I have always had a fondness for Iron Fist, as he was one of my brother’s favorite superheroes when we were growing up. I was somewhat excited when Marvel Comics announced that an Iron Fist monthly would be part of their new Marvel NOW! revamp or relaunch or whatever you want to call it, but not nearly as excited as I was that one of my favorite artists, Kaare Andrews, would be both writing and handling the art chores on the new series. I have been a fan of Kaare’s work since Ultimate X-Men and enjoyed his runs on Astonishing X-Men, Spider-Man: Reign, and anything else he has put his artistic stamp on, like the iconic covers he did for The Incredible Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man. Clearly, Kaare has a great love of comics; he took a brief hiatus to direct the film Cabin Fever: Patient Zero and returned to comics afterward (Praise Baby Jesus!), and it shows in the amazing storytelling in his first issue of Iron Fist: Living Weapon.
Kaare was kind enough to participate in the following interview.
Michael Fitzgerald Troy: Can you tell us a little about how you got involved in the new Iron Fist comic?
Kaare Andrews: I was just wrapping up a year off from comics to direct Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, and I had a conversation with Axel (Alonso) about what I might do at Marvel when I came back. He had a couple of ideas, like including drawing an event book, but I really wanted to write something. Axel had a few characters they were thinking of doing something with, and Iron Fist was one of them.
I knew a little bit about the character and had even drawn some of the covers during the famed Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run, but I didn’t know enough about the character. I told Axel to let me do some research and I would see if anything sparked. Not knowing where to start, I started at the beginning with the first appearance of Iron Fist in Marvel Premeire #15. That book was so surprising to me. The intensity of the story telling, how dark and adult the tone was, the creative non-linear storytelling– I was instantly inspired and had a take on the character very quickly.
I sent Axel a one-paragraph pitch and he bought it. Then, I spent the next month trying to learn as much as I could of this character’s dense, and I mean DENSE, backstory. That alone was a good lesson for me, to try to free the character from so much lineage. Not to undo anything per say, but to focus my lens on only the aspects of his story that I wanted to tell.
MFT: You are one of my favorite kinds of artists in that your style seems to constantly change and evolve but never loses your sensibilities. What inspires you to change your style?
KA: I get bored. It’s as simple as that. I wish I had a better answer, but I just would never want to be trapped in one way of drawing. My favorite artists tend to explore new territory, new periods, new looks. I kind of see how I draw as how a band evolves from album to album. You want to create a cohesion for the project you are working on, but then allow yourself to grow and expand with every new project.
But, comic books are strange in that this idea isn’t necessarily encouraged as much as it is in music. I remember reading a Jim Lee interview where he said one of the lessons of comics is that you go and try out some new styles and then return to your original style. I always thought that felt ‘wrong’ to me. I loved when Jim was experimenting with line weights and feeling more European as much as I did anything he drew. But, what do I know. He has been the ultimate populist comic book artist for decades.
MFT: Who are some of your artistic influences?
KA: Anything and everything. If I like something, I will take it and own it. You don’t just steal from “the greats,” you steal from everyone. I don’t believe in aping someone, but I don’t believe in the myth of originality either. What I mean by this is, you learn from others, and if you don’t consciously do so, then you will do so unconsciously. There is no other way. This is how we were designed to learn. Monkey see– monkey do. Just watch children. The little brother copying the older sibling. The very building blocks of who we are are defined by what we see other people doing around us. So, try not to limit yourself by either copying or refusing to copy. Those are just little cages for people to stop your growth. Just take. Own. Grow. Combine. Art isn’t math, but art is an additive and a subtractive process. You can get just as much out of something by refusing to draw a line than by drawing it.
I will say that my favorite comic book creators tend to be the ones that both write and draw. The results of that effort, when you write, draw, create, do everything . . . when you ‘Become the Machine’ and not just a piece or part of someone else’s machine, those results can be revolutionary. Jim Steranko. Frank Miller. John Byrne. Will Eisner. Jim Starlin. Mike Mignola. These are a few of those guys. And, they are the guys that changed the medium.
MFT: What can you tell us about your first story arc on Iron Fist?
KA:The first arc is the first half of a large story. I call it “Rage,” and it is a slow burn into Hell for Danny Rand. What people have forgotten is this is a character who watched his parents murdered in front of him and then spent ten years training to kill the man that did it. I mean, even Batman had a sort of altruistic outlook on things. He declared war on the idea of Crime, but Danny just wanted to murder someone and trained ten years to do it. That’s crazy. What happened to that? He sort of become known as this billionaire jokey guy who loved his father and opened a Kung Fu school for underprivileged kids . . . like none of that other stuff ever happened. I just didn’t get it.
But, if you tell yourself this all “really happened,” that he both trained ten years to kill a man and also became this jokey do-gooder with no agenda, then that is interesting. And, the only way I can explain it is through repression. He has repressed those dark feelings, that dark past, all those dark thoughts. I mean, he was literally offered immortality to give up his quest for vengeance back in the day, and he wanted nothing to do with it. And, as the son of two counselors, I know that if you don’t deal with your past, your past will deal with you. Addiction. Depression. Abuse. It bubbles up. And, Danny’s past is going to hit him like a freight train.
MFT: A “Heroes for Hire” reunion would be fun. Any plans to have Luke Cage appear in your book?
KA: I have very firm ideas of what this book is, and a team book isn’t one of them. My favorite martial arts movies are all movies about one man, and this is no different. Kung Fu isn’t a team sport. This is not a story of Danny getting in over his head and calling in his friends for back up. There is no back up. There is no way out. There is just one man getting dragged back to Hell to face his past. Alone and up against two worlds.
MFT: Speaking of Power Man, what would happen if Iron Fist and Luke Cage fist bumped?
KA: Sweet Christmas! I hope we find out once this Netflix thing gets going. Who knows, if I stick around long enough to get a second “season” on Iron Fist, it would be fun to introduce some of those other characters. I already have a great entrance in mind . . .
MFT: What would happen if Iron Fist and Nicolas Cage fist bumped?
KA: War. Rainbows. YOU. You’re the rocket man . . .
MFT: There seems to be a resurgence of writer/artists in mainstream comics. How do you approach the work differently when you are pulling double duty as you are on Iron Fist as opposed to working with a writer?
KA: I think the fans are getting bored with a writer doing six books a month all drawn by interchangeable art teams. This is a visual medium . . . how is it that the visual part became the least important? It makes it easier to commodify a franchise and set it up for films and TV shows, but it makes it harder to elevate the art form. Would the Dark Knight be THE Dark Knight if every 30 pages another art team took over?
MFT: I loved your run on Astonishing X-Men. I especially loved the return of “Mohawk Storm.” Did you have anything to do with that?
KA: Yes. Totally. I’ve always loved that mohawk of Storm and saw it coming back into style in music and fashion. For Astonishing, they encourage you to sort of put your stamp on at least the uniforms of the characters. I chose to really take that to heart and make every aspect of the characters very stylized. So, not only the mohawk of Storm, but I chose to draw her barefooted, so she could connect with the earth in a very physical way. I also pushed Emma into a sort of Brit-pop porn star look and Armor into an anime character. I drew Logan short and gave Scott some manly muscles. It was a lot of fun to draw that series. And, I took every opportunity to create a sort of visual love triangle between Scott, Emma, and Storm. It wasn’t really in the script per say, but it wasn’t not in the script either. And, I’ve always looked at the X-Men as a soap opera, in the best sense, and wanted to embrace that idea. You know, bringing it back to Storm’s mohawk, I kept waiting for them to make me draw her with her full head of hair, but no one ever said anything. So, I just kept my head down and kept drawing . . . That is sort of the way I approach life. Never ask permission. Just do your thing.
MFT: Finally, and forgive this question, but inquiring minds want to know: I recently read an article accusing you of killing Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man: Reign with radiated Spider spooge. Care to come clean on the subject?
KA: With Spider-Man: REIGN, I wanted to put Peter into a situation where he had to re-learn his lesson, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If he didn’t have the power to save the person he loved, if, ultimately, he was responsible for her death, then maybe he didn’t have any responsibilities at all? A pretty mature concept I thought. And, the most logical way to directly tie him to her death was to chase out the idea that “he’s got radioactive blood.” So, basically, he’s a walking Chernobyl. That means that every part of him would be radiated from his tears to his sweat, blood, saliva, and, sure, even his semen. But, it’s not like the jizz killed her alone. Speaking as a married man, I’m not even sure how much sex they would even be having. MJ was probably mostly radiated from cuddling on the couch and sleeping next to him. But, the semen seemed to be the idea that some fans latched onto. I don’t mind really. I think it’s fairly hilarious that this is what the story is known for. But, if you start to think about it, it does get a little unsettling.
I mean, why would a segment of the fan base latch onto that aspect? And, even if they did, why would they find it so disturbing? It’s just human biology. At the core of it, does it reflect that a fairly large portion of readers are still made up of man-childs, giggling at the word penis?
I had a similar experience when I drew a cover for Astonishing X-Men of Emma sitting on Scott’s back, while he was on all fours, and she was eating pancakes. I thought it was an amusing cover that visually described the power dynamic in their relationship. But, some fans were outraged. How dare Scott be Emma’s b!tc#! It seemed to challenge their entire definition of manhood. I even read several message boards accusing the cover of being homoerotic. Not that I have anything against homoeroticism, but I always assumed that a homoerotic image would need to depict two people of the same sex. But, for these fans, anything that put a woman ‘above’ a man must mean that he’s gay. How strange.
But, just like the Spider-Man: REIGN thing, I simply find it amusing. And, actually, I kind of enjoy stirring the pot every now and then. Just wait and see what happens to Iron Fist. You’ll see just what I’m talking about . . .
Thanks for the great interview, Kaare! (As a gay man myself, I can assure you there is absolutely nothing homoerotic about a stack of flap jacks.)
Make sure you pick up Iron Fist and see Cabin Fever: Patient Zero!