The Iron Age of Comics: Jim Shooter's Return to Marvel

Chapter 53 - The Last Will and Testament of Tony Stark
Tony Stark’s death in the Avenger’s “Forever War” storyline left Marvel in quite a predicament as the countdown towards 1996’s Iron Man film continued. Most of the company’s executives wanted creative synergy between the various divisions (comics, film, and animation), but the death of one of its iconic characters effectively killed that. Thus editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco petitioned called for Marvel’s top writers to submit proposals over how to bring Stark back into the picture. An unknown source leaked one such proposal by Terry Kavanaugh and writer/editor Bob Harras to Wizard Magazine. It detailed a storyline where the Avengers would bring a teenaged Tony Stark from another timeline into the present. Needless to say that the news caused a fan uproar on the nascent Internet forums and newsgroups.

In truth, Jim Shooter and Tom DeFalco both rejected the proposal as being too contrived and approved Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s submission. Their main credits up to that point were the recently-cancelled Force Works, which gave them the bonafides to move over to Iron Man where the would explore transhumanist themes beginning with “The Last Will and Testament of Anthony Stark.” Longtime supporting character and one-time Iron Man, Jim Rhodes, would return to the mantle with much of the old supporting cast returning to the forefront.

Stark’s disappearance [1] had left Stark Enterprises vulnerable to takeover by other less scrupulous corporations including Hammer Industries, Roxxon, and even Shaw Industries with new CEO Pepper Potts barely able to keep them at bay. Said corporations stage attacks and other methods of sabotage using notable Iron Man foes such as Whiplash, Spymaster, and others to drive Stark shares down to facilitate their takeover attempts. Meanwhile, Jim Rhodes is still coping with the death of Tony who he was on poor terms with when Stark died when he receives a message of a break-in at Tony’s armory that he goes to investigate as War Machine.

He soon learns that is was a ruse by an artificial intelligence imprinted with the memory engrams of Tony Stark that activated after the original’s death. Tony knew that the vultures would circle around his company and bequeathed the armory to Rhodes, including a new iteration of the Iron Man armor designed specifically to him. Rhodes is understandably disturbed by the AI Tony since the original Tony digitized his consciousness before their falling out, but reluctantly agrees take the mantle with AI Tony inside the armor as his “wingman.”

The “new” Iron Man immediately took on a quasi-cyberpunk tone, although not to the extent of the waning Marvel 2099 line, that included some body horror as Justin Hammer “upgraded” many of Iron Man’s classic foes into cyborgs. The Ghost was the most extreme example as Abnett and Lanning turned him into a disembodied sentient computer virus—a ghost in the machine driven to near-madness by his lack of a physical form. Similarly, the Rhodes, Potts, and Tony’s closest friends often (privately) questioned the “authenticity” of the AI Tony injecting more drama and emotional stakes into the series.

Sales of the series remained relatively flat for the first two issues of the Abnett/Lanning run. However, they saw a slight uptick with increasing promotion of the Iron Man film and UPN renewing the animated series for a third season. Fans were somewhat divided on the issue of Tony’s “return” from the dead as a disembodied AI. Some disliked it while others viewed it as an interesting concept though both camps approved of Jim Rhodes returning to the mantle he carried during the eighties.

[1] This is in the era before Stark revealed that he was Iron Man to the public.
 
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Tony Stark’s death in the Avenger’s “Forever War” storyline left Marvel in quite a predicament as the countdown towards 1996’s Iron Man film continued. Most of the company’s executives wanted creative synergy between the various divisions (comics, film, and animation), but the death of one of its iconic characters effectively killed that. Thus editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco petitioned called for Marvel’s top writers to submit proposals over how to bring Stark back into the picture. An unknown source leaked one such proposal by Terry Kavanaugh and writer/editor Bob Harras to Wizard Magazine. It detailed a storyline where the Avengers would bring a teenaged Tony Stark from another timeline into the present. Needless to say that the news caused a fan uproar on the nascent Internet forums and newsgroups.

In truth, Jim Shooter and Tom DeFalco both rejected the proposal as being too contrived and approved Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s submission. Their main credits up to that point were the recently-cancelled Force Works, which gave them the bonafides to move over to Iron Man where the would explore transhumanist themes beginning with “The Last Will and Testament of Anthony Stark.” Longtime supporting character and one-time Iron Man, Jim Rhodes, would return to the mantle with much of the old supporting cast returning to the forefront.

Stark’s disappearance [1] had left Stark Enterprises vulnerable to takeover by other less scrupulous corporations including Hammer Industries, Roxxon, and even Shaw Industries with new CEO Pepper Potts barely able to keep them at bay. Said corporations stage attacks and other methods of sabotage using notable Iron Man foes such as Whiplash, Spymaster, and others to drive Stark shares down to facilitate their takeover attempts. Meanwhile, Jim Rhodes is still coping with the death of Tony who he was on poor terms with when Stark died when he receives a message of a break-in at Tony’s armory that he goes to investigate as War Machine.

He soon learns that is was a ruse by an artificial intelligence imprinted with the memory engrams of Tony Stark that activated after the original’s death. Tony knew that the vultures would circle around his company and bequeathed the armory to Rhodes, including a new iteration of the Iron Man armor designed specifically to him. Rhodes is understandably disturbed by the AI Tony since the original Tony digitized his consciousness before their falling out, but reluctantly agrees take the mantle with AI Tony inside the armor as his “wingman.”

The “new” Iron Man immediately took on a quasi-cyberpunk tone, although not to the extent of the waning Marvel 2099 line, that included some body horror as Justin Hammer “upgraded” many of Iron Man’s classic foes into cyborgs. The Ghost was the most extreme example as Abnett and Lanning turned him into a disembodied sentient computer virus—a ghost in the machine driven to near-madness by his lack of a physical form. Similarly, the Rhodes, Potts, and Tony’s closest friends often (privately) questioned the “authenticity” of the AI Tony injecting more drama and emotional stakes into the series.

Sales of the series remained relatively flat for the first two issues of the Abnett/Lanning run. However, they saw a slight uptick with increasing promotion of the Iron Man film and UPN renewing the animated series for a third season. Fans were somewhat divided on the issue of Tony’s “return” from the dead as a disembodied AI. Some disliked it while others viewed it as an interesting concept though both camps approved of Jim Rhodes returning to the mantle he carried during the eighties.

[1] This is in the era before Stark revealed that he was Iron Man to the public.
So how does this affect the Iron Man movie?
 
Fans were somewhat divided on the issue of Tony’s “return” from the dead as a disembodied AI. Some disliked it while others viewed it as an interesting concept though both camps approved of Jim Rhodes returning to the mantle he carried during the eighties.
I'd assume this would lead to Tony uploading into a cyborg body at some point, thus becoming "Iron Man" in every sense of the word.
 
Chapter 54 - Animation For the MTV Generation
With Marvel’s heroes dominating Saturday mornings on both Fox and UPN, the company had looked to expand its reach into other demographics, most notably the culturally ascendant “MTV generation.” Jim Lee’s Gen-X had attempted to tap into that cultural zeitgeist by borrowing heavily from shows such as The Real World as well as push the envelope when it came to mature content, being the first Marvel title to carry the “M” (Mature) rating for readers seventeen and upward. Thus it felt like a no-brainer for the House of Ideas to court the network though it would not be without controversy. Marvel wanted a big name animator for its MTV pitch and had originally approached Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi for showrunner.

Kricfalusi readily came aboard with aplomb that unnerved many Marvel staffers, particularly his portrayal of the (underaged) female members of the team that bordered on the pornographic. His time on the project was a mercifully brief one as officers arrested the animator in a sting operation where he had attempted to solicit the services of an underaged prostitute on February 2, 1996. Further investigation revealed child pornography in his possession along with two teenaged witnesses who had claimed that he had pressured them into modeling in the nude for him (though they refused) while repeatedly violating their personal space. Needless to say Marvel quickly cut ties with Kricfalusi days after his arrest though pushed forward with the Gen-X pilot, replacing him with veteran animator Kevin Altieri who had recently come off Batman: The Animated Series.

Marvel would not be the only comic company looking branch out into the world of entertainment as DC was flirting with the idea of bringing some of its Vertigo titles to the small screen. Though Jenette Khan’s “Lois and Clark” television series had failed to materialize, Warner Bros. planned to launch the WB Network in September of 1996 and was hungry for shows to add to its primetime lineup. Rumours of a revival of the 1990 Flash series starring John Wesley Shipp had floated around for a couple of years, but only ended up just being that. Meanwhile, Karen Berger, with the blessing of Neil Gaiman, had lobbied for a telefilm featuring Morpheus from Sandman.

In a coincidental twist, Berger brought on Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung to direct the pilot. Though she had flirted with the idea of a live-action production, Chung’s expressionist-inspired style impressed both her and Gaiman (who was pleased with Morpheus’ B:TAS appearance years prior) enough to give him a chance and brought John Hurt back to voice the role. Unfortunately, Warner executives felt that the pilot was too “surreal” for network television and passed on the Sandman pilot but another door opened when HBO ordered a season of six hour-long episodes for 1997.

Malibu was perhaps the outlier of the “Big Three” in that Disney had wanted to keep their recent acquisition strictly all-ages with characters like Manowar appearing Gargoyles and Prime greenlit for a feature film after Superman ‘95’s smash success. However, with UPN’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine becoming a huge ratings draw for the fledging network and WB in talks with the BBC over a potential Doctor Who revival series [1], the Mouse wanted a piece of of the sci-fi/fantasy cheddar for the ABC network. Rumours of a Battlestar Galactica continuation or reboot began to circulate while some industry insiders claimed that the next work was looking to adapt Mantra. Only time would time would tell as the Fall 1996 season approached.

[1] I was going to cover the (attempted?) Doctor Who revival in this update, but now see it as worthy of its own separate entry.
 
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So how does this affect the Iron Man movie?
The Iron Man movie was in development since 1993 so not so much at the moment. Perhaps in the future is Pierce Brosnan decides to leave the role.

I'd assume this would lead to Tony uploading into a cyborg body at some point, thus becoming "Iron Man" in every sense of the word.
A definitely possibility in the next couple of years.

It sounds like he's already done that with at least one suit of armor similar to MCU's J.A.R.V.I.S.
Indeed. AI-Tony will serve a similar role to J.A.R.V.I.S though this Tony will not be quippy like RDJ's OTL version.
 
Bye Kricfalusi - hope Altieri was able to right the ship and get the show back on more solid ground.

Not sure the Vertigo characters are really Sat morning cartoon fodder- maybe better as post-watershed stuff to allow for all the horror? Although Books of Magic or Fables might work as kids animated shows when they come out.

Hoping Disney can come up with its own Sci-Fi IP instead of adapting something, Maybe animated adventures from Flight of the Navigator or Black Hole?

Or expand the Halyx concept into a full feature?
 
Animal Man might work.

Animal Man does have his origins outside Vertigo, while the line rebooted and made him really interesting, he was just std superhero fodder before. Maybe there is a way to combine both versions? Might still be too... much for Sat kids cartoons though?
 
Unfortunately, Warner executives felt that the pilot was too “surreal” for network television and passed on the Sandman pilot but another door opened when HBO ordered a season of six hour-long episodes for 1997.
While I'll probably while never be able to watch this ITTL (at least not first run) I still love the fact that it will exist. Will it be similar to OTL Spawn in appearance.
Jim Lee’s Gen-X had attempted to tap into that cultural zeitgeist by borrowing heavily from shows such as The Real World as well as push the envelope when it came to mature content, being the first Marvel title to carry the “M” (Mature) rating for readers seventeen and upward.
Is this the name of the title ITTL instead of Generation X or is this some sort of cross between Gen 13 & Generation X?
Thus it felt like a no-brainer for the House of Ideas to court the network though it would not be without controversy. Marvel wanted a big name animator for its MTV pitch and had originally approached Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi for showrunner.
I kinda hoped to see this in the Aeon Flux style.
Not sure the Vertigo characters are really Sat morning cartoon fodder- maybe better as post-watershed stuff to allow for all the horror? Although Books of Magic or Fables might work as kids animated shows when they come out.
With Sandman on HBO I imagine the rest will be there too with some of the other for 'family friendly' titles being on cable networks.
Maybe animated adventures from Flight of the Navigator or Black Hole?

Or expand the Halyx concept into a full feature?
I would kinda love to a cinematic universe with these three IPs.
Animal Man might work.
Animal Man does have his origins outside Vertigo, while the line rebooted and made him really interesting, he was just std superhero fodder before. Maybe there is a way to combine both versions? Might still be too... much for Sat kids cartoons though?
Could do it similar to Spawn.
 
Chapter 55 - When There's Trouble You Know Who to Call
After sixteen remarkable years on the New Teen Titans, writer Marv Wolfman had decided on calling it quits citing writer’s block and a desire to move on to other pastures. With his departure DC saw an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and promote the next generation of teenaged heroes that included Tim Drake’s Robin, the new Superboy, and Impulse from The Flash. Scott Lobdell’s run on Green Lantern had reenergized the title enough for new editor Eddie Berganza [1] to hand the writer the reins. As with sister title Justice Society of America, Lobdell opted for a generational approach by including past Titans (all of whom now in their twenties) to mentor the younger heroes.

Lobdell was vocal in wanting Dick Grayson to be a part of the book, but the character was unavailable due to him still donning the mantle of Batman at the time and holding membership in the Justice League. Wally West/The Flash III was likewise unavailable, though both would put in appearances. With Garth AKA Aqualad a casualty of Countdown that left Roy Harper/Arsenal and Donna Troy as co-leaders of the reformed team with Garfield Logan/Changeling rejoining as well. While Robin/Superboy/Impulse formed the core of the team’s new incarnation it brought in several teenaged new heroes.

The first of which was the new Wonder Girl, Cassandra “Cassie” Kapatelis [2], a recent retcon of the Wonder Woman title introduced in Wonder Woman #0 as the younger sister of Vanessa Kapatelis. She stole several power-granting artifacts when Doctor Psycho kidnapped Vanessa and brainwashed her into becoming the new Silver Swan. Her actions impressed the same gods that empowered Diana and in turn empowered her while Vanessa became a hero in her own right and an ally of the team.

Next was a new Aqualad [3] from Tritonis who had an appearance of a teenaged Creature from the Black Lagoon due to his heritage. Possessing immense magical abilities that allowed him to manipulate water, he came became Aquaman’s new protege after coming to his king’s defense during a battle with Ocean Master.

Last was Susie King-Jones/Arrowette, a character proposed by Mark Waid that made her first appearance in Teen Titans. Her mother Bonnie was an obscure Green Arrow supporting character from the early sixties who pressured her daughter into becoming a superhero to have the career she never had. Arrowette was to make her first appearance in Impulse’s title, but Lobdell convinced Waid to let him introduce the character in Teen Titans. Indeed, Roy Harper would become something of a protective big brother figure to her after learning of her mother’s intentions.

Teen Titans v2 was a tribute to the 80s Wolfman/Perez era as the first major story arc involved the previously unknown “Sons of Trigon” and their plans to sacrifice Raven’s spirit to resurrect their father. The call went out to Titans past and (then) present—Tim and Bart answer Dick and Wally’s summons while Superboy gets involved after a run-in with one of Trigon’s sons. Raven regains her physical form, but returns to the white variation of her costume as she rejoins the team as well. Roy and Donna convince the Justice League (and Max Mercury, Impulse’s guardian) that the teenage heroes could benefit by offering them a place to hang out and train without their mentors looking over their shoulder.

While clearly calling back to the New Teen Titans era, Teen Titans v2 also distinguished itself with a distinctly comedic undertones—particularly from the banter from the “Big Three” (Robin/Superboy/Impulse) to distinguishing itself. Curiously, the title continued the previous numbering from New Titans run, starting with #131, but position the marquee “1st Issue of a New Era” so that it appeared to be a completely relaunched title for new readers to jump on to. Between that, the call backs to New Teen Titans, and the somewhat irreverent tone, Teen Titans v2 shot up to the top of sales charts, falling within a hair’s width of the Batman titles and holding its own against Marvel’s offerings. Indeed the future did look bright for the once-flagging title so promising that an animated series seemed plausible should the Static animated series prove to be success in the autumn of 1996.

[1] I know of Berganza’s actions throughout his tenure at DC Comics OTL and I’m not comfortable with including him, but feel that he should be for the sake of realism. Will that mean he will be exposed earlier? The magic eight ball says -shakes- “Outlook Good.”

[2] Only shares a name with OTL’s Cassie Sandsmark.

[3] Combines elements of OTL Lagoon Boy and Tempest.
 
Nice look at Titans there. Like the use of Lagoon Boy- comics need more 'monster' heroes in mainstream books imho.

What does Wolfman do next btw?
 
Aqualad [3]
 
Unfortunate that Vanessa doesn't become Wonder Girl ITTL, but her as a heroic Silver Sawn is good enough. Honestly, I can see her and Cassie having a sister relationship in all the best ways. And yes, I do mean the two acting like any pair of sisters do.
 
Unfortunate that Vanessa doesn't become Wonder Girl ITTL, but her as a heroic Silver Sawn is good enough. Honestly, I can see her and Cassie having a sister relationship in all the best ways. And yes, I do mean the two acting like any pair of sisters do.
They are sisters ITTL.

@Pyro What does ITTL Wonder Girl look like.
 
What does Wolfman do next btw?
He'll be moving on into writing for animation and television. We might see him write for Superman: The Animated Series.
@Pyro What does ITTL Wonder Girl look like.
Similar to Cassie Sandsmark, but with strawberry blonde hair instead.
Reading this TL so far has been a trip - John K's transgressions being exposed years ahead of OTL is something I was not at all expecting.
It was a move inspired by @OldNavy1988 and his TL. John K was always egotistical and unpleasant to work with (there is a reason why Billy West refuses to work with him), but his predatory nature is what really want me to take him off the board ASAP. I can imagine that prison is going to be a very unpleasant experience for him.
 
@Pyro

But from a PR standpoint, how does Marvel deal with the guilt of having hired John K in the first place? I mean, they probably sought Kudos for firing him right?
 
@Pyro

But from a PR standpoint, how does Marvel deal with the guilt of having hired John K in the first place? I mean, they probably sought Kudos for firing him right?
They strongly condemned and disavowed him their public statement after arrest. My head canon is that Marvel probably would have fired John K had he not been arrested because he is a pain in the ass to work with,
 
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