By Jim Beard with Ben Morse
50 Years ago, Tony Stark became Iron Man, a historic milestone in the tapestry of the Marvel Universe.
Flash forward half a century, and the Armored Avenger has become a worldwide sensation. Beyond his prominent role across the Marvel Comics line, Shellhead hit the big screen in 2008 as Robert Downey Jr. brought Tony Stark to life in the first “Iron Man” movie. The character’s popularity grew in 2010’s “Iron Man 2” and 2011’s “Marvel’s The
On May 3, 2013, Tony Stark returns to theaters everywhere in “Iron Man 3.” In anticipation of this momentous occasion and to celebrate Iron Man’s 50th anniversary, each week Marvel.com will be bringing you another chapter in the history of this complex and beloved character. Year by year, get an in-depth rundown of the trials, foes and experiences that have made Iron Man the hero he stands as today.
1964 introduced Iron Man to perhaps his grea
The year’s challenges kicked off with a tense meeting in TALES OF SUSPENSE #49 between the Armored Avenger and the high-flying Angel, a member of the mysterious X-Men. The teenage mutant turned on Iron Man and the two clashed high above the Earth, but in the end our hero saved Angel’s life and won the admiration of the X-Men. As he zoomed away from that fateful meeting, little did Tony Stark, the man inside the armor, realize that one of the biggest challenges of his life lay just around the corner.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #50 introduced The Mandarin, a man who ruled the Orient with two iron fists, each of them adorned with rings of frightful power. Each of his 12 rings exhibited a different ability, ranging from deadly blasts to paralyzers to devastating waves of sound. Above that, The Mandarin could boast of being a karate master and wielded his hands like swords to cut through the mightiest of metals. Iron Man’s first brief brush with the criminal mastermind ended in a stalemate and a quick escape for the Golden Avenger.
The Mandarin returned in an epic two-part tale in TALES OF SUSPENSE #54 and #55, wherein Iron Man barely had a chance to try out his new head mask before being plunged into a new confrontation with the “most brilliant evil genius in the Orient.” The Mandarin’s newest scheme involved attacking Stark’s missiles, but when the two once again entered into close-quarters combat, the warlord offered our hero a role as his flunky. Needless to say, Shellhead turned him down and proved once again that “No One Escapes the Mandarin”—except Iron Man!
The line-up of criminals didn’t end there; TALES OF SUSPENSE #51 brought The Scarecrow, one of the world’s greatest escape artists. Not satisfied with just entertaining crowds, he decided to put his incredible athletic abilities to use for illicit gain. Then, in TALES OF SUSPENSE #52, Iron Man met a different sort of nemesis: The Black Widow. The drop-dead gorgeous Madame Natasha answered directly to the Soviet leader himself and, with a directive to take out both Tony Stark and the traitorous Crimson Dynamo, made her way to the United States. There she wormed her way into Stark’s presence, knowing of his penchant for beautiful women, but her accomplice Boris failed in his mission and Natasha made her escape. The thrilling tale ended with the woman wondering what her fate would be for her failure.
The Black Widow returned in TALES OF SUSPENSE #53 and #57, the latter of which introduced another of Marvel’s most popular heroes—as a villain. The battling bowman known as Hawkeye first leapt onstage as a thorn in Iron Man’s armored side when he fell into the web of the Widow and became a pawn in her schemes to finally defeat the Avenger. The story revealed Clint Barton’s origins as a performer at Coney Island and the creation of his unique costume and his incredible, multi-purpose trick arrows. Hawkeye eventually wised up and ended up on the straight and narrow arrow, but in those early days he played fast and loose with his alliances and loyalties.
The year’s big baddies rounded out with The Unicorn, as seen in TALES OF SUSPENSE #56. With an amazing
Tony Stark would also meet one of his greatest allies and the man who would challenge him when he needed it most in the years to come as Captain America returned in AVENGERS #4. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes discovered the legend of World War II in suspended animation and invited him to join their ranks, solidifying their standing as the world’s pre-eminent force for good. Despite straight-laced Steve Rogers being a polar opposite in terms of personality from flamboyant Tony Stark, the two men would become friends, and Cap would even train his teammate in hand-to-hand combat in the possibility his armor should fail.
Besides his new helmet design, Tony Stark added little to no new innovations to his armor during the year, but his specialized suit, which kept him alive, did begin to weigh on him terribly. TALES OF SUSPENSE #56 illustrated the man’s anxiety and bristling anger over his condition and that angst culminated in TALES OF SUSPENSE #59 and #60 when Stark’s worse nightmare became reality: so weak had his damaged heart grown that he found it impossible to remove his full Iron Man get-up.
The year ended with Iron Man wanted by the police for the disappearance of his “boss,” Tony Stark, and stuck in a maddening prison made from his own life-giving armor.