Writer Christopher Yost began his career as an intern at Marvel Comics' west coast office and rose quickly through the ranks when he was soon asked to write episodes of the popular animated program "X-Men Evolution." It was there where he met fellow writer Craig Kyle and the two created one of the most popular new characters to appear in comics in recent years, X-23, the clawed teenage clone of Wolverine.
Since then, the two have worked on such animated projects as "Wolverine and the X-Men," "Hulk vs." and "Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow." Not to mention their comic book collaborations that include "X-Force," "New X-Men," "X-23: Innocence Lost & Target X" and "X-Force/Cable: Messiah War."
Now, the talented Yost is on his own with "Iron Man: Armored Adventures." The new series, which airs Friday nights on the Nicktoons Network, follows a teenage Tony Stark after the death of his father in a plane crash. Tony attends high school and with the help of his friends Happy Hogan, Jim Rhodes and Pepper Potts, fights as Iron Man against villains such as the Mandarin and Crimson Dynamo.
CBR News spoke with Yost about the new series and his impressive career. The writer discussed his excitement for "Iron Man: Armored Adventures," his initial reluctance to a "Teenage-Tony Show," Iron Man's bizarre rouges' gallery, and Yost's next animated project, "Avengers."
CBR: What was your initial reaction to the idea of "Iron Man: Armoed Adventures," a show about a teenage Tony Stark who is already operating as Iron Man?
Christopher Yost: This was a re-imagining of Tony Stark as a teenager. Basically, what if similar incidents that were in the movie happened to Tony when he was younger? So it is kind of like an alternate reality take but the goal for me ... well I knew what I had to do with it; essentially capture everything about Tony Stark that made [him who he is] without the trappings of it.
You know, the bottom line is that this is a show for younger audiences and not necessarily the hardcore comic fan. But I am a hardcore comic fan so I really wanted to reconcile the two worlds. So when your six-year-old or eight-year-old are watching you can't have Tony in bed with women or drinking and nobody particularly wants to watch a big executive boardroom meeting. What we decided to do was focus on elements of Tony's personality that made him who he was. Like that obsession he has with retrieving his technology that we saw in the movie, and that anger and temper of betrayal from Obadiah Stane. Those are translatable things and when you put that on top of a teenager and everything that a teenager has to deal with, it really starts to become a fleshed out character.
We wanted to see Tony Stark, the Tony Stark that comic book fans and now movie fans know. We wanted him to be recognizable even though he is a teenager. So based on the premise of "Teen-Tony" going to school in high school our goal was how do we make it as much like the Tony Stark that we know and love as possible? Every episode and every story we really approached it like that.
Do you feel as a storyteller that you have more freedom with the series because you're not tied down with adapting or referencing Adult-Tony stories from the comics?
Actually, it definitely adds more complications. For Tony Stark, the character, it's almost like he has more on his plate to deal with right now. The bottom line is he is a genius. He's self-taught, his father educated him and in the show there is no need for him to go to school to learn anything, so he thinks. As you'll see as the show progresses there's a very real reason why Howard Stark wanted his son to go to school and it's more of a socialization of Tony Stark. Here's a kid who could spend 29 hours a day in a lab, forgive my math, and his dad knows that's not healthy for a kid or a human being in general. I mean you have to go out, talk to people, meet people and the school is part of that. Tony Stark in many ways was a machine before he was Iron Man, working and inventing and coming up with new technology, and Howard Stark wanted to make his son more human. It's almost like he saw his mistake. Much like in the comic, Tony Stark lost his mother at a young age and as the father in that situation you want to keep [your son] as close to you as possible. But then Howard Stark realizes that it may not have been the best thing.
There was some criticism from the fans early on regarding the origin changes and Tony's youth. What would you say to those fans to encourage them to give the show a chance?
I would say do please give it a chance. The bottom line is no, it's not going to be like the comic. You know what? The movie was not like the comic. The movie obviously made changes to the origin too. It wasn't in Vietnam. Every time you translate something to either another medium or another era there are changes made. Yes, this is a big one. This is a big, big change. We recognize that and we know that. Trust us, we know. We've heard that criticism and we've heard it before.
There was a show called "X-Men Evolution" that when it came out we heard the same exact thing. I wasn't involved with it early on but they would say, "What? Really? They're kids?" With X-Men it was a little different because they started out as young kids [in the comics] attending school. You got a dynamic where you have adult Wolverine and a teenage Scott Summer and Jean Grey. But as I recall, by the end of the series it was much loved, so hopefully fans will give ["Iron Man: Armored Adventures"] a chance.
I guarantee you there is so much Iron Man in this show for comic book fans. I love this show. Trust me, I was right there with the fans when they came to me and said, "Okay, Teen-Tony, go!" I was like, "No way." But as it went on we've found ways to make it as Iron Man as Iron Man gets. The other thing that we're really proud of with this show is that it is a villain's show. There are so many villains in this show and its pretty great.
What villains can fans look forward to seeing and what, if any, changes will take place to adapt them for the cartoon?
For the most part, the villains that Tony faces are pretty much on target. They're the adult villains. You've got characters like Whiplash, Crimson Dynamo and Blizzard. The Iron Man rouges' gallery is kind of a funny thing because there's not a lot of stand outs in it. There's a lot of weirdness in it too. You've got guys like Unicorn and Killer Shrike. You know, things that don't quite make the top-ten villain list of all-time. But at the same time you've got the Mandarin and the Living Laser, so you've got the big ones in there too. But we used as many as we could humanly possibly fit in there.
You're going to see a bunch of fighting. The show has a very unique animated style and let me tell you that when they start the big fights, with the big energy, it's great. I just saw a screener of episode twelve and it's pretty great. It's an Iron Man vs. Crimson Dynamo episode and it's pretty badass.
Other than age, what are some of the changes that were made to the supporting cast of Pepper and Rhodey?
I think Rhodey is pretty close to what we've seen in the movie and the books. He's Tony's best friend and he's also kind of the voice of reason. He's the one that kind of grounds Tony and says, "Whoa." He's the conservative voice in this.
Pepper kind of goes off and it's a little of a different take. She's the one that, when the show starts, is very pro-Iron Man but she does not know that it is Tony Stark. She's essentially Iron Man's biggest fan. Her father on the show is an FBI agent and she is very pro-justice. She's very excited to see Iron Man out there flying around and taking down bad guys.
I am not right now. "Wolverine and the X-Men" Season 2 is in pre-production right now, as far as I know but I'm actually working on a show called "Avengers."
What can you tell us about that series?
It's going to be the best show ever made. I am so excited about "Avengers" I can't even tell you. It is the comic book put on screen. It is the classic team set in modern day. They're not fighting communists or anything. It is going to be big. It's Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp. It's the team. It's what you know and love put right on the screen. We are well on our way. It's definitely in heavy production right now as for a premier I do not know? It may be tied to the future film, it may not, I just don't know?
You've worked on Marvel direct-to-DVD films and series. Which do you prefer and which do you think is a better medium for the fans to see the characters they love come to life?
That's a good question and I think about it a lot. At first I would have said the DVD because you can do more and you can tell a big story, a complete "Here's the movie" kind of story. With "Hulk Vs." we really got controls taken off as far as violence goes with Wolverine and the Hulk. But I got to tell you, working on "Avengers," that's a cool show. As a comic book fan, I'm so excited about it. I think the reason that animated series get the edge now is because when they're good, you get a lot of more of them. "Hulk vs. Wolverine" was what, 33 minutes? So with shows like "Armored Adventures," "Wolverine and the X-Men" and the upcoming "Avengers," if they're good you get like thirteen hours of them. Each of them has their strengths for sure, it's a tough one but as of today I'm going to go with the series. Next week I may go back to DVD. I don't know?
Finally, of the entire Marvel catalog, are there any characters that you have thought in the back of your head would make a good series or DVD?
I can't think of a Marvel comic that I wouldn't do [as a series or DVD]. I am so in love with their characters. I think a Power Pack cartoon would be phenomenal. I would love to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I think that is an amazing property. That's one thing that Marvel hasn't really done which is its space stuff and with animation you can just unleash. Then it's a dream come true because what we're doing is the Marvel Universe show.
With "Iron Man: Armored Adventures," part of the fun is that you are interacting with the larger Marvel Universe too, which does happen in "Armored Adventures." The bottom line is that all of Marvel's properties share one great thing and that is that the characters are real people. The reason that they are so identifiable is because they're real. Iron Man as Tony Stark is someone we know. He's got doubts, fears, he gets angry, he gets upset and he's got drama just like real life. It just so happens that he can put on a pretty amazing fusion suit and go after bag guys too. So one of the things that you'll see in "Armored Adventures" is a lot of that drama. There is superhero action. There are supervillains to the left and right but there is also relationship stuff and dare I say romance. So there is hopefully something for everybody in it. I got to tell you, I had my doubts going in but the more and more we worked on it, I was sold.
"Iron Man: Armored Adventures" airs Friday nights on the Nicktoons Network.