SDCC 2012 Exclusive: Ultimate IRON MAN vs. Mandarin


With Iron Man 3 scheduled out in theaters from Marvel Studios this May, it's a good bet that Marvel publishing is planning some material friendly to movie audiences looking to read more about the character.

One such project was announced Friday afternoon during Marvel's Ultimate Comics panelUltimate Comics Iron Man, a four-issue miniseries from writer Nathan Edmondson (known for Image's Who is Jake Ellis?, Dancer and The Activity), and art from Matteo Buffagini (Daken: Dark Wolverine). The story is titled "Demon in the Armor," and features The Mandarin — a villain that, from all reports, plays a major role in Iron Man 3.

Newsarama has the first interview with Edmondson, who told us what he likes about Iron Man, how he sees Ultimate Iron Man in relation to other versions of the character, and some of the broader themes he's exploring in "Demon in the Armor."

Newsarama: Nathan, this is, I believe, your first series for Marvel after some well-received creator-owned work and Grifter at DC. How big of a Marvel fan are you? Has writing characters like Iron Man been a goal for you?

Nathan Edmondson: While I haven't ever aspired to write any particular character, really, I'm thrilled to be on board, working with an unbelievably sharp team, with the liberty and opportunity to craft a story that I believe in for a character I find nothing but compelling.  

I think my talents and ideas are best fit for the Ultimate universe, and I'm pleased and gratified to have been approached by Marvel for "Demon in the Armor." As for how big of a Marvel fan I am — it's no secret I'm not someone who grew up as a "comics dude," but how can you not be a fan of Iron Man? Especially when Orson Scott Card, Mark Millar and Jonathan Hickman have done such fantastic things with him in the Ultimate Universe.

Nrama: To that end, what would fans of titles like Who is Jake Ellis? and The Activity find that's familiar in Ultimate Comics Iron Man?

Edmondson: For one thing, it's the same writer! (I resisted the urge to type in a smiley here). I'm working with not one, but two artists whom I admire on the project, which for me makes all the difference in the world. And while I can't divulge too much of the story, I can say that I've been allowed to create and craft a story — one hasn't been dictated to me, as can be the unfortunate and difficult case with work-for-hire opportunities. Jake Ellis and The Activity are each unique to themselves, but at the heart is my love for the character in their world, and that is certainly true of "Demon in the Armor."

Nrama: Iron Man is probably one of the most popular fictional characters in the world at this point. What aspects of the character are you looking to explore in this series? And in your estimation, what makes the Ultimate version unique from his classic Marvel or movie counterpart?

Edmondson: With "Demon in the Armor," Matteo and I — and our fine editorial team — have a rare opportunity to explore and offer sides of Ultimate Tony Stark no one has ever seen before. As an Ultimate character, his legacy is more ingrained, consequence-oriented and threaded with continuity than other iterations would be. We're going to learn things about the man in the armor and his legacy, and his company that devotees will find shocking and fresh, I believe. This is a rare opportunity because usually when a character is as popular as Iron Man, there's little new to say about them, but with Tony Stark there is a wide sea of mystery yet explored. We're going to start to chart our way through some new parts it.  

In terms of Tony's personality, Downey Jr. and the Iron Man filmmakers got it down pretty close, in my estimation, but of course the film franchise and Ultimate universe continuity differ wildly, which is perfect because as one side fuels interest in the other, neither is a reiteration — fans have cause to experience both!

Nrama: Speaking of movies, with this series starting in October, presumably there will be a collection out in time for Iron Man 3, which (as strongly rumored if not yet strictly confirmed) also features The Mandarin. Does that aspect figure into your plans, either subtly or covertly?

Edmondson: We are not drawing from the screenplay; if anything we're drawing from the Ultimates continuity, but even then "Demon in the Armor" stands on its own in a significant way. If there's any connection or awareness of the film, its simply that this story will be accessible to someone walking from the theater into the comic shop to extend his or her Iron Man experience without getting lost in extensive and unfamiliar lore. "Demon in the Armor" is, in other words, more contained than some other Iron Man tales have been.

Nrama: And speaking of The Mandarin, he's only been glimpsed in the Ultimate Universe before this series. What can you say about this take on Mandarin, and how much he may or may not resemble the classic version?

Edmondson: I really can't say anything about our villain at this stage, except this: I recommend that readers leave their assumptions at the doorstep!

Nrama: Well, The Mandarin has been viewed at times as a troubling stereotype; a vestige of another era. How are you handling that element of the character?

Edmondson: "Demon in the Armor" is very much about legacy, heritage and generations. Tony Stark is a character of legacy; both his company and his talent is inherited from his father, who was part of a very intricate world before Tony took his first steps as a superhero. What is it that drives Tony to be the reckless, torn soul that he is, and how is that connected with the history of his family and Stark Industries — or is it? Expect to see such questions explored beginning in October.  

Nrama: Matteo Buffagni is illustrating the series. What are you looking forward to from his visual execution of the story?

Edmondson: Matteo is a superb talent, and one I'm thrilled to be working with. The right artist makes all the difference, and I (think) I've crafted the story in such a way that will make the best use of his talents, but of course we'll see the real chemistry happen as we move forward into the issues.

Nrama: Ultimate Iron Man is already a busy character in Ultimate Comics Ultimates — does this tie in at all to what he's got going on over there, or is it mostly separate?

Edmondson: This story isn't told in a bubble, but as I mentioned before it's not a direct a sequel to previous Ultimates works; I can't talk about what else is being planned for Iron Man in this respect, but this is going to be a great, fun and exciting story with some shocking revelations for a character many might assume they already understand. 

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