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.
Tony Stark took on a whole new job in 2004, but it all came to a swift end when the Avengers crashed and burned with Iron Man at their side.
A cocky Tony Stark faced hearings in Washington D.C. in IRON MAN #74 to confirm his appointment as the new Secretary of Defense. His mantra, “No one need ever die in war again,” became tainted though by the schemes of a new business rival, Sonny Burch. After an exhibition of Stark’s ideas for military armor in IRON MAN #75, Burch tried to get Stark tech out to the public in IRON MAN #76 before Tony’s appointment to his new position. Then the underhanded businessman revealed he possessed an entire cargo plane full of Iron Man armor that he wanted to mass-produce.
As fate would have it, Burch’s own equipment went awry in IRON MAN #77 and the plane plummeted down onto D.C., prompting a last-minute rescue by the real Armored Avenger in IRON MAN #78. Any hold-outs from among the senators at Tony’s hearing made up their mind at that moment to confirm Stark as Secretary of Defense.
A glowing figure appeared in Iraq to attack U.S. troops in IRON MAN #79 and the president ordered his newest cabinet official to investigate. Stark got down to work immediately, but a mysterious armored man didn’t care much for the recently-appointed Secretary. In Baghdad, in IRON MAN #80, Tony encountered a metal-eating bacteria dispensed by a woman calling herself Vitriol, a freedom fighter for her people. With Help from Force, an American armored agent, Iron Man confronted Vitriol in IRON MAN #81 and Force expressed his anger at our hero.
In IRON MAN #82, the Golden Avenger learned that Force had been blackmailed by Sonny Burch, who then blamed Stark for putting him in that situation. With aid from a U.S. bomber that dropped magnesium hydroxide on Vitriol’s caustic gel, Stark and Force defeated the woman and secured the area for U.S. soldiers once again. Tony also explained that he had nothing to do with Force’s troubles from Burch.
After a tense mission in space and an attack from the Titanium Man in IRON MAN #83, Stark discovered in IRON MAN #84 that his father kept another version of the robotic Arsenal in one of Avenger Mansion’s sub-basements. Though once the Stark family home, the mansion has become “sovereign territory” and no longer a part of the United States, meaning Iron Man needed to sneak in and deactivate the Alpha Arsenal. Everything blew up in IRON MAN #85 as the robot came to life and believed World War III had broken out. Meanwhile, government agent Henry Peter Gyrich began to think that Tony Stark’s job as Secretary of Defense had become conflicted by his operations as Iron Man.
Then, in AVENGERS #500, the unthinkable: a seemingly deceased Jack of Hearts blew up Avengers Mansion, killing Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man. At a United Nations assemblage, Tony Stark suddenly turned on the Latverian ambassador and threatened to destroy the man’s country. Back at the ruins of the mansion, the Vision and Ultron attacked the Avengers. In IRON MAN #86. Tony’s friends believed he’d fallen under outside control again and watched as Iron Man leveled his own building.
With demands for the resignation of Stark’s cabinet position flying around him, Iron Man went toe-to-tow with a berserk She-Hulk in AVENGERS #501. With their entire mission as Earth’s Greatest Heroes crumbling around them, the Avengers squabbled amongst themselves, prompting Tony to jet off in anger. Later, in IRON MAN #87, he seemingly killed his entire board of directors at Stark Enterprises and former flame Rumiko Fujikawa.
AVENGERS #502 brought more of the unthinkable: a whole-scale bombardment on the Avengers by the alien Kree and the fiery death of Hawkeye. Tony’s own armor attacked him in IRON MAN #88, but he managed to grab another suit to fight it off and learned in IRON MAN #89 that shady arms dealer Clarence Ward had controlled the suit during its recent swath of death and destruction. Stark resigned as Secretary of Defense and from the Avengers.
The final act of dissembling came in AVENGERS #503, when the Scarlet Witch stood revealed as the mastermind behind the attacks on the heroes. Iron Man faced his longtime teammate, but Magneto, the Witch’s father, took her away when the last vestiges of her sanity overcame her. Shattered, the Avengers walked away and into an uncertain future.