Oddities: Daniel Rand IS Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu!

Marvel’s mysterious martial artist Danny Rand — AKA The Immortal Iron Fist — premiered in Marvel Premiere #15 (May 1974)…

marvel premier #15 s

The cover was pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Dick Giordano (with alterations by John Romita). It’s a great image and a fantastic way to introduce a new character.

Later that same year, this cover appeared on Marvel UK’s The Avengers #61 (16 Nov 1974)…

Avengers UK #61 s

Eagle-eyed readers might spot some similarities between these two covers…

iron fist - shang chi comparison

They are of course the same image, with the original cover rather expertly modified for The Avengers by Arvell Jones (according to the Grand Comics Database). Arvell Jones also pencilled the cover of The Avengers #52 (14 Sep 1974), the issue in which Iron Fist joined the comic — this was my first introduction to the character:

avengers uk #52

This wasn’t the first time that an American Marvel cover was significantly altered for the UK reprints (and we’ve already covered what Marvel UK did to Killraven in their Planet of the Apes reprint), but this one really was the metaphorical door-handle to the jacket pocket of my attention because I had issue #61 of The Avengers, plus I was very familiar with that Marvel Premiere #15 cover — I’ve always loved it — and yet I only recently noticed the similarities.

Marvel Premiere was a 61-issue series that ran from August 1972 to August 1981. Like its forerunners Marvel Feature and Marvel Spotlight it was designed to be a showcase in which new characters could be introduced and established but sidelined characters could pop up to remind everyone they were still around. Iron Fist was one of the new characters, created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. I absolutely loved him, although — embarrassing confession time — when he removed his mask for the first time (in issue #84 of The Avengers, 26 Apr 1975)…

danny rand

… I had nightmares about that face. It’s not that he’s particularly ugly in that rendition (pencilled by Arvell Jones and inked by Aubrey Bradford), but the night after I read that issue I had a very frightening wake-up-crying nightmare that I can still recall forty-five years later.

To be fair, even though that image of Danny Rand featured prominently in my night-terrors, there’s a chance he wasn’t the actual cause: that same issue also featured The Avengers battling the evil robot Ultron (who made me very uncomfortable because he always found a way to come back from destruction bigger and badder than ever before), and Doctor Strange fighting Nightmare, who was — to be blunt — pants-wettingly scary to a nine-year-old:

doctor strange nightmare
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer.
Thanks, guys.

Marvel UK reprinted five further Iron Fist covers from Marvel Premiere

iron fist cover comparison 2
Marvel Premiere #16 (Jul 1974) — The Avengers #55 (5 Oct, 1974)
Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Dick Giordano.
iron fist cover comparison 3
Marvel Premiere #17 (Sep 1974) — Blockbuster #2 (July 1981)
Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Dick Giordano
Note that Iron Fist’s head is at a different angle: the drawing was altered by John Romita for the Marvel Premiere issue, while the Blockbuster cover uses the original art
iron fist cover comparison 4
Marvel Premiere #18 (Oct 1974) — The Avengers #58 (26 Oct 1974)
Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Jack Abel.
iron fist cover comparison 5
Marvel Premiere #19 (Nov 1974) — The Avengers #70 (18 Jan 1975)
Pencils by Jim Starlin, inks by Al Milgrom.
iron fist cover comparison 6
Marvel Premiere #20 (Jan 1975) — The Avengers #80 (29 Mar 1975)
Pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Sinnott.

Note that Triple-Iron (Marvel Premiere #18) and Batroc (Marvel Premiere #20) have both had their costumes’ colours changed… could be that someone in Marvel UK figured that their readers wouldn’t be comfortable buying a comic that showed male characters wearing pink, which is of course a girly girls’ colour for girls.

Bonus: Because I know you’re curious, here’s the full line-up of Marvel Premiere:

marvel premiere logo

marvel premiere #57
Most issues of Marvel Premiere featured original material, but #57 to #60 reprinted the strips from the first sixteen issues of Doctor Who Weekly.

The Power of Warlock (#1, #2)
Doctor Strange (#3 – #14)
Iron Fist (#15 – #25)
Hercules (#26)
Satana (#27)
The Legion of Monsters (#28)
The Liberty Legion (#29, #30)
The Man-Brute Called Woodgod (#31)
Monark Starstalker (#32)
The Mark of Kane (#33, #34)
3D-Man (#35 – #37)
Weirdworld (#38)
The Torpedo (#39, #40)
Seeker 3000 (#41)
Tigra (#42)
Paladin (#43)
The Jack of Hearts (#44)
Man-Wolf (#45, #46)
Ant-Man (#47, #48)
The Falcon (#49)
Alice Cooper (#50)
The Black Panther (#51 – #53)
The Coming of Caleb Hammer (#54)
Wonder Man (#55)
Dominic Fortune (#56)
Doctor Who (#57 – #60)
Star-Lord (#61)

4 thoughts on “Oddities: Daniel Rand IS Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu!

  1. I see what you mean about that initial headshot of Danny Rand. Roll on John Byrne, says I.

    I have that issue of Blockbuster – quite possibly the most horrible colour scheme to ever grace a Marvel UK comic 🙂 And that ‘Marvel Magazine Group’ banner – it’s like it was lifted from an in-house trade magazine.


  2. That reveal of Danny Rand’s face always unsettled me too. I wonder if there had been some alterations to the art before publication? The cold, expressionless face and eyes rolling back made him look like a zombie. It’s very odd. No wonder you had nightmares!


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