The suit was originally created for a Tin Man character in the indie short Heartless. After the movie's promotional run was finished, Matt Silva, one of the assistants who worked on the costume, was left to take care of the suit. New York Comic-Con rolls around, and with the addition of some red paint and a repulsor blaster or two, you've got the prize-winning steampunk Iron Man. Everyone thought it was awesome. Except for Bill, the lead designer of the original Tin Man costume, who was blindsided by its newfound fame:
Just found out that the Tin Man suit was taken and modified into an "Iron Man" suit that won the costume contest at the NY Comic Con by my ex assistant. The suit was changed without my knowledge or permission and I'm royally angered by this action. It's also sad to see that the only screen used version of the suit that exists, is now a cheapened knock off of a popular character. I don't get people anymore and it makes me want even more to become more reclusive.
That's a message he fired off on The Effects Lab forum. Matt posted back that the Tin Man costume had been left in his care and that he had salvaged the "battered and broken" suit for one last chance at geek glory. Bill followed with this:
I had a long talk with him and we ironed things out. It was all part of a huge lapse in good judgment that blew up. I hate to see a piece of history, such as this piece, fade away like that. I guess that I am getting old and sentimental.
He was acting as the person who was holding on to the suit for promotional events for the film. He did help build it and said that it was constantly needing repair (which I do believe). He's not very old and just showed a serious lapse of good judgment. As for the suit's ownership, that is a grey area. The company that made the film paid for the materials and did give me a very small amount of money for all the work that I did (Production design, make up effects, etc) just to help with my bills while I took time off to do the project. I have most of the items created or bought for the film, but agreed to let them hold on to the suit for display in their office or promotion for the film. I would not say that it was stolen, but was not used in the manner of our agreement. He truly feels horrible for doing such an idiotic thing and I know that he is really a good kid at heart. Ultimately, what's done is done and I'm sure he won't do such a stupid thing again in the future.
Update: Brandon McCormick, the director of Heartless, wrote to share his and his production company's take on the drama. In short: they're down with steampunk Iron Man.
I want to set the record straight, as I feel this sheds a bad light on our film company, but more importantly on the artists that call Whitestone home.
We were not aware of Matt Silva's intentions to modify the suit, nor were we a part of planning it. While that is true, and we had a private conversation about the issue, I personally thought his modifications were incredible and as an entire film company we were proud and supportive of the success of one of our artists.
We thought that a retweet by Jon Faveru and Stan Lee warranted hearty pat on the back!
While we are proud of our little short film 'Heartless: The Story of the TinMan" we do not regard it as a piece of "film history", and feel that Matt was responsible for making sure both WS and Bill Johnson got credit for their work while promoting the suit.
Both artists worked very hard on Heartless, and we were proud of the work they did.
I wanted to be clear as the films creator and speaking for my production company that we have no problems with Matt. The problems posted all over the Internet are from the suit's lead designer, Bill Johnson and his accusations and frustrations do not represent Whitestone.