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.
Civil War split the Marvel Universe asunder in 2006 and at its roiling core stood one of the Avengers’ own founding members: the Invincible Iron Man.
IRON MAN #5 opened with Tony Stark in a healing cocoon after his brutal battle with the Extremis-powered madman named Mallen. Injected with the Extremis concoction himself, Stark emerged from his convalescence a new man with amazing new abilities. His Iron Man armor’s under sheath could now be compressed into the hollows of his bones and his entire genetic code had been completely rewritten. In effect, the Armored Avenger had never been more powerful.
Iron Man caught Mallen en route to Washington D.C. in IRON MAN #6 and immediately reopened hostilities with the rampaging lunatic. After several serious thrashings, Stark reluctantly decapitated his opponent and then learned that Extremis’ creator, Maya Hansen, had planned the theft of the serum herself to convince defense contractors to fund her FuturePharm firm.
The Avengers expressed their unhappiness with Tony’s tactics in IRON MAN #7, and elsewhere in the world criminals began to be assassinated by an unknown person. Back at home, Stark also ran into trouble with Nick Fury over a secret project called Argonaut. IRON MAN #8 brought another criminal’s assassination and more suspicion heaped on Stark. The Avengers stopped Iron Man from killing super villain Graviton and worried over Tony’s new aggressive behavior.
Stark willingly submitted to arrest to clear his name in IRON MAN #9, but somehow wound up killing terrorists in Iraq while seemingly under the control of the unknown figure. Fury told a secret government “star chamber” that Stark had gone rogue in IRON MAN #10 and broke Maya Hansen out of prison to help him prove differently. The Avengers sent the powerful Sentry after one of their founders and the two heroes threw down over San Francisco in IRON MAN #11. A son of Doctor Yinsen, the co-creator of Iron Man, seemed to be the culprit behind it all, but a S.H.I.E.L.D sniper’s bullet put an end to the man’s beef against Tony Stark.
In IRON MAN #12, one last wrinkle to the mess remained: a pre-programmed protocol activated by the death of Yinsen’s son sent several suits of Stark’s armor out into the world and on paths of rampage. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes tried to stop the rogue suits with Iron Man’s help, but Stark halted the beat of his own heart to cut short his tech’s artificial lives, spurred on by his own sub-conscious.
Barely recovered from the event, Tony then felt the cold sting of a slap in the face in CIVIL WAR #1 from a mother who lost a child in a detonation from a super hero incident. Tony swiftly became a figurehead for the Superhuman Registration Act and the battle lines between the planet’s heroes grew long and defined by their cross-arguments over the issue.
Stark met with the new Secretary of Defense in IRON MAN #13 to debate the Act, but then prayed he’d done the right thing by warning his friend Captain America about his misguided opinion in CIVIL WAR #2. To cement what he felt to be right, Iron Man convinced fellow hero Spider-Man to unmask on national TV.
The Golden Avenger asked Emma Frost to join his side in CIVIL WAR #3, then set his team against Cap’s in battle. After Cap refused Tony’s offer of full amnesty if he’d stand down, the two former friends went hand-to-hand themselves. Thor—or something that claimed to be Thor—arrived in CIVIL WAR #4 to fight on Iron Man’s side, a cataclysmic battle which resulted in the death of Goliath. Subsequently, more heroes turned to Captain America’s view of things.
Spider-Man turned on Iron Man in CIVIL WAR #5 after the web-slinger disagreed with Stark’s Negative Zone prison for heroes who opposed him and the Act. Stark placed Daredevil in the prison after Spidey’s escape, and then explained to the entire country his plans for an Avengers Initiative in every state.