Saturday, August 18, 2018
News Roundup

'Iron Man' writer wants to energize Florida's film industry

TAMPA — First he helped turn Iron Man into a pop culture sensation.

Now he hopes to energize Florida's fledgling film industry by infusing it with productions based on new characters he is creating.

And he's doing it from Tampa.

He is Bob Layton, and if you only know Iron Man from the blockbuster films starring Robert Downey Jr., you might not recognize the name.

But die-hard comic book fans idolize Layton for more than 5,000 writing and illustration credits that include some the industry's most beloved characters.

Among his works is the groundbreaking Demon in a Bottle. Penned in 1979, this nine-part Iron Man comic book series focused on the battle with alcoholism waged by Tony Stark/Iron Man, which for the first time humanized the character in the superhero armor.

This became the version of Tony Stark portrayed in the films.

"I never wanted to be Iron Man," said Layton, 63. "I always wanted to be Tony Stark. I wanted girls and cars and nice clothes and to be the smartest man in the room."

With a jovial cackle that almost tips him from his chair, he adds, "At least I ended up with nice clothes."

Tony Stark plans his super deeds from the fictional Stark Towers in New York. For his headquarters, Layton uses a 17th floor suite in downtown Tampa's Bank of America building, occupied by the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.

There, he's creating new characters and worlds and stories for movies, television shows and web series he will produce.

But unlike Tony Stark, who can never stop blabbing, the Indiana native and longtime New Yorker is coy about details.

"Teenage dramas to high concept sci-fi" is all he would say.

"I like to have a fantasy element to a lot of what I do, but I won't be doing something like The Avengers. We don't need another Avengers. We need something original."

One thing that's different: He'd like to film it all in Florida so he can remain close to his home in Brandon, where he moved in April after a decade in Hollywood.

"Here we have so many advantages," he said. "Great weather, great locations, no state taxes. And yet very few major productions are coming here."

The main reason productions stay away is because Florida offers no tax incentive for films or television series, as do nearby Louisiana and Georgia.

Tax incentives are why Ben Affleck chose to recreate Ybor City in Brunswick, Ga., rather than use the authentic locale for his film Live by Night, about the rise of a petty Boston crook's rise to powerful rum runner in Tampa's Latin district during the 1920s.

Florida used to have these incentives, but for four straight years the Legislature has declined to provide more.

Layton hopes the prospect of making Florida a home base for his productions can persuade officials to change their minds.

Or, as producer, maybe he can lobby his production investors to let him film in Florida without incentives.

If that all fails and the movies are made elsewhere, the productions will still help the state, said Agnes Lee, managing director with CEA Group, a Tampa-based investment firm with a focus on entertainment.

As Layton's Tampa-based company grows, it will need more artists, writers, marketers, creators of merchandise and others to come up with and support new creations.

"I propose we build a pipeline of content here," said Lee, whose company working with Layton. "These states that attract productions are not originators of content. They are just the service provider, where they go to shoot the film. Let's make Florida a production base for content providers."

Creative content is Layton's specialty

He also wrote stories and drew for The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Hercules and Ant-Man before founding his own comic book company, Valiant. Valiant created Ninjak, now set for a web series, and X-O Manowar and Bloodshot, both optioned for live action adaptations.

Layton, however, is not directly involved with those productions because he retired from Valiant in 1995.

That's when he moved to Brandon for the first time. He stayed until 2007, when production began on the Iron Man movies and he left for Hollywood to work as a consultant on the blockbusters and as a writer for animated comic series such as X-Men, Spider-Man and, of course, Iron Man.

A year ago, Layton and Lee met at the New York Comic Con. They stayed in touch and — convinced Layton could help revitalize the state's film industry — Lee urged him to return to the Tampa area.

The chance to live closer to his daughter and grandchildren helped win him over.

The film commission agreed to serve as an incubator for his initiative.

"When you are offered an opportunity to help a brilliant creator such as Bob," film commissioner Dale Gordon said, "and in an effort that may ultimately lead to the creation of jobs and economic impact for Hillsborough County, you say yes."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

   
Comments
Woman dead after boyfriend shoots her once, returns and shoots again, deputies say

Woman dead after boyfriend shoots her once, returns and shoots again, deputies say

LARGO — A man faces a charge of murder after firing a shot at his girlfriend as she visited a travel trailer in Largo, fleeing the scene, then returning to the trailer and shooting her again a number of times, deputies said.Nathaniel J. Yates, 32, o...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Bucs defensive line had good days against Titans, but not good enough if it aims to be great

Bucs defensive line had good days against Titans, but not good enough if it aims to be great

NASHVILLE — The Bucs' new and improved defensive line has Pro Bowl players, Super Bowl winners and some high draft picks. But right now, they're more famous individually than collectively.For two practices, that's also how they played against t...
Updated: 24 minutes ago

Girl, 6, found slain in her Albuquerque-area home has connections to Wimauma

The family of a 6-year-old girl found dead in New Mexico last weekend is trying to bring her remains to Wimauma.Court documents say the body of Ariana "Jade" Romeo was found at her home in Rio Rancho north of Albuquerque on bloody sheets with marijua...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Red Sox, facing an old friend

For starters: Rays at Red Sox, facing an old friend

UPDATE, 6:14: The tarp is coming off, so they may start on time at 7:10.UPDATE, 6:10: Just a planned day off for Smith, Cash said, unrelated to his collision with the rightfield wall on Friday. … Glasnow should be in the 90-100 pitch range toni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Blake Barnett leads 3 scoring drives in USF scrimmage

Blake Barnett leads 3 scoring drives in USF scrimmage

Two weeks before USF's season opener, the Bulls' quarterback picture remains somewhat unclear.But the same can't be said for the stern message Coach Charlie Strong sent to his offense Saturday.Strong, who has challenged the Bulls' mental toughness mo...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
Remember all that Rays hate?

Remember all that Rays hate?

BOSTON —Nope, this is not going to be the worst Rays team of all time, as a certain writer for a certain website that you may happen to be reading right now suggested in April was a real possibility. Not going to be second worst, third, even bo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Deputies find body in burning vehicle near Disney World miniature golf course

Deputies find body in burning vehicle near Disney World miniature golf course

A body was found in a burning vehicle near a Disney World miniature golf course early Saturday, according to WKMG News 6 Orlando.Authorities were initially called to a vehicle fire about 4 a.m. at Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, 120...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested, too, in aftermath of Hudson drug shootout

Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested, too, in aftermath of Hudson drug shootout

HUDSON — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office made a second arrest Saturday in the aftermath of a drug-related shootout Wednesday night that left one man dead and a woman critically injured.Deputies arrested Alexas Marie Gregas, 19, of Hudson, on charge...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Levy County man, 53, killed trying to pass truck north of Inverness

Levy County man, 53, killed trying to pass truck north of Inverness

INVERNESS — A 53-year-old Levy County man died when he collided with a Mack truck while trying to pass it north of Inverness, the Florida Highway Patrol said.Claude Pepper Blount Jr. was headed south on U.S. 41 near Overdrive Circle about 1:50 p.m. F...
Updated: 8 hours ago