As Iron Man 2 rules at the box office, the character is also starring in the ongoing motion comic, Iron Man: Extremis, based on the comic book story by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov.
It's all part of Marvel's move toward developing motion comics, something that's growing in popularity with audiences who have paid to watch animated versions of comics like Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. and Astonishing X-Men.
The Iron Man: Extremis motion comic tells the story of a military-sponsored nanotechnology called "Extremis" that Tony Stark must take to save his own life. The Ellis-penned comic was critically acclaimed for exploring Tony's emotions as he dealt with the effects of the serum and his own guilt for making weapons, as well as being one himself.
"It [was] quite cinematic to begin with, with film-like pacing" Granov said of the print story that is being adapted for the motion comic. "My art style alone I didn't think would translate so well, but having seen how well the motion comic was done, I must say that the painted art looks striking in motion as well."
A consultant on both Iron Man films, Granov is best known for his work on Iron Man comics, utilizing a realistic, almost 3-D style that he draws, inks and paints himself. His work on the Iron Man: Extremis comic with Ellis was what landed him a job working with director Jon Favreau on scene and costume designs for the films.
Now, with motion comics featuring computer animation, Granov has seen his work translated to another medium -- and he likes it.
"It's another medium to explore, new audiences to reach, and it offers a new and interesting way to experience some great stories and art," the artist said. "And much like my work on games and film, it's fascinating to see other artists taking my drawings and turning them into something new and exciting."
Marvel chose Iron Man as the subject of their next motion comic because of the success and awareness of the films. The choice of Extremis as a motion comic subject was helped by the fact that it's a favorite of Ruwan Jayatilleke, Marvel's senior vice president of Development & Planning for print, animation and digital media.
"I was a huge fan of the story when it came out. And I happen to be a fan of Warren's writing and Adi's beautifully crafted art," Jayatilleke said. "So being the producer on motion comics means I have little bit of say in where we're going next... or so I have deluded myself into thinking!"
Iron Man: Extremis differs from Marvel's previous motion comics because it's all computer generated animation, something that worked well with the 3D look of Granov's art.
"Adi's art did lend itself in ways to the 3D modeling and CGI. However it also presented its own challenges because of Adi's level of detail and being able to match it consistently," Jayatilleke said. "Each scene had to be set up the right way to accentuate Warren's story and Adi's art without showing any limitations or uncanny moments. Mike Halsey and Joel Gibbs, the directors, and their team Magnetic Dreams Studios did a masterful job navigating the art, setting up the scenes, and moving the camera around to animate Extremis.
Of course, there are some differences between the printed comic and the motion comic -- including new content. And as Jayatilleke pointed out, the experience of watching the motion comic not only adds new visuals and sequences, but voice acting and a musical soundtrack too. "When you combine all of these modular elements of storytelling, what you get is over 70 minutes of phenomenal digital animation," he said. "My goal with all the respective creative teams on Extremis was to push the limits of 'motion comics' above and beyond what's been done and really give traditional animation a run for its money. And I think we've succeeded."
Jayatilleke said Marvel's goal for motion comics is to cast a wider net to a larger audience. And although it's early in the company's exploration of the medium -- with only three motion comics before this one -- Jayatilleke said the company is happy with the success so far.
"We're managing to outsell animated and live-action shows that are on TV by a good margin," he said. "While I can't give out exact numbers, the fact that Extremis hit the top of iTunes Season Animation, iTunes Season TV shows as a whole, as well as other categories, and the single episodes are still hanging around the Top 10, is really great news for Marvel. The growing sales means our content is getting to a wider base of consumers and connecting, especially since people are buying season passes. Even the figures on Sony PSN and Microsoft's Xbox Live have been promising so far. They look to be places where we can grow paid viewership even more."
As the company continues to explore the medium, Granov said he'd like to see even more focus on motion comics from the print side of the company. "I'd like to see all new material created with motion comics in mind in order to explore the possibilities," the artist said. "Marvel has already done that with a couple of the projects and I think it would be interesting to see how far that can be taken with the animators and 3D modelers involved from the start."
As for what's going to be animated next, Jayatilleke couldn't confirm a title, but with the company's focus on leveraging their live action movies, it's likely fans will get motion comics based on characters in upcoming films. "I can't give away too much," Jayatilleke said, "but I can say possibly Cap, Thor, and much, much more."