Iron Man is the biggest of Marvel’s pantheon of superheroes to get the big screen treatment. Now that Tony Stark’s Iron Man has finished his MCU run with Avengers Endgame, it is the perfect time to look back. He may not be the most universally recognized of the Marvel heroes, but his cultural impact is still fairly significant – just ask Black Sabbath.
With an all-star cast that would put any Award-nominated picture to shame, Iron Man was one of the better comic epics to ever hit the Cineplex. But before he makes his bow in theatres (with an origin story that sticks pretty close to the comics), here’s a few things worth knowing about the comic book Iron Man.
Iron Man’s fought a dragon
In recent years, the trend in Iron Man comics has been to pit ol’ Shell Head against more geopolitical threats, reserving the super-villain thwarting for The Avengers books; this is particularly evident in the current series. But there was a time when Iron Man had a fearsome rogues’ gallery; like the Mandarin, who’s armed with 10 magical rings and the Living Laser, who fires lasers from devices he wears on his wrists. But his literally biggest enemy is the space dragon Fin Fang Foom, who has a background as complicated as any human villain.
Iron Man’s smart and rich
Even before the movie, the media recognized Iron Man’s crossover appeal. Forbes magazine placed Tony Stark at #10 on its list of 15 Richest Fictional Characters. Stark finished ahead of Gomez Adams and Lucius Malfoy, but behind Bruce Wayne and C. Montgomery Burns. Also, Stark placed high on Business Week’s Top 10 list of the smartest superheroes alongside Batman and fellow Marvel heroes the Hulk and Mr. Fantastic.
Iron Man’s got several variations of his armour
Like in the movie, there are multiple versions of the Iron Man armour. What started out as a grey, tin can morphed into a gold, tin can, which later gave way to the development of the more common red and gold suit, but even then there have been cosmetic alterations. But the Iron Man suit is also functional. It can be converted for space flight or deep sea operations, or reconfigured to battle powerful foes, like the so-called “Hulkbuster” armour.
He’s part of a secret society
It was revealed in New Avengers #7 that Iron Man had been a part of a secret cabal that helped covertly shape events in the Marvel Universe following the Kree/Skrull War along with Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Professor X, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Black Bolt. It was subsequently revealed that it may have been the actions of this “Illuminati” (they don’t call themselves that) that may have precipitated the current Secret Invasion crisis, where the shape-shifting Skrulls are replacing key players. Series writer Brian Michael Bendis has already said that Iron Man is not a Skrull replacement.
Iron Man helped found the Avengers
Along with the Hulk, Thor, Ant Man and the Wasp, Iron Man was one of the first superheroes to don the mantel of being an Avenger, Marvel’s premiere super team. And aside from a time leading the West Coast branch of the Avengers, Iron Man has always been an active part of the team, up to, and including, the pre-Civil War New Avengers and the Initiative-approved Mighty Avengers.
Iron Man’s been a traitor
In a complex series of events called “The Crossing” story arc, it was revealed that Tony Stark had been a brainwashed sleeper agent for the time-travelling Kang the Conqueror. Predictably, Stark went evil and betrayed the Avengers forcing them to recruit a teenaged Stark from an alternate timeline in order to defeat the villainous Iron Man. The Iron Teen stuck around until all the heroes were “killed” during Onslaught, but that’s another story all together…
Iron Man faked his death
There’s a price to pay for everything, and while the Iron Man suit kept Stark’s heart functioning, the cybernetic interface ended up causing irreversible damage to the man’s nervous system. In order to buy time to heal, Stark had himself put into suspended animation, while handing over control of his company, and Iron Man’s legacy, to his good friend Jim Rhodes. Rhodes later takes on the mantle of the Iron Man-esque War Machine after learning he was but a pawn in Stark’s machinations.
Iron Man won the Superhero Civil War
As we all know, Iron Man was at the center of last year’s Civil War storyline that touched nearly every Marvel comic. Stark lead the Pro-Registration heroes to victory against the forces of Captain America’s Secret Avengers. The result was the implementation of Stark’s 50 State Initiative and putting a superhero team in every state, while Stark himself was made the Director of the World Peacekeeping force S.H.I.E.L.D. But the taste of victory was bitter for Stark as he took personal responsibility for the assassination of Captain America, telling the hero’s dead body that “It wasn’t worth it.”
Iron Man’s pretty much a Borg, now
One of the biggest, most recent developments in Iron Man lore is the introduction of the Extremis armour. Stark used a techno-organic virus to save his life while fighting a foe with nanotechnology capabilities. The side effect of doing this is that Stark can now store the inner layer of his armour in his body, while being able to remotely interface with satellites, computers and the Internet external to his armour as well as giving Stark advanced healing abilities. The change actually makes Stark a cyborg as opposed to a guy in a suit of armour.
Iron Man’s an Alcoholic
Tony’s physical body may be vulnerable by his weak heart, but his emotional stability made him susceptible to the all too human condition of substance abuse, namely alcoholism. Stark hits rock bottom; losing his fortune, his company and his secret life as Iron Man before eventually getting off the booze and clawing his way back to the top and regaining control of Stark Enterprises and the Iron Man armour. Frequently, Stark is seen struggling with his alcoholism, even in the midst of a crisis situation.