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Iron Man: Stark Science

Iron Man: Stark Science II

Kieron Gillen chats about artificial intelligence, adaptability in armor and more major topics!

Iron Man #2 preview art by Greg Land

By Ryan Haupt

IRON MAN writer Kieron Gillen returns with the second installment of Stark Science! This time, we wanted to ask about the specific changes he’s made to how Tony Stark uses his Iron Man armor, including the all-important AI Jarvis!

Marvel.com: So how does Tony Stark’s relationship with technology affect how he uses the suit in a practical way? Because I know you’ve got different ideas about how the suit functions for Tony relative to some of the other writers who have worked on Iron Man.

Kieron Gillen: I think the suit can definitely alter. Because he builds it, and it’s like Tony sees it as a problem. And part of the reason that I did it is a literary reason, as in my basic theory and idea. As opposed to making a general-purpose liquid suit you can use to morph into interesting things, you get better results by a specialist approach, designed to do one thing, it generally does better than a generalist. Does that make sense? A specific program [is] designed for a task generally. And there’s definitely different areas where that’s not true, but in IRON MAN #3, [Tony] goes, “yes my previous suit could morph into a cannon, but you get a more powerful cannon if you just build a cannon.”

And for me, that’s what Tony wants to do. Tony thinks “I can get more bang for my buck by having more pieces and swapping out for what I need. Against power or precision, I lose that ability, but I’m fine with that.” This is basically, as Tony puts it, making a decision and living with it. So he has to think about what he needs, and choose to do it. Now for me, that’s where Tony’s head is at the moment.

Iron Man #2 preview art by Greg Land

Marvel.com: So basically he has to choose to pick up a scalpel instead of a Swiss army knife. 

Kieron Gillen: Yeah, exactly. And of course when it goes wrong, well he’s wearing the wrong suit for this job. And then [when] Tony’s on his back, he has to deal with it. So you’ve got these times when Tony is completely right, like back in the first issue, when he knew Extremis was there, he came with a Taser, he knew how to take them down, he took them down. And then in issue #3, when he wears a stealth suit and the stealth suit lacks certain offensive capabilities, which could have been practically useful when it turns into a stand up brawl because he misunderstood the situation.

So we get the chance to play with how powerful Tony is—it’s survival of the fittest, its survival of the best fit. When people say survival of the fittest, they say, oh the strongest and the fastest, and they get the idea that people are getting stronger and more powerful and whatever, but it’s all about the environment that you find yourself in. And that’s what I’d like to do with Tony, the idea that I could make it more dramatically interesting by changing Tony and what he can do. And he chose what to do, so it’s not like things are just going wrong, which kind of fits his personality as well.   

Marvel.com: A lot of times, people think of evolution as having a purpose or an end goal, and they think that humanity is somehow this pinnacle, but it’s flawed, it’s not the best for every situation.

Kieron Gillen: Look at me in the mirror [Laughs].

Marvel.com: Take a slug, for example. A slug is just as well evolved for its environment as you are for yours. A slug isn’t doing anything wrong; it’s surviving and being just as fit as it needs to be.

Iron Man #2 cover by Greg Land

Kieron Gillen: It’s a whole other chain of being. We kind of have a hangover from a theological chain of being, which when applied to evolution is just not right.

Anyway, I find it much more interesting that Tony has this big armory to choose his bits and pieces, I find that more fun and it focuses in on my inner child. It reminds me of “Thunderbirds,” you remember “Thunderbirds,” the old TV show?

Marvel.com: With the puppets, yeah.

Kieron Gillen: It’s a rescue team, which is a fantastic thing to do a TV show about. It was always, which Thunderbird are they going to send out? And then you’ve got Thunderbird two, the big green one, and it’s got a module in the middle that swaps in and out, so depending on what mission it was, they would use this module, and you’d be like, oh my god they’ve got that module! That’s fun.

I’ll stress that I’m not old enough to remember “Thunderbirds” when it came out, it just repeated forever in the UK. It’s merely something we do. That was my thinking about Iron Man’s suits, and specifically why I wrote it the way that I did. Of course he’s still got an AI in the suit. In fact, he’s building a new AI across the first five issues, and the AI gets more advanced as we go through the story. The first issue, it’s not really there, in the second issue it’s completely useless.

Iron Man #3 cover by Greg Land

Marvel.com: That’s interesting because in the Marvel Universe, you’re dealing with a place that already has several AI’s running around independent of any user at all, so does Tony have a feeling toward AI in general?

KG: I believe he does. For me, AI is a long-term story element, as in issue #20 and onwards, I have AI-based plots planned. It starts off soft, but eventually it will become more important. I prefer the term artificial people [Laughs]. The vastness there I find very interesting, so eventually it will come into play.

Thanks to Kieron for chatting with us and to you for reading it. Come back soon for Stark Science III where things get—magical.

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