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Superhero Origins: Iron Man (Redux)

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Clayton Martino. Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, and thats without the suit. When Tony Stark dons the Iron Man armor he becomes one of the most formidable heroes in the Marvel Universe. From his not so humble origins as heir to the Stark business empire to his rebirth as an Avenger, Iron Man has one of the coolest and most interesting backgrounds for any hero around. Join as we explore the comic book origins of Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man.

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Script written by Clayton Martino.

Superhero Origins: Iron Man

Does the suit make the man, even if the man made the suit? Welcome to and today we will explore the comic book origins of Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginations and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen primarily to follow the original storyline which unfolded in 1963’s “Tales of Suspense” #39 .

Unlike many Silver Age comic book characters, Tony Stark was an adult and entrepreneur well before he became a superhero. The son of Howard Stark, a wealthy industrialist and head of Stark Industries, Tony was a brilliant scientist, billionaire, and playboy. While in Vietnam developing weapons to help the United States government during the War, Stark was wounded by a booby trap and captured by Vietnamese guerrillas, led by the evil Wong-Chu. With a piece of shrapnel lodged in Stark’s chest and inching towards his heart, Wong-Chu ordered him to build the Vietnamese a super weapon in exchange for the surgery that would save his life.

Suspecting a double cross, however, Stark used the supplies he was given to build a magnetic device that would keep the shrapnel from reaching his heart. With assistance from fellow captive Professor Yinsen, Stark began construction of an armed metal suit they could use to escape.

Before the suit could be completed, Yinsen sacrificed himself to buy Stark enough time to power up the suit, using the same magnetic device Stark was using to keep himself alive. With the Iron Man suit completed, Tony defeated Wong-Chu and his militants, leaving the enemy camp in ruins.

Of course, the first ever Iron Man suit was rough, and nothing like the iconic red and gold suit we know and love today. Said suit, Iron Man Armour Mark 2 - first appeared in “Tales of Suspense” #48. After being defeated and nearly killed by the villain Mister Doll, Stark had to construct the a less bulky suit that wouldn’t put as great a strain on his heart. Equipped in his new suit, Stark confronted Mister Doll again and defeated the villain.

Iron Man would eventually get his own comic series in 1968. In the first edition of this series, the origin story was briefly retold, as Tony was once again captured by Wong-Chu and escaped by building a suit made of iron.

Iron Man would later become a founding member of the Avengers. After hearing that the Hulk was on the loose causing severe destruction, Tony decided to confront the green menace. An epic clash between Iron Man and the Hulk followed, before Thor flew in and explained that it was in fact Loki who framed the Hulk. Working together, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp defeated Loki, and agreed to name their newly assembled team, The Avengers!

Just like his origin story, Iron Man’s abilities have been revised and modified throughout the years, with some of the biggest advancements being made more recently. Tony’s strengths are his mind and his money, which he used to make technological additions to his current suit, or even to make all new ones for specific situations. All of Tony’s powers came from his various suits, which he’s able to control thanks to the device in his chest, now called an ARC reactor. Of course, it also helps that he can constantly upgrade his suits with weapons he develops through his company, Stark Industries.

One of the biggest changes to Tony’s powers was when he was injected with the Extremis virus after a battle with the Extremis-enhanced Mallen. The Extremis virus gave Stark increased powers because it allowed him to partially merge with the Iron Man suit, and gave him the ability to control the suit with is own brain. Tony would eventually lose the Extremis virus in later issues.

Like all comic book heroes, Iron-Man has gone through numerous re-imaginings, perhaps none more prominent than in the Ultimates storyline, an alternate, modernized Marvel universe. We are re-introduced to Stark in New York as he battles alongside fellow Avengers against an invading alien race known as the Chitauri. In this continuity, Tony is once again portrayed as a playboy millionaire, though he constantly doubts his own abilities as Iron Man.

Aside from comics, Iron Man has appeared in various media. In the 1960s, he starred in his own segment in the animated series “The Marvel Super Heroes” and more recently as a major character in “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. Recently, the Iron Man character has grown in popularity thanks to Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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