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Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Layton & Michelinie

David Michelinie and Bob Layton talk reuniting on IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM and look back at their history with Iron Man



By Tobey Cook Iron Man and Dr. Doom: truly a rivalry for the ages. The feud between these two armored warriors has been since 1981's classic IRON MAN v1 #149-150, which found them travelling back in time to Camelot. The two men responsible for that initial titanic meeting as well as their rematch eight years later in issues #249-250, the creative duo of David Michelinie and Bob Layton, recently spoke to Marvel.com about their history with the character, their new limited series IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM with artist Ron Lim—issue #1 on sale now, issue #2 coming May 14—and much more.
Marvel.com: You two are known primarily for your work together on Iron Man in the '80s. Can you tell us how you first were approached to work on the character? David Michelinie: We left DC at about the same time, and came to work for Marvel.


Bob Layton: [We] had agreed to leave the company for greener pastures. We both sensed the impending 'Implosion' and didn't want to be a casualty of it. David Michelinie: [IRON MAN] was open and Bob jumped at it, since Iron Man was one of his favorite characters. Bob Layton: We were given a choice of three lower end books to work on and I jumped out of my seat when I realized that IRON MAN was one of those choices. That was the one book in the entire industry that I wanted to do more than any other. At the time we took it over, sales were lackluster and the book was in desperate need of revitalizing. David was never a "hardcore Iron Man fan" in his youth. David's lack of a personal history with Iron Man's mythology proved to be a tremendous asset—translating into his fresh, more realistic approach to the character. I was also frustrated that Iron Man never really looked shiny and metallic when I was a kid. I even created my own Iron Man stories when I was young and dreamt up concepts for variant specialty armors. So, when I actually got to Marvel and fulfilled my dream of being able to work on IRON MAN, I was able to inculcate those stories and designs that I dreamt up as a kid into the regular series. The "Camelot Saga" and the introduction of Iron Man specialty armors were a result, in part, of those childhood fantasies. Marvel.com: What do you think it is about Iron Man that people identify with most? David Michelinie: He's just a guy. He's a super hero without super powers. He's literally a self-made hero, in that he intentionally created the means—his armor—by which he carries out his heroic intentions. His brain and his courage are his real powers.

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Bob Layton: Tony doesn't play [the] super hero role as other comic book heroes do. Our version of Tony Stark utilized the Iron Man persona for two reasons: To protect his various business interests globally and to ground himself to the "real world." Keep in mind, as Tony Stark, he lives in an ivory tower surrounded by people who tell him what they think he wants to hear. He has a celebrity status equal to a movie or rock star. This guy does not live in the "real world." In many ways, his being Iron Man is like "The Prince and the Pauper." As Iron Man, he becomes a "hands-on" guy, interacting one-on-one with people and using that anonymous identity to maintain perspective of how [Tony Stark is] perceived by the world at large. It's fair to say that it's another aspect of the obsessive/compulsive personality that led to his alcoholism. Iron Man is a "fix" that he needs to maintain his stability. Marvel.com: How did you come up with the idea for the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, in which Tony succumbs to alcoholism? David Michelinie: When Bob and I took over the book, Tony Stark was in a truckload of trouble. S.H.I.E.L.D. was trying to take over his company, the government was trying to register and regulate the Avengers, his girlfriend had betrayed him—it was not a good time to be Tony Stark. So I tried to look at the character as if he was a real person. A human being under that kind of stress would seek an escape valve, something to relieve the pressure. And in those days, executives were well known to tip the martini glass as a matter of habit. So it seemed logical to me that Tony would go that route. And maybe like it just a little too much.


Bob Layton: David felt that we needed to create a personal problem for Tony Stark that fit the world of corporate business that we set him in. Given his passions and somewhat compulsive behaviors at time, the alcohol story seemed to be a natural. We wanted to create a weakness for Stark that wasn't the "heart attack of the month." His alcoholism was one thing the armor couldn't fix. I think that worked out well as his personal demon. Although the "Demon in a Bottle" saga was extremely controversial at the time, it wound-up being well received. To be honest, not once during the time we were creating that story arc did we ever think that we were creating comics history in the process. This was just a logical extension of what we had planned for the character. That story is now considered a milestone event by most comic book historians and I'm grateful for all the accolades and respect that storyline has gotten from the fans over the years. Marvel.com: Bob, you created many different armor designs during your time on IRON MAN. What were the inspirations behind them? Bob Layton: My penchant for specific task Iron Man armors came from an old Bob Kane Batman story I read as a kid where the Caped Crusader had specialty costumes that he used to fight in the snow—white costume—fight in the trees—green costume—and goofy stuff like that. However, as silly as the story was, it had a profound influence on me later in life and got me thinking about specialized costumes for specific tasks. Obviously, that spilled over to [IRON] MAN once I got on board. There's a huge difference between a stock car and Indy car. Each is designed for specific tasks and that was our thinking when approaching the Iron Man armor. It's unrealistic to presume that one device can adapt to all situations and environments. To me, making this fictional technology believable is the key to making the entire premise work.

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Marvel.com: One of the biggest rivalries you created was the one between Iron Man and Doctor Doom. Now you're returning to that classic feud IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM. Can you tell us a little bit about the limited series and what we can expect to see? David Michelinie: The storyline has several layers, and more than a few twists. On the surface, it involves Doom seeking the vengeance he swore at the end of IRON MAN v1 #150, the first Camelot story. But there's a lot more going on, and the real reason for Doom's actions could spell the end of humanity as we know it. On yet another level, Tony Stark is forced to face a blind spot in his world view, and make a very difficult decision that could mean the survival—or destruction—of everything he holds dear. Bob Layton: I personally feel that it's a nice blend of a contemporary look with and the classic aesthetic approach. And, I had an enormous amount of déjà vu working on the project. There were days that I felt like I'd gone back in time and was still working on the regular series with David. Ron Lim is doing some of the best work of his career on LEGACY and I'm enjoying every minute of working with Ron and David again. And, in my opinion, David Michelinie writes the best, arrogant Dr. Doom dialogue ever! Marvel.com: I've read the first issue, and it was nice to see a return of the "Modern Classic" armor. Is this the armor we'll see Tony wear during the entire series? David Michelinie: Yes. Until it changes. See issue #3.

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Bob Layton: Ron and I came up with this really cool mystical armor that the readers will see in #3. David and I have done so many variant armors over the years, but never one that was based on magic, rather than technology. Marvel.com: You two created many notable characters, including Jim Rhodes, during your IRON MAN run. How does it feel to see something you've created still being such an important part of the Iron Man mythos? David Michelinie: It's cool to know that something you really put your heart into has enduring value. The fact that Rhodey's still around after 20 years, and has become an integral part of Iron Man's world, is very gratifying. Bob Layton: Personally, I had no idea that Jim Rhodes would evolve into such a mainstay when David and I created him back in IRON MAN v1 #117. David and I wanted to give Tony a foil with a dissimilar background from his own. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with comics, in general, is that few are couched in the "real world" these days. Everyone is a mutant or alien or cyborg. In my opinion, the supporting characters exist to ground the reader in a sense of reality. Through their eyes, we witness the fantastic and react in a believable manner. Rhodey was created to ground Tony Stark's fantastic exploits in some degree of reality. Make sure to check out IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM #2 on May 14 and also to head back here Thursday to see what David and Bob thought of the "Iron Man" movie!
Need to catch up on your Iron Man reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring Ol' Shellhead? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Iron Man fan! "Iron Man" opens this Friday, May 2 at a theater near you! Visit the official "Iron Man" movie site! Also, Saturday, May 3 is FREE Comic Book Day—get your FREE Iron Man comic at comic retailers everywhere that day!

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