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 the aftermath of Civil War, Tony Stark experienced great personal pain in 2007, but when the Hulk returned to wage World War on the Earth, Iron Man received a world of hurt.
IRON MAN #14 found Stark attempting to break Captain America’s secret code and smash the resistance movement against the Superhuman Registration Act. Pepper Hogan asked Tony to turn off the mortally-wounded Happy Hogan’s life apparatus, and after a failed meeting with Cap, Iron Man switched off the machines and let Happy slip away peacefully. CIVIL WAR #6 brought our hero little peace himself, though, only a path to all out battle with Cap’s forces.
It came down to personal combat between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in CIVIL WAR #7, which ended when Cap realized that he’d put the common man in danger from the battle. Steve surrendered and when the dust cleared, Stark became the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He immediately began making changes in the organization with IRON MAN #15, which didn’t sit well with former director Nick Fury’s second-in-command, Dum Dum Dugan. Meanwhile a mystery man in a Chinese cell came into the picture.
Tony discovered frightening new superhuman terrorist activity in IRON MAN #16, as well as renewed romantic interest from former flame Maya Hansen. In China, the Mandarin received his rings of power which became fused to him body and soul in IRON MAN #17. Iron Man warned there’d be no more illegal S.H.I.E.L.D. operations, but strange bio-zombies in China sent him zooming there with agents to investigate. It came down to allowing the Extremis program in his own body take on the bio-mass in IRON MAN #18 to kill the spread of it. But unbeknownst to Tony, Maya met with the Mandarin to work out a deal to engineer Extremis into a workable agent for mass production.
The Hulk approached the planet in IRON MAN #19 and WORLD WAR HULK #1, hell bent on extracting revenge toward Iron Man, Reed Richards, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange for forcibly launching him into space. Stark sent drones to intercept Hulk’s ship, but when that gambit failed, he went up against the green behemoth himself in new Hulkbuster armor. After a brutal beatdown, Tony became the Hulk’s prisoner in IRON MAN #20 and managed to inform Dugan of a special fallback plan to send all of New York City and the Hulk into the Negative Zone.
Tony remained out of the darkening picture until he found himself in an arena of death in WORLD WAR HULK #4 and forced to fight not only a massive alien creature, but also his fellow hero Mr. Fantastic. When Reed got the better of the un-armored Tony, the Hulk gave him the thumbs-down, the signal for Stark’s immediate death. Iron Man managed to call out to orbiting defense satellites with his Extremis abilities in WORLD WAR HULK #5 and then blast his hulking foe. The resulting barrage transformed the gamma-spawned giant back into puny Bruce Banner, ending the crisis.
Back on the job in IRON MAN #21, Stark investigated the death of one of his Initiative heroes in Nebraska. The villainous Graviton seemed to be responsible for the murder of Gadget, resulting in a mystery that kept Iron Man busy while Maya Hansen and the Mandarin moved forward with the testing trials for Extremis.
As the Nebraska mystery deepened in IRON MAN #22, Tony began to hallucinate seeing dead people and discovered the murderer to be Paragon, another hero on Gadget’s team. Paragon also possessed gravity-based powers and used them on Iron Man. The Mandarin subdued Paragon in IRON MAN #23, but not before Graviton committed suicide over the entire incident. Stark swore he’d not rest until he got to the bottom of it all, but ended his year being shut down by the Secretary of Defense and forced to wear power dampeners to limit his Extremis abilities.