By Marc Strom
As if Iron Man didn't have enough on his plate with being the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all, he now has to contend with two
ongoing series come this May.
With news of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN hitting earlier this week, Marvel.com spoke with Daniel and Charles Knauf , the father-son writing team of IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D., to see what they have planned for Mr. Stark, how they feel about all the attention Shellhead's been receiving recently, and what having a second book around means for them.
Following CIVIL WAR, Tony Stark has been at the center of every Marvel reader's attention, both because of his new role as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and as a result of the controversial decisions he had to make in supporting the U.S. Super Human Registration Act. When the Knaufs first signed on to pen Iron Man's ongoing adventures, however, little did they suspect any of this lay ahead.
"What we asked [IRON MAN editor] Tom [Brevoort] for was, specifically, 'A character that's not performing up to potential.'" says Charles. "No teams. No little wings or fins anywhere on the body."
Daniel further explains, "We really wanted a low-profile character—I had no idea whether Charlie and I would be any good together, I'd never written comics, I didn't know whether I'd like it or if I could even do it with any degree of competence."
"In other words," Charles adds, "if we sucked, nobody would notice on an obscure title. So much for best-laid plans..."
Still, both writers admit that it feels "very cool" to be working on Shellhead with all the attention being paid to him: "Whether or not it will be long-lasting is a total mystery," notes Charles. "But right now, these are Iron Man's glory days."
The Knaufs have since transformed IRON MAN into an espionage-tinted thriller, focusing on Stark's new role with of S.H.I.E.L.D and bringing a fresh new direction to the book. With this new direction has come a new supporting cast, made up of characters both new—rogue scientist/love interest Maya Hansen—and old—S.H.I.E.L.D. stalwart Dum Dum Dugan. According to Daniel, we may soon be seeing an old face return to Tony's life:
art by Roberto
De La Torre
"We've been looking forward to bringing Pepper into the fold for some time, so I'm sure she'll be making appearances in [DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D.] now that she's out of THE ORDER."
Charles notes that a second Iron Man book alters little in the way of plans they had for their own book.
"Actually, if anything, it keeps us on track tonally and with the types of stories we've been telling," explains the writer. "Way back when, Tom Brevoort told us that we might have to simplify some of our plots and isolate the title a bit from the [Marvel Universe] at large to accommodate new readers who would be coming on after the movie hits theaters."
"Now Matt [Fraction, writer of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN] can deal with the whole accessibility issue for incoming fans while we keep playing the darker, more gritty notes in [DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D.]," Daniel chimes in.
The key to juggling the continuity between the two books, Charles says, "Is really in dovetailing them, making sure they complement one another without getting in each other's way while maintaining the individuality of each book."
art by Roberto
De La Torre
The Knaufs currently stand in the middle of their "Mandarin Trilogy," a story bringing Iron Man's old foe up to date with the 21st century.
"The Mandarin is, if anything, IM's classic arch-enemy," Charles remarks. "While Stark had been reinvented over the years to keep up with the times, Mandy was way overdue for the same treatment."
His father adds, "I think one reason writers shied away from The Mandarin was because he was cheesy at best, and at worst such an ugly racial stereotype—very Fu Manchu."
Instead of playing into those roles, the Knaufs wanted to "turn the concept of a super villain inside out."
"Here's this very intelligent guy who's had his ass handed to him over and over," says Daniel. "There must come a day when he says, 'Gee, maybe I'm the one with a problem.' A total existential crisis."
But with the Mandarin, you know an existential crisis can only lead to disaster. "So he thinks, 'Maybe I should serve mankind instead of trying to enslave it,'" Charles notes. "But the guy is inherently evil. I mean, that's his default. He can't help it. It's like, Mandy sees a kid about to be hit by a bus, he shoves him under the wheels so
art by Roberto
De La Torre
he'll be killed instantly, so the kid won't suffer. It never occurs to him to push the kid out of the way."
Coming out of the current arc, Daniel says "things will change a bit in that Iron Man/Stark has dealt with and emerged from the issues we covered in CIVIL WAR and the Mandarin Trilogy much stronger than he was going in." Charles sees the new Tony as being "a much more centered, integrated character, spiritually, psychologically and physically."
As for what else to expect after the current "Haunted" story arc?
"Very cool, very nasty things," Daniel says, with Charles teasing, "And a femme fatale."
Invincible Iron Man Week continues tomorrow as we sit down with the new title's editor, Warren Simons. For more Iron Man, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. And remember: "Iron Man" comes to a theater near you on May 2!