It should come as no shocker that Marvel's resident robot rights activist Machine Man should be a big part of the current Iron Man 2020 crossover. Arno Stark and the original Iron Man 2020 continuity first appeared in issues of a Machine Man limited, so the superhero sometimes known as Aaron Stack has been tied in since day one.
And now, writer Christos Gage and artist Andy MacDonald will break Machine Man into his own 2020 tie-in limited series that puts him at the forefront of the "Robot Revolution" - and straight into the path of a horde of mysterious enemies from his past.
Newsarama spoke with Gage ahead of 2020 Machine Man #1's February 19 release, discussing the role of the "machine that feels like a man", and how the character's whole history, from Jack Kirby to NextWave to the present day, has led to this story.
Newsarama: Christos, Machine Man is an integral part of the classic Iron Man 2020 mythos – it all started in his title, after all. But his recent relationship with Iron Man is complicated. How does he fit into this tale?
Christos Gage: Machine Man and Tony Stark - who now goes by "Mark One" as the leader of the Robot Resistance - have overcome any past differences and become allies. Machine Man is Tony's field general. But that doesn't mean their relationship is less complicated. Machine Man has a key role to play in a crucial Robot Resistance mission, but he may be led astray by a very human emotion...love. Specifically, his love for Jocasta.
Nrama: Obviously Aaron Stack has a vested interest in the safety of A.I., but he’s also a superhero (mostly). Where does he come down in the robot revolution?
Gage: He's become more militant in recent years and has fallen squarely on the side of A.I. But the contradiction with his superhero past will be an important part of this story.
Nrama: The solicitation for 2020 Machine Man #1 mentions someone from Aaron Stack’s past. What can you tell us about that?
Gage: There are actually several someones from his past! Jocasta...and others. But to say more would spoil way too much! I will say that our backup story also brings someone from Machine Man's past...Tom DeFalco, legendary writer of the original Machine Man 2020 miniseries, is joining my Superior Spider-Man collaborator, the great Mike Hawthorne, for a backup tale that brings elements of that classic miniseries into the present day Marvel Universe...not to be missed!
Nrama: Let's not forget your collaborator - Andy MacDonald. What’s he bring to a sci-fi action tale of this scope?
Gage: Andy's amazing. He's brought a hyper-detailed approach to the art that is reminiscent of Geof Darrow, and is perfect for a tech-heavy story like this. As I was writing, I felt bad at the amount of sheer stuff that I was asking him to draw...but then he went and stuffed the pages even more full of machinery and action and drama than I ever expected! I think readers will love what they're going to see.
Nrama: Machine Man’s old enemy Sunset Bain is also an important part of this Iron Man 2020 event. What’s Aaron himself up against here?
Gage: It's true, Sunset first appeared as Madam Menace in the Steve Ditko run. But Aaron is up against something else from his past...something far deadlier than Sunset! A whole lot of somethings!
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing he drew for this story?
Gage: This may sound weird, but I love the way he draws Machine Man's extendable eyes. You'll understand better when you've read the story.
Nrama: Machine Man is a cult favorite Marvel character – but he’s rarely taken a spotlight in recent years. What are the prime qualities you see in him as a leading man?
Gage: Going back to his earliest appearances by Jack Kirby, the main conflict within Machine Man is that he is a "human robot" as it were...a machine that feels like a man. That conflict, that duality and juxtaposition have always been at the core of his character, and still are. He's someone trying to do what's right even as he isn't completely sure what that is or what his role is in the world. There's something heroic about that.
Nrama: Like we said, Machine Man has his fans. What’s in store for them in this two-part 2020 series?
Gage: While readers who are brand new to Machine Man will have no trouble following this story, his longtime fans should get an extra level of enjoyment. We're delving into his entire past, from the early Kirby and Ditko days to Nextwave to the recent Iron Man issues. Like Jack Kirby's cover copy for Machine Man #1 said..."They made him in their own image - then condemned him to death for being too human! Hunted, hounded, he fights to survive in a hostile world!" That's still true... but now he's fighting back... and he's declared war.