For the Iron Man character, you can now delineate his life in two ways: a time before his movie came out, and then everything after. After the release of the movie Iron Man in 2008, he went from a solid comics character to a household name in just days; thanks in no small part to his portrayal by Robert Downey Jr. under the direction of Jon Favreau. The immense publicity he generated by movie audiences seemed very similar to the popularity the character received in the world of his movie – Iron Man burst on the scene, and became one of a select few heroes that decided against the secret identity and made it known to the world: Tony Stark is Iron Man. The world knows it --- his fans, his friends and any would-be villains.
In the recently debuted comic miniseries Iron Man 2: Secret Identity, Marvel takes on Tony’s very public persona in a comic series that rests in the movie continuity, bridging the gap between the first and second movies. Illustrated by comics veteran Barry Kitson, the two scribes tasks to tell this tale come from both sides of the Iron Man spectrum: comics writer Joe Casey and Iron Man 2 screenwriter Justin Theroux.
For Casey, the character of Iron Man has been a familiar one: he’s written the armored avenger on several occasions, including the miniseries Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin, which came out just prior to the first movie. And now in the build-up to the second Iron Man movie coming out later this week, Joe Casey has once again donned the armor – sharing it in this case Iron Man 2 screenwriter Justin Theroux.
For those that haven’t made it to the comic stores, or plan to visit after watching the movie this weekend, we talked with Casey just as the second issue of the weekly miniseries hits stands.
Newsarama: Joe, for this book, you ventured into the continuity of the Iron Man movie – landing right between the end of the first movie and dovetailing into the second done. The final words in the first movie were of Tony revealing to world “I am Iron Man”. With that and this miniseries subtitle, “Public Identity”, would it be safe to say that the story’s about everyone knowing Stark is Iron Man? Tell us about the story.
Joe Casey: Yeah, it's definitely the early days of Tony's extracurricular activities on full display. He's the first celebrity superhero and he's loving every minute of it. For the most part. Things are never as easy as they seem on the surface.
Nrama: This isn’t the first time celebrity and superheroes have intertwined, but with Tony Stark’s unique origin as an industrialist and playboy – and the open way he’s played in the movie – this seems like a natural fit for Tony more than any other superhero out there. What’s your take on superheroes revealing their public identity in general, and specifically to Tony Stark in the movie continuity?
Casey: I go back and forth. On the one hand, I like the classic trope of the "secret identity". It's a fun dilemma to write about. On the other hand, in the world we live in, for someone like Tony, it makes perfect sense to let it all hang out and be honest with everyone. Well, almost everyone.
Nrama: In the trailer for the second film, we see the government wanting to get more than just a piece of the Iron Man armor – they want the whole thing. In the first movie he’s seen working very closely with the military – will that be covered in this as well?
Casey: Absolutely. The point of this series is to bridge the gap between the two films. It literally begins on Page 1 at the end of the first movie and the last page of issue #3 leads us right into the opening scenes of the sequel. We also fill in a lot of back-story with the Vanko family and the Stark family, what their deeper connection is.
Nrama: At its heart Iron Man is still a superhero, so while all this bureaucracy and espionage is fun – will we get to see Iron Man suit up and do battle worthy of the Black Sabbath song Iron Man? Who is he up against here?
Casey: This story is not necessarily about pitting Iron Man against some big super-villain. It's a slightly more personal story where Tony is trying to figure out how he could possibly work with the U.S. military without ending up working *for* them. It's simply an uncomfortable fit, and we get to show just how uncomfortable it is. At the same time, it's a globe-trotting adventure book with a lot of cool sh*t in it. The pages that Barry Kitson has done so far are breathtaking.
Nrama: Although I’d say casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was perfect, there’s one thing different – the movie version is funnier. Seeing as how you’ve now written both variations of Tony, what do you think of comparing the two?
Casey: Well, I have to admit, it's more fun writing Movie Tony... because I'm actually writing dialogue that, in my head, I get to imagine Robert Downey speaking. There's a real voice there. Besides, I've been digging his work since the movie Firstborn -- yes, that ol' chestnut -- and I'm especially fond of his work during the "comeback years". It might be the first time I've ever written a character where there *is* an actual voice that I can tap into. I certainly haven't done it when I've written Superman or Batman, even though there are prominent movie versions I can draw upon.
Nrama: Before we let you get back to work, one more question: For this book you’re working with Justin Theroux, who was the screenwriter for the Iron Man 2 film. How did that meeting of the minds go to hash out, and bang out this story?
Casey: How it worked was that our editor Alejandro and I got on the phone with Justin and hashed out the basic beats of the story, which was a lot of fun. Justin's a great guy and, when I was able to read the script to Iron Man 2, I was really entertained. He's got a great grasp on the movie characters and was genuinely enthusiastic about what we're tackling in the comic.