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Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Iron Man: Beneath the Armor" by Andy Mangels

Order “Iron Man: Beneath the ArmorHERE

On May 2, 2008 Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment will be releasing the big-screen adaptation of the Marvel comic book character Iron Man which is directed by Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura) and starring Robert Downey Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly) as Tony Stark, Terrence Howard (Crash, Hustle & Flow) as James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en, Shakespeare In Love) as Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges (Starman) as Obadiah Stane, not to mention appearances by Samuel L. Jackson, Hilary Swank, Ghostface Killah, and Stan Lee. Not surprisingly, in support of the movie’s upcoming release, a ton of cross-promotion is going on including mobile phones, Reebok, Burger King, Audi, 7-Eleven, a videogame based on the film, and an Iron Man novelization, among others. Then there’s “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor”, an original trade paperback published by Del Rey and put together by USA Today bestselling writer Andy Mangels (Star Wars, Star Trek, Roswell).

As a comic book fan, I’m pretty familiar with all of Marvel’s signature books like Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk, but there are certain titles that I never followed very closely including Thor, Daredevil and Iron Man. Now don’t get me wrong, I have read Iron Man comic books before, it’s just that the issues I’ve picked up were contemporary releases like Ultimates I + II, Ultimate Iron Man by novelist
Orson Scott Card, the relaunch that was done by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, or Civil War, so as far as Iron Man’s history and what really makes the character tick, I’m clueless. Which is why I enjoyed reading “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” so much :)

You see, “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” is much more than a simple movie tie-in product. In fact, the film is only discussed on two of the book’s 215 pages. Instead, “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” is an incredibly detailed examination about the history of Iron Man, going all the way back to the character’s inception in the early 1960s and his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39. From there, Andy Mangels wonderfully catalogs the comic book’s ongoing evolution through 2008—its high points and low—and how it was influenced by many different writers & artists—some of which included Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, John Byrne, Jim Lee, Jeph Loeb (Smallville, Lost, Heroes), Kurt Busiek (Astro City), Adi Granov (See Insets) Joe Quesada (
Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief), Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, The Authority), Orson Scott Card, Andy Kubert, and Daniel Knauf (Carnivale)—changes within the comic industry, and world events including Vietnam, the Cold War, corporate espionage, 9/11, terrorism, and the Iraq War. Along the way, the book also looks at merchandising (animation, videogames, action figures, trading cards, novels, and recent direct-to-DVD animated movies like The Invincible Iron Man), crossovers (Armor Wars, Avengers Disassembled, House of M, Civil War) and spinoffs/miniseries such as Ultimate Iron Man, War Machine, Marvel Adventures: Iron Man, et cetera.

My favorite part of “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” though has to be the interviews with the comic’s various creators, editors, writers and artists which gives readers an illuminating glimpse into the kind of book they were trying to make, how the character differs from other superheroes, and why the series has been able to remain popular & relevant all of these years. The interviews also reveal some pretty interesting tidbits like how Tony Stark is modeled after Howard Hughes and how Stan Lee began the first & last names of his characters with the same letter so he could better remember them, hence the names Peter Parker, Bruce Banner and Reed Richards ;) In addition to all of the interviews, historical information and a ton of artwork—including covers, panels, splash pages and photos—that are incorporated throughout the book, “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” also features a comprehensive ‘Character Bios’ section that includes everyone from allies and rogues to alternate Iron Men, and a cool ‘Armor Gallery’ that breaks down different designs and their specs.

In the end, even though I’m not a very big Iron Man fan, I have to admit that I was thoroughly fascinated by this guidebook. Not only does it do an incredible job of celebrating Iron Man’s history, but I also thought it portrays the comic book medium in a positive light as an intelligent, diversifying and richly creative mode of storytelling. Plus, “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” is the kind of book that can be appreciated by both hardcore fans and readers new to the character. In short, I applaud
Del Rey and Andy Mangels for producing a title of such quality and just hope that “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” won’t get lost somewhere among all of the other products that are being produced because of the movie’s marketing madness…


patrick said...

Iron Man was practically flawless as a super hero flick; it drops pretty obvious hints that would indicate a sequel as well... i'm thinking the next one should be equally great

Robert said...

Cool! I'm really looking forward to seeing this :) Maybe this weekend...

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