By Tobey Cook
If the 70's helped define Tony Stark—a man dealing with the aftermath of his choices in life and learning how to deal with a near-fatal heart problem—the 80's would reinvent that man for a new generation.
The Iron Man of the 80's was much more focused on intrigue and suspense than previous decades. In a decade where corporate espionage and hostile takeovers were the order of the day, it only made sense.
As a result, Tony was forced to rely more on his wits and technological prowess than ever before.
The 80's would also be the catalyst for many of the elements to be seen in this summer's much anticipated "Iron Man" movie, opening on May 2.
The Tony Stark of the 80's
was a much more carefree and easygoing man than he had been in the 70's. At the
beginning of the 80's we would see Tony romantically involved with Bethany Cabe.
She was a much more active part of his life than previous women he had dated, even going on covert missions for him and showing she was no simple woman.
Tony would have many major threats to face in the coming decade, and having a woman in his life that could hold her own was something he would come to utilize a lot more than he ever thought.
As Tony came into the 80's, he no longer had to focus on his health as much as he had in previous decades. His heart was holding up pretty well, so the armor became much more of a battlesuit and was no longer a necessity for his daily life.
The challenges he would face in the coming years would require him to put a stronger focus on the day-to-day operations of Stark Enterprises, as foes would target his business and identity of Iron Man much more than they had in the past.
Tony was still dealing with recovering from his bout with alcoholism, so this renewed focus on his business gave him something to keep him from falling back off the wagon.
He would also develop a long relationship with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., going so far as to design many of the gadgets and weapons that they still use today.
This would help S.H.I.E.L.D. become a major force to be reckoned with, and Iron Man would be an essential part of S.H.I.E.L.D. operations over the course of the decade, taking a much more proactive stance in many adventures than he had before.
But Tony Stark would not be the only one to don the Iron Man armor in the 80's, as his friend and confidante James Rhodes would armor up for the first time in IRON MAN #169.
The 1980's would see many variations of the Iron Man armor, more so than in any previous decade. It would start with the Space Armor used in IRON MAN #142, which was the first nuclear powered version of the armor.
That would be followed by the stealth version of the armor in IRON MAN #152, which Tony would put to use to slip in and out of areas he wasn't supposed to be in.
In IRON MAN #229, he would create a second stealth armor that would incorporate a cloaking field as well, although it didn't have any defensive capabilities due to how much power the cloaking field used, and the repulsors could only fire three shots at full power before being completely drained.
Perhaps the biggest change to the Iron Man armors to date, the Silver Centurion armor that appeared in IRON MAN #200 would be the most technologically advanced armor that Tony had ever developed.
Features included a red and silver paint job, force field and solar panels with backup batteries that could be used when necessary, boot jets that could fly up to speeds of 750 miles per hour.
It also contained much more advanced weaponry such as pulse bolts and a Uni-beam that could generate various different types of beams based on need.
Tony also developed a deep sea armor in IRON MAN #218, which would basically look like the classic Iron Man armor stuffed inside a diving suit.
Eventually he would return to a more classic style armor in IRON MAN #231, developing the Neo-Classic armor to take on the villain Firepower when the Silver Centurion armor couldn't get the job done.
It was Iron Man's most powerful armor to date, easily making short work of the villain. In fact, it made Tony a little nervous having a suit that was basically a walking arsenal.
The suit was also a lot bulkier than any of the previous armors, presumably because the massive boot jets required the thing to be stuffed to the gills with different power sources.
At the beginning of the decade Stark would find himself involved with the lovely Bethany Cabe, who really was able to hold her own when she wasn't getting kidnapped by the likes of Justin Hammer and Madame Masque in exchange for whatever revenge they could exact against Iron Man.
This even lead to a confrontation between her and Whitney Frost, who was angry that Bethany had 'discovered' that Tony Stark and Iron Man were one and the same rather than being told.
Apparently Bethany was able to pick up the clues much easier than anyone else, but she didn't tell Tony because she figured he would tell her when he was ready. Ah, young love.
Arguably the most important person in Tony Stark's life would be James "Rhodey" Rhodes, who would be the first person outside of Tony himself to wear the armor full time.
When Tony had problems dealing with an assault by Obadiah Stane, Rhodey would put the armor on for the next couple of years, even operating as Iron Man during the Secret Wars.
Eventually his aggressive streak would get the better of him, requiring Tony to don a modern version of his original armor to take him down, but Rhodey would still operate in and out of the armor as a backup on occasion.
Bambi Arbogast, Tony's executive assistant, would play a huge role in the day to day operations of Stark International and later Stark Enterprises. Calm, cool and collected, she would often be the voice of reason for Tony when he wasn't sure how things were going to go for him.
The Avengers would also play a huge role in Tony's life during the 80's, constantly coming into conflict with him, especially during the Armor Wars.
Tony would also be instrumental in the founding of the West Coast branch of the team, becoming one of its charter members when he moved his operations for Stark Enterprises from New York to Los Angeles in the late 1980's.
The 80's saw probably the biggest change in Iron Man's rogues gallery than ever before. Justin Hammer would continue to be a thorn in his side.
Hammer employed and upgraded villains like Force, The Beetle (Abe Jenkins, later known as Mach IV from the Thunderbolts), and Blizzard and Blacklash—affectionately nicknamed the B-Team, since apparently Hammer felt a bunch of third rate villains working together could easily be a match for Iron Man.
He also hired the villain Spymaster to steal technology secrets from Stark Industries, which Hammer then sold to the likes of Stilt-Man, Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man.
Additionally, Justin Hammer would be the catalyst for the Armor Wars, bringing Stark in direct conflict with people who were both enemies as well as friends, giving him a somewhat pyrrhic victory over Tony by forcing him to take a more vindictive role against those he thought had stolen his designs.
Doctor Doom would also play a role in Tony Stark's life during the 80's, giving him his first time travel experience in IRON MAN #149-150, one of the greatest Iron Man stories to date, as well as a trip to the future near the end of the decade in IRON MAN #249-50.
He would show a lot of respect for Tony's abilities as an inventor and as a person, but ultimately would choose to continue down his own path rather than use his skills for good!
The biggest challenge Tony Stark would face in the 80's would be Obadiah Stane. Having gained the secrets of the Iron Man armor thanks to Justin Hammer, Stane would build the Iron Monger armor. In an attempt to take over Stark Industries, he hoped to destroy both Tony Stark and Iron Man.
Eventually, he would be stopped, but not before driving Tony back off the wagon and forcing James Rhodes to suit up as Iron Man.
Tony would return with the Silver Centurion armor once and for all, but not before being driven over the edge by having everything he ever fought for or loved taken from him—all par for the course for one of the most complex characters in the Marvel Universe.
Need to catch up on your Iron Man reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring Ol' Shellhead? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Iron Man fan!
For more Iron Man, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. And remember: "Iron Man" comes to a theater near you on May 2! Visit the official "Iron Man" movie site