Marvel TV rumours: IRON FIST replaced by SHANG CHI, THUNDERBOLTS pitch scrapped and more

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We’ve heard very little of Iron Fist. While Marvel has been making major headway with their other three Netflix series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage), the fantasy/kung-fu adventures of Danny Rand has been shrouded in mystery. And maybe that’s because there’s absolutely nothing there to actually show, as Marvel plans to scrap the show entirely.

That seems to be the word on the street according to some rumours surfacing over on Bleeding Cool. BC specifically mention that they didn’t receive their tips from well-known and trusted sources, but rather from readers who reached out to them, so take this with a big ol’ bag of sodium chloride. That being said this does line up with a few other rumbles on the internet about Marvel cancelling shows.

BC’s first informant – codenamed Duck McQuickens – claims to have worked for Marvel’s TV division until a recent structural shakeup that saw Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige move out from under the thumb of the controversial Ike Perlmutter who still heads the TV group. Before he left though, he apparently got wind of the fact that Iron Fist may be getting replaced with Shang Chi, another Marvel Comics kung-fu based property, but which doesn’t have the more complex (difficult to reproduce) fantasy element, and could just be told as a straight-up martial arts action thriller.

“It’s true that Iron Fist isn’t TECHNICALLY cancelled, but Netflix has plans to retool it as Shang-Chi if they can’t find a show runner to take up the part by the end of 2015, with it being another martial arts show like Marco Polo or Mortal Kombat Legacy since he lends to gritiness much easier than Iron Fist. Currently Iron Fists problem is that nobody’s got a solid series pitch beyond ‘magic guy who fights crime’.”

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McQuickens went on to state that there was a show cancelled though: The mysterious project that Oscar-winning John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) was supposed to have been working on. According to the source, Ridley apparently pitched a show that needed characters that Marvel’s film division wanted, and since Marvel’s film and TV divisions are not on the best terms right now, that didn’t go over well.

“The show Marvel ordered to be cancelled was John Ridley’s project, not Iron Fist. Iron Fist has problems but they aren’t related to the feud. John Ridley apparently pitched a villain-based show like Thunderbolts (not sure if it actually was a Thunderbolts adaptation but the pitch was along those lines) and apparently Marvel wasn’t having it. Apparently one of the leads was a pretty big name villain who Marvel wants to introduce in the films instead. I guess either Ridley wouldn’t budge or said character was critical to the pitch, but either way it’s dead now. Ridley moved on to American Crime and his other projects at ABC and his Rodney King biopic.”

BC pressed their source for more, including their position in all of this, and they delivered with even more info, including why Marvel signed off the recently announced Damage Control half-hour sitcom and why you’re probably not going to see the more important Inhumans show up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. any time soon:

“I used to work at the Marvel TV office. After Feige went to Disney, Marvel Studios got a restructuring, but Marvel TV did too, only it was less pretty. The hammer came down on all the projects (Ridley, the Inhumans, etc) and anything not already in production had stricter budget limitations, (probably why their next ABC show is a half hour sitcom) and then the next week they moved the offices across town

Some of this might have changed since (particularly with Iron Fist) but at the time I got cut the three big concerns of Marvel TV were:

First, Perlmutter wanted the Inhumans to replace the X-Men (he ‘persuaded’ the comic side to boost Inhumans and downplay Fox properties like X-Men and the FF) and Feige did NOT. Feige wanted to work on the assumption they’d eventually get the X-Men back/some type of crossover which Perlmutter doesn’t care for. That’s why it was at the very end of Phase 3 and why there wasn’t a problem on their end when Spidey pushed it back after Infinity War since it has nothing to do with the other franchises at all. The big hammer came down saying that SHIELD still can’t use the Royal Family Inhumans (just in case minds were changed) so SHIELD has its hands tied for no real reason other than pettiness from the TV side.

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Second, John Ridley’s pitch being seen as too dark/expensive for ABC and using characters Studios wanted dibs on, like one of the villains who would have been a series regular (maybe star? still don’t know that). They didn’t say which film it was for but since it’s probably not a Captain Marvel villain I imagine it was a Spider-Man bad guy like Kraven or Chameleon or someone (since we got the greenlight to use Sony stuff in the deal). Since it’s a villain show Ridley probably didn’t want to give it up, so the project got canned, Ridley got a check for his production deal with ABC and everyone went their separate ways.

Third: Iron Fist might be canned/replaced since Netflix wants a 2016 release date but nobody can come up with an interesting/cost-effective pitch for the show and time is thiiiin to write, cast, film, and post-production in time since the Netflix shows take around a whole year from writing to distribution. That’s not a Feige/Perlmutter thing and more a ‘nobody really knows how to fucking do it’ type thing, but Netflix signed a contract for 4 shows + Defenders so they have to have a show. Worse comes to worse it’d be rebranded as Shang-Chi and given a Raid-type treatment since that’d keep costs way down and could be finished before the end of 2016 since there would be no dragons or magic.

I don’t know anything after that. The Damage Control thing got underway after I left but Drew Pearce would drop by and pitch it every few years but it never got traction. Maybe a comedy vet like Karlin helped? (just speculation on my part).”

That is a whole lot of info to digest. He is pretty much on the money when it comes to how Marvel Comics elevated Inhumans over X-Men and Fantastic Four (the latter doesn’t even have a comic series anymore). The most recent incarnation of the Thunderbolts comic book series also featured Venom, which is indeed a Spider-Man character and one that Marvel would definitely want for the movies, so once again that lines up.

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And as a huge Iron Fist fan, while I would love to see it adapted, its expansive fantasy mythology – involving magical dragons, superpower martial artists and mythical cities in alternate dimensions – and classic kung-fu sensibilities would really make it difficult to translate properly. And then there’s the Asian problem, as BC’s other source, codenamed Goofy McDougal and who claims to be part of the Management & Production team at Marvel Studios, elaborated on as well.

“You were right about the problems with Netflix/Marvel TV’s Iron Fist… [Marvel Studios] has worked hard to have a good relationship with China. Marvel TV’s idea for Iron Fist would of hurt MCU China relations. The synopsis for Iron Fist was basically like Eddie Murphy’s Golden Child. Kung Fu is also one of China’s national sports. To tell the Chinese people that a young American is the best at Kung-fu, would be a slap in their faces.

It’s very clear that Mr. Feige will not approve Iron Fist in its current state. Iron Fist will most likely be put on hold and be replaced by a Punisher series. I like my identity to remain unknown as I like my job but, I wanted to help clear the air. Thank you.”

It’s at this point that I have to reiterate that all of this comes from unconfirmed sources, so this may all just be a bunch of wild and rampant speculation – or maybe even a bit of fancy storytelling. Either way, it does make for intriguing reading, especially since every day we don’t see any news about Iron Fist is another day closer to this actually being the truth. What do you guys think?

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Last Updated: October 22, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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