EDITOR'S NOTE: With 2009 behind us and "Iron Man 2" just a few months away from hitting theaters, MTV News contacted War Machine co-creator Bob Layton to discuss the character's upcoming debut on the big screen. The conversation covered a wide range of subjects that we're rolling out this week in a four-part series — starting with today's chat about the origins of War Machine and the man under the armor, James "Rhodey" Rhodes.
In over 40 years of “Iron Man” comics, few creators have been more influential than Bob Layton and David Michelinie. The long-time collaborators have co-written almost 100 issues of “Iron Man” over the course of the series.
Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes (a.k.a. War Machine) is perhaps their most significant contribution to the “Iron Man” mythos. Created in "Iron Man" #118 with artist John Byrne, Rhodes was originally introduced as a soldier who helped Tony Stark escape from behind enemy lines before going on to become his best friend and confidant. After Layton and Michelinie left the series for the first time, Rhodes eventually took over the role of Iron Man for a time. However, Rhodes was never intended as replacement for Stark, according to Layton.
“Part of the problem was that Tony Stark never had a best friend,” Layton explained to MTV News. “He didn’t have anyone who he could confide in and share his point of view. We wanted to create someone who was a counterpart to him who didn’t have superpowers and wasn’t just an employee — somebody that he had a personal relationship with. We felt he needed a human foil there. It was never our intention for him to take over as Iron Man.”
“In fact, when we came back to series, both characters were operating as Iron Man,” continued Layton. “To me, it’s confusing whenever you have more than one superpowered character in a story, especially when it’s focused on a single character. It’s Iron Man not Iron Men. In all of our stories, Jim Rhodes was always Tony’s best friend and not Iron Man 2."
In the 1990s, Len Kaminski and Kevin Hopgood created the iconic War Machine armor and cemented Rhodes' status as a leading character. The enduring popularity of War Machine has helped excitement for “Iron Man 2” reach a fever pitch — especially since the recent reveal of the War Machine armor in the first "Iron Man 2" theatrical poster.
Despite the departure from his original intent for Jim Rhodes, Layton is quick to note his support for War Machine.
“I think the War Machine concept is a lot of fun and I think it’s terrific,” said Layton. “It just wasn’t something we subscribed to because we felt that the focus should always be on Tony Stark and his identity as Iron Man. The more Iron Men you have running around, the more we felt it diluted the uniqueness of the character.”
Layton also offered his opinion on the current status of War Machine in the Marvel Universe.
“I know they’ve turned him into some sort of cyborg,” related Layton. “That’s kind of unfortunate. I saw that Sean Chen — one of my former protégées — had drawn that particular 'War Machine' story. But look, its Marvel’s toys and they can do what they want with them. David and I had a particular take on the character and the way we saw it, but they can do whatever they want. I think the War Machine character is terrific. It turned out to be very popular and as you know, it’s going to be featured prominently in the next ‘Iron Man’ movie.”
Keep it locked to Splash Page all week for more from Bob Layton, including his take on the first “Iron Man” film, a report from his “Iron Man 2” set visit and a look ahead at what might be in store for “Iron Man 3”!
Do you prefer Jim Rhodes as Tony Stark’s right hand man or as War Machine? Fire up your armor and let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section below or on Twitter!