- In my experience, "Stark boy saves the world" has a good ring to it. It could suit you too, Arno.
- -- Tony Stark
Appearing in "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark: Conclusion"
- Howard Stark (Only in flashback)
- Maria Stark (Only in flashback)
- Arno Stark (First full appearance) (Real name first revealed)
- Recorder 451 (Only in flashback)
- Maria Stark Foundation Hospice
- New York City (Only in flashback)
- The Stark Compound (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark: Conclusion"
- Synopsis not yet written.
MORE MIND-BLOWING REVELATIONS AS “THE SECRET ORIGIN OF TONY STARK” CONCLUDES!
• What 451 didn’t know.
• What TONY didn’t know.
• What changes things FOREVER.
I actually had a mass written about the concept of secret origins, origins and their uses in the Superhero genre, but realised this isn’t really the place for theorising. Perhaps I’ll write it in another place. All that really is 100% relevant is that the main trick THE SECRET ORIGIN OF TONY STARK was to use the genre-use of the phrase “Origin” (i.e. how someone became a hero) for the more common use. In genre terms, this isn’t Tony Stark’s “Origin”. This is a change in his backstory. I don’t change Iron Man’s origin. I change Tony Stark’s origins.
In the letter at the back of the comic, I wrote about why the Tony Stark As Genetically Tweaked Messiah story was a fun thing to play with as an existential threat to Tony’s identity, but could (and should) never stick. Probably best to read it if you haven’t. To reprise: because it undermines core part of Tony’s story for no real gain, and a lot of loss. The only characters who profit from that sort of approach are those who are fundamentally Broken. Iron Man isn’t that.
I’ve got a Hippocratic Oath approach to a lot of these kind of characters, in a Do No Harm way. If I was going to change Tony, I wouldn’t want to do one that would remove any kind of story that was possible before. I’d only do things that would lead to whole new avenues. Between Tony dealing with the emotional questions (a late-discovery adoption is an interesting, real-world very Marvel-esque story), the identity of his birth parents, and (most of all) Arno, I felt these were interesting elements to explore for as long as they prove fruitful. It’s additive and not destructive.
Clearly, Marvel agreed. That said, it’s not something they would do lightly.
This issue has had a hilarious number of eyes on. It’s been rewritten multiple times before it was drawn, and tweaked intensely afterwards. I sort of smile seeing elements that were key in the early parts that were removed, only to find their way back in eight million rewrites down the road. While it was the end of an eleven issue story, it was something that had to work as much by itself as possible. Pretty much every panel was argued over, and rightly so.
Cover: Is agreeably creepy. By the lovely Paul Renaud, who helped out on some of my Uncanny X-men issues. I love his stuff, and would jump at a chance to work on something again.
Page 1: Last time we saw Tony he was flying away from the party. Now he’s driving. I didn’t think it needed explaining, but logically if it’s a secret, he wouldn’t want to turn up in Iron Man armour anyway. That kind of gets a lot of attention.
By implication, this isn’t the only tape Howard made.
Page 2: In the original pencils we had someone else coming out of this, but decided that would be best to lose them. We need the sense of isolation. That sort of tweak happens a lot when doing comics.
Page 3: And we insert a scene here. I wanted Maria and Howard just to show some of their resourcefulness here. We’ve seen them sitting alone, but didn’t show any of this. I especially like that it’s Maria passing Howard the paper. Whether they have this as a standing plan for situations like this, or whether it’s improvised is an open question, but I like the pair of them for being this level headed.
Maria has excellent handwriting.
Page 4: Maria is eating the paper to destroy it. An extension of the carefulness/understandable paranoid.
I like the interaction between 3 and 4. Howard’s smile. That Hmm-mmm is something I’m also familiar with.
The captions keep the sense this is a story being told to Tony on the tapes. Also useful for introducing all the elements of the long arc which are relevant. Most of the rewriting was to make sure it was as accessible as possible.
Page 5: The unlabelled bit of writing on the baby diagram all the way back in issue 11, foreshadowing fans.
(Amusingly it was removed at the last minute on the Friday 11 when to print due to a “that looks wrong” beat. This lead to desperate e-mails and an attempt to change it before the printers started rolling. Comics!)
Page 6: I don’t ever spell it out explicitly, but it’s possible to assume that the clock is tied to Tony’s birthday. As in, 451 had to wait until now to do his plan for his implants to mature. Howard’s got it wrong.
You may notice I really compress everything in this page…
Page 7: So I have room to let it breathe here…
Page 8: …and here.
The emotional torment of Howard and Maria are core to this whole story. This is what has to be sold and made credible, so gets the real-estate.
This scene calls back to issue 10, when they first visit this Doctor. The horrible irony of this all.
Some of Carlo’s best work in the issue on these pages, for me.
Page 9: Maria’s expression in panel 2 is the key one.
Lots of tension. The captions were re-introduced to keep the sense of it as a story being told.
The last panel is basic comic writing technique – pose a question and the need for response carries you over the page. In this case, the audience knows the answer – the dramatic interest is in seeing Maria’s response.
Page 10: I think Howard’s lucky he didn’t get that glass in his face.
Page 11: The time gap is important. I think in my first draft, they worked it out in the room. It made them feel cold and calculating instead of human. Having them away for the day, and dwelling on it all was a better way to take.
One thing I kept that it was fundamentally Maria’s plan. You may assume the adoption was hers as well. It was her first suggestion back in issue 10, if you remember.
Page 12: In earlier drafts this was a hard cut in the narration on the previous page saying something like “We’ll have all the time to work out what to say when the time comes”, and then just showing the picture and the implication they never would.
There was a little more chat on this page in an earlier draft, but strimmed. I have Stark talking too much nervously later, but that’s a different situation. Here, we have him wrestling with it all, and what he’s thinking about it all.
The end of the page I was trying to feel like issue 12, when Howard first approaches then opens the door to find Maria having given birth with their child.
Page 13: And we have their baby, all grown up. Arno Stark.
You know, in a story like this, you worry about people over-guessing the twist. And of course, twists should be guessable to some way, as otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s particularly tricky in any serial form, and comics more than most. I thought that while some people who were really thinking hard may have suspected Tony has a brother, few would have guessed it was Arno.
Long time readers may know Arno Stark as the Iron Man of 2020. He wasn’t the nicest man in the world, to say the least. I suspect most readers will be wondering about where Arno is going, but those long-term fans certainly have a certain dread mixed in with that.
He’s an important figure from now on, shall we say. It definitely struck me as the right time in the real world to introduce an Arno Stark to the present timeline.
The Iron Lung was Editor Mark P’s idea, and I hail him for it. Love it.
Page 14: My aim here was a quiet understatement. Tony stumbling over what to say. Arno – who has been preparing for this his whole life – being the leading party.
I also like the tap tap tap SFX.
Page 15: Saying banalities struck me as what you’d end up saying. The page is building towards Tony finally saying it all out loud so…
Page 16: Tony says it and it becomes real. Tony knew it before, but he didn’t know-it-know-it.
(What I was trying to write in the earlier issues – and last one especially – was the sense that Tony had at least considered this as a possibility. He’s a genius. Why wouldn’t the Godkiller not work for him? Lots of possibilities, but one certainly would be was he wasn’t the baby 451 played with. In that case…
The implication in last issue was that he had been putting it off, before finally looking.)
Page 17: Now the floodgates are open, we actually get to talk about real stuff.
Panels 5 and 6 are probably some of my favourite panels in the issue. Carlo did good stuff here – the sadness and distance in five and something really hard to read in six. Almost wry. As a writer, I tend towards understatement rather than anything else.
It’s the sadness. Arno’s probably right. But the doubts are always there, in terms of what you tell yourself.
Page 18: I did a bunch of research on adoption, and late discovery adoption. There’s no one narrative here, but I looked at areas of study that applied to Tony and also looked at the areas that don’t. This isn’t a generalised adoption story, but about how Tony would respond to that. his has been a learning experience for me as much as Tony, I think. When I started the story, I think I had a fairly blasé idea about adoption that a lot of people have who haven’t had to think about it really. My position was identical to the line Tony called trite. Logically, that’s how it should be.
In reality, no, it’s often not. Tony is both a man of logic and a man of passion. Him walking between the two seems key for me.
Probably the last the panels sum up the story, I suspect. In fact, may be the last line of the story…
Page 19: …which would make this page the first of the next.
Excellent shrug in panel 1.
I’m closing a lot of active “Wait – what about XYZ?” questions from the audience in the sequence. Arno’s (understandable) paranoia about 451 is key. The fourth panel may as well be him being told “Satan’s dead.”
Yes, I would be worried that Tony jumping into a project like this this quickly and saying it’s that or a bottle would be a bad sign of Stark’s emotional state at the moment. This is a distraction. It seems he’s going to lose himself in work.
Ending by letting the light in on the secret is probably a bit on the nose, but I really did need some visual element and gesture here.
(Craft-people probably should look at how the props are used in the Arno scene to try and give the characters something to do. It’s not the longest static scene I’ve written for Marvel – that would be the Scott/Logan face off in AvX:Consequences 2 – but it’s pretty damn long. In the Scott/Logan one, I used the beer-cans as a timer on the scene.)
Page 20: A little optimism here, despite the melancholy. Possibly a play on the word “suit” too. Man!
So that’s Year one, and the end of the single longest story I’ve done for Marvel. Thanks for reading it.Gillen, Kieron (9 November 2013). Writer Notes: Iron Man 17. Kieron Gillen's Workblog. Retrieved on 9 January 2017.
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