Thor has his hammer, Captain America has his shield, Iron Man has his arc reactor… and Iron Fist has his tattoo. The dragon emblazoned across Danny Rand's chest is undoubtedly the identifying characteristic of the superhero, and it may make viewers wonder what Danny's tattoo means on Iron Fist when they tune into the new Netflix series this weekend. Granted, it's not exactly the most compelling mystery to sustain a TV show, but given its prominence in Iron Fist lore, there has to be an explanation of some sort provided on the series. Unfortunately, it looks like that explanation is going to be quite a bit different from the tattoo's origin on the pages of Marvel comics.
Introduced in 1972, the new superhero quickly became recognizable for his green and yellow outfit, his ability to punch through just about anything, and the distinctive ink on his chest. Danny Rand was the heir to a powerful conglomerate who traveled to an extra-dimensional kingdom in Tibet called K'un-Lun to follow in his father's footsteps and train with a legion of supernatural martial artists. When Danny returned to New York City to avenge his parent's death and reclaim his family's empire, he returned with a new name — Iron Fist — new powers — including "Chi Augmentation" — and a new tattoo.
In fact, the stories of how Danny earned that title, attained those powers, and got that tattoo are all inextricably linked. A warrior earns the moniker of "Iron Fist" after they complete an ancient ritual; it's through the course of that ritual that they become imbued with mystical powers; and it's during Danny's completion of the ritual that he became emblazoned with the dragon symbol on his chest. So what is the ritual? Oh, nothing crazy — it just involves mortal combat against centuries-old immortal dragon named Shou-Lao The Undying.
According to K'un-Lun legend, Shou-Lao once tried to attack the kingdom's leader (referred to as the Yu-Ti), but was slain by a great warrior. The Yu-Ti then revived the dragon, took out its heart and melted it into a brazier, and granted it eternal life. From then on, anyone hoping to claim the title of an "Iron Fist" must duel with Shou-Lao and, if they defeat it, absorb its power from the molten heart. (The dragon then revives to battle the next challenger.) Like every Iron Fist before him, Danny defeated Shou-Lao… but in the course of their battle, their skin made contact, and a dragon symbol on Shou-Lao's scales was permanently burned onto Danny's bare chest.
An epic duel with a magical immortal dragon? Aren't you just dying to see that play out onscreen when Iron Fist premieres? If so, you — and countless comic book fans — are likely to be disappointed since star Finn Jones (aka Loras Tyrell from Game Of Thrones) recently confirmed to Yahoo! News that Shou-Lao won't be on Iron Fist; unfortunately, the Netflix show simply didn't have the budget necessary to bring such a fantastical sequence to life. (They probably would have need a budget closer to that of Game Of Thrones, ironically enough.) So the question is whether the origins of Danny's powers and tattoo remains unchanged — but unseen — on the show… or whether his entire backstory has been rewritten to accommodate the budget of a Netflix series.
Jones hints that it may be the former option, telling Yahoo! that, "We do allude to it in Iron Fist, in a very intelligent way, and definitely in The Defenders. But I think, you know, we've got to be realistic." So while we won't get to see his duel with Shou-Lao in Season 1, there's at least a small chance that — if the series is successful enough for Season 2 to get an even bigger budget — we could see a flashback to this pivotal point in Danny's life at some point in the show's future.
As long as Iron Fist doesn't begin with Danny wandering into a Manhattan tattoo parlor and asking for a badass dragon design, hope remains that we may get his full origin story at some point down the road.