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.
Also, be sure to visit the Marvel Digital Comics Shop and Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited to read 50 years’ worth of Iron Man adventures!
The new millennium meant more than just a calendar change for Iron Man; it also brought with it dire consequences for the Armored Avenger, including his own advances in technology turning against him.
The giant artificial creature called Ultimo destroyed a ship being powered off of his energies in IRON MAN #24, a situation that called for Iron Man’s involvement after he dealt with a drunken Warbird. Engaging the monstrosity, Stark found that Ultimo learned how to adapt to hostilities, and, in IRON MAN #25, he managed to control the behemoth using passcodes he wrested from his old company, now Stark-Fujikawa. Meanwhile, Warbird placed herself in Alcoholics Anonymous at Tony’s urging.
The villainous Whiplash came calling in IRON MAN #26 as Stark unveiled his new SKIN nanotechnology at a conference. With thoughts of love for Rumiko Fujikawa fresh in his mind, our hero furiously battled Whiplash until a lightning strike knocked them both out. When he awoke, Tony’s reality shattered around him after learning his identity became exposed to the world during the fight.
With his business ruined, his friends now in danger and his Avengers membership revoked, Tony Stark saw a future that looked more than dim in IRON MAN #27. Dipping once more into the bottle, he faced another incursion by his old enemy the Mandarin until he awoke for real and realized all that had happened since his fight with Whiplash amounted to nothing more than a nightmare. Informed he’d suffered a real heart attack, Tony faced even more bad news when his armor suddenly announced its sentience.
IRON MAN #28 forced Stark to deduce the cause of his living armor. He guessed at a combination of the lightning, his own technological advances and the dreaded Y2K bug; despite that, the armor suggested that they become “one” and create the “perfect” Iron Man. When a horrified Tony inside the suit witnessed its murder of Whiplash, he knew he’d better take steps to destroy it. But, in IRON MAN #29, the obstinate armor flew its maker to a deserted island and issued an ultimatum: join with it forever or starve in exile.
The sentient armor answered an Avengers distress call in IRON MAN #30 and when it returned to the island, Tony ambushed it. This brought our hero a massive heart attack for his troubles, but also a savior in the form of the armor, which grafted its own artificial heart onto its maker’s and then “died.” Stark buried his creation, giving it full honors as an Avenger. Back home again in IRON MAN #31 with a new heart, he once again chased after Rumiko and prepared himself to face off against the Sons of Yinsen, a cult devoted to the scientist who originally helped Tony create the Iron Man technology.
Wearing his old armor in IRON MAN #32, Stark found that the Sons claimed to honor the teachings of Yinsen. Then, they revealed that the warlord Wong-Chu still lived and that they intended to see that his reign came to a real and final end. Confronting the villain in IRON MAN #32, our hero also discovered that Yinsen allegedly survived after Tony left him behind long ago in the jungle.
A man named Maximus Power threw a wild party in IRON MAN #33, and fed his guests a drug which endowed them all with super powers. Rumiko, transformed by the Absorbing Man’s abilities, attacked Tony while Power made his escape. Iron Man faced off against the man, now infused with multiple powers, in IRON MAN #34 and beat him with feedback from a telepathy serum. With the help of the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, Iron Man discovered the alien nature of Maximus Power as well as his connection with Ego the Living Planet. Together with the FF and the Silver Surfer, our hero rocketed to the small town of Littleton, Nebraska to figure out a way to contain Ego, exiled to Earth during the Maximum Security crisis, and stop him from expanding further.
Check out IRON MAN (1998) on the Marvel Digital Comics Shop and Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.