Marvel packs a punch for diversity with new comics series ‘Power Man and Iron Fist’

Before they were the third and fourth series announced in Netflix‘s upcoming slate of Marvel adaptations, Luke Cage and Danny Rand were a classic superhero buddy team. 

Cage’s Power Man and Rand’s Iron Fist had a successful run in the late ’70s through the mid-’80s as a popular pair of friends who decided to tackle the petty crime and street-level violence on their local New York City turf.

But comics fans won’t have to wait until their onscreen appearances to see the pair in action again: The comic series is coming back thanks to a dream teamup of two popular comics creators, writer David Walker and artist Sanford Greene.

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The news of the Walker/Greene teamup is especially sweet for fans who’ve been wanting Marvel and DC to step up their game regarding the diversity of their main series. Walker told Fast Company he was essentially told he could pick the characters he wanted to write—the kind of creative freedom many black writers in comics never get to enjoy.

Even better, Walker and Greene’s hiring is a balm to critics who worried that the recent hiring of Ta-Nehisi Coates to write Black Panther was a one-off. Marvel and DC have tended to hire black writers who already independently made a name for themselves, rarely hiring writers who worked their way up through comics publishing. Both Walker and Greene, on the other hand, have done acclaimed recent work on major series—Walker writing Cyborg and Greene contributing a litany of pencils, inks, and cover art for various Marvel and Dark Horse projects. 

“About a year ago or so, [Marvel editor] Axel Alonso asked me to list all the characters that I wanted to work with the most,” Walker tells Fast Company. “He said, ‘Don’t be limited—go as big as you want.’ At the very top of that list were Luke Cage and Danny Rand, and I put in parentheses after their names: ‘as a team.’ Because this was something that I’d wanted to see for years and years. 

“Growing up as an African-American kid, you identify with these characters,” Greene said. “Luke was one of those characters that impacted me. And it was always a dream project to get to work on him. It was the cherry on top to find out it would be Iron Fist as well.”

The team of Cage and Rand are perhaps best known for forming the company Heroes for Hire, a move that helps them pay the bills but proves controversial in the larger Marvel universe. But they’ve also been best friends, fighting partners, and business partners outside of their work as mercenaries. 

The new series picks up their lives as we follow the current Marvel universe post-Secret Wars: Cage is married to Jessica Jones and the two of them have a daughter they’ve named after Rand.

Both Walker and Greene seemed positive that, rather than Marvel and DC offering token hires as lip service to cries for more diversity, this new series is a part of industry-wide change on a long-term scale. Walker also hinted that Marvel was hoping to diversify its administrative staff as well as its editorial and creative teams, which can only be good news in an industry that is still overwhelmingly white and male.

While fans were quick to celebrate the news, it’s worth noting that Rand as Iron Fist is still portrayed as a white character (as in the original series) even though his backstory is steeped with mystical Asian stereotypes and the trope of a wealthy young white man becoming the best martial arts fighter of all. The current push to revive him may not do much for fans who hope that the Netflix series will cast an Asian actor in the role.

Still, as far as progress in comics goes, this is a notable win—both for proponents of diversity and fans who want to see old fabled partnerships getting the love they deserve.

Photo via Comics Vine

Aja Romano

Aja Romano

Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.