Before the MCU took over Hollywood, Marvel had trouble getting *anything* going.
We’ve been speaking to makeup master Steve Johnson quite a bit lately, and that’s because we’re super excited about the impending second installment of his Rubberhead: Sex, Drugs, and Special FX, a book that’s currently in its last few days of crowdfunding on . Like the first book, Volume II will be a half autobiography, half coffee table art book that documents Johnson’s career through hundreds of stunning photographs and ‘tell all’ stories about the golden age of special effects makeup.
Just yesterday, Johnson peeled back the curtain to tell us all about a version of The Incredible Hulk that Marvel was trying to get off the ground back in 1998, which would’ve been driven almost entirely by insanely ambitious practical effects. Long before the ubiquity of CGI and the existence of the MCU, Johnson actually worked on seven separate Marvel projects, all of which were to consist of almost exclusively practical effects. One of those projects was a feature film adaptation of Iron Man back in the ’90s.
Despite the bottom falling out of his aforementioned Hulk project, that was not the last Steve Johnson was to hear from Marvel as he later went on to successfully design and create the mechanical tentacles for Doctor Octopus on Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 (2004). It was while on set for Spiderman 2 that Johnson talked with Marvel producer Avi Arad about a potential Iron Man project, even going so far as to sketch out concepts for the suit well before Jon Favreau or any director was actually attached to the project.
“When we were doing Spiderman 2 we had a lot of downtime on set, so Avi and I started talking about how he wanted to do an Iron Man movie,” Johnson explained to us. “So I said okay great, we’ll design something for you.”
Johnson shared with us two of those sketches he drew up for the aborted Iron Man project, which you’ll find below. Eventually, another effects team landed the gig.
“By the time the film got made Stan Winston’s company got it,” Johnson notes.