Paul Tobin on Iron Man: Fast Friends

Paul Tobin on Iron Man Online

Almost a year into the launch of its own online comics initiative, Marvel debuted Iron Man: Fast Friends, an exclusive digital comic that ties into the Iron Man film continuity, on Wednesday, September 17 in advance of the September 30th DVD release of the Iron Man feature film. Written by Paul Tobin with art by Ronan Cliquet and covers by Dave Bullock, Iron Man: Fast Friends explores the friendship between Tony Stark aka Iron Man and Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, the man who would eventually become War Machine.

We interviewed Tobin via email about bringing Iron Man and his best friend to the world wide web.

Newsarama: Hi, Paul. Starting off historically…did you know that previously there was a digital comic titled Iron Man: Crash, the first digital graphic novel released in 1988?

Paul Tobin: I'd actually forgotten about that!

NRAMA: Did you ever read that?

PT: Sure! But do I remember it? No, not so much. I remember that the art form of digital comics was really in its birthing stages, so the work was more of an experiment than anything else.

NRAMA: What's it like to be doing one (i.e. digital comic) yourself now?

PT: Really, for me as a writer, it wasn't any different than a regular comic. I had to do up the script, and then send it off. A few days later, pages started rolling in. It's like fun magic!

NRAMA: How did you get involved with the Iron Man: Fast Friends digital comics initiative in the first place?

PT: Ace editor Nate Cosby called and asked me if I'd like to play around with Iron Man and the digital comics, and I've always loved ol' Shellhead, and was frankly still buzzing from the movie, so a chance to be associated was a no-brainer. And if there's one thing my gray matter likes, it's a no-brainer.

NRAMA: You've been busy with the Marvel Adventures line of all-ages comics for a while now. As far as you're concerned, are you changing the tone of your writing with the Iron Man: Fast Friends digital comics as, I think, other than the comics fans, they’re targeted at the movie audience as well?

PT: Sure. But only a little. The main theme of Fast Friends is friendship, and that's a theme I like to use in the Marvel Adventures line. It's all very cool to have the Avengers battling Zorkon, the Pummeling Powerhouse from Ex-Planet Pluto, but I also love scenes of Wolverine and Luke Cage sitting down to talk about concerts they've seen, or why Captain America is riding them all the time. So, while I could use a different set of tools when talking about friendship, it's still a common theme in my work. I love characters to be as human as possible, and friendship is an integral part of humanity.

NRAMA: How do you view Tony Stark and James Rhodes' relationship set in Marvel movie continuity?

PT: Friends. Contentious. Abrasive. Admiring. Loathing. Jealous. Proud. Sometimes they don't like each other very much, but they'd always take a bullet for the other one. In short, normal friends.

NRAMA: Are you given a basic outline and allowed to create stories geared towards fans of the movie as long as they do not contradict what's been established in the blockbuster film?

PT: I was given a broad outline of what needed to be on the page, and also some temporal staging as to when it should all take place, but after that I was pretty much left alone.

NRAMA: By the way, there'll be an Iron Man/Hulk/Nick Fury one-shot in December collecting Fast Friends and the other movie spin-off digital comic, The Incredible Hulk: The Fury Files, plus an original story thrown in, but just how many issues is the Iron Man: Fast Friends webcomic going to be?

PT: I've done two installments of the Fast Friends material.

NRAMA: Now, it seems likely that Rhodey will be War Machine in Iron Man 2. Will you be developing stories that will tie in to the upcoming sequel?

PT: Hey! Good question!

NRAMA: So, what kind of stories can fans look forward to in the near future? Villains that will be making their online appearances? Perhaps a familiar face or two showing up?

PT: Awww, Ben. You know I can't tell you that stuff! I've got a big shelving cabinet next to my computer, and it's marked "Secret! Editors Will Kick My Butt!" so all the really cool upcoming appearances, and the rather awesome upcoming plans, will have to stay in that file cabinet, for now, so as not to induce the Nate Cosby Editorial Cyclone Kick.

NRAMA: Is there an origin story about how Tony and Rhodey become friends or an untold story of how the latter become the military's chief liaison to Stark Industries in the making?

PT: Well, if there isn't, there should be!

NRAMA: Finally, Terrence Howard's out, Don Cheadle's in. Anything that you'd like to say about the Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning actor who's going to don the War Machine armor?

PT: I can't really decide on how I feel. On one hand, Howard did an amazing job. He was perfect as Rhodey. On the other hand, Cheadle is really a fantastic actor, and I have no doubt he'll properly fill the shoes. So, in a way, it's like diamonds replacing gold, or gold replacing diamonds, or some other treasure-imbued analogy.

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