Danny Rand may be known as Iron Fist, but recently he hasn’t been able to live up to his moniker as his hands have been broken by a mysterious man known as the One – the same man who decimated his adopted home of K’un Lun. It’s all unfolded in the ongoing series Iron Fist: The Living Weapon, with writer/artist Kaare Andrews breaking down in the Living Weapon in order to build him up into something greater. The Canadian artist tells Newsarama that he’s looking to expand on the concept of Iron Fist, threading together stories of past and also introducing a new arch nemesis in the One that is intended to be on the scale of what Lex Luthor is for Superman.
In six issues, Andrews has been the architect of the fall of K’un Lun, orchestrated the breaking of Iron Fist’s hands, and also introduced new characters such as the wandering Fooh, the young fighter Pei, a baby dragon from K’un Lun, and a reporter named Brenda who’s more than what she seems. As the first collection of Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is available for pre-order now and the series returning in November with #7, Newsarama talked in-depth with Andrews about the trials of Danny Rand and the tribulations of writing and drawing a comic series on his own.
Newsarama: Kaare, last month we saw Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #6 -- the culmination of your first volume’s worth of stories. I know working-wise you’re well past #6, but what’s it like making it to six issues?
Kaare Andrews: I've never actually written and drawn anything longer than six issues of content. So for me, it's kind of a personal milestone. A level up victory. And to know I have another six to do is so exciting... especially where I leave this last issue.
In many ways I feel like I have lived these first six issues. The damage. The pain. There is a psychic toll when you beat up your characters. And in the redemptive efforts of Danny Rand, I hope to find my own path up. This is why we create. So we can live these things through their creation.
Readers should also feel the effects of these six issues. They should want to quit but know there's no way out. The only way to see Danny through the other side is to stick with him. There should be a compulsion to carry you on to reading the second arc. To help him through the other side.
That's my job, that's my goal. To create this synergy between character, creator and reader. To all go on this journey together. And by the time it's over, we should all be a little different. We should be changed. We should all be a little better as people, know a little more and really feel like we've lived through something.
Nrama: In Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #5 we saw Iron Fist’s hands being broken by the One – the same man who destroyed Danny Rand’s adoptive home of K’un Lun. Can you talk about your vision for this crazy man of a threat, the “big bad” of this series it seems?
Andrews: For a story like this I needed to create or find a character that was more destructive, more powerful than any Danny Rand had faced. One with a personal connection and agenda. And there weren't any easy answers for me. Iron Fist doesn't have his Lex Luthor or his Venom. Iron Fist is a bad ass. It can be hard to find someone with the ability to truly threaten him. But there were breadcrumbs left behind by my fellow creators. And I followed the trail...
I didn't create the One as much as discovered him in the history of Iron Fist. And he not only helped me fill in the blanks in the wild ride of Danny Rand's continuity but gave promise of a true opponent. I'm going to be frank here. Danny Rand will have to dig deeper than he ever has before. He will have to do things he's never done before. He will have to grow, adapt and rise... or two worlds will fall. The One is the catalyst for all of this.
Nrama: Let’s talk about Danny’s hands being broken, That’s not something you can take an Advil for – how’s that going to carry on for him, since he’s best known as the Iron Fist?
Andrews: Danny has a moment with Brenda in Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #4 where he tells her that the problem with relying on something else for your personal power is when that something is taken away. This was not a moment of coincidence. Danny earned his iron fists through a series of trials and a decade of preparation. But at this point, does he have anything to offer without them? A true hero will always find a way, no matter the odds. It's time to find out where Danny stacks amongst his peers.
Nrama: You mentioned Brenda. In the first issue I overlooked her as a one-off damsel-in-distress, but subsequent issues have shown her to be more than meets the eye. What’s your goals with the Brenda character, and what’s her future going to be in this series?
Andrews: I just want to reassure people that Brenda is a character with an endgame. She has and will continue to slowly reveal herself to us and to Danny. She's never who you think she is, not really. She's more. By the end of the series all of her true motivations will be revealed, and the consequences of that will be very real. In fact, this whole story started with Brenda and Danny and that's how it's going to end.
Nrama: There’s also the cute young monk, Pei, and that newly hatched dragon egg. What can we expect from them?
Andrews: Pei is my favorite creation in the book. She represents the future of K'un Lun and is perhaps the first generation of women that will have been allowed to train and fight amongst the immortals. A girl like Pei could change everything. If she survives...
Nrama: We’re also recently introduced to an unnamed old man from K’un Lun who saved Danny from being killed by the One in #5. What’s his connection to all of this?
Andrews: Ahhh... The Fooh. There are so many interesting aspects to K'un Lun. Ideas that have sort of bubbled up in a very organic way from writer to writer and series to series. One of these is this strange contradiction between technology. K'un Lun seems to have both used and banned technology from its people. The Fooh is the direct connection between that contradiction. A skilled K'un Lun monk who has operated in the shadows for many years.
Nrama: Have there been any bumps in the road or unforeseen detours you found yourself going on between the initial plot and the final printed page?
Andrews: Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is a 12 issue story. This presents a few challenges for myself creatively, as it's about twice as long as anything I've written in comics. The good thing is it's very comparable to the length of a long screenplay, of which I've been focusing most of my writing efforts for the past few years. So, the length itself was never daunting. But splitting that story up into short issue length bursts, with compelling introductions, characters, plot revelations and cliffhangers has resulted in a rhythm more along the lines of 20 minute TV episodes. That was surprising for me. Things have to move so quickly, you don't have time to linger. Throw in the amount of flashbacks and deep cuts of continuity I am revealing and I think the experience and rhythm of the book itself is a little different than what is currently out there.
For some reason, modern comics don't tell 12 issue stories anymore. At least not in a story that doesn't bleed into the other books in the Marvel Universe. These days, a 12 issue story seems like some incredible tome. Interesting times indeed. Look, I know I'm asking for a lot out of the reader and it's a different reading rhythm, but it's one which is designed to be different. And designed to be ultimately and uniquely rewarding by the end of it all. A complete and exhaustive story split over two 6 issue arcs.
Nrama: Looking over the landscape of Big Two, work-for-hire comics, and I believe you’re the only person writing and drawing a regular book for more than just a brief arc. What’s it like doing it -- and doing it on a monthly basis?
Andrews: It's been so rewarding. I love it. I love comics. I love creating. I love owning the machine. Thanks again to Marvel, Axel Alonso and Jake Thomas for putting this kind of trust into my hands. I've always been a bit of an outlier-- creatively speaking. I work at a distance from others and not just because I'm up here in Canada. Sometimes I feel like I'm basically the Wolverine of comics creators. You can put me on a successful team but I'll always do my most lethal work when I go rogue.
You know, I grew up in the 80's and all of my favorite creators wrote and drew their own stuff. All of them. It's been so strange to kind of watch storytelling slip through the fingers of other artists. Like... how did that happen? And doesn't any other artist want to write? These days you either watch artists abandon art-making completely and become full time writers or never make the attempt at all.
And it's not like there's a conspiracy or anything but in many ways I blame Hollywood. The public (and the industry) has often judged the success of a character or a comic on whether or not it has been made into a successful movie or television show-- disregarding if it has anything to do with the book it was based on in the first place. Now to sell a show, to "set it up" you need a great premise and an interesting story. You can port those things over directly. You know what becomes the least valuable part of that equation? The art. You can't copyright an art style. You can't trademark visual storytelling. And in a strange yet appropriate contradiction-- it's the art that is the hardest part of making a comic book. You can't tell me it's not. It's not even an argument. You take the greatest writers in the industry and they can often bang out about four titles a month if not six. You ask the same of the greatest artists and it's (maybe) 1... and even for a freak like John Romita Jr. it's maybe two.
So you say to yourself, how do I achieve this pre-defined success in the shortest amount of effort required? You don't do it by writing and drawing comics. You do it by writing as many pitch books as possible and find the cheapest interchangeable artists available to secure the option and sell the premise to the Hollywood machine. Of course, this is a falsehood. This won't actually result in great comics or even great movies. But that's the trap.
I think Joe Casey pointed this out on Twitter, but a comic book writer is only as good as his artist. Because if you look at the comic book as its own artform, it's the art that tells the story. And even if you have the most amazing tale every written, it won't survive a drunk, stuttering fool in a thick incomprehensible accent trying to tell it. And that can go the other way too. You can have Morgan Freeman reading the phone book but it's only interesting for a page or two.
It's the unique marriage of art and story that makes a comic book. Sometimes that's a unique marriage between separate writer and artist and sometimes that writer and artist are the same person. I'm here to remind my fellow creators, that you can become the machine. You can own it all. It's a little lonely, hanging out there on the ledge by yourself but true discovery was never made in comfort.
Nrama: Pointing you, the machine, back into the comic we’re here to discuss for our last question… the first arc is done, leading into the next one – “Redemption” – with issue #7. What can you tell us about that?
Andrews: While there are many ways to spiral to the bottom, redemption is a straight forward climb back up! And it's time for Danny to pull himself out of hell and stand against the thing that sent him there. He will be fighting for family... for friends... for himself. Everything is at stake and he is the one man holding the line. Like I said, maybe it's because of my own personal sense of melodrama, but I feel like I am living this storyline one page at a time.
I promise you this-- if you want to see the biggest, craziest most emotional ending of any Iron Fist storyline of all time... follow me on the trip back up.