It’s 2020 – and despite hitting a milestone year in Iron Man lore, Tony Stark isn’t exactly around to see it. Instead, as in the classic tale, Arno Stark is Iron Man 2020 in a new event from writers Dan Slott and Christos N. Gage and artist Pete Woods.
But that doesn’t mean Tony won’t be a factor in the future of the Marvel Universe, as Arno attempts to unite A.I. for a coming crisis. In January 15’s Iron Man 2020 #1, that campaign begins in earnest with multiple tie-ins and side series launching in the coming weeks to celebrate the arrival of a long foretold moment of Iron Man lore.
Newsarama spoke with Gage ahead of Iron Man 2020 #1’s release to discuss the differences between Tony and Arno, how the idea of A.I. plays into the story, and how a once future story becomes timely while still pushing futuristic boundaries.
Newsarama: Christos, Iron Man 2020 plays off of a classic "future" story that has since become sorta contemporary thanks to the disparity of time in comic books and real life - and Tony Stark seems to be in dire straits as this story kicks off. What can you tell us about where Tony and Iron Man are at going into 2020?
Christos N. Gage: It's not going to be the same world we saw in the old-school "2020" stories...that's an alternate timeline. Part of the fun now is seeing what elements of those stories show up in "our" 2020, and in what way. But you're right, Tony is shaken up by revelations he's faced in the last few issues of Tony Stark: Iron Man...things that rock the very core of who he is and how he sees himself...and it's all had a tremendous effect on both his viewpoint and his role as a human being and as a hero.
Luckily, Arno Stark is there to pick up the slack for his brother as the Iron Man of 2020. But what's Tony doing...? Read and find out!
Nrama: A different version of Arno Stark was the original "Iron Man 2020" in the classic tale - but how does he fit in now?
Gage: Arno Stark is the biological son of Howard and Maria Stark, but due to a potentially fatal illness, he was essentially raised in a bubble/iron lung for much of his life. Now he's out. He's as smart as Tony - maybe smarter - but due to a lack of human contact, people often confound him, and he can be a bit removed in how he relates to them. Dan compares him to Mr. Spock or Sherlock (in the BBC series) and I think that's a perfect example. But one thing about Arno - he has a mission to save the world, and he is going to stop at nothing to do exactly that.
Nrama: You're writing this series alongside Dan Slott, who you've worked with many times over the last decade. What's it like teaming up on this, now? How do you find yourselves balancing your individual views of Iron Man and Tony Stark?
Gage: Dan and I are, as always, really in sync. He finds plotting easier and I find scripting easier, so we're like Jack Sprat and his wife...we each get to do what's most fun for us. It feels a lot like the way we've worked together in the past! If there's anything I've noticed it's that at first I tended to make Iron Man a little too quick with jokes sometimes, even in dire situations...I think that's carrying over from my work on the Iron Man VR video game, where he's more like the movie version than the comic book version. But that was a minor adjustment - Dan helpfully let me know when I was going too jokey - and as we're going into Iron Man 2020, I think it's pretty well worked out.
Nrama: Artificial Intelligence is at the crux of this series. What threat does AI pose to Iron Man? How does Arno Stark interact with characters such as Jocasta and Machine Man who have been key players in that conflict?
Gage: Arno Stark has been groomed his entire life to defeat a cosmic threat that will attack Earth in 2020. To do this, he needs humanity and A.I. to be united...whatever it takes. That makes him a hero to some, and a threat to others. His relationship with the likes of Jocasta and Machine Man is exactly what the story is about...and it won't be the same with every character.
Nrama: You've got Pete Woods drawing Iron Man 2020 - an artist known for his clean lines and attention to detail. What does he bring to a series like this?
Gage: Pete is doing such an amazing job. He's doing everything - pencils/inks and colors - and it's stunning. It's rare that someone is equally as skilled at depicting tech and human emotion - and investing tech with human emotion - but Pete has this nailed. I think there's some preview art out there already - check it out, and if that doesn't make you want to buy the book, nothing I can say will!
Nrama: Iron Man 2020 isn't stopping at just one series - there are a host of tie-ins. What can you tell us about how those side stories play into the main narrative?
Gage: I'm not sure how much I can say, but I'm writing one...and it's got me doing a lot of fun research, looking at the work of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko! Basically, we're structuring it so that readers can just read Iron Man 2020 and get a full story, but they can pick up any or all of the tie-ins and get a look at the bigger picture.
Interested in a particular character or creative team, but not another? Get what looks cool to you. They're all part of the tapestry, but we're tending to focus on particular characters as opposed to "Chapter 3 of the story is here and Chapter 4 is over there."
Nrama: How does playing off a concept that was once seen as futuristic but is now plain old modern day affect the narrative? How do you push that futurism that has often defined Iron Man while incorporating elements of a classic tale?
Gage: The fact that the Iron Man book has always had the element of futurism really helps the Iron Man 2020 story feel cool and forward looking even though it takes place today. It's not like, "Well, no flying cars, but we have smart phones." It's the Marvel Universe - there are flying cars! What we're exploring, and is really the question in this book, is what kind of society we're going to live in.
We're divided...at what cost should we be brought together? Security is a primary concern...how do we balance that with our freedoms? It's less about "here's some futuristic tech" - which has always been part of the Iron Man title - and more about where we are going as we enter 2020.
Nrama: Bottom line, what can readers expect from Iron Man 2020?
Gage: The unexpected. Seriously. I don't think anyone is ready for just how much they'll see familiar characters in unfamiliar roles in this book. And action...and surprises...and gorgeous art!