By Jim Beard
Ask any long-time Iron Man fan to identify a great era of the Golden Avenger's history and chances are he'll hold firm to not one but two
eras: Michelinie-Layton Part 1 and Michelinie-Layton Part 2.
From 1978 to 1982 and again from 1987-1989, the titanic team of writer David Michelinie and artist Bob Layton endowed Iron Man mythology with the likes of the beauteous Bethany Cabe, Tony Stark's right-hand man Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, the devilish Justin Hammer, and the first of Iron Man's specialized suits of armor—just to name a few milestones!
The duo also brought a little Doom into Tony's life…
Michelinie and Layton celebrated issues #150 and #250 of IRON MAN v1 with appearances by the most fearsome Marvel despot of all: Dr. Doom.
In 1981's IRON MAN #149-150, ol' Doomsie came a'callin' on Stark for crucial elements of technology, which led to the two armored geniuses getting stuck in the unforgiving past…King Arthur's Camelot to be exact! Doom found a like-mind in Morgana Le Fay, as Iron Man did in Arthur himself, and the whole shebang went up like the proverbial tinderbox.
Flash forward to 1989's IRON MAN #249-250: Arthur's mystic mage Merlin summons the Avenger and Doom to the future to save the world from futuristic versions of the two titans and foster the triumphant return of King Arthur himself.
The trilogy now stands on the brink of completion in 2008 as April rains down with the first issue of IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM, a four-part sequel to the previous "Camelot" tales, with Michelinie and Layton co-plotting, artist Ron Lim on pencils and the multi-tasking Layton also inking.
"The story is basically a 'lost' tale," explains Michelinie. "Taking place a few weeks after the events in IRON MAN v1 #250, Dr. Doom summons Iron Man to help with a little problem: it seems that Mephisto has found a way to bring about 'The End of Days'— basically, the end of the world.
"Since Doom has hopes to some day rule that world, he takes exception to Mephisto's impertinence. But all is not as it seems, and as layers of subterfuge and betrayal are peeled away and true motives revealed, a threat emerges that could make 'The End of Days' seem like an afternoon tea party."
Iron Man fans both past and present will find plenty to love in LEGACY OF DOOM, as the creative duo plans to expand upon previous installments yet still pledge to appeal to new readers.
"We purposefully structured the story as a flashback bookended by a current continuity prologue and epilogue," says Michelinie. "That way the story wouldn't be jarringly different from the first two parts either visually or characterization-wise."
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Though a proposal for LEGACY OF DOOM has existed for several years, the two partners hadn't planned for a third "chapter" in the saga back in the day.
"Bob and I did the first story simply because we thought it would be cool to throw these two armored characters, these modern knights, back to a time of the true
armored knights," Michelinie notes. "When we returned to the book for our second run, in 1987, we had the idea of doing a sequel, this time taking place in the future. After that it just seemed like a natural progression to follow the storyline into a trilogy with the concluding chapter, LEGACY OF DOOM, taking place in the present."
The quintessential Iron Man writer states emphatically that he's enjoyed "exploring the differences and similarities" between Tony Stark and the Latverian Monarch. The future Iron Man and Dr. Doom of 2093, from IRON MAN #249-250, presented themselves as entertaining challenges, and Michelinie came away endowed with a clear vision of what makes the two visionaries tick.
"Contrast creates conflict," the writer muses. "And you can't get much more diametrically opposed than Tony Stark's belief in science and his distrust of the supernatural. And that very question, along with the decisions it forces Tony to make, are key elements in how LEGACY OF DOOM ultimately turns out.
"What also intrigues me is Victor Von Doom's character and how much it darkly mirrors certain aspects of Tony Stark's. Doom is uncompromising and can be vicious, but his goals are noble; he wants to make the world a better place. The problem being that in
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his view, the world can be a better place only after he becomes its omnipotent and uncontested ruler."
As previously mentioned, Michelinie and Layton's two sojourns on the original IRON MAN series have become the stuff of legend among Iron Heads. The writer claims he'd never have guessed that fans would elevate his and Layton's stories to "classic" status.
"I never thought about it," Michelinie insists. "I just tried to do stories that readers would enjoy when they picked up the latest issue. That people are still reading and talking about those stories decades later is both unexpected and immensely gratifying."
Michelinie further points out that he feels "contradictory" returning to chronicle another adventure of ol' Shellhead:
"It's both comfortable and scary at the same time. Comfy because I've written so many stories about Tony Stark that I feel like I really know the guy. But also a little intimidating trying to come up with a story that would interest current readers while still satisfying those familiar with my previous work on the character."
While excited to re-team with Layton, Michelinie also has great enthusiasm for the addition of Lim to the team.
"Working with Ron is always a treat and a joy," says the scribe. "I'd adapt the Manhattan Yellow Pages into a comic if Ron would draw it."
So, with his work on the concluding chapter of the "Camelot" trilogy done and on the verge of its revelation to Iron Man fans everywhere, does David Michelinie have any more Tony Stark stories in him? The answer comes quickly and assuredly:
"Just try me!"
Journey to hell and—hopefully—back with Iron Man and Dr. Doom on April 16 in IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM #1, courtesy of David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and Ron Lim. While you're waiting, you can read the story that started it all on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.