VIVA LAS VEGAS: Granov talks Iron Man

Marvel Studios' film, "Iron Man," helmed by director Jon Favreau, has proven to be box office gold, soaring past even the most optimistic projections. Favreau's experience with the feature film prompted the director/screenwriter/actor to try his hand at writing comics, and who better to illustrate it than seminal "Iron Man" artist Adi Granov, who helped the filmmaker design Tony Stark's high-tech armor for the film. CBR News caught up with Granov to talk about the four-issue miniseries "Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas," and to get a post-game on his involvement with the "Iron Man" film.

Early in pre-production, Favreau set up a MySpace page for the "Iron Man" film, and it was through the social networking site that Granov first got in touch with the director. It wasn't long before Favreau decided that he wanted Granov on his team. "I was tasked with helping design Iron Man and Iron Monger as well as determining the general look of the design and action by doing key-frame illustrations to give a direction as to what our designs would actually do and look like in motion, etc.," Adi Granov told CBR News.  "I worked with two other designers, Phil Saunders and Ryan Meinerding, and we designed all of the armors and art directed their 3D development with Stan Winston Studios."

Favreau and the film's producers were naturally quite taken with Granov's definitive approach to the character in the Warren Ellis-penned "Iron Man: Extremis," and the artist was encouraged to tailor his designs similarly. "It was a fantastic experience because I got to draw and paint whatever I felt was appropriate and the see it be turned into moving action on the big screen," Granov said.

Now that Granov has seen the "Iron Man" film in its entirety, the artist has nothing but praise for Favreau's opus. "I agree with most of the audiences so far, it was pretty fantastic! I'm very much proud and happy with the work we've done and it was immensely satisfying to see it realized in such a kickass movie."

Marvel Studios has already announced an "Iron Man" sequel, and Granov is of two minds when it comes to reprising his role on the second film. "I imagine it would be a lot of fun again," Granov said. "But on the other hand it would mean I'd have to put all my current plans on the back burner for another year or so." That said, Granov's involvement in the future of the "Iron Man" film franchise is definitely not outside the realm of possibility. "We'll see," Granov said, coyly.

It was recently revealed that in addition to input from Granov at the earliest stages of pre-production, Favreau went on to recruit an Iron Man "brain trust" consisting of comics luminaries Mark Millar ("The Ultimates") and Brian Michael Bendis ("New Avengers"), as well as Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and editors Axel Alonso and Tom Brevoort. Granov couldn't speak to the details of what the so-called brain trust contributed to the film, but the artist has no doubt the ambassadors from the House of Ideas were instrumental to the movie's success.

"I think that the film appeals to both comic book fans, who have very high expectations of the characters they know, and to general, more casual, movie audiences because it is very respectful of the source material," Granov said. "But it is also telling a good story not dependent on the viewer being familiar with Iron Man. Jon was, from the very start, very concerned with making sure that he gets the characters right, from the look to the personality, so who better to help do that than the very people who've been working with these comics for years and understand them better than anyone else. It only makes sense and it really shows in the final product. It's not a superficial Hollywood take on Iron Man, it is Marvel's Iron Man brought from comics to the big screen."

For "Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas," Granov's comics collaboration with Favreau, fun was the order of the day. "It's supposed to be a fun action story combining silly qualities of the '60s comics, Iron Man's appearances in particular, with modern elements such as design and action," Granov said.  "There are so many  'serious' comics coming out now that we wanted to go for maximum fun and silliness, but juxtapose it with the kind of action you'd see in huge budget Hollywood movies."

The story pits Tony Stark against an angry Fin Fang Foom hell bent on destroying Las Vegas, a town Favreau's explored before in his breakout hit "Swingers." "In a way it's a take on the Godzilla style story and an excuse to show our version of Iron Man in some bombastic action."

Favreau and Granov always intended for "Viva Las Vegas" to be independent of any continuity, which is why it's released under the Marvel Knights banner. "We decided there would be no actor likenesses, no continuity dependency, etc.," Granov explained. "While there might be references to both the movie and the Marvel Universe, it's more for fun as an Easter egg type of thing."

One thing "Viva Las Vegas" does have in common with the "Iron Man" film is the armor itself: "Viva Las Vegas" finds Tony Stark donning the Iron Man Mark III armor designed by Favreau and Granov for use in the film.

"Viva Las Vegas" has been a long time coming. "Jon and I have been working together on and off for a couple of years since the start of the Iron Man movie pre-production, so it's more of a friendly back and forth than the kind of comic work I'm usually used to," Granov said.  "He's obviously never written a comic before so the first issue was a learning curve for the both of us, especially considering we were doing it along with the masses of movie work. But we wanted to do it because it sounded fun and it ended up being just that."

Granov couldn't speak to whether or not there were more comics in the filmmaker's future, but he certainly hopes so.

The first issue of "Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas" is on sale now, and issue #2 hits stands in June.

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