Monday, April 29, 2013

Iron Man 3's Comic Book Origins

This weekend in America, one of the most highly anticipated film sequels in comicdom history will open. IRON MAN 3 has already taken the rest of the world by storm, earning 195.3 million US dollars in 42 countries, crossing the $185.1 million opening threshold set by AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (the worldwide title) and breaking a number of records for the biggest opening weekend ever in countries throughout Asia and South America as well as the UK. The film opens state-side this coming weekend and looks to replicate the ambition of the last Marvel film–if on a far less cosmic scale.

You'll notice in the UK trailer above the appearance of longtime Iron Man antagonist, The Mandarin, whose existence was hinted in the first IRON MAN film via the terrorist group "The Ten Rings," referencing the source of the super villain's power. It's great to see Sir Ben Kingsley entering the Marvel Universe after a false start in the aborted original SPIDER-MAN 3, which would have seen him in the role of The Vulture. Producer Avi Arad in a textbook example of poor judgment chose to swap The Vulture for Venom and then mysteriously added Gwen Stacy as well, which helped make a mess of things even if the massive box-office didn't reflect it. Future disagreements between production and original series director Sam Raimi led to a parting of company and the unfortunate reboot of the series by director Marc Webb. The moral of the story: don't swap an Oscar winner for a sitcom star. Ever.

by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca
Issue #18, Page 22: Splash
Graphite and ink on board
11" x 17"
You may also notice another mobile, armored, and militarized suit from the comics, The Iron Patriot. In this incarnation, which is reportedly adapted from the Warren Ellis "Extremis" story arc, The Iron Patriot is an upgrade to the War Machine armor, rather than an enemy (as originally depicted in the Matt Fraction / Salvador Larroca series Invincible Iron Man), which may arise from Sony holding the rights to the Norman Osbourne character as part of their Spider-Man deal, and this franchise is part of Walt Disney Studios' Marvel Cinematic Universe. So in IRON MAN 3, Iron Patriot will be the new armor of Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes, used to put a patriotic face on America's super soldiers following the events of THE AVENGERS. Regardless, it's nice to see a great costume gracing the big screen, and personally gratifying because the first appearance of the Iron Patriot (from Invincible Iron Man #18) was featured in the first Pop-Sequentialism exhibition and show catalog. It's still available, too. Contact me for purchase details.

I've begun negotiations to curate a museum exhibition in Southern California of the next incarnation of Pop-Sequentialism, so look for details here soon.

Another trailer to hit the world of fandom with a great, big bang is THOR: DARK WORLD, which will be the eighth film in the Disney/Marvel Universe. Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor helms a script from Saving Private Ryan writer Robert Rodat. And it looks appropriately badass:

THOR (2009)
by J. Michael Straczynski & Olivier Coipel
Issue #10, Page 9: Splash Page
Graphite and ink on board
17" x 11"
There doesn't seem to be a direct connection to a specific run of the comics–but the movie rights to the Fantastic Four have reverted to Marvel Studios, so a post-credit Doctor Doom sequence can't be ruled out just yet. With CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and AVENGERS 2 all forthcoming and leading up to a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet War, it wouldn't be quite right in my book if everybody's favorite Latverian dictator wasn't involved. If so, it's possible that this new Thor film may take some more incidental points from J. Michael Straczynski's great run in the comics. Among my favorites is this splash page of Balder confronting his brother Thor over his rightful claim to the throne of Asgard. Since Marvel hasn't divulged plans for a third Thor film, and industry insiders speculate that team films will be the preferred format following AVENGERS 2, Ragnarok could be a big plot point in THOR: DARK WORLD, and if so, this event which helps to kick-off those events may be featured prominently. With Brian Michael Bendis calling most of the shots at Marvel these days, and with so many opportunities to work some of his own plots into the cinematic timeline, it would seem like a grave mistake to not try to weave the likely looming FF reboot into the box office megablockbusters already on schedule.

Since Siege is unlikely to come to fruition as long as Sony holds the rights to all X-MEN properties, the Loki and Doctor Doom team-up in the MJS run on THOR seems like the most transitionable storyline.

And owning an Olivier Coipel page from one of the all time great collaborations is its own reward.

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