The Iron Age Hardcover

Was in my local comic shop this past week and saw this on the shelf. A really nice package, and a thrill to see it collected this way. So I thought I’d write a bit about the project now it’s done.

It started out as a pitch called Throwbacks. And that’s what it was called for a long time during its creation. In fact, you know that bonkers Marvel future timeline that Johnny Romita Jr drew in one of the early issues of the current Avengers run? Where all the major Marvel events to come were laid out? The Iron Age was on there as ‘Throwbacks’. That was a thrill. I mentioned that to Tom Brevoort in New York last year and he said he’d been responsible for that.

Tom was also responsible for comissioning the series. I’d done a few other jobs for Marvel at that point and pitched Throwbacks to him as a four issue mini-series. The core idea being that we get to see classic Marvel heroes in their old costumes, put together as a one-off super-team – this was inspired by the NFL’s ‘Throwback’ uniform weekends. Tom liked the pitch and then surprised me by saying: “I think this could be an ‘event.’ I figured there was no way they’d give someone like me – not a big name to Marvel readers – an ‘event’, but I expanded the pitch and sent it in, and to my amazement Marvel commissioned it.

I think the original talk was that I’d write all the issues, but then it became clear that probably wasn’t going to work and other writers were brought onboard. I’d mapped out the spine of the storyline – a beginning, middle, end, what the macguffin would be for each issue that I wasn’t writing, then my involvement ended. The individual, very talented writers – Christos Gage, Jan Van Meter, Elliott Kalan, Louise Simonson – could then come up with whatever storyline they wanted for their individual chapters. That made for a pretty painless collaboration. Also, worth saying it seemed crazy to me that I was working on a project with Louise Simonson, whose X-books I had enjoyed so much when I was younger. Ghost Rider #1 had a variant cover by Neal Adams, Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human has covers by Walt Simonson, Louise’ husband. All these things seem VERY strange to the adult me in his ongoing relationship with thirteen-year-old me. Writing comics for a living is a strange thrill.

Tom Brennan had, by this point, come onboard as editor of the project and had been good enough to offer me two of the ‘middle’ books. I took Captain Britain and Uncanny X-Men, with a bit too much excitement. One of the fun things about The Iron Age was how it was a love letter to the Marvel Universe, allowing me/us to go back to the eras we loved when we were kids. Also, my love of Captain Britain as a character meant that, in the first draft of the pitch, he was the protagonist of the story, not Iron Man. But it was felt that Cap wouldn’t bring in the same sales. I was thrilled to write Tony Stark, so couldn’t lose.

In terms of artists, Tom Brennan brought in a great mix of veterans and newer names. I think I suggested Paul Smith for the X–Men issue. Paul’s run on Uncanny is my favourite of all the X-books. It’s part of a writer’s job to suggest the impossible/improbable for collaborators. It’s part of an editor’s job to go ‘No, you can’t have Brian Bolland or Jack Kirby’ and to shake their head at your naivete. Roberto de La Torre drew my X-Men issue and it looked phenomenal. I loved the dark edge he brought to the goings on at The Hellfire Club and the emergence of Phoenix.

Ben Oliver, I know well and have worked with before, on The Ten Seconders for 2000AD. Ben’s superb, so getting him to draw Captain Britain at the time of the Jaspers Warp was a treat. And though I didn’t know her work beforehand, Rebekaah Isaacs was a great choice for the Alpha and Omega bookend chapters. I felt there was a hint of early Adam Hughes in her clean, accesible pages. And it was fun as we were both coming into Marvel as newcomers together.

One of the great things about The Iron Age was the different voices of the varying eras, and it worked as a collaborative process because of that. Artists like Nick Dragotta and Ron Frenz shouldn’t really work side-by-side on the same storyline but here, because of the core concept, they did. It gave the book a real energy too.

The Iron Age was just a joy to work on throughout. I think that shows through in the final product. It’s kind of a big celebration of Marvel comics through the years. It asks why we love these characters and why they’ve stuck around and prospered through decades. And I got to write Captain Britain, The Uncanny X-Men, Power Man and Iron Fist, The Human Torch, Dazzler and Yellowjacket. All jobs should be this much fun.

You can buy The Iron Age HC from Amazon here

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