This week, news broke about INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN, a new title within the All-New, All-Different Marvel lineup. This series reunites writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev as they inject the Armored Avenger with a dose of espionage and intrigue sure to leave fans shaken—but not stirred.
We sat down with both creators to talk about how they signed onto the series, what will differentiate it from other stories taking place involving Iron Man, and what they hope to deliver to their fans new and old.
Marvel.com: What brings you to this title? Brian, we already know you’re interested in writing Iron Man given your current engagements, but what does this title offer you that maybe you can’t explore in your INVINCIBLE IRON MAN series? Alex, what made you want to tackle Iron Man?
Alex Maleev: Firstly, I see Iron Man as Tony Stark. Character based series will draw my attention any day. We have Doctor Doom in the mix. I fricking love Doom. A globetrotting book full of adventures: This is like Bond meets Tony on a speedboat!
Brian Michael Bendis: Like Alex said, it’s kind of like a super hero James Bond story, really. It’s a way to dig deep into his character, and that’s the kind of thing Alex and I were to do with DAREDEVIL. There’s just something very alluring about the way Alex renders Tony and Iron Man where it’s very unique and rare to find in mainstream comics. People are always asking us to do what we did in DAREDEVIL, but we’re not going that route. But we have seen that a character like Tony can be as complex as Matt Murdock, so there’s an incentive to try and “one up” ourselves.
Marvel.com: Brian, I know you will be writing INVINCIBLE IRON MAN with David Marquez. How is this title going to differ from that one? Alex, please jump in on this one, too!
Alex Maleev: I can’t wait to see this myself. David and I are two very different artists in terms of style. His work on the INVINCIBLE IRON MAN is stunningly beautiful, slick, and full of detail. I hope to bring something similar in terms of quality, but on the adventurous side as far as the overall look. We will see though as there is still time to decide.
Brian Michael Bendis: I find Tony to be such a complicated character that his different journeys are worth their own title. It’s no different than when we were kids and we had AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and PETER PARKER: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN along with MARVEL TEAM-UP. They all spoke to the character, and this is similar—even if the tone will be different.
We’ll be laying some groundwork in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN with the people in his life and the goals he has, but I think in this second series, there are some bigger and more personal ones. The obvious concern is who his biological parents are and what implications this revelation holds for him. I find nothing more interesting than the book getting more intimate as the scope becomes more global.
Marvel.com: So, what’s drawing Tony’s attention abroad? Why go “international”?
Alex Maleev: His parents are Bulgarian?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, I think we all know the world feels smaller. Technology has brought us closer together. We’re more aware of each other’s triumphs and tragedies than we were even just a few years ago. I think that Tony’s perspective on this would be amplified a hundred times. He is more aware of things that go on in NYC and other parts of the world.
It’s also going to give us a chance to experience some of the international flavors of the Marvel Universe—your Atlantis, your Weirdworld, and all of these other places on the planet whose actions and reactions mean just as much as anything going on in Avengers Tower. And Tony’s the right guy for this because he has all of the screens on and he can’t seem to turn them off. He’s way more aware of things than some of the other heroes would be.
Marvel.com: I would expect the scope of the story that we will see in this series to take on a more global perspective. What can readers expect in this first arc from you both in terms of where you take Tony?
Alex Maleev: I have traveled extensively over the last 20 years. I have visited 33 countries and have taken photos everywhere, so I have lots of references to explore! Bring the travels on!
Brian Michael Bendis: It’s not really hard to imagine him wanting to put on the white tuxedo and do the “James Bond thing” here and there and across the world! It’s well within his wiring in the same way he got his “Shatner” on when he went up in space. He’s drawn to the romanticism of adventure in all of its forms. The rest? You’ll have to wait and see.
Marvel.com: How will the story in INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN interact with what’s going on in the All New, All Different Marvel Universe that is rolling out presently?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well…we’ll get there. But I will say that there will be a point where the events from INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN will spill over into the other title, and vice versa. I think where it’s really come together is there are things he’ll discover about himself in INTERNATIONAL that will clearly affect the relationships he’s building. And then there’s Doctor Doom and what’s going on there!
Marvel.com: Speaking of Doctor Doom, some might argue a hero is only as good as his villains. Who’s your favorite from Iron Man’s rogues gallery?
Brian Michael Bendis: Tony. [Laughs] But seriously, I was always a fan of Madame Masque fan, and that’s why I dove in there right away. It was an itch I needed to scratch. I also think this new relationship with Doctor Doom and what that means is about as juicy as it can get for Tony. But there are a lot of villains for Tony and Iron Man!
Marvel.com: Any chance these characters will make an appearance or do you have some new members to the gallery who will be appearing in the series?
Brian Michael Bendis: The biggest shadow covering this title comes from Matt Fraction, who did such an exceptional job on [INVINCIBLE IRON MAN], and no one will do a better Mandarin than Matt. Until I find another hook, I feel almost freed to not go near him. Done! There you go. But we also felt the same way about Kingpin with DAREDEVIL, and yet we found our way in, so you never know!
Some of our choices over the next couple of years will also include new villains: technological villains, mystical villains, and others whom he hasn’t done the dance with and will challenge his new ways of thinking and place in the Marvel Universe. That’s exciting. We’re doing the same thing with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, too, because it’s way overdue to add some new, evil toys into the toy box.
Marvel.com: What about Iron Man’s regular supporting cast? Any major shake ups that we can expect or will this have a familiar feel for Tony?
Brian Michael Bendis: You’ve already felt the major shakeups at this point. Everyone’s wondering about Bethany, Pepper, and Happy—and don’t forget: Eight months have passed by in the Marvel Universe. There are things that have happened in Tony’s life that we haven’t heard about yet. People have already learned Mary Jane Watson is going to be a part of Tony’s life, and so things are going to be different and that’s cool!
For fans, I can’t imagine giving you something you’ve seen already. Some people get worried about it, and they worry about change, but I can’t imagine anything more fun when someone makes a conscious choice to try something else. I’d rather try than not, and I think Tony is itching for some growth in terms of his cast, his technology, and himself.
We live in a world that spins so fast that the phones we hold in our hands now will be pieces of garbage six months down the road. Imagine how much more so the case with Tony! I think people feel that now with technology being such a big part of our lives, and I suspect people are looking to see that rapid shift reflected in Tony’s life.
Marvel.com: Stylistically, Alex, this is a really interesting pairing with you on Iron Man. Typically your aesthetic has a grittier street level look and feel. With Iron Man however, he is usually depicted with more vibrant, clean cut lines in a more traditional, house style.
What do you think your approach is going to bring to the character that we haven’t seen before?
Alex Maleev: I can adjust. In CIVIL WAR: THE CONFESSION I cleaned up my line for Tony. However, I colored half of that book myself, so I kind of knew what to leave for the coloring. In SCARLET, Brian and I have experimented with many artistic changes too; a lot more challenging than any other book I have been on. I am comfortable with any curveball Brian throws at me.
Brian Michael Bendis: Alex’s styles lend themselves to some cool, espionage-y stuff. Some of my favorite work we’ve done together are from MIGHTY AVENGERS with Nick Fury. There’s an interesting look at that genre he provides that I have a soft spot for.
Most people don’t realize that our run on DAREDEVIL was produced digitally, and that was being done well before it was a thing people did. To this day, people still don’t know there was no physical artwork from this book back in 2002, as he was inventing much of the process. He doesn’t do it loudly; it’s down low, but it’s possibly more impressive.
I know I don’t want to speak for Alex, but that’s the level of the game that’s coming to INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN.
Marvel.com: Last question! You both have worked together extensively in the past. What’s one thing that really excites you creatively with INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN?
Alex Maleev: Working with Brian always excites me. He can bring the best in me time and time again. I am looking very much forward to marking yet another run in the Marvel Universe.
Brian Michael Bendis: As I’ve gotten older in life, I’ve found the things I’m most proud of—aside from my marriage—are the lengths of some of my collaborations. The fact that people like Alex, Mike Oeming, Mark Bagley, and David Mack to name a few, are people that I’ve met through my life that any collaboration with them is a beautiful thing. If there’s a challenge, it’s to find new things to surprise the audience and ourselves.
With Alex, it’s interesting. He draws the way that I wished I drew when I was drawing full-time. I was trying to draw and create an aesthetic like his—that was my goal. When I came across his stuff, he was working on The Crow, and I just wanted to draw that way. I literally said to David Mack “We’ve got to find this guy. I need to work with him.”
When you meet us, we couldn’t be more different to an almost hilarious degree: I’m a short, bald, talkative Jewish man while he’s this tall, Bulgarian who’s already had enough of you! But we just love each other and it brings out the best in both of us creatively. I find myself questioning scenes wondering whether it’s worth his time. It’s a big deal. Success is never enough, and I know we’re looking to really blow people away here.
INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN launches in 2016 from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev