In this Avengers Spotlight, we look at a hero who has often taken on the role of leader of the team. The man is a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and genius, but when he suits up, he’s the armored Avenger known as Iron Man.
Created in 1963 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby, Tony Stark made his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39. Since then, he’s gone through a myriad of different armors, thwarted countless villains, and even got into a few scuffles with his allies.
Anthony Edward Stark was born on Long Island to wealthy industrialist and head of Stark Industries, Howard Stark, and his lovely wife Maria. At the age of 15, Tony was deemed a boy genius and went off to MIT to study mechanical engineering and computer science. Tragedy struck when his parents were killed in a car accident, which left him in charge of his father’s company.
Years later, while Stark observes the progress of the inventions put out by his company for the American war effort, Stark is injured by a booby trap and captured by terrorists who want him to build weapons for them. His injuries are extremely severe and the shrapnel in his chest is moving towards his heart, which would definitely kill him. Thanks to fellow prisoner Ho Yinsen, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, a magnetic chest plate is constructed and implanted into Tony’s chest to keep the shrapnel away from his heart.
Once they’re sure he won’t die, Stark appears to be complying with the terrorists’ demands, but secretly he and Yinsen are building a suit of armor that will aid them in escaping. During the escape, the suit needed to recharge, so as a distraction, Yinsen sacrificed himself to save Tony, who takes revenge on their captors before rejoining the American forces.
Once back in America, Stark redesigns his armor and adapts the Iron Man moniker while fighting villains like Fing Fang Foom, The Mandarin, The Crimson Dynamo, and The Black Widow, with help from his closest friends and confidants Pepper Potts, his secretary and eventual love interest, Happy Hogan, his personal driver, and James “Rhodey” Rhodes, an American Marine fighter pilot who becomes very good friends with Tony.
After years of using external armor, Tony found a way to incorporate the armor into his biology. First with the Extremis armor, and then the Bleeding Edge armor after it, the armor is now stored in the hollow portions of Stark’s bones and can be assembled and controlled by a control implanted in his forearm that’s connected to his central nervous system.
Shining Moment on the Page
Tony Stark has had some epic battles and stand out moments throughout his publication history at Marvel Comics. There was even a time where the President himself appointed him the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.
Now would be the perfect time to go into ‘Civil War’ again and talk about how he and the Illuminati made up of himself, the Black Panther, Professor X, Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Namor launched The Hulk into space because he was a threat to himself and those around him or how he pretty much pushed forward with the acts that eventually lead to the death of Captain America. However, I won’t do that. I chose to highlight an event in Tony Stark’s life that wasn’t exactly a shining moment for him, but was a shining moment for comics.
In 1979, writers David Michelinie and Bob Layton, along with artists John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, and Carmine Infantino, created the nine-issue Iron Man story arc known as ‘Demon In a Bottle’. This arc concerned Tony Stark’s battle with alcoholism and the effect that it had not only his personal life, but his life as a superhero as well.
Under the control of Justin Hammer, a rival of Stark’s who tries to buy Stark Industries, Iron Man murders a foreign ambassador with a repulsor blast. After trying to explain that the blast was due to a malfunction in the armor, Tony steps down as leader of The Avengers and increases his drinking heavily to forget his problems.
With the help of his then-girlfriend Beth Cabe, he overcomes his alcoholism and the extreme slump that he dug himself into.
This story is a shining moment because never before had comics dealt with such serious topics. Comics were looked at as a thing for children, but once this storyline hit, the writers proved that the medium could do more than just present guys in tights fighting the bad guy. One reason why I personally love Marvel heroes is because of their humanity. They’re extraordinary people with powers and abilities that help them save the world, but they are human or have human-like qualities that make them relatable and approachable.
The ‘Demon in a Bottle’ storyline isn’t just a landmark achievement for Marvel, but for comics in general.
Shining Moment on the Screen
Iron Man has been present onscreen in a number of capacities. He’s guest starred in many Marvel cartoons, as well as starring in his own series, but the hero really made an impact when Robert Downey Jr. stepped into Tony Stark’s metal boots.
Jon Favreau’s 2008 film ‘Iron Man’ brought live action Marvel movies to a whole new level. For the most part, the Marvel properties that had been adapted into movies were laughable, with only a few exceptions that were actually pretty good. But when Marvel formed their own movie-making branch and tasked Favreau with helming their first effort, that’s when things started to turn around for Marvel movies. A great script, and solid performances from the cast really set a new standard for superhero movies.
And, without this first amazing foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we wouldn’t have ‘The Avengers’ opening this weekend. Just like ‘Demon in a Bottle’ changed superhero comics, ‘Iron Man’ changed superhero movies.
That about covers it for Ol’ Shellhead. For more information on the Avengers that you’ll be seeing in the theaters this weekend, check out the other Avengers Spotlights for Thor, The Hulk, Hawkeye, The Black Widow, and more right here on ScienceFiction.com.
There’s one more Avenger that needs to be spotlighted before this series is completed, and what better way to end it than with the first Avenger. Stay tuned for the final installment of our Avengers Spotlight!