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The Avengers: Iron Man – a ‘Stark’ history

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Avengers #2When multi-billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, inventor extraordinaire, dons his solar-charged, steel-mesh armor, he becomes a high-tech warrior — the world’s greatest human fighting machine! The Invincible Iron Man – Marvel Comics circa 1990s

In 1963, Stan Lee envisioned Iron Man as a commentary on the Cold War and the U.S. military industrial complex, and together with his brother, Larry Lieber, and artists Jack “King” Kirby and Don Heck, they created one of comics’ most compelling characters and one of the few self-made superheroes.

Tales of Suspense #39Industrialist Tony Stark (who is based on the real-life billionaire Howard Hughes) and his alter-ego Iron Man first appeared in the comic book, Tales of Suspense #39 (1963), which told the tale of the wealthy weapons manufacturer who is injured by a Vietnamese landmine and is held captive and forced to create weapons for the Communist regime.

Stark has shrapnel from the bomb stuck in his heart and his fellow prisoner, a physicist named Ho Yinsen, saves his life by helping Tony build a magnetic chest plate that keeps the metal fragments from causing further damage to his heart. The two geniuses construct Stark’s first suit of gray armor in order to overcome their captors and get away, but Ho Yinsen is killed during the escape.

Stark returned to his life in the U.S., but was required to constantly wear his protective chest-plate to prevent the still-embedded shrapnel from reaching his heart. He continued to refine the armor suit he created and wore it in the guise of his own body guard, Iron Man. The armor goes from gray to gold in Tales of Suspense #40 (1963) and Stark dons his first version of the now famous red-and-gold armor in Tales of Suspense #48 (1963). Iron Man’s stories would continue to be told in Tales of Suspense comics until he finally received his own title book in The Invincible Iron Man #1 in 1968.

Tales of Suspense #48Tony would go on to create multiple special-purpose versions of the body armor including one for stealth (Iron Man #152 – 1981), space travel (Iron Man # 142 – 1981), deep-sea diving (Iron Man #218 – 1987), Hulkbuster heavy armor for going up against the green Goliath (Iron Man #304 – 1994), a red & silver version of his basic armor (Iron Man #200 – 1985) and the War Machine armor (Iron Man #281 – 1992) that is often worn by Tony’s friend James Rhodes. Stark has also worn the bio-mechanical Extremis armor that he could manipulate with just his thoughts and was able to connect to any computer on Earth (Iron Man vol. 4, #1-6 – 2004.)

Not only was Iron Man one of the Avengers founding members (Avengers #1 – 1963), as billionaire Tony Stark he was their biggest sponsor and provided them with financial backing and a headquarters. Some of Iron Man’s earliest adversaries would even go on to become Avengers themselves. Iron Man fought the Soviet spy, Black Widow, in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964) and the Widow seduced Hawkeye into stealing technology secrets from Stark Industries until the Golden Avenger put a stop to his plans in Tales of Suspense #57 (1964). Both characters would go on to join the Marvel super-team.

Iron Man #128Even though he’s a genius billionaire playboy, Tony Stark’s inner demons often get the best of him. He was one of the first mainstream comic characters to deal with alcoholism in a serious way, in 1979’s “Demon in a Bottle” story-line from Iron Man #120 – 128. In this series Iron Man accidentally kills a visiting foreign ambassador and Stark goes off the deep-end when his armor is taken away by the authorities. Tony eventually pulls it all together, but he still has a constant fight with his alcoholism.

Iron Man has made several trips back in time and even traveled back to the era of Camelot on more than one occasion with the infamous Marvel bad guy, Dr. Doom (Iron Man #149-150 – 1981 and #249-250 – 1989.) The pair would travel through multiple time periods again in the Heroes Reborn series, Iron Man Vol. 2 – #11 in 1997.

After the turn of the century, Tony Stark became the U.S. Secretary of Defense in Iron Man #73-78 – 2003, and after a break-up of the Avengers, he started a new group of Avengers in the New Avengers #1 – 2005. During the 2007 Civil War mini-series, Tony Stark backed the Superhuman Registration Act program requiring superheroes to be registered and trained by the government and he became the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division) in Civil War #7 – 2007.

Iron Man #124The Iron Man 3 movie is already in the works and The Avengers film starts this Friday (5/4/12). Get ready for The Avengers movie by visiting Marvel Comics online, where you’ll find a wonderful array of archived comics and wiki reference material. Most of the digital comics allow a sneak peak for at least the first few pages before you have to pay to see the whole thing, but some of the older issues are completely FREE to read.

Don’t miss Free Comic Book Day coming up this Saturday, May 5. It’s an excellent time to go to your local comic shop and get caught-up on the new story-lines involving Iron Man and to locate some of the books mentioned here. LOCAL COMIC SHOP INFO HERE!

Also, don’t miss the Ultimate Avengers Movie Marathon this Thursday, May 3. It includes back-to-back screenings of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor in 3D, Captain America in 3D and then the premiere of The Avengers in 3D! It’s all starts at 11:30 a.m. at the AMC Westgate 20 in Glendale. [Get Tickets HERE]

You can also see an Avengers screening to help out Phoenix Youth Basketball, MORE INFORMATION HERE!

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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