Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Original Character Concepts: The Evolution Of Iron Will

Aforementioned technical difficulties remain unresolved. Fortunately, I have enough random screenshots and unrelated images lying around to entertain myself, and possibly you, too!

So a lot of people... and by "a lot of" I mean "two"... have asked me where the idea for Iron Will came from, if he was a Colossus analog or if he was supposed to be the Silver Surfer or what?

The apparently long-awaited answer is: neither! I've had the basic idea for Iron Will for years, but the main inspiration for his look originally came from the Incredible Hulk video game, in which the player, as the titular character, jumps around Manhattan busting through concrete and punching cars around to one end or another. For a based-on-the-movie game, it's actually pretty good, especially considering I picked it up used for about four dollars.

Anyway, during the course of the game you fight quite a few enemies, among them a quartet of evildoers more or less equivalent to the Fantastic Four known as the U-Foes. One of them is a big bruiser type with the approximate dimensions of The Hulk whose name I didn't know at the time, and after you beat them (or fulfill some other obscure requirements, I don't remember exactly) you can unlock him as a skin for the Hulk and run around town busting through skyscrapers as a big chrome ogre rather than a big fleshy green ogre. Now, I love the Hulk... gimmicky alternate forms and multiple personalities notwithstanding... but something about running around breaking through buildings as a solid metal guy just felt better. To me, it was more intuitive; of COURSE he can run right through concrete, he's made out of harder stuff. It just looked better.

So really, this guy is the primary inspiration for Iron Will, or at least for his appearance. I didn't know anything about the character himself or his backstory or anything like that until a good while later, having assumed he was simply a throwaway bad guy designed for the video game rather than a character in the larger Marvel universe.

As it turns out, his name is Ironclad. No relation.

The main difference is, I never really intended to make a brute so much as a normal (ish) guy who had been transformed, so the proportions are totally different. And of course, ol' Iron Will doesn't have an Iron Costume or any of the involved accessories. His transformation didn't magically extend to his underwear.

So, the look of Iron Will is basically this guy, slimmed down, with clothes on. Not an entirely original visual concept, admittedly, but metallic characters are a well-used trope, and I couldn't come up with anything that was entirely original without going completely random or goofy.

And, as it turned out, somebody else had had nearly the exact same idea at some point and made another Ironclad that was much more like the design for Iron Will anyway:

Also from Marvel and also named Ironclad, this Ironclad was slimmed down, given clothes, and more or less the exact same visual concept as Iron Will except with metallic hair. If I'd known about him a year ago I probably would have scrapped the Iron Will idea altogether and gone with something else entirely, but I didn't, and I like mine better, so he stays.

Like Colossus, this Ironclad changed back and forth from a human to a metal form. I'd never heard of this guy before, but that was always something that bugged me, if just a little, about Colossus. I've always been a fan of the X-Men, see, owing largely to the 90's cartoon when I was in elementary school, and I always thought that the most compelling characters were the ones whose mutations were significant hindrances as well as advantages.

Most of the characters go on and on about how difficult it is to be a mutant, but few of the characters demonstrate it. Wolverine, for example, heals incredibly quickly, which may SOUND like an advantage in life, but on the downside he's also really strong and has an enhanced sense of smell. Storm, on the other hand, can control the goddamn weather, which might seem like nothing but a huge benefit at first, but you have to keep in mind that she's also really really attractive. Sure, Iceman can generate armor, control cold, and build potentially unlimited constructs out of ice, but when he's not covered in ice he's merely a regular person of exceptional physical fitness who can blend in with normal people anywhere.

Nah, my favorites were the disadvantaged ones like Beast, Rogue, or the under-appreciated Cyclops. You get strength and agility but you don't ever look human again, or the ability to steal other characters powers but never touch another human being, or Superman-esque eyebeams which carry the significant hindrance of never being able to look at anything with the naked eye without destroying it. Those were the interesting ones.

Long story short, I thought Colossus would have been a much more interesting character if he couldn't just drop his mutant form with all it's advantages and disadvantages whenever it was convenient and go back to being a regular human being. Like so many of Xavier's students, why a man whose unusual powers didn't come with any downsides had any need of instruction at a special school for mutants is beyond me.

Anyway, I made up a character in my head that was a super-strong, nigh-invulnerable human made out of fluid metal, but who could never turn back, and would need to hide himself when not among friends. To make him at least a little different, I'd originally conceived him as having normal tissues but invincible liquid gold blood that would tint his skin and make him invulnerable to any damage more than skin deep, but leave him feeling as soft and flexible as a regular person. I later tossed that idea when it occurred to me that non-rigid golden blood wouldn't protect his other tissues at all and that he would probably die just as fast from golden internal bleeding as regular. I usually pictured a blond guy with golden skin, more or less like the male Oracle from "Angel".

At the time, his name was "Golden Rod". I thought this was hilarious, but when I got a bit older I realized how few people are named Rodney these days and how much more likely it was that people would assume it was a dick joke.

I didn't give it a whole lot of thought, and it's not real similar to what I eventually wound up going with, but hey, I was maybe twelve. I also figured that he would be able to go outside in the daytime by wearing sweatshirts with hoods and that nobody would notice that he wasn't normal. The concept's come a long way since then... although, if we're being honest, there isn't all that much to Iron Will beyond "basically a nice guy who gets turned into metal" so I suppose I can't really say it's come a long way so much as that it's simply changed a lot.

Long story short, he has nothing to do with the Silver Surfer. He doesn't even look much like the comic version, which is what I think of when I hear the name, but the version from the movies does bear an admittedly close resemblance.

... You'll just have to take my word for it.


  1. Your blog is a procrastination trap. It sends you to wiki all these superheroes you want to learn more about.

  2. Damn. And here I thought I'd so cunningly concealed it.