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Anthony Edward Stark, the son of wealthy industrialist and head of Stark Industries, Howard Stark, and Maria Stark, is born on Long Island. A boy genius, he enters MIT at the age of 15 to study electrical engineering and later receives PhDs in electrical engineering and physics. After his parents are killed in a plane accident, he inherits his father's company.
Tony Stark is injured by a booby trap and captured by the enemy led by Wong-Chu, who then orders him to design weapons. However, Stark's injuries are dire and shrapnel is moving towards his heart. His fellow prisoner, Ho Yinsen, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose work Stark had greatly admired during college, constructs a magnetic chest plate to keep the shrapnel from reaching Stark's heart, keeping him alive. In secret, Stark and Yinsen use the workshop to design and construct a suit of powered armor, which Stark uses to escape. But during the escape attempt, Yinsen sacrifices his life to save Stark's by distracting the enemy as Stark recharges. Stark takes revenge on his kidnappers and heads back to rejoin the American forces, on his way meeting a wounded American Marine fighter pilot, James "Rhodey" Rhodes.
Back home, Stark discovers that the shrapnel fragment lodged in his chest cannot be removed without killing him, and he is forced to wear the armor's chestplate beneath his clothes to act as a regulator for his heart. He must also recharge the chestplate every day or else risk the shrapnel killing him. The cover for Iron Man is that he is Stark's bodyguard and corporate mascot. To that end, Iron Man fights threats to his company, such as Communist opponentsBlack Widow, the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man, as well as independent villains like the Mandarin, who eventually becomes his greatest enemy. No one suspects Stark of being Iron Man as he cultivates an image as a rich playboy and industrialist. Two notable members of Stark's supporting cast at this point are his personal chauffeur Harold "Happy" Hogan and secretary Virginia "Pepper" Potts, to both of whom he eventually reveals his dual identity. Meanwhile, James Rhodes finds his own niche as Stark's personal pilot, revealing himself to be a man of extraordinary skill and daring.
The comic took an anti-Communist stance in its early years, which was softened as opposition rose to the Vietnam War. This change evolved in a series of stories with Stark profoundly reconsidering his political opinions and the morality of manufacturing weapons for the military. Stark, however, shows himself to be occasionally arrogant and willing to let the ends justify the means. This leads to personal conflicts with the people around him, both in his civilian and superhero identities. Stark uses his personal fortune not only to outfit his own armor, but also to develop weapons for S.H.I.E.L.D. and other technologies such as the Quinjets used by the Avengers, and the image inducers used by the X-Men.
Eventually, Stark's heart condition is discovered by the public and treated with an artificial heart transplant.[volume & issue needed] Later on, Stark expands on his armor designs and begins to build his arsenal of specialized armors for particular situations such as for stealth and space travel. However, Stark also develops a serious dependency on alcohol. The first time it becomes a problem is when Stark discovers that the national security agency S.H.I.E.L.D.has been buying a controlling interest in his company in order to ensure Stark's continued weapons development for them. At the same time, Stark's business rival Justin Hammer hires several supervillains to attack Stark. At one point, the Iron Man armor is even taken over and used to murder a diplomat. Although Iron Man is not immediately under suspicion, Stark is forced to hand the armor over to the authorities. Eventually Stark and Rhodes, who is now his personal pilot and confidant, track down and defeat those responsible, although Hammer would return to bedevil Stark again. With the support of his then-girlfriend, Bethany Cabe, his friends and his employees, Stark pulls through these crises and overcomes his dependency on alcohol. These events were collected and published as Demon in a Bottle. Even as he recovers from this harrowing personal trial, Stark's life is further complicated when he has a confrontation with Doctor Doom that is interrupted by an opportunistic enemy sending them back in time to the time of King Arthur. Once there, Iron Man thwarts Doom's attempt to solicit the aid of Morgan Le Fay, and the Latverian ruler swears deadly vengeance - to be eventually indulged sometime after the truce needed for both to return to their own time. This incident was collected and published as Doomquest.
Some time later, a ruthless rival, Obadiah Stane, manipulates Stark emotionally into a serious relapse. As a result, Stark loses control of Stark International to Stane, becomes a homeless alcohol-abusing vagrant and gives up his armored identity to Rhodes, who becomes the new Iron Man for a lengthy period of time. Eventually, Stark recovers and joins a new startup, Circuits Maximus. Stark concentrates on new technological designs, including building a new set of armor as part of his recuperative therapy. Rhodes continues to act as Iron Man but steadily grows more aggressive and paranoid, due to the armor not having been calibrated properly for his use. Eventually Rhodes goes on a rampage, and Stark has to don a replica of his original armor to stop him. Fully recovered, Stark confronts Stane who has himself designed a version of armor based around designs seized along with Stark International, dubbing himself 'Iron Monger'. Defeated in battle, Stane rather than give Stark the satisfaction of taking him to trial, commits suicide. Shortly thereafter, Stark regains his personal fortune, but decides against repurchasing Stark International until much later; he instead creates Stark Enterprises, headquartered in Los Angeles.
In an attempt to stop other people from misusing his designs, Stark goes about disabling other armored heroes and villains who are using suits based on the Iron Man technology, the designs of which were stolen by his enemy Spymaster. His quest to destroy all instances of the stolen technology severely hurts his reputation as Iron Man. After attacking and disabling a series of minor villains such as Stilt-Man, he attacks and defeats the government operative known asStingray. The situation worsens when Stark realizes that Stingray's armor does not incorporate any of his designs. He publicly "fires" Iron Man while covertly pursuing his agenda. He uses the cover story of wanting to help disable the rogue Iron Man to infiltrate and disable the armor of the S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives known as the Mandroids, and disabling the armor of the Guardsmen, in the process allowing some of the villains that they guard to escape. This leads the United States government to declare Iron Man a danger and an outlaw. Iron Man then travels to Russia where he inadvertently causes the death of the Soviet Titanium Man during a fight. Returning to the U.S., he faces an enemy commissioned by the government named Firepower. Unable to defeat him head on, Stark fakes Iron Man's demise, intending to retire the suit permanently. When Firepower goes rogue, Stark creates a new suit, claiming that a new person is in the armor.
Stark's health continues to deteriorate, and he discovers the armor's cybernetic interface is causing irreversible damage to his nervous system. His condition is aggravated by a failed attempt on his life by a mentally unbalanced former lover which injures his spine, paralyzing him. Stark has a nerve chip implanted into his spine to regain his mobility. Still, Stark's nervous system continues its slide towards failure, and he constructs a "skin" made up of artificial nerve circuitry to assist it. Stark also begins to pilot a remote-controlled Iron Man armor, but when faced with the Masters of Silence, the telepresence suit proves inadequate. Stark then designs a more heavily armed version of the suit to wear, the "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit", which becomes known as the War Machine armor. Ultimately, the damage to his nervous system becomes too extensive. Faking his death, Stark places himself in suspended animation to heal as Rhodes takes over both the running of Stark Enterprises and the mantle of Iron Man, but using the War Machine armor. Stark ultimately makes a full recovery by using a chip to reprogram himself and resumes the Iron Man identity. When Rhodes learns that Stark has manipulated his friends by faking his own death, he becomes enraged and the two friends part ways, Rhodes continuing as War Machine in a solo career.
The story arc "The Crossing" reveals Iron Man as a traitor among the Avengers' ranks, due to years of manipulation by the time-traveling dictator Kang the Conqueror. Stark, as a sleeper agent in Kang's thrall, kills Marilla, the nanny of Crystal and Quicksilver's daughter Luna, as well as Rita DeMara, the female Yellowjacket, then Amanda Chaney, an ally of the Avengers (the miniseries Avengers Forever later retcons these events as the work of a disguised Immortus, not Kang, and that the mental control had gone back only a few months).
Needing help to defeat both Stark and the ostensible Kang, the team travels back in time to recruit a teenaged Anthony Stark from an alternate timeline to assist them. The young Stark steals an Iron Man suit in order to aid the Avengers against his older self. The sight of his younger self shocks the older Stark enough for him to regain momentary control of his actions, and he sacrifices his life to stop Kang. The young Stark later builds his own suit to become the new Iron Man, and, remaining in the present day, gains legal control of "his" company.
During the battle with the creature called Onslaught, the teenaged Stark dies, along with many other superheroes. However, Franklin Richards preserves these "dead" heroes in the "Heroes Reborn" pocket universe, in which Anthony Stark is once again an adult hero; Franklin recreates the heroes in the pocket universe in the forms he is most familiar with rather than what they are at the present. The reborn adult Stark, upon returning to the normal Marvel Universe, merges with the original Stark, who had died during "The Crossing", but was resurrected by Franklin Richards. This new Anthony Stark possesses the memories of both the original and teenage Anthony Starks, and thus considers himself to be essentially both of them. With the aid of the law firm Nelson & Murdock, he successfully regains his fortune and, with Stark Enterprises having been sold to the Fujikawa Corporation following Stark's death, sets up a new company, Stark Solutions. He also returns from the pocket universe with a restored and healthy heart. After the Avengers reform, Stark demands a hearing be convened to look into his actions just prior to the Onslaught incident. Cleared of wrongdoing, he rejoins the Avengers.
At one point, Stark's armor becomes sentient despite fail-safes to prevent its increasingly sophisticated computer systems from doing so. Initially, Stark welcomes this "living" armor for its improved tactical abilities. However, the armor begins to grow more aggressive, killing indiscriminately and eventually desiring to replace Stark altogether. In the final confrontation on a desert island, Stark suffers another heart attack. The armor sacrifices its own existence to save its creator's life, giving up essential components to give Stark a new, artificial heart. This new heart solves Stark's health problems, but it does not have an internal power supply, so Stark becomes once again dependent on periodic recharging. The sentient armor incident so disturbs Stark that he temporarily returns to using an unsophisticated early model version of his armor to avoid a repeat incident. He also dabbles with using liquid metal circuitry known as S.K.I.N. that forms into a protective shell around his body, but eventually returns to more conventional hard metal armors.
During this time, Stark engages in a romance with Rumiko Fujikawa (first appearance in Iron Man (vol. 3) #4), a wealthy heiress and daughter of the man who had taken over his company during the "Heroes Reborn" period. Her relationship with Stark endures many highs and lows, including an infidelity with Stark's rival, Tiberius Stone, in part because the fun-loving Rumiko believes that Stark is too serious and dull. Their relationship ends with Rumiko's death at the hands of an Iron Man impostor in Iron Man (vol. 3) #87.
In Iron Man (vol. 3) #55 (July 2002), Stark publicly reveals his dual identity as Iron Man, not realizing that by doing so, he has invalidated the agreements protecting his armor from government duplication, since those contracts state that the Iron Man armor would be used by anemployee of Tony Stark, not by Stark himself. When he discovers that the United States military is again using his technology, Stark accepts a Presidential appointment as Secretary of Defense instead of confronting them as he did before. In this way, he hopes to monitor and direct how his designs are used.
In the "Avengers Disassembled" storyline, Stark is forced to resign after launching into a tirade against the Latverian ambassador at the United Nations, being manipulated by the mentally imbalanced Scarlet Witch, who destroys the Avengers Mansion and kills several members. Stark publicly stands down as Iron Man, but actually continues using the costume. He joins the Avengers in stopping the breakout in progress from the Raft and even saves Captain America from falling. Tony changes the Avengers base to Stark Tower The Ghost, theLiving Laser and Spymaster reappear and shift Iron Man from standard superhero stories to dealing with politics and industrialism.
New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (June 2006) reveals that years before, Stark had started participating with a group of leaders including the Black Panther, Professor X, Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Namor. The goal of the group (dubbed the Illuminati by Marvel) was to strategize overarching menaces, in which the Black Panther rejects a membership offer. Stark's goal is to create a governing body for all superheroes in the world, but the beliefs of its members instead force them all to share vital information.
In the Civil War storyline, after the actions of inexperienced superheroes The New Warriors result in the destruction of several city blocks, including the elementary school, in Stamford, Connecticut there is an outcry across America against super-humans. Learning of the Government's proposed plans, Tony Stark suggests a new plan to instigate a Superhuman Registration Act. The Act would force every super-powered individual in the U.S. to register their identity with the government and act as licensed agents. The Act would also force inexperienced super-humans to receive training in how to use and control their abilities, something in which Tony strongly believes. Since his struggle with alcoholism, Stark has carried a tremendous burden of guilt after nearly killing an innocent bystander while piloting the armor drunk. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and Dr. Henry "Hank" Pym both agree with Stark's proposal; unfortunately, not everyone does. After Captain America is ordered to bring in anyone who refuses to register, he goes rogue and gives those opposed to registration a figurehead to rally behind, leading to a destructive "superhero civil war". The War ends when Captain America surrenders to prevent further collateral damage and civilian casualties, although he had defeated Stark by defusing his armor. Stark is appointed the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he organizes a new government-sanctioned group of Avengers, while the New Avengers team, under the de facto leadership of Luke Cage, continues to defy the Super-Human Registration Act and operate underground. Shortly afterwards, Captain America is assassinated while in custody, leaving Stark with a great amount of guilt and misgivings about the cost of his victory.He then states that "it wasn't worth it".
Tony Stark served as one of the pallbearers at the memorial service for Captain America, along with Ben Grimm, Ms. Marvel, Rick Jones, T'Challa and Sam Wilson.
In the "Secret Invasion" storyline, after Tony Stark survives an encounter with Ultron taking over his body, he is confronted in the hospital by Spider-Woman, holding the corpse of a Skrull posing as Elektra. Becoming keenly aware of the upcoming invasion of the Skrulls, Tony gathers the Illuminati and reveals the corpse to them, declaring that they are at war. After Black Bolt reveals himself as a Skrull and is killed by Namor, a squadron of Skrulls attack, forcing Tony to evacuate the other Illuminati members and destroy the area, killing all the Skrulls. Realizing that they are incapable of trusting each other, the members all separate to form individual plans for the oncoming invasion.
Stark is discredited and publicly vilified after his inability to anticipate or prevent a secret infiltration and invasion of Earth by the shape-shifting alien Skrull race, and by the Skrull disabling of his StarkTech technology, which had a virtual monopoly on worldwide defense. After the invasion, the U.S. government removes him as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and disbands the Avengers, handing control of the Initiative over to Norman Osborn.
In the 2011 Fear Itself storyline, Earth is attacked by the Serpent, an evil Asgardian, who is later revealed to be Thor's uncle. In Paris, Iron Man fights Grey Gargoyle, who has become Mokk, Breaker of Faith and one of the Serpent's Worthy. Mokk leaves Iron Man unconscious and transforms Detroit Steel into stone. When Iron Man awakens, he sees that Mokk has turned all the people in Paris into stone and left. To defeat the Serpent's army, Tony drinks a bottle of wine - thus 'sacrificing' his soberiety - to gain an audience with Odin, who allows Tony to enter the realm of Svartalfheim. There, Tony and the dwarves of Svartalfheim work to build weapons the Avengers can use against the Worthy. Tony also upgrades his armor with uru-infused enchantments and delivers the finished weapons to the Avengers, who use them for the final battle against the Serpent's forces. Iron Man watches as Thor kills the Serpent, but dies in the process. After the battle is over, Tony melts down the weapons he created and repairs Captain America's shield, which had been damaged in the battle, and gives it back to Captain America, telling him that the shield is now stronger. During a subsequent argument with Odin about the gods' lack of involvement in the recent crisis, Odin gives Tony a brief opportunity to see the vastness of the universe the way he sees it, before, as thanks for Tony's role in the recent crisis, he restores all the people that the Grey Gargoyle killed during his rampage.
After "Fear Itself", Stark is subpoenaed by the U.S. government after evidence of him using the Iron Man armor while intoxicated surfaces. Mandarin and Zeke Stane upgrade some of Iron Man's old enemies and send them to commit acts of terrorism across the world, intending to discredit Iron Man. General Bruce Babbage forces Stark to wear a tech governor, a device that allows Babbage to deactivate Stark's armor whenever he wants. To fight back, Tony undergoes a surgical procedure that expels the Bleeding Edge technology out of his body and replaces his repulsor node with a new model, forcing Babbage to remove the tech governor off his chest. He also announces his retirement as Iron Man, faking Rhodey's death and giving him a new armor so that he becomes the new Iron Man
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