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Archrivals: Iron Man vs Madame Masque

Uncover the stormy stories between the Invincible Iron Man and the scarred soul called Madame Masque

By Jim Beard

Loving enemies: perhaps it's the best way to describe Tony Stark—Iron Man—and Whitney Frost—Madame Masque—in a single breath. From heated battles to intimate encounters, their curious relationship through the years defies rational definition.

Born the scion of Maggia head Count Nefaria but raised the daughter of a financier, Whitney, like many women before and after her, fell hard into the orbit of millionaire Tony Stark. Disfigured in an accident and hidden behind a gleaming golden mask, she became one of Iron Man's most baffling confidants and eventual betrayer. The latest wrinkle in their long series of skirmishes comes in August 5's INVINCIBLE IRON MAN # 16.

Study the following dossiers carefully and a glimmer of understanding of the drama's players may be yours. Madame Masque seems to desire the death of Tony Stark above all—but how can you destroy the one you still love?

IRON MAN #17 (1969)

Faced with Life Model Decoys seeking to replace him, Tony Stark didn't need any more headaches. Unfortunately, he's visited by them in the form of the man called Midas and the mysterious Madame Masque, whose scarred face and troubled past piqued Iron Man's interest and Tony's heart.

IRON MAN #139 (1980)

Caught between Madame Masque and her powerful robotic Dreadnoughts—not to mention with his beloved Bethany Cabe in danger—Iron Man fought as never before. With his friend Rhodey at his side, the Armored Avenger valiantly deactivated the Dreadnoughts, but Bethany won the deciding battle against Tony's former lover.

IRON MAN #203 (1986)

Having exchanged bodies with Madame Masque due to a "psyche imprint transfer," Bethany Cabe raced against the clock to save Iron Man from Whitney Frost's duplicitous impersonation. Madame Masque inched ever forward to putting a bullet in Tony's brain, but Bethany's last-minute party-crashing put the kibosh on the masked femme fatale's plan.

AVENGERS #34 (2000)

After years of strife between all parties, Whitney took a stand against her father Count Nefaria alongside Iron Man and the Avengers. Her bio-duplicate Masque lost its life in the battle, but the original Madame turned the tide against the Count and his ionic bomb. Victory followed and Whitney walked away, putting her criminal days behind her.


Alas, hatred burned anew as Tony and his former lover once more entered into enmity. Iron Man's reunion with old friend Pepper Potts blossomed despite his mental handicaps, but Madame Masque' seething anger put further happiness at ultimate risk. Trapped in Tunguska by Whitney's own devising Tony and Pepper's plight looked bleak…

…which leads us to the next chapter of the story in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #16, out this August 5. Iron Man's stuck between a rock and a hard place, not to mention the cold, cold heart of Whitney Frost, aka Madame Masque. Stay tuned for further frosty fireworks!

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Bah! Issues 139 and 203 were both lame and completely changed MM's personality, turning her into the usual bitter ex. For all we know they could have been clones by then anyway. Whitney was a complex, sympathetic character starting all the way back to Tales of Suspense, and all the way up to IM issue #116, and now she's just another villain.