From Page to Screen: Armor Wars by Jerry Whitworth
Announced during the 2020 Disney’s Investor Day, War Machine James Rhodes (portrayed by Don Cheadle) will get to spotlight his own Disney+ series in Armor Wars. Described as featuring ‘Tony Stark’s technology falling into the wrong hands,’ the plot is not dissimilar from that of the first two Iron Man films. Therein, Stark’s business partner stole his technology and donned the Iron Monger suit in the 2008 movie while the son of his father’s partner used arc reactor technology to build a drone army for the 2010 sequel. Arguably, 2013’s third entry in the brand’s series could fall into this category when the Iron Patriot armor was stolen but that was to further a revenge plot rather than replicate Stark’s technology. 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home also featured Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio acquire Stark’s orbital weapons platform from the titular hero. Lets take a look at what an Armor Wars series could entail.
In the original Armor Wars storyline from David Michelinie, Bob Layton, Mark D. Bright, and Barry Windsor-Smith, the espionage expert Spymaster stole Tony Stark’s technology and sold it to his villainous competitor Justin Hammer. Already a supplier for the technological needs of super villains, armored rogues like Force, Stilt-Man, Mauler, Controller, Raiders, Beetle, Crimson Dynamo, and Titanium Man received Stark’s designs to exponentially improve upon their own. Designing negator packs that will fry Stark-based circuits in technology, Iron Man partnered with Ant-Man to learn who purchased his stolen designs to hunt down the villains and shut them down. However, Stark’s paranoia led him to also attack the superhero Stingray as well as government agents such as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Mandroids and the Vault’s Guardsmen whose armor he designed and was afraid could be likewise stolen in the future. Drawing the ire of the United States, Iron Man was branded a criminal and his rival Edwin Cord was brought in to hunt him as the armored agent Firepower. But how can this story be adopted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
For 2010’s Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer was introduced as played by Sam Rockwell as an inept competitor to Tony Stark that tried to obtain his arc reactor technology. Instead, Hammer became a pawn for the malevolent Ivan Vanko (portrayed by Mickey Rourke) and was subsequently incarcerated in Seagate Prison. It’s rumored the character could return as part of the Thunderbolts emergence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so odds may not be good he would feature as prominently in the coming Armor Wars as he did in the source material. Instead, another tech-based villain could fill that role. Perhaps the aforementioned Edwin Cord (who was the original villain for Iron Man 3 before being replaced by Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian) or the long rumored Norman Osborn (who at this point is speculated to have bought Avengers Tower and/or tried to acquire Hank Pym’s technology by fans online). But what’s most intriguing about an Armor Wars adaptation is the possibility for new armored villains.
With only three Iron Man films, few of the hero’s rogues have made it to the big screen. Instead, these foes have been picked at by brands like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ant-Man, and Shang-Chi for their own needs. Armor Wars opens the door for the likes of the aforementioned Force, Stilt-Man, Mauler, Controller, Raiders, Beetle, and Titanium Man or others such as Living Laser, Fixer, Firebrand, Dreadknight, Shockwave, Unicorn, and Melter to make the transition. As noted, there’s also the introduction of Spymaster into the MCU. A frequent opponent of Iron Man, the character was seemingly killed by the similar Iron Man foe Ghost until a recent retcon. Spymaster or some of these new armored villains could provide ample supply for a rumored Thunderbolts introduction (especially given the mortality rate of MCU criminals). While the villains will undoubtedly be of great interest, the supporting heroes that appear may make or break the series.
Noted already, Ant-Man played a prominent role in the Armor Wars base material so his inclusion would make sense. But what will be interesting is if the television series follows the same path with an attack on those using Stark technology provided by the inventor. The remaining S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier in No. 64 employs arc reactor technology and only time will tell if S.W.O.R.D.’s space-faring vessels follow suit. If War Machine targets these constructs, he’ll undoubtedly become a target of the authorities (especially Nick Fury). What more, Spider-Man inherited Stark’s technology which could see Rhodey deem the youth to be too much of a risk to keep that gift and become a target (which would put the hero at odds with Happy Hogan). And lets not forget Pepper Potts’ Rescue armor. It was also undoubtedly no accident the coming Ironheart series was announced before Armor Wars. In much the same way Iron Man thought Stingray could be using stolen Stark tech in the comic, War Machine may believe Ironheart to be using his fallen friend’s designs and lead to a confrontation. With a history of never shying away from the imperfections of its characters, Marvel could truly live up to the potential of its base comic in the television series by telling morally challenging stories.