‘Iron Man’ Writer Christopher Cantwell: The Conskipper Interview

Iron Man has been put through the ringer in recent years (both in comics and of course, on the silver screen).  For those who grew up reading the adventures of the confident, playboy industrialist, the Stark you remember probably bears little resemblance to the one fans will find in the pages of any current issue of the golden Avenger.

However, as evidenced by the beautiful villain-filled cover by Alex Ross, Christopher Cantwell’s new series plans to take Stark back to his “glory days” with a modern sensibility and a keen focus on characterization.  

Cantwell took some time out of his schedule right before the launch of the new title (with art by CAFU and Frank D’Armata) to discuss his approach to ole’ Shell Head and all of those classic villains.

What led to you becoming the new writer for Iron Man?  

Christopher Cantwell: I was working on Doctor Doom when my editor Tom Brevoort asked me to pitch on a relaunch of Iron Man, so I put together an insane document full of every idea I could think of and somehow in spite of that they still hired me. 

In your new series, it appears that Tony is “going back to his roots” in some fashion.  What is the premise for this change?

Cantwell: Much has been made over the last few runs about where the machine ends and where Tony begins. Everything from the nanite enhancements to AI rights to the machine war. I think that story has been successfully told and so in my approach I wanted to pivot the character in a direction we haven’t seen in a while. To me that meant: one man, one suit, away from his familiar surroundings and familiar friends. He’s doing some self-reflection when this book begins.

Patsy Walker (Hellcat) appears to have a major role in the new series.  Why did you decide to include her in your Iron Man series as sounding board, conscience for Tony?

Cantwell: I feel like Patsy is very comfortable with who she is and what she’s gone through has informed a lot of that. I like that she is unquestionably human and not augmented in all the ways Tony has been as Iron Man. As he tries to humble himself she’s a person who can hold his feet to the fire and help him keep a clear head.

The cover of issue one by Alex Ross is a classic Iron Man fan’s dream.  Do you plan on using many of Tony’s classic villains in your run?  Is it difficult to modernize some of the villains from Tony’s past when they were created so many years ago?  Is there one villain that you are really looking forward to using in the series?

Cantwell: There is a core group of Silver / Bronze Age villains that will be in the book for quite a while. They way I’ve tried to make them feel contemporary is have them all work in service of Korvac, the main villain of the storyline. Korvac himself comes out of the pages of the 1970’s. These other villains will be chosen for various reasons, one of which is their keen insight into Iron Man and how he might be defeated. In addition, I’ve got cameos and guest shots of all kinds of vintage baddies, some of whom only show up for a single panel.

If there’s a villain I’m looking forward to most, it’s probably Stilt Man, who will not be showing up for a while. I have some pretty weird plans for Stilt Man that I think will turn the character on his head a little bit. There’s another old villain who will show up in tandem with that chapter of the story that I’m excited about, but I want that one to be a bit more of a surprise.

Your recent Doctor Doom series combined espionage elements with an examination of Von Doom.  How would you compare the two series in terms of tone?

Cantwell: There’s been a lot of fun to be had in Doctor Doom, but Iron Man will immediately be brighter since it’s focusing on a hero with sincere and good intentions. Tony will be doing some self-reflecting the same as Victor has but he’ll be going about it much differently. I also just think the Iron Man book is going to have a lot more scope that Doctor Doom does, because I’m going to have room for more story.

How did your work in television and film prepare (or not prepare) you for creating comics?

Cantwell: Both are visual mediums which has helped tremendously. Television is also storytelling presented in episodic format, and comics are as well.

You are also the co-showrunner for Amazon’s upcoming adaptation of Paper Girls.  What are the challenges in adapting the series to television, and which element is most important to bring out in the series?

Cantwell: The original comic book takes place in like 48 hours so when you’re talking about multiple seasons of a tv show, we have to rectify that somehow. The show is ultimately about the lives and fates and futures of those four girls. Everything has to stem from that core.

Upcoming projects?

Cantwell: I have a few indie comic books that are gearing up for 2021. Can’t really talk about them yet but I’m very excited about them. I also have a podcast about obsessive topics that I do with my wife that we’re about to launch called “Spores Molds & Fungus,” which I think is pretty fun. We’re planning on putting that online in the next month or so. 

Iron Man #1 will be released on September 14 at comic shops everywhere.  

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