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Comic Book Legends Revealed #578

COMIC LEGEND: Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross tried to take over the Iron Man ongoing series before doing Marvels.

STATUS: True

In 1994, Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross collaborated on the smash hit mini-series, Marvels. The series re-told the history of the early days of Marvel from the Golden Age through the end of the Silver Age (symbolized by the death of Gwen Stacy).

With so much history to tell, most characters didn't get a whole lot of space in the series (The original Human Torch, J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle, the Galactus Trilogy and Gwen Stacy got the biggest spotlights in the series). Iron Man was one of a number of characters who popped up here and there...

I bring this up only because, interestingly enough, before Busiek and Ross did Marvels together, they initially put in a pitch to take over Iron Man after John Byrne left the series around late 1991/early 1992.

Ross was best known for the Terminator series he did in 1990...

While Busiek had written a number of comics throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

Obviously, they did not get the gig. Instead, Len Kaminski and Kev Hopgood took the book over for a memorable run that introduced the War Machine armor.

Later in the decade, though, Busiek was given another shot, as he launched both Avengers with George Perez and Iron Man with Sean Chen following the end of the Heroes Reborn experiment (where Marvel licensed a number of their superhero titles to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld's respective studios, with Lee's Wildstorm Studios eventually taking over all of the titles before the line ended and the titles returned to being produced by Marvel in-house)...

Interestingly though, the original Busiek/Ross pitch ended up playing a major role in this series, as the new armor was based on the Alex Ross design from that pitch!

Busiek explained the situation to the great Iron Man website, the Iron Man Armory...

2. Can you briefly explain how the armor design came about? Did Marvel want a more traditional look or did you? Did you have a definite idea in mind before you hooked up with Sean? Do you have a name for the armor?

Alex Ross and I had pitched an IRON MAN proposal back when John Byrne left, before we did MARVELS. Alex and I worked up a new design for the armor, and I really liked it, but the IRON MAN editor never read the proposal. So nothing happened with it ... then.

When Sean and I took over IRON MAN, Tom Brevoort was the editor at first. He and Sean and I went through a zillion armor designs, but nothing really worked for us. So I asked Alex's permission to use the armor design he and I had worked out, and Alex said sure. I suggested adding the glowing bits, based on seeing CGI renderings by an Iron Man fan in ADVANCED IRON -- his name isn't coming to mind right now, but we credited him in the first issue.

So that's how it came about. I wanted a look that was modern, but harkened back to the classic armor. And I really wanted the "horned" faceplate, since the original version of that is my favorite armor of all time. Back when Alex and I were coming up with what became the proto-design, either he or I had suggested going back to actual medieval armor for inspiration, to emphasize the "knight in armor" aspects of the character, and the traditional red/yellow pattern was to restore the basic underpinnings -- I don't much like the latter-day designs that have striations on the gold parts, or red legs, or whatever. And the glowing parts, I thought, gave it a modern kick that made it clear this wasn't "going back," it was moving forward.

But I never had a name for the armor -- I'm an old, old Iron Man fan, and I date back to the days before the armors had names.

As Busiek noted, Advanced Iron's Allen Bujak played a role in the armor design, as well.

Man, that's a pretty crazy What If..? there, huh? Busiek/Ross on Iron Man in 1992?!? Perhaps no Marvels? If no Marvels, then perhaps no Kingdom Come? What about Astro City? It could have changed EVERYthing!!

Thanks to Kurt Busiek and Iron Man Armory's Tim Rassbach for the information!

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to reader Dave Plunkert, you can see Ross' armor design.

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