By Jim Beard
When it comes to Tony Stark, there's a thin line between love and lust.
The "cool exec with a heart of steel" has had that particular organ melted down in the female foundry on more than one occasion—but what's that all about? What makes Iron Man's pump beat faster?
Stark's women have loved him, comforted him, hurt him, and left him. Heck, some even wanted to kill
him! But the Golden Avenger remained aloft, a multitude of notches in his armor and a trail of defeathered birds in his wake, because, you see, on the outside Tony's the consummate playboy whose never satisfied with a single pretty face to greet him every morning.
The reality: a lonely guy in a very hollow tin can, with iron nerves, iron will—and an iron wall around his emotions.
Now, turn off your repulsor rays, and let's take a brief look at the ladies in Iron Man's life and into the little black book of one Anthony Stark, Esq.
Where else to start but with that titian-tressed beauty, Pepper Potts
? With Tony practically from the beginning (TALES OF SUSPENSE #45), Pepper bottled up her feelings for her dreamy boss, keeping watch on his secrets as the dutiful secretary but harboring pulsing passion for the playboy.
Tony seconded that emotion, but hey, he drove her into the arms of another man, waiting years to plant a passionate one on those pouting Potts lips. It ended reasonably well—if "just friends" can be called reasonably well. That kind of thing
happened to Stark more than once: witness his old fiancée Joanna Nivena
(IRON MAN v1 #244) and his beauteous bodyguard Bethany Cabe
(IRON MAN v1 #117) who also tumbled to the secret identity bit and like many others, just couldn't deal.
And ships that pass in the night? Good gosh, Tony Stark virtually founded the phrase. Exotic Rumiko Fujikawa
(IRON MAN v3 #4) used Tony to irk her father and ended up playing "Who's Got the Pillow?" with an old buddy of our rich hero. Then, shedding the weight called his life, Tony fell into the bed of curvaceous Calista Hancock
(IRON MAN v 3 #42) for a quick fling, but the lady didn't dig his subterfuge and that ship left the dock.
Then you've got the weirdies. Exhibit "A" would have to be Whitney Frost, aka Madame Masque
, the scarred mod with the beautiful bod (TALES OF SUSPENSE #98), whose ties to the mob led her to the criminal life—and out of Tony's. One wonders if they both
kept their masks on…
Exhibit "B" goes by the name of Marianne Rodgers
(IRON MAN v1 #12), the kooky psychic who claimed to see the future but ended up in a padded cell. Yep, Tony sure can pick 'em—as Exhibit "C" testifies: Kathy Dare
(IRON MAN v1 #233) possessed neither physical scars nor psychic powers, just a whole lotta mad-on for her playboy boy-toy and a bullet for his spine. Betcha Iron Man never forgot that
In fact, he "moved on" rather spunkily after the Dare incident—not once but twice
. Throwing ethics out the window, a daring duo of dynamic doctoral divas attempted to nurse Tony back to health with interesting interpretations of "bedside manner."
Doctor Yu Sin
(IRON MAN v1 #270) wanted to play
"doctor" with her patient until she remembered she was married, and physiotherapist Veronica Benning
(IRON MAN v1 #292) had a few close encounters with her client's body…and the demon in his bottle.
Tony's drinking problem has at least gotten him a few dates over the years. The delicious but deceptive Indries Moomji
(IRON MAN v1 #163) kicked him to the curb, where he found hottie—and former flame of Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil—Heather Glenn
(IRON MAN v1 #171) and together they found libation and inebriation. Heather found death preferable to Tony's onrushing destitution—and seeming inability to shave—and committed suicide.
Iron Man obviously needed a few good friends—preferably female. He had only to look among his own kind—his kind being super-heroes, of course. Janet Van Dyne, the winsome Wasp
, had been shaking what she'd got in front of Tony for years but when they finally got down to business (AVENGERS v1 #224) Janet wasn't too thrilled with learning her lover also happened to be a fellow Avenger and close friend of her ex-husband's.
The Black Widow
The Wasp couldn't hold a candle to Tony's first plunge into costumed cleavage, though—Natasha Romanoff, better know as the deadly Black Widow
(TALES OF SUSPENSE #52) puts the lie to the cliché of "once bitten, twice shy".
Whew! That's only scratching the surface of this particular itch! Reading like a laundry list of love and lies, passion and pulchritude, the many bedfellows of Tony Stark, Iron Man, serve as an abject lesson to us, the less-lucky: a damaged heart isn't always a weak one.
For more Iron Man, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. And remember: "Iron Man" comes to a theater near you on May 2!