By Matt Powell
This May, Tony Stark kicks it up a notch—or at least a Fraction.
Putting a new shine on a classic character, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, from rising-star writer Matt Fraction (THE ORDER) and dynamic artist Salvador Larroca (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) will launch Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, to a new level just in time for the "Iron Man" movie, premiering May 2.
With his uncanny knowledge and insight into the methodology and genius of Stark, you'd think Fraction himself pilots Iron Man's unbeatable armor. As part of Invincible Iron Man Week, Marvel.com spoke to Fraction in this exclusive first interview about INVINCIBLE IRON MAN.
Marvel.com: In your eyes, who is Tony Stark and who is Iron Man?
Tony Stark is equal parts James Bond and Chuck Yeager—a pioneer, a test pilot, an engineer, an adrenaline junkie visionary. He's a man that lives at the intersection of science, experimentation, and extreme physical danger, trapped in the body of a
suave, sophisticated, elegant, ladies' man. He's a cool exec with a heart of steel, right?
Iron Man is the future of humanity, of post-humanity. Iron Man is the ultimate achievement in what we, as humans, can become. Iron Man is a vision of man as a self-made god.
Marvel.com: How has Tony's image changed post-CIVIL WAR?
Post-CIVIL WAR, I think Tony is wracked by the weight of a terrible moral choice he made. He believes in the ends but absolutely doesn't believe the price he—and all of his friends—had to pay was worth it. His arrogance and self-will ran riot and there's a piper or two to pay out there with his name on it.
And that's really our primary objective: making everyone fall in love with Tony Stark again.
Marvel.com: You referred to Iron Man as the future of humanity. With that in mind, how does a man like Tony stand out in the landscape of the Marvel Universe?
Well, he succeeded where Dr. Doom, Kang, and everybody else failed, didn't he? He tore the heroes apart. So he's got that going for him, which is nice. And as a hero, he knows this. It plays absolute hell on him. As a writer, this is a tremendous gift. It's so much fun to get to try and write Tony out of this hole!
His genius is directly counteracted by his arrogance, which is an outgrowth of his own fatal flaw—that is, he is his own arch-rival. He is his own secret weakness. To win that fight, he has to fight it every single day. And he has to be honest and rigorous and courageous in that battle of the self. Clearly, lately, he's been losing the fight.
Iron Man is self-made. He's not the product of cosmic rays or a radioactive spider. He is the triumph of human ingenuity over the frailty of the human form. And while he's not alone in that regard, he is perhaps its best and most shining example. Or he can be, when he's on the path of the righteous.
Marvel.com: At present there are several facets to Tony Stark: the S.H.I.E.L.D. director, the futurist, the businessman, and the superhero. What are the advantages of each of having a character with so many different sides?
The advantages are: he's a super-hero, as [a] multi-tasker; there're millions of stories you can tell based on all of these aspects of who he is and what he does on a daily basis. There's no end to the scope of his vision and abilities.
Marvel.com: But the downside is…
The disadvantage is, where is Tony Stark, the man? The human being, the guy who has to run 10,000 miles an hour to keep it together? Where's the Tony Stark that's powerless, whose life is utterly unmanageable? All these roles have robbed Tony of his identity as Tony.
Marvel.com: What's your take on the current Tony Stark?
He's been making bad decisions, selfish decisions, and destructive decisions, and rather than owning up and accepting responsibility, he compounds one bad move with another. His intellect and self-righteousness has cut him off from his humanity and now he's the most hated man in the Marvel U. There's blood on his hands, figuratively if not literally, and blood on his conscience. And that's not him; that's not who he wants to be.
What do you do when you look in the mirror and see you've become your own arch-rival? What do you do when you—as a futurist and technologist—discover you've become obsolete? Not even a billionaire can buy back his own soul... you've got to earn it back, one drop of blood at a time. And that's our book. A reckoning has come for Tony Stark.
Marvel.com: Considering the points you've mentioned on how you plan to reinvent Tony Stark, what do you feel distinguishes your book from current IRON MAN writers Daniel Knauf and Charlie Knauf's book?
I think the Knaufs are doing an absolutely fantastic espionage book—It delivers on its subtitle, DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D., in spades, and is a kind of "24" for the Marvel Universe, almost. Ours is the pure super hero Iron Man book, the big budget summer blockbuster thrill-ride.
To kick off your run you're paring up with artist Salvador Larroca. Are you excited?
Are you kidding? Have you seen what Salva can do?! The appeal is utterly breathtaking visuals and an unparalleled scope. Every page looks like a billion dollars and, considering the subject, that's wholly appropriate.
Marvel.com: Let's hit the lightning round! First up, who's your favorite Iron Man supporting cast member?
I absolutely adore Pepper [Potts, Tony Stark's execute secretary]. Every time I write her, I think about Ginger Roger's line that she had to do everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. That's Pepper.
Marvel.com: There have been plenty of stories documenting the triumphs and tragedies of Tony Stark. What are some of the highlights for you?
[David Michelinie and Bob Layton's] "Demon In A Bottle"—his fatal flaw defined. "Armor Wars"—Tony takes responsibility for the nightmares he's engineered. [Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's] CIVIL WAR—Tony's tragedy. [Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's] "Extremis"—[Tony's] high-water mark.
Marvel.com: Favorite Iron Man villain?
I love The Mandarin. I remember poring over his entry in the old MARVEL UNIVERSE guide as a kid, studying those rings for hours...like 10 years ago, Paul Pope did a Mandarin redesign in MARVEL VISION that sort of imagined him as a Lower East Side-meets-Chinatown hipster and that childhood love of the character came flooding back.
There's something missing, though, or someone missing. When I look at Iron Man's rogue's gallery, there's a very large absence. So hopefully our first arc will fill in that blank.
Marvel.com: What's your favorite Iron Man armor?
The Silver Centurion is a sentimental favorite, because the first Iron Man issue I ever bought was [IRON MAN v1] #198, just two away from its unveiling. You never forget your first upgrade, I suppose. Although, I gotta say, seeing the
giant MK I from the "Iron Man" movie at San Diego this year reminded me about what makes a classic a classic.
Marvel.com: What was the coolest thing you've ever seen Iron Man do with his armor?
Take it off, put on a tux, have a drink—or not—and bag a model, then reinvent the thing all over again.
Marvel.com: In what ways would you like to see Iron Man test his technological limits in the future?
I want to see a Tony Stark that starts to emerge from the military-industrial complex school of thought that forged his intellect and begin to really explore end-user open source applications for the Iron Man technology. The future isn't a war suit, you know? There's not an Iron Man waiting for every man, woman, and child. It's not the killer app it once was. I mean, how does the Iron Man influence how you cook your dinner? What about the Iron Man can improve education worldwide, can fight AIDS in Africa, and can improve the world for everyone in it?
I want to see Tony push his intellectual limits; I want to see him actually start behaving like the smartest man in the world, rather than a
reluctant tyrant wearing a business suit by day and a war suit by night. What happens when the boy genius raised in a once-permanent war economy becomes an adult in the new millennium? Can Tony Stark reinvent his own relevancy?
Marvel.com: Just for fun, if you could have one piece of Iron Man tech, what would it be and what would you use it for?
I'd be in space before you could finish reading this sentence. There's a reason why the first time we see Tony in the suit, he's working on the space shuttle.
Tomorrow, Invincible Iron Man Week continues as we speak with IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. writers Charles and Daniel Knauf about plans for their book. For more Iron Man, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. And remember: "Iron Man" comes to a theater near you on May 2!