Hello dear readers, it’s been a while. On this namesake Jumpstarts With A Pen, we not only jumpstart the series but I have a two-part piece for you. This time we need to go over the until recently overlooked legendary camaraderie of Luke Cage and Danny Rand, or Power Man and Iron Fist, Heroes For Hire.
For a little insight Power Man and Iron Fist, the duo was kind of forced together to save each other from cancellation back in 1978. Both publications suffering a massive lull in sales. In comes Chris Claremont, Iron Fist’s original writer, to save the day. Smashing them together in what ended up reviving the pair for long enough to double their initial tenure in the respective solo stories.
Marvel knew they needed to jumpstart these characters to keep from losing them completely. Having a soft blend of Iron Fist in Luke Cage #48 – 50 and in #51 completing the merge with the sharing of one title. Power Man and Iron Fist: Heroes For Hire. Claremont did the initial team-up, but due to an unmanageable workload, he soon had to give it to Jo Duffy. Who’s run established the duo as the funny buddy cop duo that we commonly see this pair as. Marvel, however, were not fans of this and took him off the book to replace him with a rookie Kurt Busiek. Busiek was quick to emulate Duffy’s tone. A very similar comedic buddy cop series with little fights and a ton of character building. Duffy and Busiek’s run on the series ending at issue #100 left the taste in our mouths we couldn’t get rid of, and certainly established a lot of Luke’s matter of fact sass that can only be found in his books.
After that, the book jump between a few different writers. Busiek even came back for two issues. Until it finally reached the hands of Jim Owsley. A man who would be responsible for one of the most controversial events in silver age comics. In the last two issues of Power Man and Iron Fist, Owsley frames Luke with the murder of Danny (spoilers from ‘86). When asked about it he’s been quoted saying,” Fist’s death was senseless and shocking and completely unforeseen. It took the readers’ heads clean off. And, to this day, people are mad about it. Forgetting, it seems, that (a) you were supposed to be mad, that death is senseless and Fist’s death was supposed to be senseless, or that (b) this is a comic book.” A clear indication that he aimed to end the series in a hard stop.
Now, fast forward through the 90s to 2011. The events of Shadowland had just happened and Iron Fist has found himself a new Power Man, Victor Alvarez. He’s what I would call a combination of Power Man and Iron Fist having the ability to absorb chi from all around him, making him invincible and giving him super strength. Being a teenager, it also made his big head even further disproportionate.
Here is where the series made a choice in character development that personally I think not only hurt Marvel’s black audiences but also strained the company’s tentative relationship with the community. Victor is, for lack of a better word, ashy. Yes, ashy. In need of so much lotion that he eve downright refuses to address Danny by the master because of how the community was kept down for 400 years. What could’ve been a very good book had me completely inundated with unnecessary ash as it fell from silent hill sky.
In their efforts to maintain a sharp informed wit of late 70s Luke Cage, 2011 Victor came off as a young buck with zero interest in even knowing where the ropes are, much less being shown them. Thankfully this was only a 5 issue mini-series. So growth for the pair was swift certainly. In that short time taking down a privatized prison corporation bent on locking everyone they can up using white supremacy as the muscle. Fred Van Lente was onto something but his message came off as someone who kinda gets it but doesn’t know the feeling. Something very apparent in Victor’s interactions with prison nazis.
Now don’t get me wrong I thought how they used the “master” thing, in the end, was clever, and the message is that both Danny and Victor’s projected philosophies come out in the work with the prison corp. Warden using the white supremacist prisoners to not only run the place but to take care of undesirables. Those folks having one thing in common, they didn’t fall in line.
From starting out as a jumpstart with a pen, later intentionally killed. To a hyper woke ash beast trying so very hard to be the book of a social ally. All in all, that was a so so jumpstart and the series has kinda sputtered to stay alive. It was only a very recent 2 years ago that we were graced with the great writing and insight of David F. Walker, but that’s for part two of this next month. See you then!