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
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.
Iron Man hit more than his share of speed bumps heading into 1991, including enemies both seen and unseen and a wild adventure in the mystic landscape of China.
Labor disputes at Stark Enterprises—the more things change the more they stay the same for Tony Stark. IRON MAN #264 found James Rhodes impersonating his partner via hologram to reassure everyone that Stark still cared despite his sudden heart seizure. Beyond that, the mystery of the Mandarin deepened in China as he tried to wrest control of the country from its leaders.
Speaking of mysteries, the sinister man called DeWitt continued to manipulate Stark in IRON MAN #265, but Iron Man uncovered clues to the assailant’s bosses: the Marrs Corporation. DeWitt stood revealed in armor to battle his foe and the Mandarin’s strange benefactor spoke of the villain’s “true form.” It took Rhodey once again donning a suit of his own to help turn the tables in IRON MAN #266, but the resulting blast from the combined efforts of the two Armored Avengers spelled death for wily criminal.
IRON MAN #267 brought to life heretofore new details of the Mandarin’s origins while Stark battled Vibro with mango-couplers. IRON MAN #268 uncovered the fact that the warlord
Tony Stark’s nervous system received some bad news in IRON MAN #269: severe trauma. When his hastily-built neuro-net electromesh suit fails him, the industrialist had to face the cold hard reality of being stuck in his Iron Man armor forever to live.
IRON MAN #270 began the sprawling “Dragon Seed” saga as Stark flew off to China to seek treatment from the famed Doctor Su-Yin, a beautiful female scientist and surgeon. Though Rhodey posed as Iron Man, the Mandarin sensed his real enemy on his own soil and prepared a fiery welcome committee for him: the dragon Fin Fang Foom.
Rhodey clashed with Fin Fang Foom in IRON MAN #271 and defeated him—temporarily—while Stark discovered that Su-Yin could not help him with the extensive damage to his nervous system. Despite this, he began to fall in love with her. The dragon rose again in IRON MAN #272, but the Mandarin held the creature back from destroying Iron Man. Stark sent for his spare armor and rocketed into the fray to aid his friend.
While the remote control armor entered into combat with Fin Fang Foom in IRON MAN #273, several Chinese nationals through off the illusion of humanity they’d adopted long ago and showed their true forms: immense dragons. The Mandarin learned that the dragons were an alien species that had originally crafted his very own rings of power—and wanted them back. IRON MAN #274 saw Foom joining his brethren against the Mandarin while Tony Stark underwent a reversal of his nerve damage thanks to Su-Yin’s tireless efforts.
The year ended with Iron Man—the real Iron Man—standing at the side of his most hated foe, the Mandarin, versus the alien dragons in IRON MAN #275. Together they created a devastating energy storm that not only brought about defeat for the aliens but cost the villain his consciousness and his hands. Stark and Rhodes returned home, pondering the future.