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’s position as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2008 brought him into conflict not only with his old enemy the Mandarin, but also his own government and a Secret Invasion from outer space that threatened the entire planet.
IRON MAN #24 found Stark AWOL and scrambling for his old armor as a way around the power dampeners placed upon him by law enforcement officials. Maya Hansen—thought to be dead—worked alongside the Mandarin on an airborne delivery system for the Extremis program while Captain Ultra and Doc Samson offered their help to Tony to solve the mystery of many missing persons.
Tony learned in IRON MAN #25 his hallucinations of certain dead people stemmed from both his Extremis programming and guilt over their deaths. Making his way to Secretary of Defense Kooning, he informed the man he’d been unknowingly working with the Mandarin who sought to evolve “mankind” using Extremis. Iron Man went head-to-head with his foe in IRON MAN #26 and, after being initially clobbered, ended up getting sucked into a micro black hole. Once they freed him from the small singularity, the U.S. military took our hero away and placed him on trial before a United Nations assembly in IRON MAN #27.
Meanwhile, the Mandarin finally wrested the Extremis airborne delivery codes away from Maya and advanced his timetable.
The big throw down came in IRON MAN #28, as Tony Stark donned his old Silver Centurion armor to save Maya, defeat the Mandarin and push back on his being labeled a terrorist by his own government. Little did he know the worst had yet to arrive.
The Armored Avenger investigated the use of miniature nuclear bombs in the small Eastern European nation of Kirikstan in IRON MAN #29 while a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Weir stole a weapon called the Overkill Horn. Merging with the Horn, it mutated into the Overkill Mind in IRON MAN #30 and then appeared over Kirikstan to bedevil Tony with even more challenges than the terrorist Rahimov already operating there. In IRON MAN #31, the S.H.I.E.L.D. alpha team faced off against the giant artificial brain while Iron Man fought the mercenary Paladin and Rahimov on the ground.
Stark entered the Overkill Mind in IRON MAN #32 and forced Weir to shut down the weapon from inside. After then ordering S.H.I.E.L.D. to bomb Rahimov’s castle, Iron Man reluctantly left the country with more blood on his hands.
In the aftermath of discovering the depth of a shape-shifting Skrull infiltration in NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #6, Iron Man joined with others of Earth’s heroes to investigate a downed starship in the Savage Land in SECRET INVASION #1. Subsequently, Stark sent his friend Jim Rhodes, War Machine, to a satellite in IRON MAN #33 to prepare the planet’s last line of defense. Rhodes watched as the satellite transformed into a gigantic suit of armor in IRON MAN #34, which he operated himself to fight back the incoming Skrull armada. Unfortunately, War Machine fell in battle while helping Russia’s Winter Guard and became the captive of the Super-Skrulls.
Meanwhile, in SECRET INVASION #2, Iron Man discovered that his armor had been infected by a Skrull computer virus in the Savage Land, and so he went off to try and rebuild it. The Skrulls attacked New York City in force in SECRET INVASION #3, while a sickly Tony attempted to cobble together new armor, but instead fell prey to the Skrull queen posing as Spider-Woman. The wily alien female began to convince our hero of his existence as a Skrull sleeper agent.
The Black Widow rescued Tony from the Skrull queen in SECRET INVASION #5, just in time to solicit Iron Man’s aid in defending the Earth from the invasion back in New York City. An immense battle broke out in SECRET INVASION #6, with the original Avengers reunited and teamed with a small army of super villains against the Skrull’s legions of soldiers.
Finally, when the fight seemed to turn against the aliens, they unleashed their most terrible weapon yet in SECRET INVASION #7. Iron Man watched in horror as his old friend and Avengers teammate the Wasp lit up like a Christmas tree, a living bio-bomb designed to destroy everyone around her.