Van Lente Takes Pride in "Iron Man Legacy"

For years now, the focal point of superhuman activity in the Marvel Universe has been New York City, but that hardly means other cities around the country are devoid of superheroes and villains. Take Los Angeles, for example. Currently, it's home to a group of super powered teens called the Runaways, a group of superpowered teens who became heroes after discovering that their parents were members of the villainous cabal The Pride, an organization that maintained a stranglehold on criminal activity in Los Angeles for years.

Thanks to the Runaways, the threat of The Pride has been dissolved. However, the ongoing Marvel series "Iron Man Legacy" by writer Fred Van Lente and artist Steve Kurth takes place in the past, and in issue #6, in stores now, a new arc kicked off titled "Industrial Revolution," which finds Tony Stark in Los Angeles and in the sights of The Pride. CBR News spoke with Van Lente about the plans for the book.

"'Iron Man: Legacy' is a a very new reader friendly book in that each arc takes place at a different point in Tony Stark's life. 'Industrial Revolution' happens right after Obadiah Stane seized control of Tony Stark's company and fortune," Van Lente explained. "Stane didn't have to try to hard to do this because Tony's drinking had gotten out of control, so much so, that his best friend James Rhodes assumed the identity of Iron Man.

"So the concept of this arc is very straight forward. The idea behind 'Iron Man Legacy' is that we're doing stories between the rain drops of continuity and Iron Man history. One of the fun things you can do with that is take ideas and elements that Marvel developed later in its history and sort of retroactively look at how they affected characters in the past," Van Lente continued. "So we open with the Illuminati, which is the group Tony Stark founded with Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, Black Bolt, Namor and Doctor Strange. They're wondering if they can help Tony Stark. At the same time, Tony ends up in Los Angeles, land of lame supervillains, thanks to The Pride and their dominance of the city. Since they're a paranoid sort, they think Tony is there to move in on their territory. So they decide to rub him out."

As "Industrial Revolution" progresses, The Pride will discover they were right to be cautious, because while Tony Stark may not be aware of their existence, he does have big plans for an area of Los Angeles that is of strategic importance to the criminal cabal. "The story takes place in a fictional neighborhood called Imperio, which is almost entirely controlled by The Pride. It's one of the focal points for their criminal organization. It used to be a very industrial neighborhood. Imperio used to make all sorts of things, like tanks, die cast metal and ball bearings. All the jobs went overseas, so The Pride has sort of moved in and taken over the neighborhood," Van Lente explained. "Tony though wants to rebuild his fortune and he needs to reopen a local abandoned factory to do so. That requires a rallying of the local residents around him, which is something The Pride does not take too kindly to either. They want those people under their thumb."

The Pride isn't composed of a single type of criminal - it's a very diverse group, which is one of the reasons Van Lente settled on using them as foils for Tony Stark. "They have a wide variety of powers at their disposal. The group is composed of scientists, time travelers, mutants, aliens, sorcerers, and Geoffrey Wilder, their leader, is essentially a very cunning crime boss," Van Lente said. "So it's always fun to see Tony go up against people with different sorts of power sets. And they definitely provide that here."

At the end of "Iron Man Legacy" #6, The Pride responded to Tony Stark's intrusion on their turf by putting a hit out on him. In issue #7, that contract is accepted by a fledgling criminal organization called the Serpent Society. Long time "Captain America" fans know that the Serpent Society is cabal composed of snake-themed super villains, led by the villainous Sidewinder.

"This story takes place in sort of an in between period, right before Sidewinder sort of blew them up into the organization that they became. The Pride's contract to whack Tony Stark is their first real job and they see it as a great way to establish their reputation. So in this story, we're seeing them before they first appeared in 'Captain America.'" Van Lente remarked. "This story is an '80s love fest and the Serpent Society fit nicely into it. I haven't had a chance to write them yet, and I love the idea of an army of snake themed super villains. Plus, Steve Kurth loves drawing snake people, so he's having a ball with this story."

In "Industrial Revolution," Tony Stark may be down on his luck and up to his eyeballs in supervillains, but he's not feeling overwhelmed. In fact, he's more than up for the challenge, feeling like he's got something to prove. "There's a scene where Obadiah Stane sends Tony Stark on his way. He basically tells Stark that he may be a genius, but he was born into wealth and has always had unlimited resources to fund that genius. So Stane predicts that Tony is going to flounder and fade into obscurity now that he's been removed from the lap of luxury," Van Lente explained. "Tony sort of takes that as a personal challenge and part of what he's trying to do here in rebuilding the Imperio neighborhood is to prove Stane wrong."

Taking on The Pride and turning around Imperio is a big challenge and for most of "Industrial Revolution," Tony Stark will be carrying out those two tasks without the use of the Iron Man armor. "You do see Tony in the armor in the first issue, and it brings back the roller skates, which is such a beloved armor accessory," Van Lente joked. "But as the cover of issue #9 will show, James Rhodes is wearing the suit at this time period. As a child of the '80s, I have a strong association with Rhodey as Iron Man thanks to books like 'Secret Wars' and other stuff. In or out of the armor, though, you're definitely going to see a lot of Tony Stark kicking ass."

Van Lente has assembled a large supporting cast for "Industrial Revolution." In addition to The Pride and the Serpent Society, a number of new and familiar faces will both aid and actively oppose Tony Stark. "In the first issue, there are some new characters that take Tony in. He also might be receiving help from superheroes. Jim Rhodes gets involved in the story later on, and the Illuminati might take a more active role in Tony's defense as well," the writer revealed. "Plus, there will be a couple of other villains from the pages of books like 'Spider-Woman' and 'Werewolf by Night.'"

"War of the Iron Men," the first arc of "Iron Man: Legacy," was an action-packed techno-thriller. "Industrial Revolution" will still have it's fair share of action, but it features a different tone and is focused more on crime and the idea of community. "It's pretty important to me that each new arc of this series is different from the previous one. I think it's a way that the title can maintain it's distinctiveness," Van Lente said. "This story was the arc I wanted to do first. Marvel felt that it would be better to go with something that was a little closer to the way Iron Man was depicted in the movies. So that's how I ended up developing what became 'War of the Iron Men.'"

"Industrial Revolution" comes to a conclusion with "Iron Man Legacy" #11, after which Van Lente has plans to take the series some place it hasn't been before: the future. "Fans may know that there's another Iron Man out there called Arno Stark," the writer remarked. "I've already written him in 'Marvel Zombies' and we may be finding out how his time line merges with Tony's."

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