The stories behind the stories

Iron Man #77

“If Sonny’s senators want to shoot me down, they’re going to have to look me in the eye when they do!” — Tony Stark

“The Best Defense, Part 5: Unsuited”

Iron Man #77

Having lost before the Armed Forces Committee, Tony Stark watches his nomination go down in flames before the full Senate. It’s not all that’s burning – as two too many of Sonny Burch’s weapons systems go terribly, tragically wrong…
Published by Marvel • February 11, 2004
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Jorge Lucas

Lettered by Randy Gentile

Colored by Antonio Fabela

Cover by Adi Granov

Edited by Tom Brevoort

The threads come together this issue, and Sonny Burch pays the price for messing with Tony Stark’s technology.

I trod carefully in plotting this issue’s disaster scene. While a couple of years had passed since September 11, anyone writing an air disaster sequence needs to respect the unique gravity of those events. I was sure, for example, that while Rumiko was clearly in the air at the same time and in the same airspace as the Galaxy, the Kestrel would not “choose” a civilian airliner. I cringed at the civilian airliner sequence in Die Hard 2 — and that was before September 11 — and I doubt we’ll see another Airport-style disaster pic for a loooong time.

There’s no doubt, however, that September 11 changed how people might react to a situation like the one presented here – where Burch’s rushed and shoddy systems cause a crisis in the sky. In the past, in the absence of information, the first instinct of many might have been to assume a technical failure. Today, as seen here — the possibility of terrorism is considered much earlier.

I tried to keep the “ticktock” of events here close to reality. The F-16s are already in the air, two being on patrol all the time (though more are depicted here). The sequence in Herndon was much informed by a 2002 USA Today report on what the FAA really did on September 11 — “ATC zero, full groundstop” being the command given nationwide for the first time that horrible day.

Note that the clock actually moves backwards when the scene returns to Tony Stark back in the Senate. For dramatic purposes, he needed to appear to get the news last, even though he got it simultaneously with some of the others depicted previously.

“I’m declaring ATC zero and full groundstop. Everything comes down, nothing goes up… again.” — FAA Director Donelson

While referred to in a couple of places here as a subcommittee, it’s actually the Committee that snubbed Stark in the previous issue. Some readers may have thought that the Committee’s vote was it — but the full Senate still gets a shot. It rarely rejects the Committee’s judgment, though, and as we see here, the wider audience did Tony little good.

With a creative team on two different continents, we tried to try to fill in as many details as possible. There are still little blips now and again, like an NBC reporter speaking into a C-SPAN mike and a military policeman whose helmet reads “PM” — which perhaps might be the right abbreviation in Spanish, for all I know. More no-prizes for the kids…

Senator Joe Zimmer is, indeed, the brother of Abe Zimmer, the computer whiz who used to work at Tony Stark’s Accutech division. He died near the end of Volume 1 doing some undercover work that today completely escapes me.

It was hard to dig around for a “great figure” quote on the Secretary of Defense’s job, since it’s so new. I had to go back to George Washington talking about the Secretary of War, the job which was combined with the Secretary of the Navy to create the DOD post.

The Operation Babylift story is fact, as is the point that there were many survivors of that disaster — which really speaks to the talent of the crew and the workmanship of the plane in saving so many lives.

For the final double-page spread, I was inspired by the memory of a TV Guide advertisement for the 1983 TV movie, The Day After. That image showed missiles rising from their silos in Kansas, as a woman plaintively watches in horror outside her farmhouse door. Our scene, on the steps of the Senate, as wonderfully rendered by Jorge, is understandably a lot more hectic.

POTUS, as named by Stu Conrad, is, of course, short for President of the United States.