History of Iron Man

The History of Iron Man Pt. 17

The debut of James Rhodes, a new rival for our hero, and Tony Stark faces his Demon in a Bottle!

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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!

1979 debuted not only one of Iron Man’s closest friends and allies, but also among his greatest foes, leading to a destructive inner conflict that would change Tony Stark’s life forever.

James Rhodes, affectionately known as Rhodey, made his bow in IRON MAN #118, a great way to start the year for Tony Stark—though being thrown out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier would qualify as a downer. It all came on the heels of a S.H.I.E.L.D./NATO conference and the discovery of a rogue faction within the government spy organization. Iron Man managed to swoop in and deal with the rebel agents in IRON MAN #119, but not before the helicarrier drifted into Soviet airspace and Stark uncovered a plan by the real S.H.I.E.L.D. for a forced buy-out of Stark International.

Angry at what he saw as an immense betrayal, Tony’s drinking increased in IRON MAN #120 and his armor’s workings became erratic, seemingly disobeying his commands. Behind the scenes, the mysterious Justin Hammer worked to subvert Iron Man’s role as a hero and watched as the Armored Avenger plunged headlong into a battle with Namor the Sub-Mariner over a small island that proved to be a source of vibranium, the incredible, near-indestructible metal, and a pawn in the machinations of the Roxxon Oil Company, as seen in IRON MAN #121. In the end, the tiny piece of real estate met with fiery destruction and Iron Man jetted back to the States to try and dope out his problems.

After a flashback to his origins in IRON MAN #122, our hero’s boot jets failed while flying over Manhattan in IRON MAN #123, putting Stark on the defensive once again. What to do? Take a trip to Atlantic City with the beautiful Bethany Cabe, that’s what—and face off against the terrible trio of Blizzard, Whiplash and Melter, of course. Tony Stark discovered there’s no rest for the weary in IRON MAN #124, and swallowed his pride when Bethany turned the tables on the villains all by herself. Thinking his troubles to be over for the moment, he later stood helpless as his armor betrayed him once again by killing a foreign ambassador at a press conference with his repulsor rays.

Reeling from the tragic event, Iron Man refused to surrender to the police in IRON MAN #125 and Tony Stark handed over his armor to the authorities. After a bout of serious drinking, the millionaire industrialist ran off to Monaco on the trail of the real killers, aided by Rhodey and a feeling of dread growing within him. There, in IRON MAN #126, he came face-to-face with Justin Hammer and learned his rival stood behind every bit of trouble he’d been having for months.

An army of super villains on Hammer’s payroll went up against the Golden Avenger in IRON MAN #127, and our hero ended up sinking his adversary’s floating headquarters after the melee. With Hammer’s activities finally curtailed and his name cleared, Iron Man discovered the real causality of the entire mess: his reputation. Tony Stark drowned his troubles once again with heavy doses of spirited libation and realized he might have a drinking problem.

IRON MAN #128 illuminated the full picture of the “demon in the bottle” and its drastic and life-changing effects on Tony Stark. After going out drunk as Iron Man and screwing up, he looked to Bethany Cabe to help him through the worst of it. She urged him to fight his addiction and promised to give him whatever help she could. Destroying the office of a loan officer that withheld stock from Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler, Stark admitted his alcoholism and decided to fight it.

They year—and the decade—wrapped up in IRON MAN #129 as the millionaire regained control of Stark International through its stock and tried to patch things up with his old friend, Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. But, as these things usually go, a monkeywrench gummed up the works, in the frightening form of an attack by Dreadnaughts.

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

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