When it comes to their ongoing series of "The End" one-shots featuring possible swan songs for their most famous characters, Marvel has made a practice of giving the projects to the creators most fans associate with the heroes. Peter David took the Hulk to his logical conclusion. Garth Ennis imagined the life of an elderly Punisher. And Chris Claremont spun a tale of X-Men generations beyond today (and yeah, that one wasn't a one-shot, but come on...there are like a zillion mutants and he's written them all).
When it came to crafting a finale for the Armored Avenger Iron Man, the most obvious pick was for David Michelinie and Bob Layton (who reinvented the character in two landmark runs in the 1980s) to lead the charge. Unfortunately, finding a way for the pair to create "Iron Man: The End" wasn't as simple as that. Fortunately, it worked out anyway, and the 44-page one-shot will hit stands in November as announced yesterday at Fan Expo in Toronto.
"About seven or eight years ago, an assistant editor in the Iron Man office (I don't remember the name, but I don't think he's at Marvel now) called Bob and asked if he and I would be interested in doing 'Iron Man: The End," recalled Michelinie, who's writing the new issue with pencils by Bernard Chang and cover and inks by Layton. "Bob contacted me, and I thought that would offer an intriguing take on the character, something I hadn't considered before. We accepted the job, worked out a plot and sent it in. The Iron Man office at that time had some problems with the plot and requested what they saw as small changes. However, Bob and I felt that those changes would alter the overall positive thrust of the book and so we regretfully withdrew the plot. Then, at the end of 2006, circumstances changed and the project was resurrected. We made a few minor alterations that everyone could live with and the result will be on sale in a couple of months."
The final product fans will be treated to in November serves as an imaginary cap to the work Michelinie and Layton did during their original tenure on the series and focuses on Tony Stark attempting to cement his final legacy as an inventor rather than as a superhero. "We were originally asked to approach the project as if we had never stopped plotting the regular Iron Man series, and that this would be the very last issue of that series. So it just seemed natural to follow the character to the end of his career, some 40 years in the future, and see how he'd react to the real world challenge of dealing with age. Without any super powers or mutant genes, Tony Stark is just a human being, and has to face the possibility that, even with an incredible suit of high-tech armor, he simply may not be capable of being Iron Man any more."
Michelinie noted that the process of creating the story based on their past work deals more with he and Layton's take on Tony Stark as a character than it does wrapping up any specific plotlines. "Our approach was definitely to focus on our take on the character. This Tony Stark is the same one that was in our stories in the past, only older, with new problems to face."
And while this Tony will be the Tony readers have experienced for years, no one should expect a "greatest hits" style sendoff where all of Iron Man's mythology is rehashed along with every character he's ever met. "Actually, the story is so Tony-specific that there wasn't a lot of room for anyone else," Michelinie said. "44 pages isn't that much when you've got a huge amount of ground to cover. Bethany Cabe plays a major role, and the Ultra-Dynamo (the future version of the Crimson Dynamo) shows up to add a bit of necessary action, but that's about it. We had a real nice character bit featuring Sunturion, but had to cut it because of space limitations."
As the team's original run on the character featured some low times for Iron Man " most noticeably his battle with alcohol in the acclaimed "Demon in a Bottle" storyline " this new story begs the question of whether the end of Tony's life and career will be tragic or triumphant, but the writer asked fans not to get out their tissue boxes just yet. "We've always seen Tony Stark as positive character. Even in tragic stories, even during his Bad Behavior days as a practicing alcoholic, things generally turned out positively in the end. As I mentioned earlier, this is the major reason why Bob and I withdrew from the project years ago. If this is to be the last Iron Man story, we wanted it to end on an up note, to fit the nature of the character as we saw it."