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Iron Man

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This article is about Iron Man, the Marvel Comics superhero. For other uses of the term, see Iron Man (disambiguation).

Template:Superherobox Iron Man is a Marvel Comics superhero. Created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Don Heck, he first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963).

Iron Man possesses a suit of powered armor that increases his strength, keeps him safe from harm, and allows him to fly with rocket jet boots. He has also created an array of add-on weapons. His secret identity is Tony Stark, a billionaire and military contractor known for his playboy lifestyle. Other people who have assumed the Iron Man identity include James Rhodes, a close associate of Stark's.

A wealthy American industrialist of incredible ingenuity and inventive genius, Iron Man was originally an anti-communist hero. Throughout the character’s comic book series, technological advancement and national defense have been constant themes, but Stark has gained a more complex worldview and flawed character, as he battled alcoholism and personal failure.

Writers often portray Iron Man as a symbol of humanity's creativity as well as its frailties. He is often placed in contrast with his close friends Captain America and Thor, the former as a comparison between interventionist and cooperative attitudes, and the latter comparing science and the supernatural. Throughout most of his career, Iron Man has been a member of the all-star group The Avengers and has been featured in several incarnations of his own comic book series.

Contents

History

Origins

While on a visit to Vietnam to see how his new mini-transistors could assist the American war effort, Tony Stark was caught in a booby trap. Captured by a Vietnamese warlord, Wong Chu and dying from a piece of shrapnel lodged in his heart from the booby trap, Stark was pressed into building weapons for Wong Chu, along with a fellow prisoner, the famed physicist Yin Sen. However, Stark and Yin Sen used the workshop to secretly design and construct a suit of powered armor - an iron exoskeleton that gave Stark tremendous strength as well as other abilities - that would keep Stark's heart beating, but allow him to escape. Yin Sen sacrificed himself to buy Stark time to charge the bulky suit of armor, and as Iron Man, Stark made short work of Wong Chu and his men. Returning to the United States, Stark continued to improve the armor, establishing a dual identity as the adventurer and superhero Iron Man. He also greatly expanded his father's company, Stark Industries, eventually renaming it Stark International.

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Tales of Suspense #39. Iron Man debuts. Art by Jack Kirby.

The cover for Iron Man was that he was Stark's bodyguard and corporate mascot. To that end, Iron Man fought threats to his company, Communist opponents like the Black Widow and the Crimson Dynamo, and independent villains like the Mandarin. Both the Widow and the Dynamo would eventually defect to the United States, and even erstwhile villain Hawkeye, originally a pawn of the Widow, would reform and join the Avengers.

No one suspected Stark of being Iron Man as he cultivated his image as a rich playboy and industrialist. The comic took a fairly right-wing anti-Communist stance in its early years, which was softened as the comics readership displayed opposition to the Vietnam War. This took place in a series of stories with Stark profoundly reconsidering his political opinions and the morality of manufacturing weapons for the military. Stark, however, has remained essentially conservative both in character and politics despite his playboy image. He has also often shown himself to be occasionally arrogant and willing to justify the means with the ends. This has led to personal conflicts with the people around him, both in his civilian and superhero identities.

Stark has a vast personal fortune, and is also known as a philanthropist. He donated the use of his boyhood house as Avengers Mansion, and funded the Avengers' operations through the Maria Stark Foundation, a non-profit organization named after his late mother. The Foundation is not linked to any of Stark's businesses, and has continued to operate even when those businesses have failed. Stark also provides technology to other superheroes, including designing various replacement shields for Captain America, the quinjets used by the Avengers, and the image inducers used by the X-Men.

Eventually, Stark's heart condition was discovered by the public and cured with an artificial heart transplant. However, Stark was also developing a serious dependency on alcohol. The first time it became a problem was when Stark discovered that the national security agency SHIELD had been buying a controlling interest in his company in order to ensure Stark's continued weapons development for them. At the same time, Stark's business rival Justin Hammer hired several supervillains to attack Stark. At one point, the Iron Man armor was even taken over and used to murder a diplomat. Although Iron Man was not immediately under suspicion, Stark was forced to hand the armor over to the authorities. Eventually Stark and his personal pilot and confidant Jim Rhodes tracked down those responsible, although Hammer would return to bedevil Stark again. With the support of his friends and employees, Stark pulled through these crises and, for the moment, overcame his dependency on alcohol.

Changing fortunes

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Iron Man Vol. 1, #1. Art by Gene Colan.

Some time later, a ruthless rival, Obadiah Stane, manipulated him emotionally into a serious relapse. As a result, Stark lost control of Stark International, became a homeless vagrant and gave up his armored identity to Rhodes, who became the new Iron Man for a lengthy period of time. Eventually, Stark recovered and started a new company, Circuits Maximus, and Rhodes continued to act as Iron Man while Stark concentrated on new technological designs, but steadily grew more aggressive and paranoid. Rhodes's manic mental state was later revealed to be the result of his using armors whose cerebral interfaces were calibrated for Stark's brain, leaving any other long-term user disoriented and confused. Stark had to don a prototype suit to stop Rhodes, who had gone on a rampage. When Circuits Maximus came under assault from Stane, Stark then used the completed next generation armor to confront Stane in personal combat. Stark's skill proved superior over Stane's unskilled use of his own variant suit, known as the "Iron Monger" and he regained his company when Stane committed suicide rather than be captured.

In an attempt to stop other people from misusing his designs, Stark then went about disabling other armored heroes and villains who were using suits based on the Iron Man technology. However, these "Armor Wars" had tragic consequences, when he inadvertently caused the death of the Soviet Titanium Man. This also led to a falling out between Stark and Steve Rogers, who at the time had given up his Captain America identity.
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Iron Man Vol. 1, #283 (August 1992). "War Machine". Art by Kevin Hopgood.

Rogers, while agreeing with Stark's motives, disapproved of his high-handed methods, considering them reckless and dangerous. The United States government declared Iron Man a danger when he went after their Stark-derived Guardsmen suits and Iron Man was hunted down. Stark eventually had to fake Iron Man's demise and claim that a new person was in the armor. Stark also patched up his friendship with Steve Rogers.

However, Stark's health continued to deteriorate, and it was discovered that the armor's cybernetic interface was causing irreversible damage to his nervous system. His condition was aggravated by a failed attempt on his life by a mentally unbalanced former lover which injured his spine, paralyzing him. Stark constructed a "skin" made up of artificial nerve circuitry, intended to assist his own failing nervous system. Stark began to pilot a remote-controlled Iron Man armor, but when faced with the Masters of Silence, the telepresence suit proved insufficient. Stark designed a heavier armed version of the suit to wear, the "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit", which became known as the War Machine armor.

Ultimately, the damage to his nervous system was too extensive, and almost killed Stark. Faking his death, he placed himself in suspended animation to heal as Rhodes took over the running of Stark Enterprises and once again took up the mantle of Iron Man using the War Machine armor. Stark ultimately made a full recovery and reassumed the mantle of Iron Man. When Rhodes learned that Stark had manipulated his friends by faking his own death, he became enraged and the two friends parted ways, Rhodes continuing as War Machine in a solo career.

A schism within the Avengers following the events of the Kree-Shi'ar War ("Operation: Galactic Storm") led to a difference of opinion regarding the future of the Avenger's west coast branch. Iron Man left the team and formed a new superhero group, Force Works, funded by Tony Stark and comprised of ex-Avengers. However, tensions within that team soon led to his resignation from it, and Iron Man attempted a reconciliation with the Avengers.

Death and life

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Iron Man Vol. 1 #324 (January 1996). The Avengers vs. Tony Stark. Art by Jimmy Cheung.

It was revealed soon after that a traitor was among the Avengers' ranks, and it turned out that traitor was none other than Iron Man himself. It appeared that the villain Kang the Conqueror had been manipulating Stark for years, using him as a sleeper agent, and causing him to push aside his friends and unconsciously serve Kang. Stark, fully in Kang's thrall, killed Marilla, the nanny of Crystal and Quicksilver's daughter Luna as well as Rita DeMara, the female Yellowjacket, then an ally of the Avengers.

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Iron Man Vol. 1 #326 (March 1996). "Teen Tony".

(It was revealed later that everything had really been the machinations of a disguised Immortus, not Kang, and the mental control had only gone back for a few months.)

Needing help to defeat both Stark and Kang, the team travelled back in time and recruited a teenage Tony Stark to assist them. "Teen Tony" stole a suit of Stark's armor to aid the Avengers against his older self, and the sight of his younger self shocked the older Stark enough for him to regain momentary control of his actions, and he sacrificed his life to stop Kang. "Teen Tony" then later built his own suit to became the "new" Iron Man. The teenage Stark remained in the present day and legally regained control of his company.

During the battle with the creature called Onslaught, "Teen Tony" died, along with many of his teammates and allies. However, Franklin Richards preserved these "dead" heroes in the "Heroes Reborn" pocket universe, in which Tony Stark was once again an adult and a hero. The reborn adult Stark, upon returning to the normal Marvel Universe, retained the memories of both the original and teenage Tony Stark, and considered himself to have been both of them. With the aid of law firm Nelson & Murdock, he successfully regained his fortune and set up a new company (during his "death", Stark Enterprises had been sold), Stark Solutions. He also returned from the pocket universe with a fully-restored living heart. After the Avengers reformed, Stark demanded that a hearing be convened to look into his actions just prior to the Onslaught incident. Cleared of wrongdoing, he rejoined the Avengers.

The new millennium

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Iron Man Vol. 3 #30 (July 2000). The Sentient Armor. Art by Joe Quesada.

At one point, Tony's armor itself became sentient, despite failsafes to prevent its increasingly sophisticated computer systems from doing so. Stark's safeguards were corrupted accidentally when he used the armor to download the mind of the android Jocasta to save her. Jocasta was the creation of the rogue android Ultron, and unknown even to her, embedded in all of Ultron's creations was the Ultron Imperative, a command that would compel them to rebuild Ultron whenever he was destroyed. The Ultron Imperative acted like a trojan horse, infecting the armor's on board systems. Combined with an electrical attack by the villain Whiplash that sent Stark into cardiac arrest, it caused the armor's computer to become self-aware. Initially, Stark welcomed this "living" armor, as it had improved tactical abilities, but soon the armor's behavior began to grow more aggressive, even committing murder. Eventually, the armor reached the point where it wanted to join with Stark and eventually replace him, like Ultron wished to do with his creator Henry Pym.

Stark could not defeat the armor, but in the final confrontation on a desert island, Stark suffered another heart attack. To save his life, the armor gave up part of its components to give Stark a new, artificial heart, sacrificing its own existence. The new heart did not have an internal power supply, so Stark became once again dependent on periodic recharging.

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Iron Man Vol. 3 #78. Art by Adi Granov.
The sentient armor incident so disturbed Stark that he went back to using an early model version of his armor for a while. He also dabbled with using liquid metal circuitry known as S.K.I.N. that would form itself into a protective shell around his body, but eventually returned to more conventional hard metal armors.

Recently, Stark decided to finally reveal to the world that he had been the man behind the Iron Man mask all along. When he discovered that the United States military was still using his technology, rather than confront them as he did before, he accepted a Presidential appointment to act as Secretary of Defense (his predecessor, Dell Rusk, had actually been the Red Skull in disguise). In this way, he hoped to be able to monitor and direct how his designs were being used.

Stark continued to act as Iron Man while carrying out his government duties, until being forced to resign after a seemingly drunken tirade against the Latverian Ambassador in the United Nations building. The tirade had actually been induced by the Scarlet Witch, who had gone insane (see Avengers Disassembled). This incident was just the part of a series of events that culminated in the deaths of three Avengers, the destruction of Avengers Mansion and the disbanding of the Avengers themselves. In the aftermath of this, he claimed publicly that he would stand down as Iron Man, though there would "always be an Iron Man."

The "new" Iron Man was of course still Tony Stark, but the catastrophic events that preceded this had apparently convinced people the Iron Man and Stark were now two different people. Stark left the wreckage of Avengers Mansion as is, and went on to build Avengers Tower, a state-of-the-art office building which now also serves as the headquarters of the new Avengers team, of which he is once again a member.

Powers and abilities

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Iron Man Vol. 1 #218 (May, 1987), the debut of the Hydro-Armor, one of his many special function armors. Art by M.D. Bright.

A notable element of the character is, unlike other superheroes, his appearance and abilities are continually in flux as Stark continually modifies and upgrades his equipment. This is most obvious with the regularly changing appearance of his armor, although he usually favors a red and gold color scheme.

Iron Man's powers and abilities derive from the advanced powered armor that he wears. The armor has evolved from a bulky iron suit to a molecularly aligned matrix of crystalized iron enhanced by magnetic fields over layers of other metals like titanium, creating a shell that is pliable, yet capable of amazing resilience and protection. The suit grants him superhuman strength and flight capabilities, and is powered by a combination of solar converters, electrical batteries and an on-board generator that uses beta particle absorption as a fuel source. The suit is also able to convert nearby energy sources, such as heat or kinetic energy into electricity, or even drain electrical energy directly into the batteries for recharge. The suit can be completely sealed for operations in vacuum or underwater, providing its own life support, and is shielded against radiation.

The on-board systems of the armor are controlled by Iron Man's brain patterns, read from a cybernetic interface in his helmet. Sophisticated computers with an artificially intelligent operating system of Stark's own design provide tactical information as well as constant feedback on the suit's status, using internal and external sensors. As noted above, Stark has tried to put safeguards in to make sure that the systems do not actually achieve sentience, although these were once circumvented.

The weapons systems of the suit have evolved over the years, but Iron Man's standard offensive weapon has always been the repulsor beams that are fired from the palms of the suit. Other weapons built into various incarnations of the armor include the unibeam projector in its chest; pulse bolts that pick up kinetic energy along the way, so that they hit harder the further they have to travel; an electromagnetic pulse generator and an energy shield.

In addition to the general purpose model he wears, Stark has developed several specialized suits for space travel, deep-sea diving, stealth and other situations, like his "Hulkbuster" heavy armor designed to take on the Incredible Hulk. Stark also developed an electronics pack during the Armor Wars that, when attached to armors that use Stark technology, will burn out those components and render the suit useless.

Quite apart from the powers granted him by the suit, Stark is an inventive mechanical engineering prodigy, constantly creating new technology and looking for ways to improve it. He is also extremely well-respected in the business world, able to command people's attentions when he speaks on economic matters by virtue of the fact that he is savvy enough to have, over the years, built up several multi-million dollar companies from virtually nothing. He is also known for the loyalty he both gives to and commands from those who work for him as well as his impeccable business ethics. He also strives to be environmentally responsible in his businesses, and in one case, immediately fired an employee who made profitable (but illegal) sales to Doctor Doom.

When Stark was unable to use his armor for a period of time, he asked for some combat training from Captain America and has become quite physically formidable on his own when the situation demands it. Except for his two serious bouts with alcoholism, Stark is possessed of tremendous strength of will, never giving up and often emerging from defeat even stronger. It is arguable that the true "iron man" is not the armor, but Stark himself.

Appearances in other media

Iron Man appeared in two animated series, in 1966 and 1994.

Iron Man has been featured in several video games. He was one of four selectable heroes in Captain America & The Avengers (1991), and was also in Capcom's Marvel Super-Heroes and the subsequent Marvel vs. Capcom series as well as Iron Man/XO Manowar in Heavy Metal for the Game Boy. More recently, Iron Man, Tony Stark and Stark Enterprises made an appearance in The Punisher video game released in 2005.

An Iron Man film is scheduled to be released in 2006 with the armor rumored to be based on the Ultimate Iron Man model.

Bibliography of Iron Man titles

  • Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner (1968)
  • Iron Man (1968 series) #1-332 (May 1968 - September 1996)
  • Iron Man Annual (1970 series) #1-15 (1970 - 1994)
  • Giant-Size Iron Man (1975)
  • Iron Manual (1993)
  • Iron Man 2020 (August 1994)
  • Age of Innocence: The Rebirth of Iron Man (February 1996)
  • Iron Man (1996 series) #1-13 (November 1996 - November 1997)
  • Iron Man (1998 series) #1-89 (February 1998 - October 2004)
  • Iron Man: The Iron Age (1998 series) #1-4 (August 1998) - December 1998)
  • Iron Man Annual '98 (1998)
  • Iron Man Annual '99 (1999)
  • Iron Man: Bad Blood (2000 series) #1-4 (September 2000 - December 2000)
  • Iron Man Annual 2000 (2000)
  • Iron Man Annual 2001 (2001)
  • Iron Man (2004 series) #1-present (November 2004 - present)

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