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.
In the aftermath of Fear Itself, Tony Stark spent 2012 answering for his actions, dodging old villains, and trying to stay out from under the thumb of his oldest, most powerful enemy: The Mandarin.
Distraught over his drinking and sober for only three days, Tony returned home in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #510 to find himself hounded by a tireless media. Splitlip the Dwarf joined Stark Resilient with an invitation from its owner, but in the wings waited Mandarin and Ezekiel Stane to heat things up for Iron Man.
An old foe, the Living Laser, came calling in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #511 as a new Detroit Steel made the scene as well. Stark traveled to Washington D.C. in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #512 to answer for his actions during the Serpent affair to Congress and insist that his drinking would not become a problem to national security. Jetting off to China to fight Dreadnoughts alongside War Machine and the Chinese heroes of Dynasty in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #513, Shellhead had no clue to the Mandarin’s real plans for him.
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #514 saw Stark handing over data to the feds and agreeing to a governing device installed in his repulsor system. Meanwhile, the Melter and Whirlwind made trouble at the orders of Mandarin and Stane continued to work on titanomechs, gigantic technological creatures, for the master villain. War Machine battled Melter and his fellow bad guys in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #515, only to seemingly perish from a killing blow. Tony Stark fell deeper into depression over his inability to square up his life.
Somehow, in the middle of all this, Iron Man witnessed the first salvos in a war between Earth’s heroes in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 and helped invade the mutants’ home base Utopia in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #2. Tony devised an immense Phoenix-Buster suit of armor to confront the cosmic force in AVENGERS VS X-MEN #5 and went toe-to-toe with a Phoenix-powered Cyclops inAVENGERS VS. X-MEN #12.
Stark discovered General Babbage and the federal government’s ability to shut him down in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #516, subsequently leaving the Avengers and resigning as Iron Man. Sasha Hammer became the new Detroit Steel, much to the chagrin of the original. Ezekiel Stane tried to get out from the Mandarin’s control in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #517 while Tony asked Reed Richards to drain off the nanites that gave him his powers. In the wake of Stark’s stepping down as Iron Man, James Rhodes, still alive, secretly took on the mantle and a new suit of armor.
The new Iron Man began his career in earnest in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #518 while Mandarin ordered more villains to assassinate his old opponent and got Stane back under his control in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #519. Tony signed away his rights to Stark Resilient under pressure of the exposure of his being drunk while operating as Iron Man. The new Armored Avenger even had to save the original from a bitter gunman. In INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #520, Rhodey took on the Mauler and Chemistro and killed the latter in battle, while his boss fell under the spell of the Mandarin.
Six months passed and in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #521, General Babbage broke his association with the Hammer Girls while Pepper Potts, now CEO of Stark Resilient, demanded to know who now operated as Iron Man. Tony Stark worried over possible brain damage from the torture he endured as a slave of the Mandarin.
Finally, Pepper and Iron Man worked together, though begrudgingly, while Stane once again tried to break away from the Mandarin in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #522. The titanomechs neared completion in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #523 and Tony whipped up a rebellion among the villains in the Mandarin’s employ. With a new set of armor he fashioned, Stark lead his foes in an attack on the Mandarin’s city in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #524 and #525, while Stane himself took on the master manipulator. Then, the Mandarin’s ultimate plot stood revealed: a massive drill to crack open the Earth itself and feed its energies to his “pets,” the titanomechs.
In an immense battle in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #526, everyone fought the raving mad Mandarin and the one, the only original Iron Man destroyed the titanomechs. Ezekiel Stane, meanwhile, killed the Mandarin, an event condemned by Stark, further driving him into confusion and depression.
Tony isolated himself after returning to America in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #527 and took back both Pepper’s and Rhodey’s armors. Unsure of himself and his future as a hero, he closed up shop, bid his friends farewell and flew off to the stars—destination unknown!