The stories behind the stories

Iron Man #81

“Woman says she’s a goddess. Normally you’d rule that out, but in my line of work…” — Iron Man

“The Deep End, Part 3: Baptism Of Fire”

Iron Man #81

Held captive by Vitriol, Tony Stark learns what the mutated scientist has up her non-existent sleeve…
Published by Marvel • May 12, 2004
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Phillip Tan

Lettered by Randy Gentile

Colored by Chris Garcia

Cover by Adi Granov

Edited by Tom Brevoort, Andy Schmidt, and Nicole Wiley

This is perhaps the most politically sensitive issue of my run on Iron Man, given how much of Vitriol’s origin is rooted in the recent history of Iraq. While using real events as a springboard, I worked to try to shoot straight down the middle as often as I could.

I wanted to be careful not to make a political statement one way or the other about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so I tried to make it clear that Vitriol’s bioweapon was something she came up with on her own — while working out her rage and madness out of the country between the two Gulf Wars.

And while the Kurds’ fate before Saddam’s forces following the first Gulf War was certainly a part of Vitriol’s backstory, I tried to have Tony explain the reason why the Americans didn’t intervene earlier on their behalf. And, of course, in all of this, I really couldn’t have Tony take a position beyond pity for her situation and, in the end, action in defense of his troops both in Hatra and later in Baghdad. I fully realize there are more sides to these historical events than just two – but you hit what you can hit in 21 pages.

While I couldn’t find a place to establish it, Leyla was an accomplished martial artist as well as a brilliant scientist – such that, once her acid bug had compromised Iron Man’s armor, she has a fairly easy time with him. I figure that the current armor, with the juice turned off and all its little nanite bits misbehaving, would hang on the guy like a Jell-O™ bathrobe.

“After what you did to me, Tony Stark — your rescue is canceled!” — Force

The best description I could give Phillip Tan for Vitriol was Blair Brown‘s transformation from Altered States. He didn’t have the movie, and it was astounding how hard it was to find the image online. Luckily, he came up with a great look for her on his own. The girl sweats acid, so the action figure should be fun…

When last we saw Carl Walker, he had just had his clock cleaned violently by Ultimo back in #300. When I was thinking in terms of five issues for “The Deep End,” I had considered that, given that he’d been injured badly in mid-air, he might have an aversion to flying in the suit again — making for a humorous scene when we get to him having to chase Vitriol in #82. No room, so no bit — though Singleton’s line about Walker not wanting to fly to Iraq remained, further establishing Walker’s resentment against Tony.

And, yep, it’s a mention of the Stark Web Browser, from eons gone by. Remember when the Internet was the next big thing?