New Iron Man Writer Kieron GIllen on ‘The Tony Starkness Of It All’

The incoming scribe talks about his "grail-knight" plans for Shellhead and how he'll differ from Matt Fraction.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Iron Man

Marvel teased a bunch of creative team switcheroos last week, and the first one was Kieron Gillen and Greg Land taking over Invincible Iron Man from Matt Fraction. Today, has an interview with Gillen about his plans for Ol' Shellhead, and how his focus will differ from Fraction's. One of those differences will apparently be the dropping of the word 'Invincible' from the title, judging by the cover art released today.

Iron Man

Gillen says the first five issues of his run will be single stand-alones, and he hints that it may indicate a trend among the other writers as well – which makes sense, considering the whole Marvel NOW initiative is about providing new jumping-on points. Why not have five consecutive jumping-on points to start your series?

Here are select quotes from the interview to give us a taste of what's to come.

The first five issues will be single stories that will share [both] a defining motif and a plot, but it will be Iron Man facing new instances of technology and each is basically a new villain. Each issue will illuminate something about Tony and they’re all very different. Issue two is a lot like the Bruce Lee Kung-Fu Island story; it’s like a joust, it’s all about the knight imagery, essentially going to a tournament. Issue three is like a ninja story, Tony Stark trying to be a full-on stealth master, issue four is a horror story and issue five is something a little more romantic and scientific but I’m going to keep that one under wraps.

I dug into Matt Fraction and Warren Ellis’ runs, and Extremis is the device I use to drive the first five issues The Extremis gets into the wild and five people use it for five different things. The point of Extremis wasn’t to make a guy who could breathe fire but to change what humans are. That brings the question of what is a human and what is the future going to bring. These are the themes.

I want his villains to speak to him. In the first five issues each of the villains will pose a sort of question for him. Like issue #2 is about an organization who believes in better pilots. Iron Man fundamentally wins battles because he’s the better scientist but what about better pilots?

Issue #4 is a horror story and me almost going Lovecraftian via technological method and it’s about someone trying to do something that makes no sense and using their belief to try to create something through the Extremis. It’ll go terribly wrong. It takes place in the Paris Catacombs. We’ll see Iron Man don the Heavy Duty armor which will be reminiscent of “Aliens” or the game “Space Hulk.” I realized after I finished the issue it was my teenage dream of Terminators fighting Gene Stealers coming back to me.

Anyone reading AvX can see what Tony is going through and he’s wrestling with stuff he doesn’t normally touch. It’s him looking at two plus two and asking why it equals four. That’s kind of the heart, the underlying theme of [IRON MAN], the idea that Tony Stark starts prodding areas where he hasn’t prodded as much before, while at the same time being a clear scientific, technological book. I stress, I’m not trying to turn Iron Man into Mystic Knight in issue one. That was the joke for a while actually, I had a list of ideas of everything I could possibly do and after looking at it I thought, “This is the worst thing I can possibly do.”

The symbolism that I bring immediately into the book [is] a lot like the Arthurian concept of the grail-knight: the idea that Tony Stark is the grail-knight, or at least aspiring to be the grail-knight. When we meet him he’s left Resilient and he’s digging into what’s going on. Pepper has a line in the first issue saying, “Oh, you’re not having a midlife crisis are you? Just buy yourself a suit of armor.” That’s where we start and he begins to ask questions.

Matt Fraction did a brilliant take on the corporate figure and his run is a defining arc, so I’m staying away from it. Tony is still a scientist and will still be working on the armor but it’s all about him going out into the world and the whole grail-knight comparison. All the traditional corporate motifs are there but they’re not the primary drive of the book. Tony will be in the armor a lot, he’ll be going out into the world.

Grand scale is an interesting way of describing it. I want to put Tony in situations he’s not used to being in without compromising the essential Tony Stark-ness of it all.

It’s going to be a book that hangs off its theme; Tony questioning his fundamentals and his relationship with the world. That’s the backbone. Everything else will build around that. It’s why I’m confident, there’s a load of things I want to do with it. I have a load of pieces and I’m choosing how to approach them; improvisation and free.


That's plenty for you to mull over, and there's plenty more at the link above, including enough talk about Land that suggests perhaps that his "photorealistic" style (read: porn-tracing) might be more palatable since Stark will be in the armor a lot, which will force Land to actually draw – something he's really good at when he's not tracing porn. Then again, Gillen does note that the relationships with all the women in Tony Stark's life will be a major theme of his run, from his mother to his random hook-ups to Pepper Potts. Hence, Land will likely have ample opportunity for O-faces.

Gillen's done some quality work, and Iron Man #1 will definitely be worth a look when it rolls around. Let's just hope there's no panel where Pepper is supposed to be angry, but she looks like she's happened upon a device of Tony's that has three speeds and a rabbit extension. Gillen's Uncanny X-Men run with Land was hampered at times by things like that, and it would be a shame to see a repeat.