Iron Man: Stark Science

Iron Man: Stark Science I

Kieron Gillen sits down to assess the relationship between Tony Stark and his tech plus much more!

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By Ryan Haupt

The Marvel Universe is full of heroes and villains who can be considered masters of science. We chatted with writer Kieron Gillen about what makes Tony Stark unique in a world of people with intellects to make Einstein feel average.

Iron Man #2 preview art by Greg Land

Marvel.com: We live in a society right now where your relationship with technology defines you. What networks you’re on, what devices you’re carrying, what laptop you use—these are all very important things to our identity, and that’s probably even [truer] for Tony Stark. So can you talk about his relationship with his technology?

Kieron Gillen: Various writers before have embraced Tony as a post-humanic individual, that the Iron Man suit has merged with him to a lesser or greater degree. I kind of stepped away from that, from the idea that he is the suit. There is playfulness to that, which I’d hate to lose, but philosophically speaking, I’m the one in the group that believes that all technology is cybernetic. I kind of believe that you cannot separate people from their technology, because the environment is you. I believe that technology fundamentally makes us superhuman; we’ve been superhuman since the first time we clubbed a guy to death. The first time anyone picks up a rock and kills someone with it that was the birthplace of humanity.

Marvel.com: So there are super chimps out there is what you’re saying?    

KG: Yeah, that’s pretty much saying that. The idea of using the environment in such a way to massively increase your natural ability makes you more than the base physical nature of you. Does that make sense?

Marvel.com: Yeah, it does. What you reminded me of is there’s this terrifying photo of a chimp threatening a leopard by standing on its hind legs, and holding a stick like a club. It’s actually quite haunting, because you think, “that’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ right there.”

KG: I’ve been there, bro [Laughs]. Yes, that’s quite a lesson point to me because Tony is already that to me. The philosophy of Tony’s science—he differs from the other geniuses of the Marvel Universe in that he is not a pure science guy. Reed Richards invents stuff and he’s an explorer. He’s primarily about theory, I would say. And I would say most of the other geniuses are like that too. But Tony, Tony is an engineer. Tony is as brilliant as Reed, but he fundamentally makes stuff to do stuff.

Iron Man #2 preview art by Greg Land

Marvel.com: He’s an applied scientist. 

KG: Yeah, exactly. He’s an engineer; he’s an applied scientist. That’s why he’s making Iron Man suits. Reed Richards isn’t really known for any of his inventions really.

Also, let’s talk about Tony: Tony’s a capitalist. And that’s the interesting thing about him. I quite like prodding Tony’s brain, and the difference between being a futurist and a technologist, and being a capitalist. Especially as we go forward, I quite like prodding; where are the areas where they contradict? And that’s kind of the issue, to be honest. In fact, there’s a story I’m reading through, which I was going to do as issues #6-7, but I changed my mind, it’s probably going to be issues #18-19 now, but eventually we’ll get to that story, and that’s my ultimate statement about that. It’s a story set on the moon, and it’s my statement to the Apollo missions; one day I’ll get to that.

So Tony’s a technologist, Tony’s a capitalist. Tony fundamentally is a guy who sees a problem and then works out what theory he needs to deal with. In the Marvel Universe, the problems of the supernatural are much more prevalent than ours. Basically, it was his job to try and understand something that makes no earthly sense [with the Phoenix during Avengers Vs. X-Men]. The problem with Tony, according to his current philosophy, is that it makes no earthly sense. For anybody that is taught that way, that is a very annoying thing to happen.

And for me, that was it. Here is a man that fundamentally thinks like an engineer, a man who is practical, literally falls on practical, where he tries to basically understand God [Laughs]. And he’s approached that like he would anything else, and the fact that he got somewhere with methods that he wasn’t quite sure about annoys him, and this is a thing that kind of sets him off. So he’s basically an engineer trying to grasp things that don’t necessarily fit on a graph so easily.

Iron Man #2 cover by Greg Land

Marvel.com: I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head there, because I am a theoretical scientist, I work in realms where there is no value that I can look up in a book to tell me the answer, and I have worked with engineers. They are just as smart as I am, but the way they think is fundamentally different, even though we’re both doing a type of science. I think with the whole “coming across something you don’t understand and not knowing how to build a theoretical framework around,” that is a really good way to frame it for Tony. Because for an explorer-minded scientist, that would be a fun challenge, it wouldn’t be a frustrating thing to try and figure out the unknown, but for Tony, who wants to be able to actually apply the knowledge that he has, to apply it to something as outside his realm as the Phoenix, would be very frustrating; I think you nailed it.

KG: I think with almost anything like that, you have to use it slightly metaphorically, it’s not literal one-for-one. You can’t say the Phoenix is math or theory or whatever. But a point of interest is that—yes I would agree, you’re saying interesting things, and that’s kind of my thinking of the character.

Join us next time for talks of technological practicality, slug evolution, and advances in A.I. in Iron Man: Stark Science Pt. II!

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