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.
In 2002, Iron Man honed his detective skills, fought the son of his mortal enemy and revealed his identity to the world in a year loaded with dreams, damsels, and a healthy dollop of danger.
With the aid of the robot Jocasta, Shellhead put down the latest uprising of the Avengers’ perennial foe Ultron in IRON MAN #48, then plunged into the mystery of a seemingly new Titanium Man in IRON MAN #49.
With barely a moment to catch his breath, Tony Stark discovered an Eastern European country torn by civil war and its cunning dictator in IRON MAN #50. The man requested Stark’s aid in developing technology to ethnically cleanse his country, but Tony sided with the rebels and gave his knowledge and weapons to them. Back in the United States, the Armored Avenger tried to save Abby St. Clair, the head of a safe haven for prostitutes, in IRON MAN #51, but ended up solving her murder in IRON MAN #52, after a “whodunit” quest at first lead him to accuse the wrong person.
IRON MAN #53 told of a new street drug called “Sleeping Dragon,” as well as reintroducing Tony to the lovely Ayisha from the war-torn nation he’d just helped. Meanwhile, far away, the son of the Mandarin, Temugin, accepted a gift: the 10 mystical rings that once belonged to his father—still adorning the Mandarin’s severed hands. Now a cyborg due to the technology that integrated with her body after being left behind, Ayisha begged Tony to kill her in IRON MAN #54, but Stark refused.
In a rage over her present state, Ayisha attacked both Tony Stark and Pepper Hogan and found herself battling the Golden Avenger at the North Pole in IRON MAN #55. Temugin appeared in a submarine that broke through the ice near the fight and captured both combatants. Reluctant to take on the mantle of his father, the young man asked our hero to give him his “best fight,” but swiftly mopped up the floor with the Armored Avenger. Only the escape of Ayisha and a terrific explosion saved Stark from certain death.
Back home once more, Tony Stark, while saving the life of a dog, revealed his identity as Iron Man to the world.
IRON MAN #56 opened with a gift to Tony from his old flame Rumiko Fujikawa: controlling interest, in the form of stock, in his old company, now Stark-Fujikawa. A falling satellite owned by Stark’s enemy Ty Stone demanded Iron Man’s swift attention, but it turned out to be a ruse to suck our hero into Stone’s virtual reality “dream vision.”
A nanite virus introduced by Stone into the city’s power grid enabled him to strike at Stark away from his strange dream world in IRON MAN #57. While Stone fought with his enemy, Rumiko rushed to the city’s officials to get them to shut off the power grid; the resulting blackout gave Tony the edge he needed to beat Stone once and for all in IRON MAN #58.
The year ended with Tony Stark thrilled over his new invention, a time machine, in IRON MAN #59. An archaeological dig in Wales yielded a 1000-year-old surprise: Iron Man’s helmet, giving Stark the impetus to try out his device. In the past, he encountered Aislinn, who captured him and demanded the secrets of his armor; in the present, an archaeologist made one more startling discovery—a skull within Iron Man’s helmet.