By Tobey Cook
In the 1980's, Tony Stark weathered pretty much every type of physical and psychological attack he could possibly ever have faced – or so he thought. As we move into the next era in Iron Man's career, Tony Stark would confront many obstacles he would have difficulty overcoming, including his own mortality.
Faced now with a complete collapse of his nervous system, Tony would become even more dependent on the armor than he had before, with the armor's systems being the only way he could even move his body around without significant effort. He would use this time to push his armor's technology to the limit, creating many more sophisticated suits over the course of the next decade.
The 1990's saw Tony Stark as a much more businesslike figure. He spent a lot more time taking care of day-to-day business chores than he had previously. He also exerted great effort to fix his own body through experimental procedures like having a microchip implanted in his spine to enable him to walk and wearing a neural-net mesh suit to allow him to better interface with his armor. Tony would also fake his own death in order to allow his scientists to try and repair his failing nervous system, leaving Jim Rhodes to carry in his name as head of Stark Enterprises and as Iron Man.
As if that wasn't enough, Tony would see many other massive challenges arise. Start with being manipulated by Kang the Conqueror (AVENGERS: THE CROSSING) and replaced by a younger version of himself. Then there was the matter of being bumped into a Counter-Earth following a battle with Onslaught (ONSLAUGHT: MARVEL UNIVERSE) and his resulting resurrection (HEROES REBORN: THE RETURN).
Returning from the Counter-Earth, Tony would rededicate his resources to helping charities by forming Stark Solutions, focusing instead on providing consulting services rather than technology for interested clients. This also helped further cement his reputation as a jet setter.
As far as women were concerned, Tony surrounded himself with several ladies over the course of the 90's. He started out dating Rae Lacoste, a wealthy socialite who later moved on to dating Jim Rhodes after deciding Tony Stark was not for her.
Tony also hooked up with Dr. Su Yin, the neurosurgeon who helped him recover from his degenerating nervous system. However, the longest of his relationships was perhaps his association with Rumiko Fujikawa, daughter of the man who had taken over Tony's company while he was presumed dead.
IRON MAN #278
Many more armors appeared in the 90's, mainly due to Tony's insistence on having armors ready for pretty much any occasion. The return of an upgraded version of the Space Armor (IRON MAN #278) would be followed by the development of the Telepresence Armor (used while Tony was unable to move and had to control the suit through a neural interface module) in IRON MAN #280 and then the debut of the War Machine Armor in IRON MAN #281.
These armors would be followed by the radically redesigned Modular Armor in IRON MAN #300, which would become a more sleek and streamlined design choice, and similar designs in the future would follow this formula. Following the victory against Onslaught, a much different Tony Stark would create the Promethium Armor in IRON MAN v2 #1.
IRON MAN v2 #1
The next big armor redesign would come following Heroes Reborn with the Renaissance armor in IRON MAN v3 #1. That armor would be a sleek design with a more classic-styled faceplace reminiscent of the first red and gold armor. The most distinct change, however, was that the chestplate featured a pentagonal chest beam and the armor also had energy absorbing capabilities.
Many people would come together to help Tony out in his time of need, including Jim Rhodes, who would not only once again don the Iron Man armor full-time while Tony's health recovered but would earn his own suit of armor as War Machine (IRON MAN #284). Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan would once again also rejoin Tony's side when he returned from Counter-Earth.
IRON MAN #284
Among all of his friends, however, the Avengers would play a much larger role in Tony's life in the 90's than they had previously. During Operation Galactic Storm, Tony would spend much of his time with the Avengers on both the East and West coasts, becoming involved in many of their adventures and sacrificing himself along with them to stop the villain Onslaught.
When the Avengers disbanded the West Coast branch in the mid-90's, however, he would take the remainder of that team and create a more proactive group called Force Works, whose membership consisted of himself, US Agent, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter, now known as Arachne), Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, and the alien known as Century.
The return of The Living Laser would mark the first major villain Iron Man would face at the beginning of the decade, followed closely by returns from The Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom. Later on, Justin Hammer would return to plague Tony once again, now partnered with AIM and focused on destroying Tony Stark once and for all.
IRON MAN v3 #17
Over the course of the next few years, a large portion of the conflicts would involve The Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom, who would clearly want to put Iron Man to rest once and for all. They were followed by the return of Ultimo and the debut of the Masters of Silence, as well as new villains such as Vor/Tex.
Overall, the 90's were a turbulent time for Tony Stark, but nothing could prepare him for what was to come. One thing was very clear; Tony Stark had become a changed man and we would see even further progression as time went on.
Need to catch up on your Iron Man reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring Ol' Shellhead? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Iron Man fan!
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