In “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS,” a spell was cast that unleashed the selfish and destructive desires of a number of major Marvel heroes. Perhaps the most selfish of them all was the morally inverted Tony Stark, who turned his new home of San Francisco into a city of addicts by offering them a cell phone app that uses Extremis to make them physically perfect for a short period of time.
In “Superior Iron Man,” writer Tom Taylor and artist Yildiray Cinar are chronicling the adventures of the inverted Stark, and one of the things they’ve made abundantly clear is how much their title character has been enjoying his new, unapologetic attitude. It’s no surprise, then, that Stark took steps to protect his new persona from the spell that ended the inversions of “AXIS,” thus ensuring his current, self-satisfying attitude has remained in place even as the majority of those affected by the spell have reverted to their normal selves.
We spoke with Taylor about his protagonist’s “villainous” nature, the people the “Superior” Iron Man will run afoul of in the aftermath of “AXIS” and his work on the animated adaptation of his all-ages, creator-owned series, “The Deep.”
CBR News: Let’s start off with the big news, that in the aftermath of “AXIS,” Tony Stark has remained inverted and, well, superior. He’s no longer a hero, and the way he’s peddled the new Extremis has led some to compare him to a drug lord. What can you tell us about Tony’s moral code? How much of a villain is he, and how does he view the people of San Francisco?
Tom Taylor: Yes. Tony has remained inverted.â€¨
However, I wouldn’t say he’s “evil.” He’s not going to be flying around blowing things up and using his repulsors to blind puppies while laughing maniacally. He simply believes he’s right, to the exclusion of all else. His thinking has gotten colder, he lacks empathy for his fellow man, and, while he’s not a puppy-blinder, his actions are certainly damaging lives.
This isn’t the first time you’ve tackled a famous hero whose behavior has strayed outside a previous moral code, having trod on similar ground with Superman and other DC heroes in “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” What is it about these types of stories that appeal to you as a writer?
I think there’s a great appeal in seeing characters you know backwards being pushed in a new direction. With heroes as big as Iron Man, fans generally know how he will react in certain situations. They know his morals. They know the hero.
However, when you have a situation like this, no one knows what to expect. No one knows what the cunning and the ego of Tony Stark is capable of when that moral center is removed. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s shocking, and sometimes it’s deeply troubling. â€¨â€¨That said, most days I just want to tell stories of true heroes and, for me, there’s a challenge to finding that in these stories. You can’t tell a story of an unlikeable “douche Iron Man” without finding other characters to root for and sympathize with. We’ll be seeing more of these in the upcoming issues.
In these first three issues, you’ve established that Pepper Potts has become aware that something is wrong with Tony and she’s working to take him down. It looks like she’s collaborating with someone in an early Iron Man armor. What can you tell us about this person?
Pepper is most definitely aware that Tony isn’t himself. I wouldn’t say she’s working to take him down — she’s far more interested in saving him. But she is certainly going to be Tony’s most dangerous opponent, and she has help. I’ve seen some great theories about who could be in the armor, but I won’t be giving that away yet. All will be revealed soon.
Let’s talk about one supporting character who came back into the book in a major way in issue #3 after being introduced in issue #1 — the Teen Abomination, who is an original character co-created by you. What inspired the character’s creation, and what made you want to partner him with Tony Stark?
Teen Abomination started as a joke. In fact, at one stage, he wasn’t even Teen Abomination. He was, ridiculously, named Teen Man-Thing.
Some jokes stay jokes. Some jokes grow legs, grow long hair, grow green and get their own origin in the Marvel Universe. This joke did this because he quickly stopped being a joke and became something else.
I spoke earlier about how you need characters to sympathize with in a book like this. When Teen Abomination came along, and was fully realized by Yildiray Cinar’s art, our editor, Mark Paniccia, immediately felt sorry for him and asked me to look after him.
This is what you want as a writer. You want readers rooting for characters, and Tony needed someone, too. And so, when Mark asked me to write a flashback issue for Laura Braga in issue #5, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell the tragic origin of Teen Abomination. A young kid, bullied at school for being outside the mainstream, who was already feeling a bit uncomfortable in his own skin, who becomes trapped in far worse skin.
Daredevil has been the other major supporting player in this introductory arc of “Superior Iron Man,” and it looks like his clash with Tony comes to a conclusion in issue #4. What hints and teases can you offer up about this final issue in the arc?
All I can say is, it certainly all comes to a head in issue #4. Matt has realized a great and terrible secret, and he and Tony are on a collision course.
What can you tell us about the trouble Tony becomes embroiled in in Issue #6? Is this a one-off issue, or the kick-off to a new arc?
This kicks off a new arc where Tony reaches for even more power and wealth. He realizes he could soon have an image problem and attempts to buy one of the largest media empires on Earth. Things — don’t go smoothly.
This is the arc where Tony stops having it all his own way. A huge challenge is coming, and it’s every bit as superior as Tony.
One of the things I’ve loved about Yildiray Cinar’s work on the book is that it appears to be a bright, clean super hero book on the surface, which gives moments like Tony talking about “playing human” even more menace. Was that a feel that you guys worked out together, the sort of glitz and glamor of California and super heroes masking something darker? Or is that a feel Yildiray came up with his own?
Yildiray is a hell of a talent, and, you’re right — he just gets the glitz and shininess of it all. One of the things we’ve talked about is that Tony has to be enjoying himself on almost every page. He should always be smug or smiling or smirking. The world is his plaything, and he loves it.
This means that, in those rare moments when things don’t go his way, and Tony’s smile cracks and reveals something darker, it really hits hard.
Of course, the adventures of Tony Stark aren’t the only thing keeping you busy, as you’re serving as head writer on the animated series adaptation of “The Deep,” the award-winning, all-ages, creator-owned series you do with artist James Brouwer. What’s it like adapting your own comic for an animated television series? And for people who may be discovering your work for the first time with “Superior Iron Man,” what do you want them to know about “The Deep?”
I believe comics are the greatest storytelling medium in the world. I also have children, and I want them to believe this too. For this to happen, we need more good, all-ages comics out there. Not just comics written for kids, but comics written for everyone. Comics parents can read with their kids and get just as much joy and excitement from. â€¨
I can’t show my four year old “Injustice” and say, “Look — Superman’s putting his fist through someone’s chest! Aren’t comics great? Why are you crying?” This is why I wrote “The Deep.”
“The Deep” tells the tale of the Nektons — a multiracial family of aquanauts who live on a submarine. It’s true all-ages fun and adventure that just makes me ridiculously happy.
Having the opportunity to be lead writer on the series, with James Brouwer as art director, is a dream. It means that the spirit of the comic is evident in every part of the 26 episode series, and it’s great that our partners have the same commitment to this spirit.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like when characters who only existed in your head a few years ago are suddenly walking around and talking, and exploring the oceans in mech-suits and dealing with sea monsters. The work that Nerd Corps are doing on the animation is so far beyond what I could have hoped for. I can’t wait for the world to see it.
Having said that, I’m in this pretty amazing place where I get to sit and watch the animatics and early animation with my kids every week. It’s like we have our own personal cartoon series, and my kids love it. For the record, being truly all-ages, I should point out that my grandma loves it too. She’s a hard-core fan. I’m expecting her to get a “Deep” tattoo, soon.