The stories behind the stories

Iron Man #84

“I’ve got to hand it to you, Senator Zimmer. When it comes to digging up my past, you’re a pro.” — Tony Stark

“Turf War, Part 1: When Worlds Collide!”

Iron Man #84

Secretary Stark is called upon by his government to take an action that might put him at odds with his Avengers allies…
Published by Marvel • June 9, 2004
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Jorge Lucas

Lettered by Randy Gentile

Colored by Antonio Fabela

Cover by Steve Epting and Laura Martin

Edited by Tom Brevoort, Andy Schmidt, and Nicole Wiley

Marvel determined in early 2004 to shake up the Avengers-verse, bringing the popular Brian Michael Bendis and his writing partners in on the various titles for “Avengers Disassembled.” I’d been storyline-to-storyline on the title, and while I certainly had Iron Man tales left in me, this was show biz, and I’d just been gratified to get to do as much as I’d done.

I was even more pleased to be asked to write an additional storyline, a sequence introducing tensions between Tony Stark’s old friends and his new job — thus giving me an opportunity to put a finer point on some of the themes I’d dealt with.

So began “Turf War,” which drew on an old Bill Mantlo story from Avengers Annual #9 (that’s the one before the Rogue one, kids) to resurrect Arsenal, the big bugaboo buried under Avengers Mansion. It took some text to establish that, yes, there could be some places under the Mansion that the Avengers had yet to check out, after all these years, and I wanted to steer away from the whole notion from Annual #9 of the computer that thought it was Tony’s mother. But otherwise the idea of this monstrous defense project underground in Manhattan quickly suggested to me the conflict: why ever it was down there in the first place was probably not something the government wanted to have get out – and the recent change in the Avengers’ status triggered the government’s desire to get it dealt with, now.

The Avengers’ status as a “sovereign nation” fascinates me, and I’m glad to have had the chance to address what I see as some of the complicating issues involved in a block of Manhattan declaring itself a separate country. It’s quite a bit more than embassies and diplomatic immunities we’re talking about here — this is a house with its own airspace. One could visualize a New York governor, irritated at an unconstitutional land grab apparently pulled by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., demanding customs agents to control immigration between the front yard and the sidewalk. The legal mind swims.

A fun sequence to write, in all: the Pentagon watching Iron Man, Gyrich watching Black Panther watching Iron Man. I’d love to see a “Road” picture with Henry Peter Gyrich and Edwin Jarvis, but I don’t know if anyone would produce it…

“This sort of thing happens. The china, gentlemen. Look to the china…” — Jarvis

It’s with this issue that Marvel went back to all capital letters in its lettering. I had been given the option of doing that a few issues before, but — really surprisingly for a purist like myself — declined. While I’m no fan of the lowercase letters as a comics reader, as a writer I don’t mind having the extra levels of emphasis. And, some say the Iron Man’s font looks just a little better in downstyle — not quite so harsh. But the change is fine — the kid in me missed the capital letters.

The 147th Armor Regiment is depicted here — fitting my need of an infantry-unit-turned-armor-unit. The Chippewa war cry bit is real, a bonus…

Force Works, of course, refers to the brief 1990s series featuring a team led by Iron Man. It’s never mentioned any more, and is an in-joke here.

The mix of Avengers present at the meeting was carefully selected to exclude anyone around in Avengers Annual #9, except for Gyrich — a low-powered mix, to be sure.

While I don’t know if the two ranking Armed Services Committee senators would be — as depicted here — be allowed into a Pentagon operations room, it was established way back in Annual #9 that Arsenal was a secret known to both the executive and legislative branches. I figured they’d all want to put their heads together.

Airborne gravity mapping is a real-life way of finding underground chambers. You can read more about it here.

Yes, there really are rules for the placement of oyster forks. God bless the Web…