The stories behind the stories

Iron Man #79

“It’s impossible… but the job is actually bigger than the building!” — Tony Stark

“The Deep End, Part 1: Meeting Hell”

Iron Man #79

Tony Stark, in his first day on his new job, learns it’s more complicated and difficult than he had ever imagined….
Published by Marvel • April 14, 2004
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Phillip Tan

Lettered by Randy Gentile

Colored by Avalon Studios

Cover by Adi Granov

Edited by Tom Brevoort, Andy Schmidt, and Nicole Wiley

Around the time the second issue of “Best Defense” hit the stands, I was asked to provide a storyline for a biweekly stretch in the spring. Since Jorge Lucas was still drawing “Best Defense” and these issues were some months out, Phillip Tan, who recently had completed a run on Uncanny X-Men, was brought in to work ahead on the later run.

I was glad to have the opportunity to write another storyline, and I knew where I wanted to go: I’d always hoped to send Tony Stark immediately to Iraq. The country had never been mentioned at all in “Best Defense,” despite the fact that it’d be the elephant in the room in any real present-day Defense confirmation hearings. But the various emotions and issues surrounding it would’ve taken the spotlight off the central issue of “Best Defense,” the fitness of Tony Stark for the job. But on his first day of work, it’d certainly be “The Deep End” he’d be thrown into.

Furthermore, while any issue in which Tony doesn’t appear in armor is always risky, it was important that #79 establish that this wasn’t going to be a cartoon depiction of the Secretary’s job. Presuming you did get a super-hero in your Cabinet for some reason, any sensible administration’s going to want that secretary to be verrrry circumspect about throwing on a suit and bashing something. Of course, we know Tony’s going to run off and do his own thing eventually anyway, but it was key to get that foundation laid before he began tearing it up.

My initial thinking had been to do “The Deep End” in five parts – taking advantage of the five biweekly shipping slots in April and May. That pacing might’ve permitted a bit more development of Force and Vitriol – and the “official Washington” portion would’ve felt like a smaller chunk of the story. But Marvel requested a one-shot in #83 in case cover-artist Adi Granov’s schedule allowed him to try his hand at an issue-length story — so I pared the story back to four parts.

Like Jorge Lucas, Phillip Tan lives far from me, so we frequently exchanged notes and reference material electronically. It’s interesting looking at the contrast between his style and Jorge’s — Phillip’s is much more gritty, well-suited to a desert storyline. I know he was very happy to get Tony out of the office building and into the dirt!

“Pack your briefcase, Tony. You’re going to Iraq.” — George W. Bush

Hatra exists, of course — although the temple is fantasy. The G.I.s do make security sweeps of ancient historical sites, I understand. A friend of mine in the Army over in Iraq graciously fielded questions about what fire teams might do and say, for which I’m most appreciative. Saved me a trip!

I don’t know if Lake Superior State — a real university — has an archaeology program, but it made a joke work, so it’s got one in the Marvel universe now…

That’s the actual oath for the Secretary of Defense’s office, and those are Stark’s former employees in the audience, certainly wondering what their future holds.

It wasn’t easy finding much in the way of interior photo references for The Pentagon — no surprise there — so I suggested that Phillip just rent No Way Out. Tony’s office is probably a lot bigger than the real thing, but then this guy always does things in a big way…