Iron Fist first appeared in 1974 in Marvel Premiere #15, the creation of writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane. Marvel's editors, presumably including Stan Lee, wanted to cash-in on the then-current martial arts craze initiated by Bruce Lee and his many imitators earlier that decade, making a mystically powered, martial arts superhero inevitable. Borrowing a few elements from the Bruce Wayne/Batman mythos, they made the man behind the Iron Fist mask, Danny Rand, the son of a wealthy American entrepreneur, Wendell Rand. As a young man, Wendell discovered the mystical city of K'un-L'un (Shangri-La but with martial arts). There he saved the life of K'un-L'un's ruler, Lord Tuan, but eventually returned to the United States where he married and fathered Danny.
Again borrowing from the Bruce Wayne/Batman mythos, the younger Rand loses both parents in an ill-fated expedition to rediscover K'un-L'un. In K'un-L'un, Danny, eager for revenge, apprentices himself to the city's new ruler, Yü-Ti, and Yü-Ti's son (and eventual foe), Lei Kung, the Thunderer. Danny fights and defeats a mystically powered dragon, Shou-Lao the Undying, gaining the power of the Iron Fist. In New York, Danny becomes a superhero, often allying himself with Luke Cage (a.k.a. Power Man).
Since his debut, Marvel has used Iron Fist primarily as a supporting character, with a combination of two developments -- Rand joining the team-oriented New Avengers spin-off three years ago, and a standalone comic book written by Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Captain America, Daredevil) and Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men, Casanova). Brubaker and Fraction's run ended after only sixteen issues, but in that brief time they expanded Iron Fist's backstory (he's one of many Iron Fists) and added six mystical cities, new mystically powered martial arts characters, and a martial arts tournament involving the cities.
It's an open question whether Wilkes is the right screenwriter for the task, but Iron Fist's comic book history, in and out of the central Marvel Universe, should provide Wilkes (and any subsequent writers) substantial material to pick and choose from. Marvel has attempted to keep its big screen adaptations free of camp, so hopefully that won't change when (and if) Iron Fist makes it to the big screen. There's one, perhaps even more important, issue, though: Iron Fist's high-collared, green-and-yellow costume. Will it, should it, be used (relatively) unchanged? What works on a comic book page or even an animated series doesn't necessarily work on the big screen.
Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on Iron Fist making it to the big screen.