Which old friends and new characters appear in Nicktoons' CG Iron Man?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Cort Lane, Marvel's director of animation development, told SCI FI Wire that the new Iron Man Armored Adventures—which just launched on the Nicktoons Network—will feature new and old characters from the comics, but with a teen twist.

The show is one of several upcoming animated series in the pipeline, including Black Panther (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) for BET Network and Super Hero Squad for the Cartoon Network, featuring Captain America, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man.

Iron Man Armored Adventures depicts the life and times of a teenage Tony Stark, who balances the life of a typical teen with the responsibilities of a superhero in the familiar red and yellow battle armor. James Rhodes is a classmate and his best friend and the only one who knows about Tony's double life. Pepper Potts, another classmate, is an energetic and loyal friend. And Obadiah Stane, Stark International's chief executive, is Tony's nemesis.

In an exclusive interview, Lane (who also serves as a producer) reveals just how Iron Man blasted his way into the small screen from the four-color pages for a 26-episode presentation. Iron Man Armored Adventures airs on Friday nights at 7 p.m. Following is an edited version of our interview.

Can you discuss the decision-making that Tony Stark is a teenager with an Iron Man suit?

Lane: It starts with "How can we tell the most awesome, engaging Iron Man stories for boys 6 to 14 years old?" Then you quickly realize that boys today like their heroes to be relatable—and a womanizing, alcoholic industrialist was just not the best place to start. Hasn't Tony been a genius all his life? Wouldn't he have had the brainpower to create the armor at a younger age? Fortunately, there have been a few teen interpretations of the character in the comics to be inspired by. We are lucky that adult fans can get their fill with a more traditional version in live-action and animated movies. But I think the show is too good and too full of fanboy nuggets to keep those adult eyeballs away.

What kinds of heroes and villains should we expect to see? Will there be a distinct story arc for Tony?

Lane: Classic and new Iron Man characters are in the series. Their looks have been amped up to work within our beautifully designed CG world. One of the coolest elements of the series is how some of Tony's less-than-cool comic villains (like Unicorn and Killer Shrike) have been transformed into really awesome bad guys.

Living Laser is another great example—and he gets a really complex and tragic arc. The Mandarin is naturally the Big Bad, and the quest for the Makluan rings is a central plot point. But Christopher Yost [the series' story editor] has brilliantly interwoven the various characters and plot lines. For instance, the Mandarin is also in a gang war with the Maggia; the Maggia is connected to the Living Laser; the Laser takes on S.H.I.E.L.D., but A.I.M. battles S.H.I.E.L.D. for ... I need to keep some surprises!

But Black Panther and Nick Fury appear. A Marvel legend at least as big as Iron Man appears, with his sidekick along for the ride. There are two-parters to start and end the series—but each stand-alone episode links to ongoing storylines and advances a different aspect of Tony's arc. It's a coming-of-age story.

Why was CG chosen for the show, and can you contrast the CG and non-CG animation styles as a form of storytelling?

Lane: France's Method Films was our partner on this from day one, and they have a world-class reputation in CG storytelling. CG was always in the plan. I'm also working on The Super Hero Squad Show [in traditional 2-D] and Black Panther [in digital 2-D]. I just think CG delivers better visuals for technology-based characters/powers, virtual environments and kick-butt armors. These are central elements to the show. Our [S.H.I.E.L.D.] Helicarrier totally rocks in a way it couldn't in 2-D. —Frank Garcia