January 1975)
Title: Batroc And Other Assassins
Villains: Batroc and the Cult of Kara-Kai
Comment: Iron Fist got well and truly integrated into the Marvel Comics universe with this battle against Captain America’s frequent supervillain Batroc the Leaper.
Synopsis: It’s another day later and Iron Fist is involved in a battle against four or five members of the Cult of Kara-Kai who have come to try killing Professor Wing again so they can steal The Book of Many Things. That mystic tome includes arcane information about how to destroy the enchanted city of K’un-Lun. Our hero defeats all the cultists.
Iron Fist grows annoyed with the Professor’s flippant attitude toward the murder attempts and informs Colleen about how her father claims the Cult has tried to kill him over 40 times in the years since he started trying to translate The Book of Many Things. Colleen tells her father that she has agreed to guard him alone while her partner Misty Knight runs their business herself for a while longer.
Colleen wants to give Iron Fist time to track down the Ninja and try to prove that he killed Harold Meachum. Instead, the next morning our hero naively goes to Meachum Tower to talk to Joy again. He uses all his stealth abilities to ascend all 24 floors to reach her in her new office from which she helps run her late father’s empire Meachum Industries.
After another bitter and acrimonious exchange between Joy and Iron Fist, her Uncle Ward enters with their new mercenary hire: Batroc. A clash between Iron Fist’s kung fu and Batroc’s French kick-boxing unfolds.
Eventually, Daniel emerges victorious, even breaking Batroc’s arm (or dislocating his shoulder – this issue and next contradict each other on what injury he inflicted on the villain). The Frenchman calls in his subordinate mercenaries, Batroc’s Brigade, to kill Iron Fist.
As the fighting drags on and on, Daniel knocks out several of his dozens of attackers, but at one point he is nearly killed from behind only to have the Ninja appear again and kill that member of Batroc’s Brigade. From that point on in the action the Ninja fights at Iron Fist’s side, slaughtering men as usual and ignoring our hero’s demands that he let him handle the battle himself.
The wounded Batroc enters the fight on behalf of his men and attacks the Ninja, disgusted by the way the figure is butchering the Brigade. Iron Fist takes it upon himself to end the slaughter by swiftly knocking out Batroc and his remaining 11 men.
Once again, Daniel demands answers from the Ninja, but he remains silent as he teleports Iron Fist and himself several streets away. Our hero tries to fight him but the Ninja teleports away again before that can happen.
We readers see that the Ninja has returned to Professor Wing’s study, where The Book of Many Things is laid out. The Ninja’s form dissipates and reenters the book, leaving behind its human host … Professor Wing himself.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #21 (March 1975)
Title: Daughters of the Death Goddess
Villains: Shaya and Ushas & their Cult of Kara Kai
Synopsis: Batroc and his surviving men have regained consciousness and are being forced to argue with Ward Meachum and his niece Joy over their fee. The Meachums are offering them only a fraction of what they hired them for, insisting that the negotiated fee was for Iron Fist’s death, which they failed to deliver.
Furthermore, Ward reminds Batroc that he and his men are wanted criminals in the U.S. and should be grateful for ANY amount. Batroc expresses contempt that the Meachums are tastelessly haggling when some of his men died at the hands of the Ninja who fought at Iron Fist’s side. (At last getting into the public record that the Ninja exists and uses a sword in his killings.)
Batroc and his men leave in disgust and Ward Meachum thinks to himself that he doesn’t believe Iron Fist killed his brother Harold but he has his own secret (for now) reasons for wanting Daniel Rand dead.
Elsewhere, Iron Fist has returned to Colleen and Professor Wing’s home only to find the place a shambles and 7 dead members of the Cult of Kara-Kai lying on the floor. Daniel assumes that the rest of the cultists who attacked must have abducted Colleen and the Professor.
Before he can leave to try tracking them down, he is attacked from behind by Colleen’s previously mentioned business partner, Misty Knight, who thinks he’s the one who abducted the Wings and killed the cultists.
NOTE: This is Misty Knight’s first REAL appearance. Years later, Marvel Comics decided to retcon things to make her the unnamed woman that Spider-Man and the Human Torch saved from a mugging in Marvel Team-Up number 1. Misty is black and has a bionic arm and we soon learn that the business she runs with Colleen is an investigative and security firm.
It’s kind of a “love at first sight” thing for Iron Fist, who, while he and Misty fight, thinks to himself about how women in K’un-Lun were never taught the martial arts and he finds this beautiful woman who DOES know them fascinating. (Remember, he hasn’t happened to see Colleen Wing use martial arts yet.)
For her part, Misty sarcastically calls Iron Fist “Zorro” because of his mask and ultimately he realizes that this fight is wasting precious time that would be better spent tracking down the Wings. He renders Misty unconscious and makes a mental note to look her up later.
As Daniel contemplates how to find Colleen and the Professor, the Ninja appears in ghostly form and wordlessly indicates to Iron Fist that he should follow him. Our hero doesn’t trust the Ninja of course, but, since that Ninja is presumably the slayer of the dead cultists, figures he’s the best lead he has at present.
The Ninja leads Iron Fist along back alleys and down into the subway tunnels. He further leads him along the tracks to certain long-abandoned or disused subway tunnels, wherein he discovers the Cult of Kara-Kai’s Temple of Kali. Colleen and Professor Wing are chained to an enormous statue of the goddess Kali at the center of the temple.
Iron Fist is jumped by more members of the Cult of Kara-Kai and defeats them, only to wind up in battle with two martial arts super-villainesses calling themselves Shaya the shade and Ushas, favored of the sun. They claim to be daughters of Kali but Daniel expresses skepticism.
Shaya and Ushas tell Iron Fist that the professor must die because he stole their cult’s most precious book, the long-lost tome which they call the Sacred Volume of Kali instead of The Book of Many Things. The women show Daniel that they have taken possession of the book in question.
The Professor/ the Ninja lies, shouting to Iron Fist that it is Ushas and Shaya who are lying. Hoping to get Daniel to take action and recover the book, he claims they want that book in order to destroy K’un-Lun. The Daughters of the Goddess insist they have never heard of K’un-Lun but WILL destroy it if it turns out to pose a threat to their cult.
Iron Fist insists that, though he can never return to K’un-Lun he will always fight to protect it and attacks the two women. Shaya unfurls her Cloak of Darkness, plunging the temple into complete darkness. Soon, Daniel can briefly and periodically make out the glowing nun-chucks wielded by Ushas.
Unable to use his powers in the utter darkness, Iron Fist is getting his butt kicked by Shaya and Ushas until, the Professor – whom neither Daniel nor Colleen yet suspect is the host for the Ninja – tells the fighting Iron Fist to follow his voice to where he and Colleen are, so that he can shatter their chains and Colleen (but really HIM) can join the fight.
Still doing what he can to survive attacks from the ladies and their cultists, Daniel makes his way to the base of the Kali statue and uses his Iron Fist powers to shatter the chains, but inadvertently used too much power, causing the statue to start to topple over, threatening to crush all our characters, both heroes AND villains.
Ushas funnels all her solar energy into her nun-chuks for one colossal blow against the falling statue, shattering it into little pieces in order to save her, Shaya and their followers … and incidentally our hero and company. Shaya is forced to drop her cloak of darkness to care for her spent sister Ushas. Meanwhile Iron Fist and Colleen Wing battle the cultists, and Daniel is once again surprised to see a woman – in this case Colleen – using martial arts.
A member of the Cult of Kara-Kai grabs Professor Wing from behind and threatens to cut his throat unless Iron Fist and Colleen surrender. The Ninja is forced to abandon his secret under the circumstances and he transforms the Professor’s body into his Ninja form to slay the cultist threatening to kill him.
As Daniel and Colleen gape in shock at the revelation that the Professor is the Ninja, that Ninja slaughters more cultists while demanding they return the stolen book to him. In the blood-letting he accidentally kills the cultist holding the book, causing the man to accidentally drop the book into a burning brazier.
At first the Ninja panics at seeing the book burning, apparently assuming the book’s destruction would eliminate HIM as well. But as the book’s destruction does nothing but separate his body from that of the Professor, who slumps unconscious to the floor, the villain marvels at the fact that he is still alive.
Next he realizes that when the Dragon Kings of K’un-Lun imprisoned him in The Book of Many Things he had always assumed (or was outrightly lied to, Marvel retconned back and forth on that) that his continued existence was bound to the well-being of the book itself. Ironically, he has been guarding and preserving his own prison for centuries.
The Ninja bitterly vows that that is one more debt he owes K’un-Lun, which he plans to wage war upon by first killing Iron Fist, whom he calls “the shining hope of that thrice-damned city.” He knocks down our hero while he is still fighting cultists and stands over him with his sword, about to deliver the death-strike.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #22 (June 1975)
Title: Death is a Ninja
Villains: The Ninja and the Cult of Kara-Kai
Synopsis: Iron Fist manages to save himself from the Ninja’s death-strike, and as the two continue fighting each other, they find they must also battle the Cult of Kara-Kai, whose members have begun attacking them again.
While Colleen Wing defends her still-unconscious father from the cultists, the chaos continues, with the Ninja as usual slaughtering every opponent he can. Presently a score or more NYPD officers rush into the temple, saying that another officer spotted Iron Fist entering the subway tunnels earlier and called it in. Since Daniel is still wanted for Wendell Meachum’s murder AND has proven to be super-powered the cops decided to raid the place en masse.
Ushas and Shaya abandon their followers, and after killing a cop or two those followers who are able to also disperse into the deeper tunnels in this abandoned section of subway in order to escape. The cops also try to arrest Iron Fist but Colleen and the now-conscious Professor Wing try to tell them that the Ninja is the real murderer of Harold Meachum.
The Ninja, really feeling his oats at having a corporeal body again for the first time in hundreds of years, gleefully admits to the murder in front of all the cops. Next, the Ninja teleports himself and Iron Fist away, to finish their battle undisturbed.
It turns out that the villain has teleported the two of them into a pocket dimension that he says was created just for him by the ancient Chinese sorceror he serves – Master Khan aka Dasha Khan. There is no gravity in this realm, putting Iron Fist at a distinct disadvantage at first.
NOTE: For fans of martial arts movies, picture this as playing out like the frequent battles of two opponents who take their battle high into the air to have at each other. It’s depicted sort of like that.
The Ninja at length delivers a blow which he believes has killed Daniel, then goes into full-blown Villain Rant Mode, screaming his hatred at Yu-Ti and the Dragon Kings that that blow was not just the death-knell of “a callow youth, but the death-knell of K’un-Lun as well.”
The villain reflects on his origin as a samurai in Japan long ago. His bloodlust eventually made his formerly honored name tainted as his pointless cruelty grew. Soon he was even slaying fellow samurai and was cast from their ranks.
His flight from Japan led him into contact with the Chinese figure known as Master Khan, the self-proclaimed oldest of all wizards. Master Khan tutored the former samurai in the arts of the ninja, including dark mystic powers that most ninja never mastered.
Among the books that Master Khan gave him to study was The Book of Many Things. In that tome he learned of the enchanted city of K’un-Lun and of magical ways of entering the city in its home dimension at times OTHER THAN the one day per decade that it materialized on Earth.
Master Khan taught him that K’un-Lun posed a threat to his own future plans, so, to please his master (or sent there at Master Khan’s command – Marvel retconned it back and forth over the years) the Ninja invaded K’un-Lun in its home dimension. He nearly succeeded in defeating all its warriors and destroying the city itself, but Lei Kung and Yu-Ti managed to defeat him.
The Ninja was bound in iron chains, which negate the kind of sorcery he had learned from Master Khan (explaining why he had to use his astral form to lure Iron Fist to the Temple of Kali to save him and Colleen Wing, his host body the professor was bound by iron chains). Yu-Ti and the Dragon Kings sentenced the Ninja to have his physical form stripped away and his spirit imprisoned in The Book of Many Things.
Hundreds of years went by, then a pair of thieves managed to enter K’un-Lun on the one day every ten years in which it appears on Earth and stole the book. The Ninja states his mystic powers had refined themselves in some ways during his existence in pure spirit form and he was able to mentally control one robber and get him to kill the other.
He then forced that thief to give The Book of Many Things to the Cult of Kara-Kai, who were said to be led by actual goddesses, hoping that those goddesses would detect his presence in the book and free him. Unfortunately the leaders of the cult were not really goddesses but were just as human as Shaya and Ushas in the present day.
The foolish leaders of the cult renamed the book The Sacred Volume of Kali and failed to even understand most of the book. It was placed on an altar in a temple to Kali and only her alleged “daughters” were allowed to touch it.
The Ninja tried exercising his powers through the book again, but inadvertently unleashed earthquakes in his anger, causing the temple to be buried under tons of rock and soil for roughly 150 years. It was then excavated by Professor Lee Wing, who found and set about translating the book. Over time the Ninja’s spirit was able to possess the Professor without his knowledge and use his magic and fighting ability to kill all members of the Cult of Kara-Kai who tried to slay him and take back the book.
NOTE: So THAT is how the professor was able to survive over 40 attempts on his life by the cult over the years. The Ninja would manifest in Lee Wing’s body and kill the attackers. He guarded the professor and The Book of Many Things, hoping one day the professor’s translations would prompt him to recite aloud spells that would free him from his imprisonment.
And so, with all mysteries solved, Iron Fist stops playing possum and rises to fight the Ninja again, now that he has the answers he needed. Another epic battle takes place between them right there in the Zero-Gravity dimension and ultimately our hero prevails, destroying the Ninja and, since he was the sole reason for this dimension’s existence, it dissipated and Iron Fist was teleported back to the subway/ Temple of Kali back in New York City.
Colleen, Professor Wing and the police inform him he’s being cleared of Harold Meachum’s murder and can stay with the Wings until he decides what he wants to do with his life. Accepting this offer, he temporarily removes his Iron Fist mask after the police leave, showing us readers the face of the adult Daniel Rand for the first time in the series. He’s still blonde, of course, like he was as a child, but this face-reveal is symbolic.
NOTE: Master Khan would become one of THE biggest recurring foes for Iron Fist over the years, even during the time when he and Luke Cage/ Powerman were a team of heroes for hire. Like Groot, Doctor Druid, Xemnu and others, Master Khan was a figure from Marvel’s 1960 horror comics before they got back into publishing superhero stories in the summer of 1961 with the Fantastic Four.
THE DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU SPECIAL Vol 1 #1 (June 1974)
Title: The Master Plan of Fu Manchu
Villain: Fu Manchu
NOTE: This Summer Special came out in June of 1974 but is set after the end of the initial 8-part story that introduced Iron Fist. Oddly, it spoiled the ending of the yet-to-be-published 4th part by having our hero reflect to himself on how he spurned the opportunity to take his revenge on Harold Meachum. Storywise, this tale features three separate sections as Iron Fist, the Sons of the Tiger and Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu go up against Fu Manchu in three separate stages of his master plan.
Synopsis: Iron Fist is the hero of the opening chapter. He is walking the late-night streets of New York City when a cry for help prompts him to investigate an alleyway he was passing. He discovers a dying Chinese representative from the U.N. He escaped when Fu Manchu had his men abduct him and five other such Chinese representatives. The man dies from the wounds he suffered in his escape after telling Danny to save the others.
Three of Fu Manchu’s men arrive. They were chasing the now dead Chinese rep and try to kill Iron Fist because of what he now knows. Daniel easily defeats and knocks out two of the three but kept their leader, called Seo Kai-Chen, He Who Strikes Like The Lightning, conscious after destroying his weapon (a bludgeon).
Seo Kai-Chen turns and flees, so Iron Fist follows him, hoping the man will lead him to the five remaining captive U.N. representatives from China. Daniel follows the man so stealthily that the villain doesn’t even realize he is being trailed. In New York’s Chinatown Seo runs past a blind beggar and ducks inside a warehouse.
Iron Fist follows him inside and is attacked by Kai-Chen and eleven other operatives of Fu Manchu, including the group’s Sumo leader, Tsu Gamo, The Mountain Which Steals Breath. NOTE: Yes, Sumo wrestlers are Japanese, not Chinese, but in the original Fu Manchu novels and most of the subsequent media his forces included agents from all the Far East nations.
Our hero defeats them all, and then approaches the massive steel door behind which are the five bound Chinese reps. He uses the power of the Iron Fist to shatter the door, only to see one of Fu Manchu’s helicopters flying off with the five captives. Danny finds a taunting note left by Fu Manchu, who, as any fan of Sax Rohmer would have guessed, was disguised as the blind beggar.
Part Two featured the Sons of the Tiger, who fail to stop another squadron of Fu Manchu’s men, disguised as Red Chinese operatives, from raiding the U.N. building and abducting six members of the United States delegation.
Part Three featured Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu. Within days the U.S. and Red China are on the brink of nuclear war with each country blaming the other for abducting the other’s U.N. personnel. Fu Manchu plans for the two powers to wipe out each other in a war, then he and his Si-Fan operatives will conquer what is left of the world. Shang-Chi thwarts his estranged father’s latest plan and retrieves the abductees, but naturally Fu Manchu escapes.
Comment: This was a nice special edition from Marvel highlighting some of their hottest martial arts heroes in one story.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #10 (March 1975)
Title: Slay Now, Die Later
Villain: Steel Serpent (original)
Synopsis: At Kennedy Airport, reporter Tim Donahue and his photographer friend Leslie Walker are among the throng of media and fans on hand for the arrival of the international martial arts champion known only as Steel Serpent. NOTE: This is the ORIGINAL Steel Serpent, not Iron Fist’s later foe whose real name was Davos. The real name of this first Steel Serpent was never revealed.
As Steel Serpent and his entourage make their way through the massive crowd, Leslie Walker snaps his photo despite the well-known fact that the martial artist hates having his picture taken. In return, Steel Serpent unleashes a blow that destroys the camera, then gives Leslie a delayed death-blow. That delayed death-blow doesn’t kill him until long after Steel Serpent and his people have been picked up in a limo.
Tim Donahue seeks out Professor Lee Wing to see if he could testify that the delayed death-blow exists, because the police refuse to believe him. The professor is unable to help Tim, who leaves vowing to get revenge on Steel Serpent for killing his friend.
Iron Fist, still employed as Professor Wing’s bodyguard and research aide on K’un-Lun, tells the professor he is going to bring down Steel Serpent himself in order to spare Tim Donahue the same destructive devotion to vengeance which consumed so much of Danny’s life.
That night Iron Fist breaks into Steel Serpent’s dojo and sees that Tim Donahue has broken in as well but is now a captive of the villain. Steel Serpent tells Danny that he would have lured him there some day anyway, but he has saved him the effort. The villain reveals that he, too, has been to K’un-Lun twice over the decades during the one day every 10 years that it materializes on Earth.
Both times he demanded of Yu-Ti, the August Personage of Jade, that he be granted immortality and riches but Yu-Ti defeated him in a martial arts duel each time. Now, having learned that a wielder of the Iron Fist is loose in the world, he plans to gain the power of that Iron Fist so that when K’un-Lun next appears he will be able to defeat Yu-Ti and eat of the fruit of the Tree of Immortality.
Steel Serpent orders his men to attack Iron Fist, and our hero defeats them all but then grows dizzy and drops unconscious. The villain cheated by having his men use tiny drugged needles to poke Danny several times during the fight so that eventually he would fall.
When Iron Fist comes to the next morning he is in a cell in the dungeon of Steel Serpent’s dojo along with Tim Donahue. Using the power of the Iron Fist, Danny bashes a way out for himself and the reporter. He sends Tim to call the police then takes on Steel Serpent’s men again. He manages to avoid the needles this time, now that he knows about them, and defeats all of them.
Next Iron Fist and Steel Serpent clash in a battle royal which ends with our hero using the power of the Iron Fist to cause Steel Serpent’s delayed death-blow to backfire. The stunned and despairing Steel Serpent staggers around waiting to die in a few minutes and Iron Fist departs, leaving Tim to explain to the police what happened.
NOTE: An ad announced that the next issue of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu would include an interview with Chuck Norris. Yes, in 1975 he was already well-known.
MARVEL TEAM-UP Vol 1 #31 (March 1975)
Title: For A Few Fists More
Synopsis: Peter Parker is eating in a diner when he sees Iron Fist taking down a mugger. He dons his Spider-Man costume and follows the departing Danny, hoping to snap some photos of the newest superhero sensation for the Daily Bugle.
Both heroes are soon being surreptitiously observed by Drom the Backwards Man. I wish I was kidding. That villain sounds like something from the old, old Spidey Super-Stories that Marvel did for children in conjunction with the Electric Company. Drom speaks backwards and ages backwards due to his freakish nature. Is he a mutant? We are never told.
Somehow, Drom has futuristic ray-guns and other high tech items. Is he an alien? We are never told. Drom plans to drain the life energies from either Iron Fist or Spider-Man in order to feed his backwards-functioning metabolism. (Don’t ask.) He inadvertently causes the two heroes to start fighting in the grand Marvel Team-Up formula: First the heroes fight each other, then team up to take down the villain. We see that the power of the Iron Fist is strong enough to rip free from Spider-Man’s webbing.
When Spider-Man and Iron Fist begin fighting Drom instead of each other, the villain eventually blasts Danny into unconsciousness, then does the same to Spider-Man. Since Spidey is physically stronger than Iron Fist, Drom takes him back to his hidden laboratory and straps him to a table to begin preparing to drain his life energies.
Before he can finish the procedure, Iron Fist comes to and tracks the villain down to his lab. He bursts in and frees Spider-Man, then the two battle Drom again. They shatter the mirror-device that he uses to keep himself alive and the villain de-ages to the point of non-existence. Our heroes go their separate ways and Drom was never again used in the Marvel Comics universe to this very day.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #23 (August 1975)
Title: The Name Is … Warhawk
NOTE: This is the first Iron Fist story written by Chris Claremont, who was early on in his epic run with the new X-Men at the time.
Synopsis: An unknown amount of time after the end of the previous story, Danny Rand – in civilian clothing – is walking through Central Park with his friend Colleen Wing. Suddenly, sniper fire begins hitting several people. When even a policeman is shot down valiantly trying to save a child, Danny and Colleen know they must act.
Iron Fist saves the child that the cop was killed trying to save but the sniper is still raining down periodic gunfire from his location on high. Police cars arrive at the park only to have the sniper unleash napalm on them, blowing up cars and all. Colleen herself is lucky to escape without getting singed by the gasoline fires.
She catches up to our hero as he comes face to face with Warhawk, the blue-skinned, costumed supervillain behind the attacks. As Daniel fights him, it becomes clear that this is a very 1970s story in that Warhawk is a Vietnam War veteran who thinks he’s still caught in the war and that he’s fighting the Viet Cong with the bullets and napalm he’s been unleashing.
It also becomes clear that the supervillain has super-strength and a degree of invulnerability. He knocks out Danny and runs off with Colleen to hole up elsewhere. When Iron Fist comes to, he is greeted by Professor Wing and one of his NYPD friends – Lt Rafael Scarfe. Scarfe informs our hero and the professor that Warhawk was a super-powered operative in the Vietnam War after being given an experimental super-soldier treatment. That treatment is what turned his skin blue.
Warhawk (Mitchell Tanner) carried out a lot of spectacularly destructive missions but ultimately could not change the course of events. He received psychiatric debriefings and was set free, with the doctors believing he was not a risk. Professor Wing is in tears worrying about Colleen’s safety.
Iron Fist spends hours searching the city for Warhawk and Colleen. He finds them late that night in the villain’s new lair near Pier 78. We get more 1975 color with references to the “Ford to New York: Drop Dead” era as the narration makes it clear that the pier hasn’t been inspected in over a year due to budget cuts and is now an unstable, very unsafe place.
It becomes apparent that the disturbed Warhawk thinks the Eurasian Colleen Wing is really his former wife, a woman named Liu Thanh Tanner. You know the type of drama as played out on countless 1970s cop shows that did episodes about Vietnam Vets with PTSD.
Iron Fist is forced to charge in when Colleen’s repeated denials that she’s Liu Thanh Tanner or that this is Vietnam prompt Warhawk to get violent with her. After a lengthy and destructive battle, Iron Fist knocks Warhawk into New York Harbor, following which Daniel and Colleen try to save him but he hallucinates that they are Viet Cong and will torture him and put him in a bamboo cage.
He lets himself sink beneath the waves, and our heroes sadly believe him to be dead.
NOTE: Warhawk survived of course and Chris Claremont next used him over at the X-Men as the man hired by the Hellfire Club to infiltrate Xavier’s school and plant a bug in Cerebro, the team’s mutant-detecting device.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #24 (September 1975)
Villains: Master Khan and the Monstroid
Synopsis: Iron Fist and Colleen Wing engage in a practice fight with each other. Though Iron Fist wins, he leaves for a walk afterward, feeling awkward because back in K’un-Lun men did not fight with women.
Meanwhile, at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Fenris Installation, a terrorist team in the employ of Master Khan (the villain who trained the Ninja, remember?) raids the place, killing off the personnel with nerve gas and then activating the alien android called the Monstroid. NOTE: The Monstroid was a scout android for an unknown alien race who was defeated by the Vision and Spider-Man back in Marvel Team-Up #5. Years later Marvel would retcon things so that the robot had really been working for the Skrulls.
S.H.I.E.L.D. had confiscated the Monstroid and had stored it away ever since. Now, Master Khan’s mercenaries reprogram the android to kill Princess Azir of the fictional nation of Halwan. Long ago, when the sorceror Master Khan had been exiled from K’un-Lun, he ultimately wound up living in Halwan.
Years before, the ruler of the country had learned about Master Khan’s powers and wanted the wizard to become his lackey. Khan refused, even when the King tortured Khan’s youngest daughter to death. The villain fled Halwan and now seeks to even the score with Halwan’s king by killing off the ruler’s daughter Princess Azir, who is visiting New York City.
And speaking of the princess, she is in disguise as just a regular tourist, being covertly watched over by the New York Police Department at a softball game in which their team is playing. Lieutenant Rafael Scarfe has talked Danny Rand into playing for the NYPD team and our hero actually loosens up a little and has a good time.
Suddenly, the Monstroid flies into the park and makes its move to kill Princess Azir. Some cops die trying to protect her but they bought time for Danny to slip into his Iron Fist costume and attack the alien robot. After a long and destructive battle, Iron Fist manages to destroy the Monstroid, then coddles the princess, assuring her she’s safe.
Elsewhere, when Master Khan learns of what happened he vows to strike at those dear to Iron Fist and force him to either serve him or die.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #18 (November 1975)
Title: Fists of Darkness, Fists of Death
Villains: Snake-Eyes and the Black Hand
NOTE: Iron Fist does not appear on the cover to this issue, Shang Chi does.
Synopsis: The martial arts mania of the 1970s meets the blaxploitation mania of the 1970s in this tale. While taking a walk in the subway, our hero saves a woman from being hit by one of the oncoming trains by using the power of the Iron Fist to literally stop the train cold. The Sons of the Tiger are also on-hand and they help save lives.
Meanwhile, black private eye Blackbyrd (Nathaniel Alexander Byrd) shoots down black hitman Hollywood and injures his babe Foxy Chick (No, not Foxy Brown, Foxy Chick). The shootout between Blackbyrd and the two criminals is what caused the woman Iron Fist saved to fall onto the subway tracks in the first place. Blackbyrd saves our hero from being detained by the cops over the destruction of the A train.
In civilian clothes Danny Rand and the Sons of the Tiger go to the Yellow Tooth Bar, a Harlem hangout of Blackbyrd’s, where the private investigator and the Sons buy Danny some drinks. Whitewash, an albino who serves as one of the bartenders at the Yellow Tooth, mistakenly thinks Blackbyrd has shown up because he’s on to a heist being planned in the bar’s backrooms.
That heist is being planned by Snake-Eyes, a costumed black criminal whose eyebrows have become mutated like a snake’s. This villain leads the Black Hand, a blaxploitation take on the original Italian Black Hand organization. In this case all the members are black and wear a black power to the people fist-logo on the chests of their costumes, just like their leader.
Snake-Eyes is planning to lead the Black Hand in a raid on Harlem Hospital to seize a newly-developed isotope which is going to be used to treat a blood disease which has reached epidemic proportions all over New York City. Our villain plans to demand millions of dollars from the city in exchange for the stolen isotope. When Whitewash warns Snake-Eyes about Blackbyrd’s presence in the bar with some friends AND Blackbyrd follows Whitewash to see where he went, our villain and his men drag Blackbyrd out into the back alley to kill him.
Iron Fist and the Sons of the Tiger don their costumes and save Blackbyrd, then battle Snake-Eyes and the Black Hand. The Black Hand members use automatic weapons like their leader, but Snake-Eyes also has super-powers. He’s bullet-proof and super-strong from an experiment a prison doctor performed on him when he was seriously injured during an escape attempt.
While the Sons of the Dragon continue fighting the Black Hand, Iron Fist squares off against Snake-Eyes. In the course of the battle Snake-Eyes’ costume is torn open and it is revealed that the mad scientist replaced most of his interior torso tissues with preservative biochemicals in which his lungs and heart sort of float around a little. The flesh of his torso was replaced with transparent bullet-proof alloy so our heroes can see Snake-Eyes’ organs on display.
You can guess where this is going, and though the bullet-proof alloy deflects all the bullets shot at the villain by Blackbyrd, Danny summons up the power of the Iron Fist and smashes through the substance, causing all the biochemicals and Snake-Eyes’ organs to spill out.
We readers never learn the identity of the prison scientist who performed the experiment on Snake-Eyes, nor is the disease ever referred to again. Our heroes all return to the Yellow Tooth for a post-battle celebration.
Comment: This felt like a 1970s Power Man story, which is pretty coincidental considering that a few years down the road, Iron Fist and Power Man became a pair of heroes-for-hire.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #19 (December 1975)
Title: Shall I Love the Bird of Fire?
Villain: Dhasha Khan
Synopsis: Danny Rand is out at night in New York City. He sits contemplating the fact that this was his 20th birthday but he concealed that information from Colleen Wing and her father Lee. He reflects on his life up to this point and how he still doesn’t feel at home outside of K’un-Lun.
Suddenly he hears a woman screaming. He investigates and sees that a long line of attackers are preparing to gang-rape a beautiful young woman they’ve already stripped naked. Our hero takes on the would-be gang-bangers and knocks out all of them. He then tries to comfort the woman but she panics at the sight of the dragon on his chest and mistakenly believes him to be an agent of a figure called Dhasha Khan, ruler of Feng-Tu, the afterlife for people who die in K’un-Lun and its vicinity.
Iron Fist calms her down and gets her to the home of Colleen and Professor Wing, where the woman – called Jade the Firebird – starts to tell her story. (After Colleen and her father stop their recurring argument about him wanting her to stop the dangerous work she does alongside Misty Knight.) She only gets as far as stating that she was sent to find the wielder of the Iron Fist because he is needed.
Before she can continue, two Messengers Who Seize Souls (Kou-Hun-Shih-Cheh) enter the Wings’ home. They are called Ma-Mien the White Ox and Niu T’ou the Black, and they say Dhasha Khan has sent them to take Jade back to Feng-Tu where her soul will be fed to the Soul Slayer.
Iron Fist attacks the pair, joined by Colleen, who is swiftly defeated. Our hero continues fighting the Messengers and when he uses the power of the Iron Fist to finish them off, that somehow causes him and Jade to be transported from Earth to Feng-Tu. They are in the throne room of Dhasha Khan (right), who affirms that he is the ruler of this afterlife and states that he plans to strip Jade of her soul and have it damned forever.
Iron Fist declares his intention to defend her and serve as her champion against the Soul Slayer. Dhasha Khan uses his mystical powers to blind Iron Fist, then sics his throne room guardsmen on him.
Comment: I have no idea why Chris Claremont, at a time when he was using Master Khan as the current villain in Iron Fist’s full-color series, didn’t avoid confusion here by naming Dhasha Khan something else.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #20 (January 1976)
Title: Soul Slayer
Villains: Dhasha Khan, Silver Dragon and the Soul Slayer.
Synopsis: Dhasha Khan’s guardsmen attack Iron Fist and Jade the Firebird. Though blinded, our hero fights back against the armed guards, primed by Little Grasshopper-style flashbacks to when he was being trained by Lei Kung to fight blind-folded. Iron Fist defeats all the guards and Dhasha Khan punishes the Captain of the Guard by utterly annihilating him with a blast of eldritch energy.
Next, this ruler of Feng-Tu orders Silver Dragon, one of his masked female warriors, to attack the still-blind Iron Fist. She begs Dhasha Khan not to force her to fight “HIM” but the sadistic master of this afterlife insists she must. NOTE: It can’t still be considered a SPOILER this many decades later that Silver Dragon is really Danny Rand’s dead mother, Heather Duncan Rand. Because she died in the vicinity of K’un-Lun her soul has been in Feng-Tu since her death.
At any rate, the story does not want us readers to know yet what Silver Dragon’s true identity is. The masked woman knocks out Jade after Jade warns the unseeing Iron Fist about one of Silver Dragon’s attacks. Silver Dragon defeats her blind son, then takes the mask off the fallen hero in order to look upon his adult face for the first time. She also tries to keep a locket she takes from her son’s body – a locket she owned in life, containing a picture of her husband Wendell Rand.
Dhasha Khan cruelly uses his sorcery to force her to drop that locket to the ground and crush it with a martial arts stomp, then relishes her tormented sobbing after the fact. (Any readers who couldn’t figure out at this point who she was were being pretty stupid – Feng-Tu IS a land of the dead, after all.)
The unconscious Iron Fist comes to, able to see and back in New York City, seemingly on the same night he and Jade were transported to Feng-Tu. A church before him suddenly suffers damage from a bombing. When the dust settles Danny sees that Jade is being attacked by a crazed and rabid mob who want her burned as a witch.
A priest inside the ruins of the church tries to stop the crazed mob but Marvel Comics’ female embodiment of Death shows up, telling the priest that his God is dead … and so is he (she blasts him to death). NOTE: This female embodiment of Death is the same one fruitlessly wooed by Thanos during the original Thanos War and is the same one who assumed the form of Deathryder in a battle with Ghost Rider.
Death then orders the rabid mob to tie Jade the Firebird to the altar and set her – and it – on fire, so that the Soul Slayer can then feed upon her soul. Iron Fist comes to her aid, engaging in a one-man stand against the seemingly endless numbers of the crazed mob. He knows that numbers will eventually tell the tale but he is fine with dying if he must to save Jade because of his feelings of lust, I mean LOVE, for her. (C’mon, they just met earlier this evening.)
When things seem darkest, Colleen Wing shows up to fight at Danny’s side. Her father shows up, too, but it soon becomes apparent that he shares the mob’s bloodlust. He uses a sword to kill Colleen from behind, angry with her for defying Dhasha Khan by helping defend the Firebird. The enraged Iron Fist then kills Professor Wing in turn.
By now the mob has tied Jade to the altar, ready to be sacrificed, so our hero once again throws himself into their midst to fight off all of them. Death herself begins fighting Iron Fist, to leave the mob free to complete the ritual summoning the Soul Slayer. Once that entity arrives, Death mockingly departs, telling Danny nothing can save Jade now.
The Soul Slayer turns out to be a being of pure energy, like the Soul Drinker which Chris Claremont would use as a villainous servant of Emperor D’Ken over at The X-Men in 1977. Iron Fist does his best to fight the creature and ultimately strikes it with the greatest amount of Iron Fist energy he’s ever unleashed. The result causes what’s left of the church to collapse and kills the entire raging mob.
The shocked Danny approaches Jade, thinking that, despite all the death and destruction, at least he saved her. Jade sorrowfully tells him that he didn’t save her, however. The Soul Slayer took her soul as it fled. She turns to face Iron Fist and he sees that her eyes are blank, indicating how soulless she now is. Even worse, she tells our hero that with the Soul of the Firebird now taken away, Dhasha Khan can condemn everyone on Earth and in K’un-Lun to eternal damnation.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #21 (February 1976)
Title: And When I Died
Villain: Dhasha Khan
NOTE: Though the cover refers to the Sons of the Tiger appearing in this issue, actually their series was already canceled and the White Tiger (Hector Alaya) had taken their place (and all three of their tiger amulets).
Synopsis: Iron Fist and Jade stand amid the ruins of the entire New York city block wiped out by the unleashing of the full power of the Iron Fist upon the Soul Slayer. She refuses to listen to his reassurances that they will still find a way to defeat Dhasha Khan. Her eyes are still blank, reflecting her soullessness.
From beyond the circle of destruction more savage mobs close in on the pair and again Iron Fist is drawn into battle with them. He gains an unexpected ally when a Caucasian archer in outdated garb starts fighting the rioters alongside him. Jade calls the man the Bowman and says he formerly protected her as Iron Fist is doing now.
As the battle goes on, Iron Fist has a Little Grasshopper style flashback to his childhood in K’un-Lun. Yu-Ti, the August Personage of Jade, was advising him on strategy. This particular lesson was about how an inferior foe can defeat a superior fighter by making that fighter engage in pointless side-conflicts, wearing themselves out and making themselves weak enough for their inferior opponent to defeat them.
Iron Fist at last sees the truth. He and Jade never left Feng-Tu. This New York City and the battles waged against the mobs have all been illusions inflicted upon them (and now the Bowman) by Dhasha Khan’s sorcery. He is wearing out our heroes by making them fight these side battles.
But the Bowman points out that with the Soul Slayer – which was real – having made off with Jade the Firebird’s soul, if Dhasha Khan now succeeds in killing her body as well, then all of Earth and K’un-Lun really WILL become inhabited by soulless, animalistic mobs like they’ve been fighting.
The trio race through the illusion of New York City, trying to find a way out of the mirage. They are periodically cornered by the mob and have to fight their way out. At long last the soul of Chuin, a man Danny knew – and saw die – when he lived in K’un-Lun, steps forward to lure Iron Fist, Jade and the Bowman out of the New York City facade and into the Throne Room of the Yama Kings.
Tuan, who in life was the previous Yu-Ti of K’un-Lun, is their spokesman. Danny sees them as Asian men in business suits and their throne room in strictly 20th Century terms. Tuan tells him that is because he still sees things through his living eyes and is still a victim to the illusions that Dhasha Khan casts.
The entity further explains that Feng-Tu used to be a paradise where souls could rest until they wanted to reincarnate in new-borns. Then awhile ago Dhasha Khan invaded and conquered them all, dethroning the Yama Kings and turning Feng-Tu into this hellish domain of conflict and sorrow. He enslaved and masked the woman called Silver Dragon (secretly Danny Rand’s mother Heather, but still being kept a secret from the reader) and all the other souls in the dimension.
Dhasha Khan wanted to rule over the living as well as the dead, so he set out to enslave the Firebird, the living symbol of the collective spirit of humanity. That spirit inhabited the body of Jade and sought out the wielder of the Iron Fist, the only one who might be able to defeat Dhasha Khan.
Tuan tells our hero to focus the power of the Iron Fist into his eyes for once instead of his hands, and he will see Feng-Tu for what it REALLY is, instead of the New York City illusion cast by Dhasha Khan. It works and while our hero is overwhelmed by the true, opulent appearance of Feng-Tu, Tuan has the Bowman draw his sword.
Jade argues with the Bowman about his clear intentions toward the transfixed Iron Fist and tells him she loves Danny. This arouses the Bowman’s jealousy but Tuan intercedes, telling Jade the only way a still-living being like Iron Fist can successfully clash with Dhasha Khan is to be dead himself. The Bowman, feeling a bit of distaste, uses his sword on Danny from behind. The narration tells us Iron Fist is dead before he hits the floor.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #22 (March 1976)
Title: To Storm the Gates of Hell
Villain: Dhasha Khan
Synopsis: Now dead, Iron Fist again encounters the figure of Death, who is now clad in an Iron Fist costume like his own. This time Danny loses to her and lapses into a form of unconsciousness. Time passes, then, he wakes up on a plush bed beside Jade the Firebird in a bedchamber of the Yama Kings.
He is just a spirit now and Jade informs him that if they succeed in defeating Dhasha Khan, then eventually our hero will drink of the cup of Lady Meng. That cup contains her Broth of Oblivion and after drinking it he will lose all memory of his previous existence and his spirit will animate a newborn child to begin his next life.
Iron Fist eventually presses Jade to at last fully explain her nature and she agrees. Despite her seeming youth and beauty she is incredibly old and was alive in the distant past when the demonic N’Garai race ruled the Earth. NOTE: These N’Garai are another Marvel Comics imitation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Old Ones, like the Undying Ones over at the Defenders. Chris Claremont introduced the N’Garai in the pages of the X-Men and went on to use them very often.
Back to this story – the N’Garai used ancient humans as food, slaves, sex-toys, torture-toys, whatever their depraved desires of the moment demanded. At some point the One True God banished the N’Garai to their own dimension and recreated the Earth without the N’Garai’s presence polluting it. Jade was alive to witness the pre and post-N’Garai world.
Primitive humanity was savage and lustful and the day came when Jade’s human body was mortally wounded by a would-be rapist. As she lay dying the Firebird, some sort of benevolent, zoomorphic entity, joined itself to her body, healing it and keeping her alive. Somehow this made Jade the Firebird the sustainer of humanity’s collective soul. (Claremont did not describe it very well. He rehashed and revised this whole “Firebird/ Phoenix entity which can attach itself to living beings” concept again years later with Jean Grey in the pages of the X-Men.)
Jade ends her tale by reminding Danny that her body will be dead within a few days if the Firebird is not restored to her, and that will give Dhasha Khan control of that Firebird and of all the souls of the living on Earth and in K’un-Lun. The two again pledge their love to each other and begin having sex while the jealous but seemingly resigned Bowman – who was eavesdropping until they started making out – silently wishes them both well and walks away.
The next day our heroes put their plan into action. Iron Fist uses his stealth abilities to overcome the guardians at Feng-Tu’s Gate of Demons. Jade and the Bowman surreptitiously join him there after he has taken the Gate. The Bowman will remain there to help keep the gate open for the approaching army of the Yama Kings. Meanwhile, Iron Fist and Jade will raid Dhasha Khan’s castle to try to retrieve the Firebird and reunite it with Jade’s body.
Danny and Jade reach the River of Hell and try to cross the Bridge of Pain which leads over it, only to find their way barred by the masked Silver Dragon, whom Iron Fist still does not realize is Heather Rand, his dead mother.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #23 (April 1976)
Title: Bridge of Sorrow, Bridge of Pain
Villains: Dhasha Khan and Silver Dragon
Synopsis: Iron Fist and Silver Dragon fight it out on the Bridge of Pain over the River of Hell, with Danny reflecting to himself that Silver Dragon’s voice sounds familiar even through her mask. While their battle goes on and on, Dhasha Khan stealthily approaches Jade and takes her captive. One of his officers arrives to tell him that Tuan’s army of the virtuous dead is swarming Feng-Tu because the Bowman kept the Gate of Demons open for them against overwhelming odds.
Dhasha Khan announces that he could not care less. Ruling Feng-Tu for these last several years was merely done in furtherance of his main goal – restoring his N’Garai masters to domination of the Earth. Now that he has Jade’s body AND her Firebird soul captive, he only needs to use the Spell of Spells to return the N’Garai to Earth.
Hearing that, Iron Fist redoubles his efforts against Silver Dragon, finally defeating her and knocking her mask loose. At last the readers (and Danny) are shown that she is Heather Rand, our hero’s dead mother. We learn that after she died and found herself in Feng-Tu as it used to be, she still longed for her old life. Then when Dhasha Khan invaded and conquered Feng-Tu she agreed to serve him in exchange for the mask which shielded her from her pain. He then spent years teaching Heather martial arts.
Being forced to fight Iron Fist back in part two was rough enough for her, but now without the mask all her pain comes rushing back. Mother and son embrace and talk briefly. Heather refuses Dhasha Khan’s order to resume fighting Danny and lets him blast her soul to utter annihilation rather than attack her son again.
The furious Iron Fist and Dhasha Khan start to battle each other but the villain boasts that he has both sorcery AND martial arts at his command. He insists on fighting Danny where he will have the advantage. He teleports himself, Iron Fist and Jade back to Earth, where he still has his living body but our hero is merely an insubstantial spirit since the Bowman killed him earlier. It appears there is no chance that Iron Fist can prevail.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #24 (May 1976)
Title: The Young Dragon Kills
Villains: Dhasha Khan and the N’Garai
COMMENT: If you thought this aimless tale, which kept contradicting its own developments and rules with each passing installment was making it up as it went along before, get ready for the ultimate shrugging of the author’s shoulders as Chris Claremont serves up an absolute disaster.
Synopsis: I’d been cleaning up some of the inconsistencies in my previous synopses just to avoid confusing you readers too much, but for this final installment I’ll put as little effort into it as Chris Claremont did and just summarize his half-assed story. (One bit of cleanup I did was ignoring the way he had Silver Dragon seem to realize Iron Fist was her son for the first time last issue, even though it was clear in Part Two that she knew who he was and even wept about it.)
Back to the story, Dhasha Khan stands atop a skyscraper in New York City with Jade lying nearby him. Iron Fist’s spirit form hovers nearby as Dhasha Khan taunts him that the Spell of Spells has been cast. He also holds up a fist-sized jewel he calls a Soul Gem, but it seems to have no connection to Adam Warlock’s Soul Gem or any of the others in the Marvel Universe.
The gem – or is it the Spell of Spells, Claremont? – causes the Earth below to revert to what it looked like in the ancient past when the N’Garai ruled the planet. Dhasha Khan says again that once Jade is dead there will be no human vessel for the Firebird to return to, so … uh, Chris forgot where he was going with this, I guess.
Iron Fist taps into the power of the Iron Fist to give his spirit solidity so that he can fight Dhasha Khan. So, Iron Fist ex machina is now a thing. Up until now, it was an entertaining writing crutch like Popeye’s spinach, called upon toward the end of every battle, now it can do anything the plot requires.
Iron Fist battles Dhasha Khan in a pure martial arts match, even though Dhasha Khan boasted that he could use magic, too, but for just plain no reason he simply doesn’t use it here. Danny is full of his own contradictions, like one minute claiming the power of the Iron Fist restored him to life and the next minute saying he is still dead and is having to struggle to keep his spirit form solid.
The Bowman suddenly appears from Feng-Tu because, why not? Dhasha Khan threatens to destroy the Soul Gem, an act which we are now told will destroy the Firebird within it but previously we were told Iron Fist and Jade had to try to free that Bird of Fire from the gem so that it could reinhabit Jade’s now-soulless body.
Before the Bowman can come to Iron Fist’s aid, Danny knocks Dhasha Khan off the skyscraper roof and he falls to his death … even though we were told in the first few chapters that he was already dead and that’s why Iron Fist had to be killed so that his spirit form could battle Dhasha Khan’s spirit form.
Iron Fist now grabs the Soul Gem before it can fall to the ground – or streets? – below. (We are never told when or how, but by story’s end New York City and the rest of the world are back to normal.) Now the N’Garai tempt Iron Fist telepathically, promising him riches and power if he frees them. Even though earlier this issue Dhasha Khan said “the N’Garai are FREE!!” with 2 exclamation points.
Danny resists those temptations but fears that he’ll lose Jade if he reunites her body with the Bird of Fire. AND even though we’ve been told plenty of times – including earlier this issue – that her body will die “soon” if she is not reunited with the Firebird. And that would result in the loss of all of humanity’s soul, too. Somehow.
The Bowman attacks Iron Fist but is held off by our hero. Jade gives Danny a talk about how she hates the thought of losing him, too, but she needs to become the human vessel for the Bird of Fire again, etc. She goes on and on about their supposedly deep “love” for each other and Iron Fist at last turns over the Soul Gem to her. She extracts the Bird of Fire from within it and after a long kiss with Danny she assumes giant bird form and flies off.
Claremont now makes this slipshod “make it up as you go” ending even worse by casually tossing in a parenthetical reference that before she left, Jade restored Iron Fist’s body (which was still back in Feng-Tu at Tuan’s home) to life. Even more idiotically, to try to justify why Colleen Wing and her father aren’t really dead, Claremont tells us that the adventure just past was “like a dream” and that Danny and the Bowman are in New York City on the night it all began – the night of our hero’s 20th birthday. Hence, Colleen and her father are still alive.
YES, Claremont needlessly did that because he apparently FORGOT that he had already shown us back in Part Three that the Wings never really died. It was all part of Dhasha Khan’s illusion of New York City. He, Jade and the Bowman were really still in Feng-Tu that whole time.
Anyway, for the stupid cherry on top, Claremont now has the Bowman reveal that he is really Sir Lancelot from King Arthur stories. Oh, and he somehow knows that Heather Rand’s soul was not really annihilated but is going to inhabit a new-born baby with no knowledge of her past life. How that’s better than annihilation, I don’t know. He tells Iron Fist that he should feel honored that Jade bestowed her love on him, and walks off. The end.
NOTE: Chris Claremont just couldn’t let go of some of the formless ideas in this wasted 6-part story. Years later, when he retconned the tale of Jean Grey/ Phoenix/ Dark Phoenix, he moved away from the more meaningful tale of Jean further mutating into Phoenix, then letting herself die rather than risk losing control of her incredible power and wiping out a planet again.
He made it instead be that the Phoenix was really a “Phoenix Entity” that periodically inhabited human vessels. Like the Bird of Fire did with Jade in this Iron Fist story. Oh, and the Phoenix Entity fell in love with Scott Summers through Jean’s memories, like the rushed way that Jade “fell in love” with Iron Fist here. Chris would use the N’Garai again, too, when he was writing for Satana, the Devil’s Daughter.
MASTER OF KUNG FU ANNUAL Vol 1 #1 (April 1976)
Title: The Fortress of Sahra Sharn
Synopsis: Iron Fist and Shang-Chi meet in London, where they walk the streets and discuss each other’s origin stories. They wind up getting attacked on Lambeth Bridge by over two dozen martial artists of all races and all wielding assorted bladed weapons. After a lengthy battle they defeat all of their attackers, only to see them all vanish, teleported back to where they came from.
A costumed black sorceror calling himself Quan-St’ar appears before them, saying he is a resident of K’un-Lun and that the men our heroes just fought were trying to kill them before he could seek their aid to prevent the destruction of that enchanted city. Iron Fist and Shang-Chi immediately suspect him of being in league with the warriors they just defeated, but he persuades them otherwise.
Quan-St’ar claims that his mystical abilities permit him to enter and leave K’un-Lun any time he chooses and not just during the one day every ten years in which it materializes on Earth. He tells our heroes that K’un-Lun is about to be invaded by Sahra-Sharn, its opposite city within the same dimension.
Just as K’un-Lun embodies noble aspirations and is sought out by Earth people who share its ideals and desire to live there, so is Sahra-Sharn sought out by malevolent Earth people who desire to live in the depraved and vile city. Quan-St’Ar wants Iron Fist to help him strike at Sahra-Sharn first and thwart the invasion before it is launched.
Iron Fist admits to having been told of Sahra-Sharn’s existence by Yu-Ti years earlier and volunteers to accompany Quan-St’ar by himself. Shang-Chi nobly insists on coming along as well and the sorcerer teleports the three of them to the city of malevolence. He tells our heroes to wait for him at a tavern called the Den of Last Despair and ask for a man called Shai-Tahn. Meanwhile he will assemble his co-conspirators within the evil city.
The Den of Last Despair turns out to be a trap, triggered when Iron Fist and Shang-Chi ask for Shai-Tahn, which turns out to be the signal for all the male and female martial artists in the tavern to attack them. Aided by a woman warrior named Cybelle our heroes defeat everyone in the saloon, only to have Shai-Tahn show up with an army of additional men. He demands that Iron Fist and Shang-Chi submit to arrest but they refuse until Shai-Tahn threatens to have Cybelle killed in front of them.
The duo are imprisoned in a cell made of stones which are mystically immune to the power of the Iron Fist no matter how many times Danny unleashes it on them. After five days with no food our heroes are weakened and starving.
Quan-St’ar visits them to mock them that he is actually the ruler of Sahra-Sharn and lured them into this trap. He wanted the wielder of the Iron Fist out of the way when he leads Sahra-Sharn in an invasion of K’un-Lun. Snaring Shang-Chi was just a bonus. The villain shows them that Cybelle was secretly working for him, too, and that she will become his queen. He then leaves them to rage about the situation.
That night, Cybelle throws a rope to our heroes enabling them to climb out of the cell and escape. She meets them in a nearby forest where she gives them food and drink. While they eat she explains that she is part of a rival gang within Sahra-Sharn who wants to overthrow Quan-St’ar and call off his pointless invasion of K’un-Lun.
Cybelle also reveals that Quan-St’ar was born in K’un-Lun and was one of the sorcerers known as the Dragon Riders. They were performing for Yu-Ti the August Personage of Jade as was their duty, when Quan-St’ar lost control of the dragon he was riding – Shou-Lao itself.
That dragon tried to kill Yu-Ti but Quan-St’ar fought it and sliced its heart from its body, leaving the dragon-shaped scar on its chest. Because Shou-Lao was one of the sacred dragons the sorcerer then preserved its heart outside its body in a brazier. Yu-Ti banished the dragon and its detached heart to a cave outside K’un-Lun, where for centuries it defeated everyone who tried to defeat it to gain the power of the Iron Fist.
As for Quan-St’ar, Yu-Ti exiled him to Sahra-Sharn forever for his deeds. Ever since then the sorcerer has been biding his time and increasing his command of magic until he felt ready to lead an invasion of K’un-Lun.
While Cybelle and her fellow gang members battle Quan-St’ar’s troops, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi fight their way past his legion of guards up to his tower chamber where he keeps his Globe of Eternity, which fuels his power. Quan-St’ar teleports into the room and the battle is on. The power of the Iron Fist in both of Danny’s hands is able to block and parry the mystic energy beams which the villain fires at him, while Shang-Chi sneaks to the Globe and shatters it.
The unholy forces in the globe rend Quan-St’ar to pieces as they flee their captivity. Cybelle names herself the new boss of bosses in vile Sahra-Sharn and has her new court sorcerer teleport Iron Fist and Shang-Chi back to London. Our heroes exchange compliments and go their separate ways.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #29 (October 1976)
Title: To Slay The Savior
Villains: The Cadre of Salvation
Comment: This story, like the previous one, is set during Iron Fist’s temporary stay in England in 1976.
Synopsis: Iron Fist is lured into a long-hidden network of tunnels underneath London by what he believes to be men working for Master Khan. Unknown to him, Shang Chi has been lured into those same tunnels by a note supposedly from his father Fu Manchu.
In their separate journeys through the tunnels our heroes survive several battles against martial arts attackers until they both reach a long-abandoned former headquarters of Fu Manchu. The site is now the base of a covert group calling itself the Cadre of Salvation.
That group is led by Blevins (no first name given), a former agent of Sir Denis Nayland-Smith in his long crusade against Fu Manchu. Blevins believes that the western world has grown soft toward the menace of Communist China and Asian adversaries like Fu Manchu, the Mandarin, the Yellow Claw, etc.
Since Iron Fist and Shang-Chi lived up to their reputations by fighting their way to this central chamber, Blevins tries to recruit them for his Cadre and its mission of “saving” the western world from Far East villainy. Both heroes refuse, so Blevins has his hostage dragged out and suspended from their ankles.
That hostage is Winston Neville (despite a female hostage being shown on the cover), another former agent of Nayland-Smith’s. Blevins insists that Iron Fist and Shang-Chi must fight each other to the death or he’ll not only slit Neville’s throat but blow up the Parliament Building.
Our heroes try fake-fighting at first but Blevins isn’t fooled and insists he’ll kill Neville immediately if they don’t fight for real. Iron Fist and Shang-Chi intensify their fighting while wordlessly pondering a solution to the mess.
Soon the pair get in synch and, while pretending to be fighting furiously, they maneuver each other to a spot where Danny can unleash the power of the Iron Fist against the terrace from which Blevins and his troops have been watching their battle.
That terrace collapses, letting our heroes free Winston Neville, take out Blevins and mop up the soldiers of his Cadre of Salvation. The Parliament Building does not blow up and Sir Denis is saddened at having to arrest his old ally Blevins.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Vol 1 #31 (December 1976)
Title: Dark Waters of Death
Villains: Stryke and the Corporation
Synopsis: Shortly after their London clash with the Cadre of Salvation, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi fly to New York, where Danny Rand plans to entertain Shang for a few days. The pair drop by Nightwing Restorations’ office where they find Misty Knight working late.
She is there consulting with Nathaniel Alexander Byrd aka Marvel Comics’ 1970s blaxploitation character Blackbyrd, a Private Investigator. (He helped Iron Fist and the Sons of the Tiger take on Snake-Eyes and the Black Hand gang awhile back, remember?)
Byrd explains to Misty, Danny and Shang-Chi how the Sons of the Tiger split up over a woman (no, not Yoko Ono) and their three mystical Tiger Amulets are now being worn by one man – the Puerto Rican youth named Hector Ayala. The amulets transformed Hector into the kung fu superhero called the White Tiger, who has the strength of three men and extraordinary martial arts abilities provided by those amulets.
The P.I. further explains that the White Tiger and his supervillain foe-turned-ally Jack of Hearts (Jack Hart) are, as he speaks, raiding El Tigre, a seemingly legitimate merchant vessel secretly used for smuggling drugs. The organization responsible for using El Tigre AND for killing Jack of Hearts’ father for his Zero Fluid invention is the Corporation. (A lesser version of Hydra and A.I.M. in Marvel Comics.)
Blackbyrd arranges for police backup through old friends who are still on the force and flies himself, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi to El Tigre in a helicopter. The battle has been raging for awhile, so Danny and Shang join in, fighting the Corporation’s soldiers and their mercenary supervillain called Stryke.
That villain is a kung-fu fighter in electrified blue armor and armed with electrified nun-chucks, making me wish they had just brought back Iron Fist’s foe Triple-Iron instead, since all that was his schtick before Stryke came along.
Iron Fist and Shang-Chi have each taken a turn fighting Stryke while simultaneously fighting the Corporation’s armed soldiers, but now Jack of Hearts tells them that Stryke is HIS, since Stryke helped the man who murdered his father. (This was in previous issues of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, since Marvel for some reason tried using Jack of Hearts as a kung-fu hero at first instead of a sci-fi hero.)
Jack uses his Zero Fluid-induced powers to kill Stryke. Next, Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, White Tiger and Jack of Hearts go below deck to get the Corporation bigwigs, only to find they took their own lives already. White Tiger’s older brother Filippo Ayala is now revealed to be the real brains behind the drug-dealing end of this outfit.
He and the Corporation were seeking an alliance with Fu Manchu but he scornfully refused, prompting the suicide of the Corporation bigwigs. It’s a comic book, just go with it. After all, the only reason they had to drag Fu Manchu into this story was just to tie in villains linked to all the main stars of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, White Tiger and Jack of Hearts.
Surrounded by superheroes and with the cops plus the Harbor Patrol arriving on the scene, Filippo blows up himself and the ship after giving his brother Hector a chance to flee, and the other heroes hastily join him. They all watch El Tigre explode, taking Filippo and the fortune in drugs with it.
NOTE: The Corporation would return many times in the future to tangle with various Marvel Comics superheroes.
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