Broken Bonds: Gage Talks "Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War"

The bonds of friendship can be very strong, but when they bump up against something as thorny as ideology they can become incredibly fragile. The Marvel Universe is currently in the grip of "Civil War" and the bonds of friendships between heroes are being shattered on the ideological rock that is the issue of Superhero Registration. This December, the two men at the forefront of this conflict, who were once friends and allies and now are bitter enemies, will make one last attempt to salvage their friendship and heal the philosophical wound that divides the Marvel heroes in the pages of "Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War," a 48 page one-shot written Christos Gage with art by Jeremy Haun. CBR News spoke with Gage about the book.

"Casualties of War" was not initially a part of the original publishing plans for "Civil War," but based on reaction to the series and readers demands, Marvel added this book to their schedule. Gage told CBR News, "As you know, the pace of 'Civil War' has been pretty fast and furious, with little opportunity for a lull in the action. But a number of readers have been asking how Captain America and Iron Man could go through this conflict without trying to work it out between them somehow, given their long history as friends and allies. So when it became apparent that the core 'Civil War' series would need to be delayed, Marvel saw an opportunity to put out this special addressing that very issue. Andy Schmidt was named editor and I guess he liked the work I'd been doing for him on 'Union Jack,' because he called me up to discuss writing it. I know quite a bit about both characters' history - from Tony fighting commies to Capwolf and everything in between - so between us we had plenty of thoughts as to how they've gotten where they are today."

The conflict between Captain America and Iron Man is over the issue of Registration, but a cocktail of powerful emotions fuels their clash: hatred, anger and hurt. "Going back to Cain and Abel, some of the most bitter and acrimonious conflicts are between people who were once very close: husband and wife, parent and child, brother against brother, friend versus friend," Gage explained. "Cap and Iron Man came from different backgrounds, even different eras, but their time as Avengers has given them the kind of intense bond combat veterans share. When that kind of bond is broken, it's going to be traumatic. And each man genuinely believes he's right, which makes it that much harder to see someone he respected, supported and trusted with his life on the other side. You'll see a variety of emotions come out in the special; we'll really explore what they thought of each other in the past, how those feelings stand now, and how it all evolved."

The feelings and adversity between Cap and Iron Man spring from integral parts of their personalities. "They've seen each other at their best and worst, and trusted each other with their lives, so the seeming betrayal of the other hits each man especially hard," Gage said. "And some of the qualities that made them such great heroes when they fought side by side - persistence in the face of adversity, a strong belief in right and wrong, a willingness to fight to the end and do whatever it takes to get the job done - are the very qualities that now make them such implacable opponents."

The location that Captain America and Iron Man choose for their clandestine attempt to sort out their differences is almost a sacred site to both heroes. "They meet in the ruins of Avengers Mansion," Gage stated. "It was a location that made a lot of sense within the logic of the story and characters - a place that's almost hallowed ground to both of them; neutral territory where they're not likely to be disturbed. Additionally, it's a powerful metaphor for where these two heroes started and where they've ended up.

The "Iron Man/Captain America" one-shot will explore how the two characters ended up as enemies by examining events both in the present and the past. "It definitely occurs after Goliath's death in 'Civil War' #4," Gage said. "There will be flashbacks going as far back as the Silver Age, but this isn't a 'clip show' where Cap and Iron Man stand around saying, 'Hey, remember that time we fought Ultron? That was awesome.' The flashbacks function more to shine a spotlight on the history of their relationship, illuminating what experiences led them to make the choices and take the positions they have today."

Gage had to keep many of the plot details of the one-shot under wraps. "I say too much beyond the basic premise, it'll spoil things," he explained. "This is a tale that's more about character than plot, but it's not 48 pages of navel gazing either. Without giving away too much, there will be flashbacks to some classic action scenes from Marvel history, and there will also be present day, here-and-now action. The good thing about the talky parts is that they're not boring - you don't get a much tenser situation than this!"

In the one-shot, the various heroes aligned with Captain America and Iron Man won't be playing active roles. "This is primarily a man-to-man confrontation, but their presence will be strongly felt one way or another," Gage said.

Readers shouldn't expect the villains of the Marvel Universe to play an active role in Cap and Iron Man's meeting either "Not in this one, except in the occasional flashback," Gage said. "It seems to me that any villain brought into this equation would be overshadowed or distract from the purpose of the story."

Since "Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War" is a tale of two men trying to salvage a broken friendship and stop an escalating tide of violence, readers can expect the tone of the story to be dark and tragic. "Unfortunately, it's not a happy situation," Gage said. "The death of Goliath looms large over everything, and they've seen former friends take up arms against each other - even families torn apart, in the Fantastic Four's case. The purpose of the meeting is to see if there's any hope of going back - of finding a common ground or a solution before things get even more tragic."

Gage has had a great time collaborating with the artists who brought the tragic tale to life. "I want to say how great it is working with artist Jeremy Haun and cover artist Jimmy Cheung," Gage stated. "Jimmy's no stranger to Avengers and Marvel fans - they know how brilliant he is. Jeremy has built up a fine body of work at other companies, but Marvel fans may not be familiar with his stuff - well, let me say, speaking strictly as a fan, that it's fantastic. He skillfully conveys emotion in the small, subtle gestures that are so important to a story like this, but at the same time his heroes look iconic. He pulls off the difficult task of making them seem human and larger than life at the same time. I think people who haven't seen his work before will be blown away!"

In addition to working with great artist collaborators, the other highlight for Gage of the "Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War" one-shot has been the chance to pen a story featuring two of his favorite characters. "I have loved both these characters since I was a little kid, and to get to write a story that delves so deeply into who they are, in the context of such a key moment in their shared history, is a highlight of my career," Gage said. "I want fans of both Cap and Iron Man to know that I've put all I have into the book, and gone out of my way to treat the characters with the respect they and their proud history deserve."

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