As the creator of the cancelled HBO series "Carnivale," Daniel Knauf knows how to tell tales of apocalyptic clashes between good and evil. In 2006, Knauf will bring his brand of storytelling from the small screen to the four-color world of comics when he and his son Charles begin a six-issue stint as the writers of "Iron Man" for Marvel Comics. CBR News spoke with Knauf about the character of Iron Man and what readers can expect from his story arc.
HBO may have shut the door on "Carnivale" by canceling it, but it was that show that opened the door at Marvel for Knauf. "Robert Keyghobad, one of the original producers on 'Carnivále,' had been developing a project over at Marvel Entertainment. They told him I was on a short list of TV people they wanted to work with," Knauf told CBR News. "He passed that along to me and I couldn't dial fast enough. I've always wanted to do a comic book. Since then, it's been a wonderful partnership. We closed the deal. We pitched them the story. They gave us the green light and here we are."
As Iron Man has been one of Knauf's favorite Marvel characters, it was an obvious choice for Knauf to write Tony Stark's story in his first foray into the Marvel Universe. "I've always been a fan of Iron Man on a conceptual level, but I haven't always been crazy about the execution," Knauf said. " It seems like there's always been a tendency to leave a lot of juicy stuff on the table. I don't think he's ever really hit his stride the way other Marvel characters have-- especially other A-list characters. This presents a challenge, but it's also an opportunity in that there's plenty of virgin territory to work with.
"I like all the old shell-head stuff from the Silver Age, but that's more about nostalgia," Knauf continued. "Still, there's a purity there that I'd like to go for. I like Bendis's take in 'New Avengers' a lot. 'Armor Wars,' of course. And I'm very happy with the foundation that Ellis is laying down with the 'Extremis' books. He's given us a nice, rock-solid pair of shoulders to stand on."
For Knauf, part of Iron Man's appeal is the fact that in shell head's case, the suit makes the man. "What I really like about Iron Man is that he's a basically suit. He's the only plug-n-play hero. Granted, Stark's set up bulletproof security, but imagine if you were his friend," Knauf stated. "You could say, 'Hey, Tony. C'mon, guy. Lemme take it around the block. Pretty please? I swear, I won't break anything.' And theoretically, he could say 'sure,' and there you are! A freaking super hero! Just try doing that with Superman's cape."
It's not just the fantastic super powered suit that fascinates Knauf. He also finds Tony Stark, the man beneath the armored shell, to be an intriguing and complex character. "First of all, he's deeply flawed. And the roots of those flaws are complex and internal, which is how things are generally in real-life," Knauf said. "Stark is not like Bruce Wayne. You can't just put your finger on some external event that created him. It's a lot of things-- his sense of alienation, his guilt and frustration at man's unerring tendency to war, his substance abuse, his intelligence. And his wealth, of course. As someone once said, the only difference between an eccentric and a lunatic is his net worth. I definitely want to start playing the Howard Hughes card with Stark."
Knauf also feels Tony Stark is one of Marvel's most unique characters because of the way he entered the field of superheroics. "He's the self-made superhero. All the others are heroes by virtue of birth or fate," Knauf explained. "Tony created his own fate. He's the only superhero who actually created his powers through intelligence and pure will. This is no small thing. Writers and philosophers have played with this theme forever-- Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche. This is very heavy-duty-I-think-therefore-I-am stuff, all filtered by way of Stan Lee, Don Heck and Jack Kirby. How cool-- how subversive-- is that?"
He didn't reveal any plot details, but Knauf did drop some hints on which foes will be targeted by Iron Man's repulsor rays in his story arc. "Oh, we'll be seeing some old-school guys who have been holed up in The Raft that'll bring a few smiles of recognition to the die-hard fans," Knauf stated. "Iron Man's been around for almost 43 years. God knows the number of villains he's faced-- not to mention all the one-offs. We think creating new bad-guys at this point is pretty self-indulgent. But we might see a wild-card in the deck."
It won't just be villains that will be playing a role in the story. Knauf revealed that his and Charles' arc includes appearances by the New Avengers, Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and other members of SHIELD.
The supporting cast of Knauf's arc will be familiar to current readers of "Iron Man." "We'll be carrying on Warren's cast from the 'Extremis' run," Knauf explained.
Readers do not have to be familiar with the current "Extremis" story line in "Iron Man" to understand Knauf's story, but he does recommend it to those who wish to fully enjoy his story. " There might be a few things that will give fan's pause if they don't read the Ellis books," he said.
Knauf loves that comic books give him a chance to take the action in his story all over the globe. "Now that's the really cool thing about this medium. We can open with a big shot of Piccadilly Circus or Sofia, Bulgaria without worrying about flying out my cast, putting them up, paying per diems, rounding up a crew, equipment, lights… So we'll be all over the place, but primarily in NYC."
The tone of Knauf's "Iron Man" arc will mix elements of the techno-thriller with superhero action. "Plus all the dialogue is written in rhyming couplets meant to be sung to the tune of Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man.' Just kiddin," Knauf joked.
The Knaufs' "Iron Man" arc is set to run six issues, but they would love to chronicle more of the armored avenger's exploits. "That's up to Marvel. Charles and I are on double-secret probation," Knauf said. "We're completely stoked about this. We've already finished drafts of #7 and #8, and they just keep getting better. Tom and Joe have been very supportive. The fans are dubious, I think. And they should be. We're untested. But we think they'll be in for a very cool ride."