History of Iron Man

The History of Iron Man Pt. 21

Tony Stark hits his lowest point, paving the way for a new face behind the iron mask!

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By Jim Beard

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 Avengers.”

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.

You can start here.

Also, be sure to visit the Marvel Digital Comics Shop and Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited to read 50 years’ worth of Iron Man adventures!

1983 sent Tony Stark back into the bottom of a bottle, but gave the world an exciting new Iron Man in return.

The urge to drink became almost too much to bear for Tony in IRON MAN #166, and the return of the Melter didn’t help things. Beating his old foe turned out to be relatively easy, but the real menace to Iron Man called himself Obadiah Stane, the ruthless businessman who wanted nothing less than complete ownership of Stark International. Stark helped that along by taking up the bottle once again in IRON MAN #167 after an attack by Stane’s armored chessmen and the man himself hypnotizing of a meeting of European business associates.

With his new love Indries Moomji revealed to be working for Stane, in IRON MAN #168 Stark turned his growing rage to Machine Man, the android super hero. Beating the artificial man nearly to artificial death, Iron Man flew off on an alcohol-laced rampage in New York City in IRON MAN #169. Stane tried to buy Stark’s debt while Tony slipped deeper and deeper into his cups, resulting in one of the most shocking moments in the Armored Avenger’s story: James Rhodes, Tony’s best friend and right-hand man, donned the famous armor and became the new Iron Man in Stark’s place.

The original Iron Man’s last days with the Mighty Avengers came with triumph—the new Captain Marvel joined the team in AVENGERS #227—and tragedy—Hank Pym, founding Avenger, stood trial for his crimes in AVENGERS #228. Only one last nail in the coffin remained: in AVENGERS #231, James Rhodes made a call to the team as Iron Man and effectively resigned “his” membership.

For his first armored mission, Rhodey went up against a returned Magma, the heated super villain in IRON MAN #170. Unused to operating the suit, his learning curve turned out to be a challenging one, but with some help from Tony he beat Magma and took over the role of Iron Man completely. Rhodey then faced off against Thunderball of the criminal Wrecking Crew in IRON MAN #171 and Stark found himself arrested after another round of drinking.

IRON MAN #172 saw Tony released from jail only to watch as Obadiah Stane began his takeover of Stark International. After the former millionaire industrialist disappeared, Rhodey enlisted Captain America to help search for his friend and get him to sign a paper to hold off Stane. They found Tony in a flophouse, drunk, and the fiery Firebrand setting the torch to the rickety structure. In all, it didn’t matter much; Stane gained Stark’s company, lock, stock and barrel.

After a wild goose chase to find Indries Moomji in IRON MAN #173, Rhodey returned to his own mother’s home to find that Tony had once again disappeared. Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. entered the picture in IRON MAN #174, concerned over Stane’s ruthless seizing of Stark International and looking to grab all the Iron Man armors before they became more pieces on the chessboard. Rhodey got their first, though, and snatched up the armors himself. They ended up in the Atlantic Ocean in IRON MAN #175, a treasure sought not only by the new Iron Man and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also by the evil Warlord Krang of Atlantis.

Tony Stark fell deeper and deeper into his drinking problem in IRON MAN #176, while Rhodey sought out a new power source, but the once-ago Golden Avenger could not drag himself up into the light again. Rhodey decided to seek the advice of Luke Cage and Iron Fist in IRON MAN #177, and ended a most fascinating year by going freelance and facing off against the Flying Tiger. Meanwhile, seemed like everyone Tony stumbled into wanted to lecture him on the evils of alcohol…

Check out IRON MAN (1968) and AVENGERS (1963) on the Marvel Digital Comics Shop, plus more Iron Man is available to subscribers of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.

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