Art Seen

These Talented Illustrators Reacted To The ‘Iron Fist’ Casting Controversy With Epic Art

Meanwhile, the discussion of diversity on TV continues...

Netflix's latest Marvel TV series, Iron Fist, isn't enjoying as much praise as its predecessors — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage — with most criticism fueled by the lack of an Asian lead. Some fans aren't letting that fact stop them, though, and are channeling their creativity into some epic artwork that depicts hero Danny Rand (played by Finn Jones on the show) the way they believe he should be.


As for a little background on Rand's Iron Fist, he's just the latest in a long lineage of those bearing that name. He first appeared in Marvel Premiere No. 15 back in May 1974 and was inspired by the trend of martial arts heroes in pop culture at the time. Iron Fist eventually got a solo series in November 1975, which only ran for 15 issues and wrapped up in September 1977. Since then, he's been tossed into other storylines throughout comic book history and has even been resurrected. He also starred in a series with Luke Cage.

While Rand has always been portrayed as a White man described as having blond hair and blue eyes, he learned kung fu and gained his powers in the mystical city of K'un-L'un — a place that only materializes in our world once every decade. Iron Fist has the power to focus his chi energy to enhancing every aspect of his natural abilities and even channeling the heart of the dragon Shou-Lao into his fists to pack a superhero-worthy punch. Other powers include self-healing, outward healing, psychic senses, and telepathy.

This all brings us to the 2017 series, which controversially the popular Game of Thrones alum in the titular role. The series has long been plagued with accusations of cultural appropriation, Orientalism, and portraying Rand as a White savior. There were those that, back when Iron Fist was first announced for Netflix, were clamoring for an Asian actor to be cast to rectify the comic book past, put a twist on the character, and boost Asian visibility in entertainment — leading to #AAIronFist to trend on Twitter even to this day.

"Danny Rand is not a white savior. Danny Rand can hardly save himself, let alone an entire race of people. He is a very complicated, vulnerable individual. He doesn't just show up, like, 'Hey dudes, I've just learned martial arts! I'm going to save the world,' " Jones told BuzzFeed News in what was described as a surfer voice, going on to describe how the show would tackle the racial problems of the comic book's past. "Actually, it's the complete opposite. He's gone through and suffered immense trauma and he is struggling to claim his own sanity and identity back."

While fans weren't happy with the casting — so much so that they drove Jones to briefly quit Twitter, according to Deadline — critics aren't that thrilled with the show, either. The series stands at a crazy-low score of 19 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus stating: "Despite some promising moments, Iron Fist is weighed down by an absence of momentum and originality." Reviews from The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Collider echo these sentiments.

To combat the tropes that are getting Iron Fist in trouble, comic book artist Kris Anka — who has worked on X-Men, Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Star-Lord — famously redesigned the character in a tweet and Tumblr post from 2015 to keep the general appearance but as an Asian man. 

Now, with the show having premiered on Netflix last Friday, March 17, other comic book creative forces as well as fans have reignited social media with their personal visions for Rand — even spawning a female version named Dani Rand in the process.

Perhaps what hurts the most in regards to Iron Fist is that there are Asian characters present but that the lead was cast as a White man in what could have been a big win for diversity and a fresh start to a series that has rubbed folks the wrong way for decades. Let's not forget that Jessica Henwick plays Colleen Wing on the series and there's a standout performance by Lewis Tan as a one-off villain named Zho  u Cheng, among others. Tan, for the record, was almost chosen for the lead role, according to Vulture, leaving the feeling of what could have been unrealized.

Marvel, in its defense, has been offering more diverse characters recently by mixing things up in terms of gender, sexuality, and race. There's a female Thor, a Black Hispanic Spider-Man, a Black female Iron Man (though her name is Iron Heart), an all-female Ghostbusters film (yes, it has ties to Marvel), and the company has given a queer Latina superhero her own series — just to name a few.

All that said, as Ebony points out, much of the conversation has become about those behind the characters in terms of giving a platform for diverse voices. Doing that, the argument lays out, will lead to natural representation on the page or, when the page is adapted, to the screen.


Get some details on a favorite comic book "shero" in the clip below:


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.