Iron Man, an American comic book superhero who originally appeared in Tales of Suspense no. 39 in 1963, is a mainstay of Marvel Comics. Stan Lee, who devised the initial story, his brother Larry Lieber, who authored it, artist Don Heck, who drew it, and Jack Kirby, who created Iron Man’s original armored battlesuit, are all officially credited with his conception. Iron Man has appeared in his own comic book series, as well as cameo appearances in other prominent comics (most notably The Avengers), animated films and television programs, and live-action blockbusters.
Iron Man Origins
Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter ego—rich playboy inventor, owner of Stark Multinational, and international arms manufacturer—was inspired in part by Howard Hughes, a wealthy investor, corporate entrepreneur, and defense contractor. During Marvel’s early days, much was made of the company’s invention of “heroes with problems,” and Stark’s problem was potentially fatal: he is maimed by a bomb and captured by a Viet Cong chieftain while showing some new weapons in the jungles of Vietnam.
Stark is forced to work for his captors, designing new weapons, but he covertly makes himself a high-tech suit of armor that will keep him alive while also turning him into a walking arsenal.
Stark beats the warlord in the grey clanking armor and returns to the United States to embrace the role of a superhero, but the tragedy is that he will never be able to remove the chest plate that keeps him alive. To make matters worse, the armor requires continual recharging and has a nasty habit of running out of power at the most inconvenient times, frequently during a fierce conflict.
Iron Man’s supporting cast includes “Happy” Hogan, Stark’s chauffeur; Virginia (“Pepper”) Potts, Stark’s cheerful secretary; and James Rhodes, a former US Marine Corps pilot who would later don his own suit of armor as the costumed hero War Machine.
Titanium Man, an armor-wearing Soviet behemoth (later immortalized by Paul McCartney in a song on his Venus and Mars album), rival businessmen Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer, the Maggia crime organization, and Iron Man’s archenemy, the Mandarin, were among Iron Man’s key villains. The Mandarin was a malevolent mastermind who matched Stark in terms of scientific prowess, and he possessed ten alien-derived rings that provided him a wide range of abilities.
Iron Man was a staple of Marvel’s production throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The character was one of the founding members of the Avengers and has remained a consistent part of the team. Stark’s fortune helped fund the Avengers’ mansion, and his technological prowess led to the building of a virtual armory. His gigantic grey costume was replaced with a series of ever-sleeker outfits, all of which followed a red and gold color scheme.
From “Armor Wars” to the silver screen
Under the writing duo of David Michelinie and Bob Layton, as well as artist John Romita, Jr., the tale took a dramatic turn in the 1980s. When Stark International was abruptly attacked by industrial espionage, Rhodes stepped into the Iron Man suit to replace a despondent Stark. In the years to follow, Stark’s persistent battle with alcoholism would become a frequent subject.
The “Armor Wars” storyline, which pitted Iron Man against a slew of armored criminals who had profited off stolen Stark designs, was one of the most memorable stories of the era. The 1990s were marked by inconsistent storylines that used Stark’s supposed death as a plot device much too often. Iron Man’s genesis was rewritten to take place during the Persian Gulf War as the Vietnam War became a more distant historical event.
Tony Stark, in the early chapters of the twenty-first century, officially exposed his identity as Iron Man and even served as Secretary of Defense of the United States. Stark served as the director of the law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D. for a brief time during Marvel’s Civil War (2006–07) event.
Following the backlash from Civil War, which pitted a hero against a hero with Stark as the main adversary, the Iron Man franchise was rebooted, and writer Matt Fraction and artist Salvador Larroca reimagined the character with their award-winning run on Invincible Iron Man (2008–12).
When Tony Stark was battered into a coma during the second Civil War event (2016), Riri Williams, a smart African American teenager who had reverse-engineered an Iron Man suit, adopted the Iron Man identity. Ironheart became her crime-fighting moniker later on.
In The Ultimates, a series about the Avengers’ counterparts in a parallel universe, an alternate version of Iron Man was one of the original members of the title team, and he was featured in two Ultimate Iron Man comics miniseries (2005–06 and 2007–08), both written by science-fiction author Orson Scott Card.
The Marvel Super Heroes (1966), Iron Man (1994–96), Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2008–12), and The Super Hero Squad Show (2009–11) all featured animated versions of Iron Man, as well as the direct-to-video animated features Ultimate Avengers (2006) and The Invincible Iron Man (2007). In 2008, Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures released the live-action Iron Man. Jon Favreau directed the picture, which was a huge commercial and critical success, and starred Robert Downey Jr., who did an excellent job of conveying Tony Stark’s charm, brilliance, and charisma.
Downey Jr. reprised their roles in Iron Man 2 (2010). Downey became a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, returning to reprise his role in The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).