@’s by IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON’s
Karre Andews is a writer, artist and film maker who made his comics breakthrough in the late 90s, instantly proving a hit with fans pencilling titles such featuring Spider-Man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four. As a film maker Karre broke into cinema with a series of short films before graduating to directing features, his most recent being CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO starring LOTR’s Sean Astin. I caught up with Karre to talk martial art, movie making and his plans for IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON.
RUSS SHEATH (RS): Kaare, tell us about your run on Iron Fist. if you could sum up your Iron Fist run in three words, how would you sum it up?
KAARE ANDREWS (KA): Death...Rage...Redemption!
It's split into two arcs, the first is called 'Rage' and the second is called 'Redemption' and each arc is 6 issues long. If you have loved Iron Fist all your life, I think you will really, really enjoy this interpretation of the character. We go back to his very beginnings and interpret in a way that really hasn't been done before. I think the more knowledge you have of the character, the more you are going to enjoy that process. Similarly, if you have never heard of the character this is going to be a complete tale from end to end.
Issue one just came out last month and did amazingly well. If your comic shop is sold out, we have a second and possibly third printing hitting the stands or maybe hit comixology. If you read it-- and you liked the crazy that you read, there's going to be even more crazy in the next issue. If you didn't enjoy that particular kind of crazy-- your head is going to explode by the time you hit issue five or six. I am not afraid to grab hold of this character with both hands.
RS: We've seen Iron Fist, occasionally, but we haven't had an IRON FIST title since the acclaimed Ed Brubaker / Matt Fraction run, around 5 years ago. Which begs the question, Why Iron Fist? And, what was the appeal of a comic starring Iron Fist, to you?
KA: to be honest, it wasn't my idea. I didn't know much about the character, but when I was asked to do covers for the Brubaker / Fraction run I thought the book was great. Fast forward 5 years and I had just come off directing a movie, and while I was directing I had taken time off doing any comic book work, and I was talking to Axel Alonso at Marvel about what I was going to do during my movie hiatus. Axel said that I could do the art to one of Marvel's big event books, but I told him that I really wanted to write something again too, which he was cool with.
So Axel lists off a handful of characters that they were thinking about relaunching, and Iron Fist was one of them. Axel thought I would be a good match for it and encouraged me to think about it and to see if there was anything that I responded to in the character. I always think the key to identifying with a character is to understand the core of who they are, and the thing with Iron Fist is that I didn't really understand who he was. The Brubaker / Fraction stuff was great but I still didn't really know what his deal was. You can't sum him up like Spider-Man, Batman or Superman, he's not that 'clean'.
So, I went right back to the very first appearance in MARVELPREMIERE #15 and read that very first origin arc amid immediately I saw this was some hardcore, cool stuff. You had this little boy who watches his parents murdered by his fathers business partner, almost dies, gets taken in by secret monks to, basically Shangri La, and is trained, not to become a better person, fight crime or anything like that, he trains 10 years to kill the person who murdered his parents.
The monks basically say that if he chooses to live amongst them in K'un L'un he will live as a god. Basically they are offering him heaven and eternal peace, but he refuses that and goes back to kill the guy who killed his parents. At the time he finds the killer, the killer is a paraplegic and Danny ultimately finds that vengeance is hollow and empty. I love that and I love martial arts movies and tales of the lonely man who ends up on a quest of revenge. I was instantly inspired and came up with a one paragraph idea that was an archetypal martial arts story.
RS: Iron Fist is one of those characters where readers might be forgiven for thinking that, because he was born out of that 70s Kung-Fu craze, he is very much 'of his era'. Yet, every so often writers find a new voice for him. Was it difficult finding a voice for the character?
KA: I guess I have two opinions about that. The reason I love working with Axel Alonso is that I've never been censored by Axel, or ever been controlled, led or ordered around in the way that I had been working with other editors. You learn very quickly who you can work with and who will allow you to find your voice. There are some companies that are very much led from the top down, and I can imagine finding myself in a situation like that. The second is that you need to give yourself permission. I love the Brubaker / Fraction run but I knew that my version of Iron Fist would be nothing like that and I didn't want to try to emulate it. I loved their run so much I didn't want to fall into an imitation of that.
My story telling sensibilities are very different. In my mind, martial arts is about one man, training himself to become the best, singular person he can be. Kung-Fu is not a team sport, like football. So my sensibilities lean more towards a classic martial art model of one man against another man, then one man against a dozen men and then one man against a hundred men, but it's always the tale of one man. My parents are counselors and I know full well that for most people, if they don't deal with their emotional trauma, their emotional trauma will deal with them. I think that Danny Rand hasn't dealt with his emotional trauma in a long time and my story is about that emotional trauma coming back to him.
RS: Being writer and artist on Iron Fist as well as a movie director, is there a lot of cross over in how you put together a movie and how you put together a comic? Not so much in the mechanics but how you go about things creatively?
KA: Film making is interesting because, what you think a director does, isn't necessarily what a director does. When making a movie you don't necessarily have the control that you think a director does, especially if the script has been developed before you were even involved. Before you get onto the project the script has been through many creative voices and if you are lucky you will get to play with it, but at the end of the day it's not your story. You rely on so many people who are given to you and who you end up with, especially in director for hire work. My next film will be my own script, but so far my work has all been for hire work and there's a lot of fighting and a lot of compromise.
The thing about comic books is that the only compromise you make is with your own abilities and it's so nice to be able to come back to a comic and to own all of your own flaws and weaknesses and where every mistake you make is your own. There's a rush of creativity that isn't filtered by anything else and that's so inspiring. It's just you and a sandwich down in your studio because comics are so introverted where movies are so extroverted. Being able to jump back and forth allows me to appreciate one and the other.
RS: did you look to challenge yourself to do something different artistically?
KA: I'm so A.D.D. with my art style. When I broke in I was so focused on my style and what my art style would be as that would define me as an artist, but it also seemed so limiting to only draw one way. I knew that if I could establish one look, that would be my brand and my trademark. There are guys like Mike Mignola, Travis Charest and others, they own those looks. I think I've found my place in comics despite not having one look. To allow myself to find a new look for a project is challenging for me as an artist and I learn so much but it's also terrifying as half the battle is trying to decide what the new project is going to look like.
I've done a lot of different things and with IRON FIST. I wanted to find a new look but also find a look that referenced some of my Spider-Man style, but was more hand crafted. For IRON FIST it was me wanting to retain some of the fluidity but own it, control it and keep it more consistent. I wanted a look that was more cohesive and controlled. I think that whenever anyone changes their style, there's almost always a backlash. If you look at anyone who has changed their style, for example a musician, there's always a backlash followed by 'oh that's amazing. Why wouldn't they change their sound'? If you are a good artist, you are a good artist.
RS: What kind of approach are you going with, interpreting Iron Fist's powers in your run?
KA: His powers, in what and can do and what he eventually can or can't do, is a significant part of the storyline. In terms of the tone I'm going for, I'm not interested in telling a story that is hokey or an homage that is told with a wink and a nudge. The martial arts are treated very seriously and straight up. But there is the heightened reality of K'un L'un and very important history, so I'm not shying away from that. It's that Eastern mysticism meeting the modern day 'machine' that Danny Rand has to overcome. Danny Rand has always been trapped between two cultures, he is caught between Eastern spirituality and modern, western wealth and technology and that's an essential part of the story.
RS: what excites you the most about Iron Fist, when you have that blank page in front of you first thing in the morning, whether as a writer or artist?
KA: I try to never give myself the problem of having a blank page first thing in the morning. I free flow ideas without censoring myself and I then build those into outlines and then I lay out those same outlines onto paper. Then I write based on those layout. The process is a cumulative, building process and I'm never left with the fear of the blank page, I always have some form of foundation or groundwork that I'm constantly building upon. The only time I really have an empty page is really on that first thought, but even then I try to find inspiration in the core of the character, so I had MARVEL PREMIERE #15 to inspire me.
RS: will we see any of the classic supporting characters in your run on Iron Fist?
KA: There will definitely be some of the classic supporting characters. If you can think of a character who was an important part of his upbringing in K'un L'un. His more modern cooky cast of crazy friends, so even the more classic Misty Knight or Power Man, this is not the story to look for those characters. This story is not about a guy who's crazy friends band together, it's about one man who's past railroads him, chews him up and spits him out back to where he came from.
RS: We have news of an upcoming Iron Fist TV show, courtesy of Netflix. Who's right arm would you bite off to be able to direct one of those episodes?
KA: That would be amazing and a kind of strange crossover. But I'm not involved in the Netflix series at all and I'm not trying to write a book that would inspire a show. I think in my book, the spectacle would be too big and it would be too expensive and would lend itself to a feature film version of the character. I think the Netflix show should be something else.
To be completely honest about it, creatively, you have to guard yourself against those influences. You need to create unapologeticaly, without fear. When you start worrying about what other mediums or expressions of this character might want to do, it's just death. Creatively, I am in full rage. I am raging with a singular story about a singular character who will be pushed farther than he's ever been pushed before. Pick up issue two and find out what I mean.
RS: IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON # 2 is out this week from Marvel Comics.
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Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G