Netflix’s Iron Fist premiered last week, bringing with it plenty of kung-fu, some bad reviews, and a seemingly important character with real-world origins in Philadelphia, courtesy of a former City Paper editor and a born-and-raised Philadelphian.
Based on the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name, Iron Fist details the life of Danny Rand, a New York City billionaire–turned–martial arts superhero. As the Iron Fist, Rand is tasked with saving the world from inter-dimensional monsters, Earth-based super villains, and other assorted baddies.
The franchise was created in the 1970s, and the Iron Fist character has been featured in a number of series since then, including Civil War, New Avengers, and Heroes for Hire. In 2008, Marvel put the Iron Fist in the hands of Duane Swierczynski, former Philadelphia magazine staffer and City Paper editor-in-chief (2004-2008), for The Immortal Iron Fist.
Swierczynski’s work on the latter half of the series, which launched in 2006 under writer Ed Brubaker, served as inspiration for part of the Iron Fist series, as shown in a Facebook posting from the writer over the weekend. As Swierczynski pointed out, the Netflix series features Zhou Cheng, a character he created with cowriter Travel Foreman, in episode eight, "The Blessing of Many Fractures":
Zhou Cheng is a sort of evil henchman under the control of Ch’i-Lin, a mythical monster that hopes to kill the Iron Fist in order to use his heart to gain access to, and eat the egg of, Shou-Lao, an immortal dragon central to The Immortal Iron Fist’s story. In a review of the Iron Fist episode, IGN describes Zhou as Iron Fist enemy The Hand’s “answer to the perpetually inebriated Doc Holliday.”
In addition to creating Zhou, Swierczynski, a Frankford native, held writing duties on Immortal Iron Fist through the series' conclusion in August 2009. He also has worked on Marvel properties including Cable, the Punisher, and others, and on DC Comics such as Birds of Prey.
Comics aren’t Swierczynski’s only creative outlet. He also has written six non-fiction novels (including The Big Book O’ Beer), and 10 crime-fiction novels. He also collaborated with best-selling author James Patterson on The House Husband.
Netflix's Iron Fist generally has not received kind reviews since its debut on Friday. USA Today called the series Marvel’s first “super-fail.” The series been criticized for its perceived “white savior” story and the show’s main character, Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones), has been nicknamed “Danny Bland” by reviewers.
“The end result is more often a boring, confused, and offensive mess of a series, one that’s as bad at diversity as it is telling a story that superhero fans will enjoy,” The Verge wrote in their review of the series. “And that’s a shame.”