By Jim Beard with Ben Morse
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.
1966 opened with death for one of Iron Man’s hated foes and ended with dire peril for one of his closest allies.
The villainous Black Knight returned in TALES OF SUSPENSE #73 to kidnap Tony Stark’s chauffeur and confidant Happy Hogan, who lay in a coma. Iron Man blasted off after the medieval menace, but when the Knight tried to drop the Armored Avenger from his winged steed at a great height, the criminal accidentally plummeted to his own demise. Tony rescued Hogan, but the next stage of Happy’s healing came at a bitter price.
Stark made the decision to use his experimental Enervation Intensifier on his friend and in TALES OF SUSPENSE #74 and #75, Happy Hogan transformed into the furious Freak, a rampaging monster. With Senator Byrd still dogging his every mood and Pepper Potts in the clutches of The Freak, Iron Man found his hands full with problems. Another momentous blast from the Intensifier proved to be what Happy needed to change back to his old self, but at the cost of his memories.
Senator Byrd demanded Tony Stark’s removal as the head of Stark Enterprises, questioning the millionaire’s role as a government contractor and advisor. Reeling from Happy’s amnesia, Stark found himself kidnapped by The Mandarin in TALES OF SUSPENSE #76 and introduced to the master villain’s most outrageous scheme yet: the towering Ultimo, an android born in the heart of a volcano. Back home, Byrd shut down Tony’s business and froze his funds in TALES OF SUSPENSE #77 and it took Iron Man through TALES OF SUSPENSE #78 to find a way to stop Ultimo and defeat The Mandarin once again.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #79 brought an arrest warrant for Stark, courtesy of his old friend the senator. Unfortunately, the Atlantean warlord Krang and the imperious Sub-Mariner waited in the wings to make Iron Man’s life even more interesting, and it took TALES OF SUSPENSE #80 and TALES TO ASTONISH #82 to work out all the differences between Namor and the Golden Avenger. Once free from all fighting, Tony made up his mind to confront Byrd at a Senate committee meeting to answer all questions about the relationship between himself and his “bodyguard,” Iron Man. But, on the way to the hearing, a new improved Titanium Man struck in TALES OF SUSPENSE #81 and #82.
Iron Man held off any further attacks from the Russian operative and in TALES OF SUSPENSE #83 left his foe to the not-so-tender mercies of his cold countrymen. With that off his plate, Stark learned that Happy Hogan awakened from his coma—with full knowledge of the millionaire’s dual identity.
What to do for our hero? Face the Senate committee, that’s what. Stark steeled himself for the first question, to reveal Iron Man’s identity, but a surprise heart attack placed him in the hospital and into the arms of Pepper Potts. A saddened Happy swallowed his pride in TALES OF SUSPENSE #84 as he looked upon his boss and his best girl and made Tony an incredible offer: to wear the Iron Man armor to throw the public off the scent.
It worked all too well. As the year closed, Hogan, sporting the famous red-and-gold suit, vanished into thin air—and into the clutches of The Mandarin.