Exclusive: Inside IRON MAN's New, Alien-Inspired Armor

Ultimate Iron Man's new look.

Tony Stark is a self-proclaimed "futurist," and not the kind of guy to stick with one piece of technology for too long. It's why both the classic comic book version of the character and his movie counterpart — played, as you're aware, by Robert Downey Jr. — has rotated through multiple iterations of his Iron Man armor over the years.

The Ultimate Comics take on Tony is no exception, and will be sporting a dramatic new look starting in July's Ultimate Comics Ultimates #13 — the same issue as Captain America's return following his "Death of Spider-Man" hiatus, and the first part of the "Divided We Fall" event affecting each book in the line.

Here at Newsarama, we've got both the exclusive reveal of Iron Man's new armor and the first interview with the Ultimates team of writer Sam Humphries and artist Billy Tan on the subject. Humphries and Tan talked to us via email about what inspired the alien-like appearance of the suit, what prompted the change, and what "Divided We Fall" has in store for the already beleaguered Ultimate Universe.

Newsarama: Billy, Sam, let's start with the obvious — we've seen the pictures, what can you tell us about the new armor? Is there a major storyline reason that Iron Man is going with a new armor? Or is it simply, as anyone who has ever owned an Apple product can attest and Tony Stark would surely agree with, an instance of upgrading because the technology exists do so, and why not?

Sam Humphries: The first 12 issues of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates shows the world changing dramatically and irreversibly. Tony Stark is a man who likes to stay ahead of the curve, so if the world changes, then so must Iron Man.


Plus, Tony loves his new toys. The world itself could crumble and you'd find him on an asteroid, tinkering with a new suit.

Nrama: From a behind-the-scenes perspective, what's the process in arriving at a new armor for Iron Man? How many different people have input on the design? How many different takes before this one was settled on?

Humphries: When you have Billy Tan rocking the design work, all you need is one take. Myself and the editorial team made some minor suggestions after the first round, but he nailed it on the first try.

Nrama: Billy, what influenced the new armor, visually? In particular, the head and chest piece look to be noticeably different than past Iron Man designs.

Billy Tan: Sam wanted something with a little cross of EVA from Evangelion, something sleek and alien-like. It would have been so cool visually to have the armor looking all elongated like EVA but it's not possible for Tony to fit in something like that. I was trying to make up that factor with slimmer and more stealthy look.

Ultimate Comics

Ultimates #13.

The armor gives him a more agile look and perhaps now he is able to use more physical maneuvers on his opponents. The side panels from his helmets serve not only for its functionality of storing his mask when he wants them to be retracted but I really want to give this armor a strong visual distinction from his other ones. I really don't see a point of giving him a new armor when it's just going to blend into any other one.

Nrama: Obviously Iron Man is a hugely recognizable character at this point. When designing a new armor and obviously wanting to make it distinct, how important is it to keep enough elements to make it identifiably "Iron Man"?

Humphries: It's as much about the man inside as it is the swag outside — if suits stop reflecting the style, attitude, and intelligence of Tony Stark, then it ceases to be Iron Man. Not every suit of armor is Iron Man, but when it is, you can just feel it. Plus, that red and gold color scheme is [Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso]'s favorite because it reminds him of the San Francisco 49ers.

Nrama: Iron Man has a long tradition of changing up his look, with many well-known iterations along the line. Billy, how big of an honor is it for an artist to get a gig like redesigning Iron Man's armor?


Tan: Its a huge honor to get a chance to redesign a new armor for Iron Man. I was trying to make it as distinct from other armors as much as possible. Hopefully it's a look that people will remember when, where and which series it came from, even after 10 years from now.

Nrama: The current Ultimate line prides itself on doing things that can't be done in the regular Marvel Universe — in what ways is this new armor an extension of that ethos?

Humphries: Iron Man has some terrific looks going on right now — from [Salvador] Larocca's quicksilver-smooth update of the classic design, to the Ferrari/Lamborghini styles of the movie suits. Tony's brain operates on a different planet, so I wanted a suit of armor that looks like it came from an alien. That's a direction you can only get away with in the Ultimate Universe.

Nrama: Sam, the new armor debuts on your first solo issue of Ultimates. Is this, perhaps, partially you putting your own stamp on the series? Or is it more of a coincidence, timing-wise?

Ultimate Comics

Ultimates #14.

Humphries: Hey, if I blow it, I might never get another chance to put Iron Man in a new suit, so I might as well go for it right out of the gate! But seriously, the seeds for the new armor were planted back in the workshop scenes during [original series writer Jonathan Hickman]'s run, where we see Tony and Thor building it. We just picked up the ball and ran with it.

Nrama: Issue #13 starts the "Divided We Fall" event, and, as time tends to work, we're a lot closer to it now than we were when we first talked about it back in April. What would you tell a reader who might not be totally clear on what it's all about?

Humphries: In some ways, it's about one man witnessing the fall of America and refusing to stand down. And when that man is a super soldier who wears the red-white-and-blues and has some pretty powerful friends, you can bet sh*t is about to get real.

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