Iron Man: Stark Science

Iron Man: Stark Science IV

Kieron Gillen prepares to launch Tony Stark into outer space and discusses what he will encounter in the final frontier!

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By Ryan Haupt

It’s time for our final installment of Stark Science with IRON MAN writer Kieron Gillen. We’re wrapping things up with a chat about Tony’s upcoming sojourn to outer space, and just what it will mean for Earth’s premier technologist to suddenly be surrounded by even more advanced alien science.

Iron Man #6 cover by Greg Land

Marvel.com: With the upcoming cosmic elements, are you approaching those storylines from a fantasy approach or a sci-fi approach? Because once you go cosmic, you can kind of go either way.

Kieron Gillen: My original plan was basically an Apollo 13-esque story set on the moon, so it was very hard science fiction, the most hard science fiction that I could do in the Marvel Universe, and the reason why that story doesn’t work is because if Iron Man is having quite fun Star Wars-ian adventures in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the cognitive dissonance is too much, so you’ve got to do science that fits the style of the book.

So the way I’m writing at the moment is Tony’s technology that he uses is his own technology. Pretty much he’s Conan. I’m writing stories in a wholly civilized place where technology is very much magic, and Tony is the caveman, and they all think he’s quite roguish and charming. He’s literally being treated like the noble savage; he’s turned up in this palace of incredible technical refinement, and they’re essentially all looking down on him. It’s almost sociological; it is leaning towards space opera.

When I get to the issues of that space stuff, a lot of it is about Tony’s expectations. In the first issue, Tony is quite, I wouldn’t say close-minded, but for an incredibly clever man, he misses a lot of stuff, because it’s not nearly on his radar. And here, there’s an element in the fact that he’s in the Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s living out every Han Solo, Captain Kirk fantasy that he’s ever had. As much as he’s interested in the science of these people, and trying to understand them, part of it is the almost giggling to himself, as in, “oh my god I’m flirting with an alien princess.” [Laughs]

And it becomes almost about the concept of science fiction and our relationship with how fiction inspires us and the great scientists. And that’s kind of the subtext going on here, that Tony is meeting these alien civilizations, even though I’m still working in this space opera-y mode.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 cover by Steve McNiven

Marvel.com: So Tony is a Captain Kirk guy, not a Picard guy?

Kieron Gillen: That’s the point, is that all the stories appear to be a space opera, and then it doesn’t quite end up like that [Laughs]. It’s quite fun to see Tony get in touch with his inner child a little.

Going forward, I play with that type of stuff, and there are all sorts of different elements that I try to bring in. It felt weird in that I was definitely less scientifically based than what Warren [Ellis] was doing, and even what Matt [Fraction] was doing. But there was at least some underlying concept of what I was trying to do here, so I’m actually pleased on how this has gone for me.

Marvel.com: I like the idea of him as Conan, because then suddenly you are putting the suit in a scenario where it is not as good as what the aliens are bringing to the table. It’s kind of like a flip.

Kieron Gillen: This is why it’s interesting putting Tony next to crazy alien technology and trying to make him understand something that isn’t comfortable to the character. That’s how you make them grow, and that’s how you get interesting material. If you put Namor in a swimming pool, he swims. That’s predictable, what happens there. It’s slightly less predictable if you take Tony, and put him in the land of the fairies and if he somehow has to deal with that or whatever, but I’m not doing that, that’s just off the top of my head. If you actually take that seriously, because Iron Man is made of iron, so symbolically speaking, Iron Man and the fairies would be a mess. I’m not doing that. [Laughs] You know what, that’ll be issue #30. [Laughs]

Iron Man #3 preview art by Greg Land

Marvel.com: There’s this beautiful cycle to science fiction where I know a lot of scientists that were inspired by science fiction. They decided that they wanted to become scientists because of some science fiction that they’ve read, and then they’re pushing the world’s knowledge further therefore inspiring some writer to write a new type of science fiction. There’s this wonderful repetition that comes out of these two creative endeavors that are working in different realms. For example, my advisor in undergrad, when I asked him why he wanted to become a scientist, he said, straight up, the X-Men. He wanted to become a biologist and create his own mutants, to be Professor X to a team of super mutants.

Kieron Gillen: Sounds more like Mister Sinister actually than Professor X. [Laughs]

Marvel.com: Well, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that, but that was his inspiration, that was what made him want to pursue science.

Kieron Gillen: It’s true. There’s a bit in issue #6 where Tony is with this alien princess and he’s pretty much like, the only TV show that my Dad let me watch as a kid was old reruns of “Star Trek,” and now I’m in space doing this. To me, that was kind of the quite fruitful part of it, the fact that you can’t do hard science fiction when he’s in a hard science fiction part of the world. So I played with different aspects of it, or at least that’s what I’m trying to do, anyway.

Thanks one last time to Kieron for sharing his brain with us for all these segments. Follow Tony to space and beyond in the ongoing adventures of IRON MAN.

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