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 returned to theaters everywhere in “Iron Man 3.” In celebration of this momentous occasion and to commemorate 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 met one of his greatest nightmares come to life in the form of Ezekiel Stane, son of his deceased rival Obadiah Stane and a near immeasurable technological genius who turned his gifts to terrorism. In INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1, the younger Stane made his presence felt with a serious of hideous attacks on Stark and his company.
The Armored Avenger brought his resources to bear against Stane in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #2, but could not match his new foe. As INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #3 unfolded, the unscrupulous upstart revealed an alliance with another next generation Stark hater: Justin Hammer’s granddaughter, Sasha.
After Pepper Potts felt Stane’s wrath in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #4, Shellhead once again tackled his opponent head-on, but again proved unequal to the task of putting him down. After Ezekiel introduces an army of allies in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #5, Tony had no choice but to resort to desperate measures in order to pull out a tainted by INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #6.
Meanwhile, James Rhodes wrapped up his battle in orbit in IRON MAN #35 and flew off to help Russia’s Winter Guard to help kick some Skrull butt on the ground. In SECRET INVASION #8, the heroic Wasp died while Tony Stark stood humiliated after Norman Osborn made the kill-shot that took out the aliens’ queen. When the dust cleared, Stark lost his job as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Osborn dismantled the entire organization.
In the aftermath of the Secret Invasion, Spider-Man helped Iron Man track down wayward StarkTech in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7 while Tony struggled without the extra boost of Extremis. After a very bad exit interview with Osborn in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8, our hero refused his rival access to the Superhuman Registration Act database, a collection of irreplaceable data that resided only in Tony’s brain.
Realizing he’d likely be labeled a fugitive, Stark began a self-mind wipe in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #9 to block Osborn. He named Pepper Potts the new head of Stark Industries while former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill—an associate of Stark’s—found herself arrested by Osborn’s own H.A.M.M.E.R. Osborn announced that Tony should be brought in for “questioning” in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10 and gave him a deadline to turn himself in. When time ran out, America’s new “Iron Patriot” declared Iron Man a traitor.
Pepper—now with a suit of armor to call her own as Rescue—tried to solicit help from War Machine in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #11. Meanwhile, Hill went to destroy FuturePharm on Stark’s orders but instead found the Controller on the premises. H.A.M.M.E.R. nabbed Pepper in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #12 and Tony continued to delete his mind while on the run from Osborn. Angered by Stark’s absconding with the database locked in his brain, the Iron Patriot placed a billion Euro bounty on the hero’s head.
In INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #13, Stark’s mind continued to worsen as he deleted more and more of it. Hill escaped from the clutches of the Controller and Pepper managed to talk her way out of Osborn’s grasp. The Iron Patriot sent Tony’s old lover Madame Masque out to find him, knowing her seething thoughts of revenge for Stark. Tony stumbled into Russia, feeble and increasingly brain-dead, in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #14 and borrowed the Crimson Dynamo’s armor. Rescue continued the search for her old boss and friend while Hill sought out the Black Widow to get to Captain America for help.
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Tony attacked Rescue in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #15 but snapped out of his stupor long enough to spirit her away to another of his secret labs. Unfortunately, Masque caught up to them both and tortured Pepper as a way to get back at Stark. Hill found the Widow, but when betrayed to H.A.M.M.E.R. by a contact of Natasha’s in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #16 they faced Osborn’s wrath. Across the globe, Pepper fended off Masque with the Rescue armor and Tony Stark made his way to Afghanistan.
The Iron Patriot ordered the H.A.M.M.E.R. helicarrier to Russia in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #17 and picked up Madame Masque there—seemingly after she just killed Pepper. After being shot down over the desert, Tony abandoned his precious armor and began a long trek on foot. Finally finding the original lab where he and Dr. Yinsen first created the Iron Man suit many years before, Stark deleted the very last bits of the Superhuman Registration Act database from his brain in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #18. Norman Osborn then got a lock on his enemy and flew out to bring him in while Masque revealed herself to be Pepper Potts in disguise.
While a nearly comatose Stark headed off for Dubai in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #19, Pepper, Hill, and the Black Widow faced off against a cadre of H.A.M.M.E.R. troops and Osborn caught up to Tony. Unfortunately for him, his vicious attack on the hero once known as Iron Man caught the eye of the entire world as the Iron Patriot’s own suit broadcast the beating across the planet. With Stark now in a vegetative state and without the database in his head, Osborn ordered him to be terminated, but a H.A.M.M.E.R. doctor warned that the only person who could authorize such a drastic measure stood as Tony’s own personal physician: Doctor Donald Blake.