David Michelinie on Iron Man: The End

David Michelinie on Iron Man: The End

Iron Man: The End has been a long time coming. The story was first conceived early in the decade, and first announced/teased over a year and a half ago. Announced alongside Iron Man: Legacy of Doom, which shipped this Spring, the one shot comes from the same plotting team of Bob Layton and David Michelinie. Michelinie, of course, has a bit of experience with ‘ole Shellhead, not to mention his friend in webs. Between the two Marvel icons, Michelinie covered nearly 200 issues. Now the two team with artist Bernard Chang to show fans how the man of iron meets his end, with the anticipated one shot in November. Newsarama talked with David Michelinie to talk about false starts, the past, the current, and the hopeful future.

Newsarama: Earlier this year, you teamed with Bob Layton on the Legacy of Doom mini-series. Was Iron Man: The End part of the same deal?

David Michelinie: Yeah, they were green-lit at about the same time. Bob was supposed to do a regular gig for the Iron Man office, but circumstances changed and that fell through. So he was asked if there were any other projects he’d be interested in pursuing and he suggested Legacy and The End, two ideas we’d developed in the past but which had slipped through the cracks for various reasons. So we finally got to do them.

NRAMA: This story was originally teased in January 2007, and according to Bob was a story you two had planned years before that. How far back does this go? Did the final product resemble the original story you two came up with?

DM: Seven or eight years ago Bob and I were asked to submit ideas for an Iron Man: The End one-shot, approaching it as if we’d never stopped plotting the regular series and this was going to be the end issue of that series. We came up with a plot that we both liked, and felt was true to the characters as we had worked with them in the past. The editors had some problems with the story and requested some alterations. They considered the changes to be minor, but we felt they would change the overall positive aspect of the tale. We always saw Tony Stark, even in his alcohol-induced Bad Behavior days, as a positive character and we didn’t want his last story to be a downer. So we respectfully withdrew our plot. Then, when approaching the story years later, both we and the editors took a fresh look at it and were able to make compromises that we all could live with.

NRAMA: Was this story a must-tell for you?

DM: I hadn’t even thought about such a concept until we were asked to do it. But once I got into the story I developed a great deal of enthusiasm for it. I felt this could be a way to accent the fact that Tony Stark has no super powers; he’s just a brave and brilliant guy with a pretty cool suit. But inside that suit he’s just a man, a man who will have to face the end of life just as all of us will.

NRAMA: Bob has admitted that he and Tom Brevoort don't "see eye to eye" on who Tony Stark is and how he should act. The last two years have seen some changes in Tony's behavior. How do you feel about the current Tony Stark?

DM: To be honest, I haven’t read an Iron Man story since I did research for the Bad Blood mini-series during Joe Quesada’s run. I’ve heard all kinds of tales about what a jerk Tony has become, and I really didn’t have any desire to read that version. I’m not saying such an interpretation isn’t valid, or couldn’t be very well done. It’s just so different from the way I see the character that I’m really not interested in reading it for entertainment.

NRAMA: Who is Tony Stark past 70? Where is he at in his life?

DM: He’s at a crossroads. For decades he’s defined himself as a strong, vital man, a protector of what is his--whether that be his business, his friends or his American way of life. Now, aging is inevitably taking its toll. His mind isn’t as sharp and quick as it used to be--he’s making errors in judgement that he wouldn’t have made 10, 15 years ago. And his body is showing the wear and tear of having had the crap beat out of it for so many years. He’s still a genius, and he’s still stubborn, but he’s having to face the fact that he’s simply not the person he used to be. And he has to make some tough decisions about his future--and Iron Man’s.

NRAMA: His super-hero friends? His foes? Who can fans expect?

DM: Not a lot of guest stars in this one. We only had 44 pages to deal with, and the story is so Tony-specific that we really didn’t have a lot of room for anyone else. There was a nice scene with Sunturion in the original pitch, but we had to cut that for space considerations. As it is, the only super villain is the Ultra-Dynamo, the future version of the old Crimson Dynamo. But Bethany Cabe is in the story, and there’s a new character introduced who will play an important part.

NRAMA: Co-writing teams have their own styles. What is the process for you and Layton?

DM: Actually, we’re co-PLOTTERS; I do all of the actual writing myself. On our first run on Iron Man the situation was ideal: Bob and I both lived in the same small college town and got together several time a week for lunch or just to hang out. Naturally, we talked Iron Man a lot. Then when a plot was due we’d get together at his place or mine and spend the whole day hammering out the structure, events, action and character development. After that I’d go home and type up the plot and send it in. For our second run, Bob had moved to Colorado and I was still on the East Coast, so we’d spend several hours on the phone working out the rough plot, then I’d polish it up and send it in. We’re still about a thousand miles apart these days, so the plotting is pretty much the same. The big difference is that email lets us keep in touch easily with little ideas and observations that occur to us between plot sessions.

NRAMA: Having worked together for so long, has it been easy these last couple years to get back into a writing rhythm with him?

DM: Bob and I have been friends for over three decades, and we know each other as well as, or better than, brothers. Admittedly, working over the phone isn’t as efficient (or as fun) as face-to-face, but if any rust ever develops on our collaborations it gets scraped off pretty quickly once we start yappin’.

NRAMA: You are no stranger to the long run. Now that you've gotten a mini and a one shot out of your system, would you have any desire to do an extended run on a book?

DM: I’d like nothing better than to write a monthly series again. Unfortunately, Tony Stark isn’t the only one who’s encountered problems due to aging. Since I rounded the big five-oh (years, not police departments), I’ve rarely had a chance to write limited projects, let alone a regular series. I’m grateful for the work I do get, but would relish a chance to show that I can still do what I did for almost 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man and over 80 issues of Iron Man.

NRAMA: Hey, you brought him up; you've come back to Iron Man, how about a return to your other long time character, Spider-man?

DM: I wrote a prose story featuring Spider-Man and Iron Man for Spider-Man Magazine last year. But besides that no one involved with Spider-Man (or Venom, or Carnage, or...) has asked. Would I write the characters again? Sure. Would I write any other Marvel characters again? Sure. Would i write a sequel to my award-winning Mother Teresa illustrated biography (MT: The Revenge! )? Sure. All they have to do is ask.

NRAMA: What's been your favorite thing about returning to Iron Man?

DM: A paycheck. (Rimshot) But seriously, folks...I love telling stories, and the opportunity to write a story of any sort and to have it read is something to be savored and appreciated. And writing those stories about Iron Man is like slipping into a pair of well-worn and comfortable shoes--ahhhhhh. It just feels good.

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