By Nick Authenrieth
Laverne and Shirley. Fred and Ginger. Lewis and Clark. Stark and Von Doom? Yes, you read correctly. Everyone's favorite duo is back! Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man and everyone's favorite evil dictator Doctor Doom are set to star in their own five-part mini-series written by former AMAZING SPIDER-MAN scribe David Michelinie and illustrated by renowned artist Ron Lim, best known for his run on SILVER SURFER.
Iron Man #150
But this isn't the first time in which Iron Man and Doom have faced off, nor is it the first that Michelinie has written. The Iron Man/Dr. Doom history dates back over 20 years. Their first one-on-one clash was in 1981 in IRON MAN #150. Both characters were whisked back in time to the age of King Arthur, where they waged war on one another.
The second installment of the saga that is IRON MAN VS. DOCTOR DOOM took place in the future in 1989's IRON MAN #250 and oddly enough also involved Arthurian legend. Merlin and Morgana LeFay both make appearances, with the evil sister of Arthur obviously taking sides with Doom and the most famous wizard of all aiding Iron Man. But, as Morgana learns the hard way, Doctor Doom only looks out for numero uno. He has no allies. "When we started a second run on the series, we thought it might be fun to do a sequel," adds Michelinie. "But this time taking place in the far future. After that, a third and concluding chapter talking place in the present just seemed natural."
And that's where the latest installment comes in, though it will run a bit longer than the two previous stories. "If we had been handling the regular series again we most likely would have done the story as a regular-length prologue followed by a double-sized special issue, which is pretty much how we did the other two," notes Michelinie. "Doing it as a mini-series actually creates a bit more of a challenge in that we have to create a story with three (hopefully) natural breaks in it, as opposed to a single set-up followed by a pay-off issue.
As to what attracted him to having the two foes face off in their own series, Michelinie says "The similarities and the contrasts. Both have great intelligence, and great power which they've earned for themselves. But, of course, they both go about wielding their power in vastly different ways. Also, there's always been the fun wink-wink aspect of Doom respecting Tony Stark for his intelligence and leadership, but considering Iron Man to be a mere hired hand unworthy of licking his boots-not realizing (at least at the time) that the two men are the same!"
Iron Man #250
But why was the decision to incorporate Arthurian legends made? That's something Michelinie chalks up to the influence of the artist on the first two stories, Bob Layton. "Bob's a big Arthur fan," says Michelinie "He's probably responsible for a lot of the specifics in the story. For me it was the lure of showing these two armored guys in a world populated by other armored guys, and contrasting their modern sense of justice and morality with the ethics of Round Table authority. Showing the differences in how Doom, with his noble heritage and massive ego, would react to being a stranger in a strange land, compared to how Tony Stark, with his own ego but with a more flexible viewpoint, would deal with the same situation. Plus, there was the intriguing idea of pitting science against magic, the supernatural being something Tony Stark had always found unsettling.
And with the new breadth of the mini-series comes an opportunity to fully explore the character of Doctor Doom and his motivations. "Doom is a bad man, but he's not necessarily an evil man," Michelinie adds. "He feels he deserves power and respect but he does feel a responsibility to those who serve him. After all, what good is being a leader if there's no one to lead? So while he does decidedly nasty things, there may be a reason to justify some of them."
Iron Man will have his work cut out for him with the upcoming story because Doctor Doom isn't the only villain he'll have to tackle. No, hell's finest, the evil Mephisto will be making an appearance. So you can guess where Doom and Iron Man will visit in this story. "Mephisto's involved mainly because he fit the story we worked out," says Michelinie. "He's part of a deal struck with Doom that involves Tony Stark in a hopefully unexpected way. (If you read the first Camelot story, you know Doom swore eventual revenge on Iron Man. You can take that as a clue.) In this story, Doom is a more active, hands-on villain, whereas Mephisto is more of an observing co-conspirator." Sounds like things will be getting a little heated (pun intended).
Fans may be left wondering where this series will fit in terms of comic continuity, given the current events of the Marvel universe. But this is something David Michelnie understands and has already sorted out. The current Iron Man is very different, both visually and personality-wise, from Iron Man as he was presented in the first two stories," he comments. "We figured that might be a distracting element, especially if/when all three parts are brought together in a trade collection. So, we avoided such a jarring contrast by making the bulk of the story sort of a flashback, a tale that took place maybe months after part 2, but whose existence was wiped from everyone's memory by Merlin in order to protect the future time line. So, although the first and last few pages of the mini-series are contemporary, most of it takes place in 1980s continuity."
So stay tuned to Marvel.com for any info we get on this surefire smash of a mini-series. And don't forget to call your local bookie to place your bets on who'll come out on top of the coolest, most metallic battle of the past 30 years.