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.
The year 1995 marked the beginning of the end for Iron Man as Tony Stark sunk deep into despair over a mystery that threatened everything and everyone he held dear.
IRON MAN #312 wrapped up the cataclysmic battle between Iron Man, his group Force Works and the evil Mandarin. After infecting his foe with a techno-organic virus, Stark watched as the Mandarin grew old at an accelerated rate. Later, Tony reconciled with James Rhodes and promised to help him repair his War Machine armor. Then, celebrating New Year’s Eve in IRON MAN #313, our hero once more faced the bottle, remembering his first drink from his father.
IRON MAN #314 brought some happier news: the United Nations space agency Starcore favored Stark Enterprises as their main contractor. In Russia, the Titanium Man escaped his imprisonment while in the States Tony helped his old friend Captain America escape growing paralysis by implanting a biochip in him. After checking up on the progression of Alzheimer’s in his former mentor, Ted Slaught, Stark took off for Russia in IRON MAN #315 to open a new plant there, an event not applauded by the Titanium Man.
Iron Man joined forces with both the Black Widow and his past adversary the Crimson Dynamo in IRON MAN #316 to confront the angered Titanium Man, a battle which ended in IRON MAN #317 with the Dynamo’s use of a “fusioncaster” and the death of the Titanium Man. Back at home, Ted Slaught transformed into the being called Slag in IRON MAN #318 after an accident caused by his Alzheimer’s. With his new powers, he toyed with Tony’s mind and memories.
IRON MAN #319 kicked off “The Crossing,” which not only introduced a new set of retro-styled armor for Iron Man, but also revealed a chilling fact: Tony Stark’s status as a “mole” for Kang the Conqueror, the Avengers’ time-traveling enemy.
The terror of a nervous breakdown grew in Tony Stark as a mysterious blackout in IRON MAN #320 cast a shadow over both his unveiling of Maria Stark Park and a renewed romance with old flame Bethany Cabe. To make matters worse, another past love, Marianne Rodgers, escaped from a private Stark mental hospital and made a beeline for Tony.
Three murders had occurred in the then-abandoned Avengers Mansion, and Tony investigated them in IRON MAN #321. A secret door in the mansion’s basement, a part of the mystery, denied entry to our hero, but surveillance tapes revealed that Stark himself had committed the crimes. After believing he killed his old friend Hank Pym, Tony found himself staring down a seemingly-sane Marianne and yet another old girlfriend, Madame Masque.
Events rushed headlong to a conclusion in IRON MAN #322 as Marianne explained to Stark that the original root of her insanity lay within Tony himself, and her proximity to his inner darkness. A befuddled Iron Man witnessed the opening of the basement door only to face off against Neut, a lackey of Kang’s. Meanwhile, Tony’s Avengers’ friends the Wasp and Hawkeye both realized their current troubles all came about through manipulations by one man: Tony Stark.
Hawkeye, framed for crime and on the run, angrily battled the Armored Avenger in IRON MAN #323, and the year ended with the Avengers confronting Stark with his own crimes and string of vicious words from our hero that no one could ever imagined:
“You all must die!”