The Iron Man Armory Interviews Bob Layton

Bob Layton has had two successful runs on Iron Man, as co-plotter, inker and penciller. Along with partner David Michelinie, Layton has been involved in creating some of the definitive IM stories, including the Armor Wars. Recently he and Michelinie returned to IRON MAN with the Bad Blood mini-series. In late Summer of 2000 I sent Bob a personal email with 10 questions and he graciously replied. Below are his responses, as typed by his hands.

1. What are the ideal ingredients for an Iron Man story?

Character, character, character...always. It's never about the armor...but the man inside. Tony's unique personality is what sets him apart from the other characters in the Marvel Universe.

2. Your Iron Man issues are marked by a real technical edge, full of gadgets and gizmos, not to mention the specialty armors...Did you always have an interest in technology or machines? How did/do you stay cutting edge, were there particular magazines, or did you consult someone?

I read a lot of science journals and speculative fiction. I've always had a fascination with science. That's one of the reasons why the Iron Man character appeals to me.

3. I've read that your favorite Iron Man storyline (that you did) is the ground-breaking "Demon in a Bottle..." Is that still true and was there any resistance from Marvel to that storyline or aspects of it? What about the Comics Code?

Not true. Marvel was totally supportive of our attempt to break new ground.

4. You once said (in Advanced Iron) that you would "NEVER" have put Rhodes in an armor suit, that "it was totally defeating the point of the character and his role in the series." Could you elaborate on that, certainly other characters had been in the armor prior to that point, and Rhodes has proved very popular over the years... Were you against the way he took over the armor, the way he didn't want to give it back, etc.?

Both David and I agree that the supporting characters should be normal humans, to contrast the fantastic going-ons with the lead character. I feel that every time you make "another superpowered sidekick", you dilute the importance of the lead one.

5. Was there any special preparation for your return to Iron Man (and the upcoming BAD BLOOD mini-series)? Did you familiarize yourself with where the character is today, with the current story arcs? Did you re-read your Justin Hammer stories?

Yes. To all the above.

6. In recent years Marvel has definitely shifted to focus on a younger audience, what do you think has been the overall effect on the industry?

Marvel is totally within their rights to target whomever they feel will best support their operation. With the industry in such a financial slump, who could blame them for trying anything to correct the downward trend by any means possible?

7. X/O Manowar is another armored hero, was there a definite attempt to create a better Iron Man? Can you briefly compare and contrast the two heroes?

I no longer comment about the Valiant days in print. Sorry.

8. Please describe how you typically work, both as a writer and penciller. Do you and the writer (or artist) sit down and spit ball, or do you get a script via messenger... ? How has this changed over the years?

Except for my collaborations with Michelinie, I write everything I draw. With David, we plot the stories over the phone, then he sends me the finished plot to draw from.

9. Beyond Iron Man, what other projects are you most proud of? Specific issues?

My run on THE SECOND LIFE OF DR. MIRAGE was my best scripting job. That and the Hercules minis.

10. What's on your plate next, anything you want to promote?

I'm currently scripting a three part Batman Elseworld entitled HOLLYWOOD KNIGHT with Dick Giordano handling the art. I'm also hoping that Dave and I can continue doing the occasional Iron Man mini-series.

Interview copyright 2001, 2002 Tim Rassbach.

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