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Iron Man 2 Has Many Writers Dating Back to 1963


By: Michael Cooper, contributing editor

I just watched a segment from the San Diego Comic Con’s Iron Man 2 panel (see below) and it prompted me to make sure history wasn’t too badly trampled by an overenthusiastic fan and a not so humble writer and artist.

52-1I was really bothered by the fan’s statement that Iron Man’s true writer is none other than Bob Layton. Bob came out of the audience at this past weekend’s panel and spoke briefly, taking his dues but also not mentioning the creators who had come before him. That to me wasn’t quite right so I’m here to set the record straight.

While indeed Bob contributes much of the storyline used in this upcoming movie, the real history of Iron Man and his lineage goes back 20 years before Bob ever plotted his first Iron Man story in the early 1980’s.  

Tales of Suspense #39, which introduced the Grey Goliath in 1963, was the brainchild of none other than Jack Kirby. Kirby nearly single handedly created most of the Marvel universe from the Fantastic Four,170-1 Thor, Hulk, The X-Men, to Iron Man and many more. He handed the reins to Don Heck who, along with writing partner Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s brother), and inker Chic Stone introduced Iron Man’s first female nemesis, The Black Widow, in the spring of 1964 (Scarlett Johansson brings her to life her in Iron Man 2).In that 45-year-old story, Russian spy and former German Assassin Natalia Romanova (whose name evolved into Natasha Romanoff in later years), is introduced. She is believed to be a relative of the Romanoff’s, the last ruling czars of Russia.

During World War II a Nazi assault on Stalingrad set the building she was in on fire. Her mother threw her into the arms of a Russian soldier named Ivan Petrovich before being consumed by the flames.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson

The Black Widow’s first encounter with Iron Man came when she was ordered to slay Anton Vanko, the creator of the Soviet Crimson Dynamo armor (the first Russian version of Iron Man) who had defected to America. Natasha attempted to distract Tony Stark while her partner Boris Turgenov used the Crimson Dynamo armor to destroy Stark’s plants. Turgenov and Vanko wound up dying in battle, and Natasha remained in America to find some way of regaining the K.G.B.’s favor. It was the KGB who named her “Black Widow”.

mickey-rourke-as-whiplash-5In late 1967 the writer and artist in charge of Iron Man was Gene Colan and he created Mickey Rourke’s character, Whiplash.

Whiplash a.k.a. Mark Scarlotti served the Maggia (The Marvel Universe’s version of the Mafia), well establishing his reputation early on by battling Iron Man to a stalemate with his electronic whip. In later years he was eventually caught and sent to Ryker’s Island Prison to serve time for his various crimes.

TalesofSuspense97Bob Layton eventually brings Whiplash back with a new storyline. Whiplash is freed from Ryker’s Island by criminal financier Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2) who gathers a small army of costumed criminals. Hammer’s plan is to finance their operations in exchange for a share of their profits. Hammer provided Scarlotti with the funds and facilities to totally revamp and update his arsenal.

ironman128covNow some of you out there are going “hey, what about the face of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee” and my response is “so what about him”! Lee, at best, was an editor who filled in some creative gaps and, at worst, was the spoiled nephew of the Marvel Comics publisher who took credit for the works of Kirby, Steve Ditko, Heck, Colan and many more. But I digress. 

When Bob Layton came to Iron Man in the 1980’s the character had well over 200 adventures under his belt but was in need of a creative tune up.  Layton did the job by turning Stark into an alcoholic

The two Jim Rhodes - Terence Howard & Don Cheadle

The two Jim Rhodes - Terence Howard & Don Cheadle

who could no longer don the armor. In comes Stark aide Jim Rhodes who becomes the new Shell Head until Stark can recover. Later Rhodes teams up with his old pal wearing a new Stark armor calling himself “War Machine.”

Iron Man 2 will feature elements dating back over the entire 46 year history of The Golden Avenger as director John Favreau cherrypicks  from the 1960’s through the iron_man_2821980’s. Let’s give credit to all the creators who planted the cherry tree to begin with, Kirby for Iron Man, Heck, Lieber and Colan for the creations of The Black Widow and Whiplash and setting the tone of the universe two decades before Bob Layton drew his first Iron Man panel.

Bob, please don’t take any offense but you’re part of a team and they deserved a mention during your time in the spotlight at Comic-Con “09”.  As for the young fan who started this whole thing – Study your Iron Man history a little closer!


July 30, 2009 - Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | , ,


  1. Excellent piece Chuck. Never knew you had such an interest in the Iron one. Did you do all of this research strictly for this writeup or do you simply have a long history of knowledge on Iron Man? Congrats, a good article, I am going to retweet this for you.
    The Rake

    Comment by thebsk | July 27, 2009 | Reply

  2. Actually credit goes to my contributing editor and radio co-host Michael Cooper who wrote this GREAT piece. His knowledge of Comic books is impeccable!


    Comment by Chuck | July 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. I watched the comic con piece and agree with your article. I never heard of this writer until now. What do you think the family of Jack Kirby is getting out of these movies…I bet not one red cent…

    Comment by ZombieBoy | July 28, 2009 | Reply

  4. Just so you know – the “fan” was a plant and was allowed to cut to the front of the Q&A line and state that. After the panel broke up Bob patted him on the back and said “you have no shame do you”. I was second row in the audience. They walked in together and left together.

    Comment by ladoo381 | August 1, 2009 | Reply

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