The stories behind the stories

Iron Man #78

“To save lives, I have traveled farther than any of you will ever go.” — Tony Stark

“The Best Defense, Part 6: Confirmation”

Iron Man #78

Iron Man soars into the skies, desperate to stop the army transport plane from crashing in Washington, D.C. But a major surprise awaits him when he discovers its secret cargo…
Published by Marvel • March 10, 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

There is a lot happening this issue, and I’m thrilled how it all came together.

The capper is the best cover of the series thus far, and the only one that actually relates to the interior contents. I asked for something in the way of a patriotic pose, and Adi Granov really delivered. It’s the only time I’ve really directly made a request for a cover, and I’m glad this was the issue that got it.

The multiple elements here – the missiles, the F-16s, the transport plane — flow together nicely, as Jorge helps us follow the action. And where the simple scales involved made things more complicated – such as in the shot coming past the National Air & Space Museum — Marvel’s editors were right there, helping massage the dialogue to clarify what’s happening.

One of the important events in this issue is the way that Tony Stark earns the respect of the actual servicemen and women he’s hoping to lead. I wanted to communicate that getting the job meant more that just getting the Senate’s approval; to really mean something, he’d have to win the confidence of the rank- and-file.

Those being rescued are faceless and anonymous; that’s absolutely the point. In #77, we saw Tony Stark win over one man, Commander Rayburn; here, we see him risking his neck for airmen and army engineers alike, people whose names and stories are unknown to him. He cares what happens to all of them, in general — which really is what you probably want in a Secretary of Defense…

The speech we hear Tony give during the descent is, obviously, the full answer to the question Senator Zimmer shot at him in the Committee hearings in #76. Clearly, Tony Stark has taken some of the credit for Iron Man’s feats over the years, and that fact here is acknowledged. The larger issue is that he hasn’t taken near the credit that he’s deserved – and that he truly has acted selflessly to save others.

Choreographing the “landing” path of the Galaxy for maximum visual impact required me to send a map to Jorge of the proper approach vector. E-mailing such a thing to a foreign country, even I was paranoid enough to postscript the e-mail (for any of the fine NSA gentlemen looking in) that, “guys, it’s just a comic book. Believe me!” No men-in-black paid either of us a call, so it looks like they read comics, too, up there…

“Yes, Tony Stark is Iron Man. But Iron Man is not about Tony Stark. Iron Man is about everyone else.” — Tony Stark

“Threatcon Delta,” mentioned in the aerial sequence, means the military’s on its highest possible state of awareness against attack. Since we’re minutes after the Kestrel collision here and no one outside of Aberdeen really knows what’s happening, the FAA’s alert has almost immediately been communicated worldwide.

Those are F-16 Falcons that Jorge’s drawn, intended to be the two Air National Guard units that were in the air at the time. He’s depicted them beautifully.

Such a thing as firing chaff — which I am told looks like little more than strips of tinfoil — is a tough thing to depict at high speed in the dark on a comic book page, and Jorge comes up with a workable solution. The idea is that Iron Man can, with his repulsors, really spread the protective screen.

Iron Man’s lecture in flying to the Army technicians comes in part from an explanation of skydiving given me by an old friend, Maj. Michael Singleton, once of the 82nd Airborne. And some of the ideas about how the C-5 looks internally came from Air Force Capt. Russ Maheras. It’s good to know people who know things!

It’s been asked how damaged the armor really was as it appears at the end of this story. Pretty well banged up, I would think; my direction was to draw the suit as if one of the world’s largest airplanes had landed on it — and dragged it half a mile. It’ll take more than Turtle Wax to buff out those dings, I think. As for the long-term, actual damage, you’ll have to check out the following storyline…

The “bonfire in Alabama” Stu Conrad speaks of is the big military incinerator where they’ve been burning all the chemical weapons. Ought to be good enough for the older suits of armor, I would expect.

The fun thing about the surprise result to the Senate vote is that I had several ways to go — rules are fun that way. My initial impulse had been to have the vote going down to defeat — but not actually done — but the time of the evacuation; whereafter the Senate leadership nullifies the vote by communicating to the President that they can’t agree on when to adjourn, thus allowing the Prez to use a little-known power to adjourn Congress himself. Then Tony gets a recess appointment and the Senate’s off the hook from an embarrassing losing vote. Unprecedented — and fun wonky stuff — but finally too complicated. “Motion to reconsider” fit the bill just fine. The important thing is that, as Stu communicates, this time, Tony Stark played by the rules, and the rules came to his rescue.