MAA: For those who donít know your background, care to give us a quick rundown of your recent work and why you were perfect for this Iron Man anime project?
I was a writer on The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and story editor on Iron Man: Armored Adventures Season 2 (and a writer on Season 1), so I already had some Marvel experience. I've gone on to write several Marvel projects since... some still in production, waiting to be announced. But I think the reason I was right for this was that I grew up a total Marvel fan! I kept filing cabinets and boxes full of comics and VHS tapes jam-packed with Marvel super hero cartoons growing up. So yeah... I love Marvel and I love writing for them more than anything.
MAA: Getting right to it, what can fans expect with Iron Man: Rise of Technovore? Will it be a classic Iron Man story with a bit of an anime twist?
BA: Well it's very loosely based off the Matt Fraction penned Iron Man comics... kind of a merging of Marvel archetypes with Japanese sensibilities. When I met with Cort, Megan and Harrison on the project, I pitched them 3-4 different story ideas. I think one was an Ultron story, another was a Mandarin story, maybe another was a High Evolutionary story. They were all pretty cool and well received, but we went with the Zeke Stane/Technovore tale. Story details beyond that... fans will just have to watch the movie!
MAA: For Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, what beats did you make sure to hit throughout the story? Were there certain characters or events you wanted to in here?
BA: Well to make things clear, I only wrote the story, not the screenplay or dialogue. I wrote it out as a 30 page short story. The dialogue was written by Japanese writer Kengo Kaji, who wrote the movie version of Uzumaki (Spiral) and Tokyo Gore Police. Some of the dialogue feels very Japanese - somewhat poetic and philosophical and strange. In terms of characters, I wanted to include the Punisher early on and Marvel was really open to it. I thought they wouldn't be into it, I was a little surprised they let me include him - a testament to the cool people who work there. I love the Punisher and I'm stoked Marvel got Norman Reedus to voice him! It was a stroke of casting genius, I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I'm just sad I missed that voice record!
MAA: As a quick follow-up, what made Technovore the right villain for the piece? And how does this version differ from the previous iterations of the character you wrote for Iron Man: Armored Adventures and The Avengers: Earthís Mightiest Heroes?
BA: Technovore is the perfect antagonist, especially when fused with Ezekiel Stane, a brilliant weapons designer who is the antithesis of Tony Stark, and the son of Obadiah Stane. This version of Technovore is probably the weirdest and darkest version so far - much stranger than the Iron Man: Armored Adventures and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes versions, and even the comic version for that matter! Technovore starts as bio-organic armor, the product of fusing various forms of insect and animal DNA into biological nanotechnology ... and then it becomes something else. Something much more horrific... but I'm not gonna spoil it!
MAA: Why do you think Iron Man works well within the confines of an anime project? Does it allow you flexibility in your writing and the types of stories you can tell?
BA: Definitely. Japanese animation provides way more flexibility, on every level. Iron Man is perfect for anime; he's got an awesome suit that looks like it was made to be animated in Japan. And his character is a staple of so many Japanese heroes: the brash, cocky genius in metal robot-like armor, fighting guys in even more intimidating armor! Not only did I grow up on Marvel comics, I was also weaned on Mazinger Z and tons of anime. As a kid I always wanted to see the two merge. I wanted Iron Man to take on Ultraman [laughs]! So it's kind of mind blowing that it's actually happened over the last few years - and I get to be a part of it!
MAA: As a quick follow-up, what makes Iron Man such an adaptable character in general? Be it through Iron Man: Armored Adventures and The Avengers: Earthís Mightiest Heroes, or the Iron Man movies, heís proven to be quite flexible to whatever media.
BA: I think it's because he brings a sense of realism to whatever medium he's attached to; be it the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the comics, or animated shows like Iron Man: Armored Adventures and The Avengers: Earthís Mightiest Heroes. Iron Man is one of the more down to earth, realistic superheroes out there. People can relate to Stark and his suit - it really feels like the tech is only 20 or 30 years away. They've been working on it, in the near future the military or the police will probably use similar power armor, and eventually they will be as functional as Iron Man. Maybe people can intuit the possibility of it, and that's why they're drawn to him. It could happen! Well, that and the fact that Tony Stark is one of the more charming, interesting and unique characters in the Marvel Universe...
MAA: What challenges did you face writing a long-form 80-minute story as opposed to a 22-minute episode? Was there any difficulty in making that leap, especially in terms of making sure you have enough story to tell, etc.?
BA: I actually started writing features before I got into animation. I have a hard time writing 22 minute episodes for TV - they always run long. So it was kind of amazing to write out a full length Marvel animated feature, even if I didn't get to do the fun parts, like write the script and the dialogue. It was still a crazy and amazing experience, though... a blast to write. And knowing that Kenjo Kagi was writing the script based off my story... pretty amazing.
MAA: Technovore features a host of guest stars, including the likes of Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Punisher. Why did you include these characters and what do you think they bring to the story?
BA: Does it make sense to say the story has one foot planted in the Marvel comics universe and another planted in the Marvel cinematic universe? That said, it also stands completely alone - it's own entity. It could take place after Iron Man 2... sort of... except it doesn't take place after the Avengers movie, where Iron Man and the other heroes teamed up with SHIELD. People watching it wondering why Iron Man is taking on his fellow Avengers and seeing it as a continuation of the marvel movies... well, sorry, it's not really that, even if it has the movie references. It takes place in it's own specific alternate universe... I'm sure someone has already assigned the movie it's own Marvel universe number, haha.
MAA: S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a large role in Technovore as well. What are your thoughts on S.H.I.E.L.D.ís expanding role in the assorted Marvel Universe projects? What makes this organization such a cool addition to the story?
BA: I want to see more SHIELD! I love Nick Fury - both the classic version, and the "Ultimate" Sam Jackson version. It's smart to have a super high-tech spy agency integrated into such a well-wrought world of superheroes. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could recognize pop culture "spy trends" like James Bond, the Man From U.N.C.L.E., etc and flawlessly incorporate their own version into their superhero mythology. It worked perfectly. They were masters of grounding stuff, making it feel very realistic, even back in the 1960's. I want to see more S.H.I.E.L.D. projects made. The TV show is going to be amazing. Megan Thomas Bradner, who produced the anime movies, is working on the show - pretty exciting stuff!
MAA: Would you consider more Iron Man anime projects down the road? Perhaps, without spoiling anything, are there any seeds planted for further sequels down the line?
BA: I would love to write another Iron Man anime movie. I'd like to write the script this time as well, and not just the story. But in Japan, it's not really considered true anime if anyone outside of Japan is writing it. I sort of learned that on other anime projects I've worked on. You have to brace yourself for their interpretation of your work... it's kind of scary. But I think fans of anime and the Marvel universe will like it.
MAA: On the topic of future prospects, can you give us a rundown of your current projects and where we might catch your name in the coming months?
BA: Well, I'm working on some new projects for Marvel, and story editing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon. I'm also writing some video games, producing a new anime series, and working on some live action projects. So things are really exciting right now... I'm just a little exhausted!
MAA: Lastly, to wrap things up, can you tell us why fans should rush out to by Iron Man: Rise of Technovore on April 16th? (This is meant to be a fun question, so ...have fun!)
BA: Because it's freaking awesome [laughs]! The animation is incredible. If you want to see Iron Man take on Zeke Stane wearing incredible bio-tech armor, fighting Mandroids based off the Hammer Drones from Iron Man 2, using his Suit Case armor again, and teaming up with the Punisher to take on Hawkeye and Black Widow - then this is it right here! We've got awesome meched-out Raiders, underwater battles, weird bio-organic bombs, and giant freaking monsters! One of my favorite characters, War Machine, kicks massive ass and looks amazing - best version I've ever seen. And of course... it will get you stoked for Iron Man 3!