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.
The “Heroes Reborn” event dominated 1997 with its alternate “Counter Earth” take on Tony Stark, his fledgling career as Iron Man and the heroes and villains who made it all a fascinating place to be.
In IRON MAN #3, our hero, damaged in a fight with the Hulk, sought out Pepper Potts for a little pick-me-up with jumper cables.
The entire experience gave the normally-flippant Tony a new outlook on life, something he’d need when everyone came gunning for him later. In fact, after the Fantastic Four expressed their interest in the new armored figure, the Living Laser showed up in IRON MAN #4 for some revenge, a situation the Armored Avenger took a disliking to.
Liz Ross vowed to protect Stark from Iron Man in IRON MAN #5, but the Whirlwind’s abduction of Pepper took precedent for Tony. After the villain’s dispatching by a kinetic intake converter, Iron Man then turned his attention to a news report of an attack on Avengers Island by the Hulk. AVENGERS #6 illustrated our hero’s attempt to help shut down the island’s gamma core and his threat to S.H.I.E.L.D.: get out of the way or lose all your Stark tech. Back in IRON MAN #6, Tony discovered his friend Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk and convinced the behemoth to help contain the impending accident at Avengers Island. With their headquarters in ruins, the team imagined the end had come to their enterprise, but Iron Man pondered the possibilities…
In CAPTAIN AMERICA #6, Iron Man and the Avengers declared themselves an independent entity and no longer under the jurisdiction of S.H.I.E.L.D. Then, in AVENGERS #7, Stark granted the group a mansion to use as their headquarters and formally joined the team as Iron Man.
In IRON MAN #7, the Mandarin informed Madame Hydra that no harm should come to Tony Stark by her hand. Jasper Sitwell threatened Doctor Leonard Samson to divulge Banner’s whereabouts or be forcibly exposed to gamma radiation, and Tony Stark learned that Iron Man joining the Avengers helped with positive publicity. A sudden attack by an armored figure called Rebel in IRON MAN #8 brought the past rocketing back into Stark’s life when he realized Rebel’s identity as an old friend—presumed dead—who’d helped develop Iron Man’s armor. After defeating the man in combat, Iron Man discovered Rebel’s illness and death wish and vowed to help him.
With Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four to aid him, in IRON MAN #9 Stark took a trip through Rebel’s memories and saw not only an attack by the Russian Titanium Man but also a capture by Madame Hydra. With Rebel dying, Iron Man flew off with his friend to Russia in IRON MAN #10 where they fought both the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo and then switched armor to confront Hydra.
IRON MAN #11 revealed Doctor Doom posing as the Mandarin and behind the entire scheme. After killing both Madame Hydra and Rebel, Doom brought Iron Man to Latveria where the two tussled and ended up on a trip through time via Doom’s amazing technology. Doom and Stark wound up in several time periods and the Latverian monarch tried to convince our hero that something in their universe didn’t add up.
The intergalactic being known as Galactus arrived on Earth in IRON MAN #12, a situation which prompted Doctor Doom to push Stark to help create an “Ultimate Nullifier” to fend off the alien. Alas, the heroes of Earth all perished in battle with Galactus and only Doom escaped to attempt to use time to rectify the horrible end of his world.
The year wrapped with a bright spot on the horizon. HEROES REBORN: THE RETURN told the tale of young Franklin Richards who risked everything to bring the lost heroes of his world back from Counter Earth and into their rightful universe. This included Tony Stark, who returned to his role as Iron Man and looked forward to many more years as a champion of justice on his proper Earth.