Iron Man Gets A Face Lift

Nicktoons debuts a stylish new animated series starring a teenaged version of the Marvel superhero.

If you tune in to the new series Iron Man: Armored Adventures expecting an animated version of actor Robert Downey Jr. fighting nefarious characters, you may be in for a little bit of a surprise. The new show, which premieres this month on Nicktoons, offers a younger, more approachable take on the Marvel superhero.

‘Frankly, we didn’t want to just deliver another great action-adventure series featuring a hero with cool armor and all kinds of high-tech features,’ says Cort Lane, director of animation development at Marvel. ‘We wanted to make Iron Man a relatable character for young boys, and seriously, a thirtysomething, womanizing weapons manufacturer wouldn’t really be relevant. We tweaked the storyline a little bit. However, there actually is a comic-book series that offers a similar take on Iron Man. Also, all the key characters and villains remain intact in this 26 half-hour episode season.’

Of course, die-hard fans know the Iron Man character as the hedonistic industrialist introduced in 1963 by Marvel writers Stan Lee and Larry Lieber and artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby in the Tales of Suspense comic. The Tony Stark at the center of the new toon is a 16-year-old boy who is the heir to his father’s billion-dollar corporation. After he loses his dad in a tragic accident, he has to rely on his own technology to survive and to battle the dark forces of evil’while dealing with the usual traumas of being a teenager.

‘We set up the background for the series in the first two episodes, and then, the action really takes off in the third, where audiences get to meet four of the show’s super-villains,’ notes Lane. ‘When we introduced the show at Comic-Con last year, we got an overwhelmingly positive reaction. Our hero is not a goofy teenager’he’s a cool kid. Our co-producer Josh Fine and head writer Chris Yost have made a real effort to tell this story in a very sophisticated way.’

The CG-animated show also boasts a slick, modern visual style, thanks to the efforts of the design team at French studio Method Films (which also worked on the series Skyland and are collaborating with India’s DQ Entertainment on the upcoming Little Nick/Le Petit Nicolas production). ‘Method is the creative shop and the studio that runs the production, while much of the heavy lifting is done by the team at DQ in India. Personally, I think it’s the best looking show that will be on the air this year. The character designs and the level of animation is extraordinary.’

Lane tells us that although the animation is Maya-based, the studio relied on some new proprietary tools to create the special toon-shaded visuals. ‘Method was very interested in creating a comic-book look, you can see that the characters are toon-shaded with holding lines, while the backgrounds are fully rendered in CG.’

While Marvel has several other animated projects in the works’the upcoming Black Panther and Superhero Squad to name a few’Lane says the Iron Man toon is definitely one of his favorite projects. ‘I have loved these characters since I was 11,’ he adds. ‘You have a great hero, awesome technology and exciting storylines. We think the fans are going to very pleased once they tune in.’

Iron Man: Armored Adventures premieres at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 24, on Nicktoons.