Following the highly successful first seven months of his career as Iron Man, Tony Stark is forced to experience the darker side of his life as a superhero. An encounter with the villainous Kang the Conqueror leaves Stark’s damaged heart in worse shape than ever, and he never fully recovers from the ordeal. He soon finds himself forced to remain in his armor twenty-four hours a day for several weeks, wreaking havoc on his personal life. Then, despite curtailing his activities, within a couple of months Iron Man feels he must resign from the Avengers, the team he helped found, due to his ill health. By autumn, he nearly dies of heart failure and must be hospitalized, after which he practically gives up being Iron Man altogether. For all his technological wizardry, Stark can manage only to keep himself one step away from his grave. To make matters worse, he struggles continually with feelings of sexual jealousy towards his closest friends, Happy and Pepper, and is hounded relentlessly by the United States Congress, in addition to dealing with his fearsome rogue’s gallery of super-villains. It is only his remarkable strength of character that sees Tony Stark through the dark days ahead.
Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.
Now resuming… The True History of the Invincible Iron Man!
January 1963 – Tony Stark is on hand for the top-secret launching of the Helicarrier as S.H.I.E.L.D. opens for business on the first day of the year. Everything goes off without a hitch, and Tony congratulates the agency’s executive director. They discuss the threat posed by HYDRA, and Tony assures the director that his Special Weaponry Section will provide the hardware S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to combat the enemies of freedom. Following the ceremonies, he returns to Stark Industries’ main facility on Long Island to continue working on his latest projects, including a powerful anti-gravity device.
A few days later, a fortuitous accident in the lab renders Tony’s anti-gravity ray fully operational. Word leaks out about the device when Tony holds a demonstration for the Defense Department, leading Natasha Romanova to reappear and steal it right out of Tony’s executive office. Tony is furious that he has allowed himself to be suckered by the Black Widow’s feminine charms once again, and, donning his Iron Man armor, searches far and wide without success. He is equally unsuccessful in recreating the device, since he cannot replicate the conditions of the accident that made it work. The Black Widow leaves a trail of destruction at various Stark factories in the region, and rumors surface that the U.S. Senate is considering investigating Tony for allowing the device to fall into the hands of a known Soviet agent. Iron Man soon discovers her hideout in a condemned apartment building, but she easily defeats him using the anti-gravity ray as a weapon. After devising a new strategy, Iron Man then tracks the Black Widow and her accomplices to Kentucky, where they are attempting to break into Fort Knox. He destroys the anti-gravity device by causing its internal components to fuse into slag, but though her fellow spies are captured, the Black Widow manages to slip away again. Iron Man is irritated when the Army officers at the base blame Tony Stark for the whole fiasco.
Upon returning to New York, Iron Man is summoned by his Avengers teammate Giant-Man when Thor is tearing up the streets of the city in a rage. Joined by the Wasp, they fly out to intercept the thunder god, finding him smashing the front end of a flatbed truck with his enchanted hammer. Thor refuses to explain himself, and Iron Man can only remind Giant-Man that they have made a pledge not to interfere in each other’s personal business.
A day or so later, Tony is called to a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Sensing the romantic chemistry between his executive secretary Virginia “Pepper” Potts and his chauffeur Harold “Happy” Hogan, Tony gives in to jealousy and orders Happy to make an inspection tour of all the facilities damaged by the Black Widow so he’ll be out of the office during Tony’s absence. At the Pentagon, Tony is berated by military officers because the spy-drone aircraft he created have all disappeared while trying to take photographs behind enemy lines in Vietnam. Tony agrees to personally investigate the matter, and travels directly to Southeast Asia. He soon deduces that only the Mandarin possesses the technology to override his guidance systems, and tracks the villain to a remote fortress in the jungle. There, he becomes Iron Man and battles the Chinese despot for the second time, but soon falls before the full force of the Mandarin’s ten mysterious rings. Nevertheless, Iron Man escapes from the Mandarin’s death-trap, destroys the villain’s interceptor ray, and launches all the captured spy-drones back toward the American perimeter. After making a full report to the Army officers in Vietnam and their superiors in Washington, Tony finally returns to New York. He turns on the charm with Pepper, much to Happy’s chagrin, but quickly becomes frustrated that he cannot get closer to her without revealing that he is Iron Man.
Tony’s foul mood leads him to become disenchanted with the Avengers as well, when, at their next routine meeting, the heroes find they don’t really have much to talk about, since none of them are willing to reveal any personal details about themselves. Afterwards, Iron Man receives some judo training from Captain America, but it does little to improve his state of mind.
Soon, Tony gives vent to his rage and frustration over the necessity of wearing his iron chestplate 24 hours a day to keep his injured heart beating. Deciding that he’s sick and tired of being Iron Man and yearning to return to his happy-go-lucky days as a millionaire playboy, Tony ignores a call from the Avengers and goes for a spin in his brand-new Jaguar. He picks up a bleach-blond beauty named Pamela for a date at one of the East Side’s swankiest supper clubs. However, their evening is interrupted when Tony receives a phone call from a plant manager informing him the factory was attacked by a super-villain called the Unicorn, who used a head-mounted energy beam to break in, seriously injure Happy, and kidnap Pepper. Immediately, Tony becomes Iron Man and tracks the Unicorn’s residual energy traces to a beachfront mansion. After a brief battle, Iron Man rescues Pepper and returns her to Stark Industries. Unfortunately, the Unicorn follows him and renews the battle on the factory grounds. The Unicorn soon forces Iron Man to surrender by revealing he has hidden a powerful bomb on the premises, and orders the armored Avenger to accompany him behind the Iron Curtain. But, once their plane is out over the Atlantic Ocean, Iron Man smashes out through the hull and destroys the engines and wings, causing the aircraft to crash into the water. The plane’s crew of Soviet agents are picked up by the Coast Guard, but the Unicorn escapes. The next morning, Tony and Pepper visit Happy in the hospital and learn that he should soon be back on his feet. Tony begins to suspect that Pepper truly has feelings for Happy, and decides not to stand in the way of their relationship.
Giant-Man convenes a special Avengers meeting to demand that Iron Man explain why he ignored their call. Learning that his teammates were trying to warn him about the Unicorn, Tony is plagued by guilt when he realizes he could have prevented Happy and Pepper from getting hurt. Thus, he offers no defense except to cite “personal problems” and accepts their censure when they suspend him from active duty for one week. He returns to Stark Industries knowing that it was foolish to think he could shirk his responsibilities.
Thus, a few days later, when he sees a TV news bulletin that Thor is battling Giant-Man in Manhattan, Tony decides to intervene despite his suspension. Arriving on the scene, Iron Man sees Thor trying to kill the Wasp and attacks the thunder god with his repulsor rays. Iron Man quickly deduces that Thor must be under some form of hypnosis and generates a brilliant burst of flashing light to snap him out of it. Thor awakens from his trance, but just then Baron Zemo’s airship appears, strafing the rooftop with gunfire, before abruptly veering off across the city. Thor leads his teammates to the penthouse apartment of the Enchantress, the “Asgardian” sorceress who hypnotized him, where they find Captain America lying unconscious on the patio. Zemo’s airship is making a fast retreat, so Thor creates a space-time vortex that casts the ship into another dimension. The thunder god explains that if the Enchantress has come to Earth, then her lackey, the Executioner, would certainly have followed her, and if they have indeed joined forces with Zemo, then the danger the Avengers face is very grave.
When a villain called the Grey Gargoyle is on a rampage in New York, Tony agrees to lend a 3-D image projector to the manager of a television newsreel company who is working with Thor’s friend, Dr. Donald Blake. Although their plan is a success, the image projector is lost at the bottom of the Hudson River along with the villain. Tony agrees to write it off as a public service.
At the Avengers’ next training session, the team again discusses what they should do about the Hulk, who is reported to have disrupted the filming of a movie involving Spider-Man a couple of weeks ago. As Avengers’ chairman, Giant-Man decides to research the matter further. Later that evening, Iron Man, Giant-Man, and the Wasp intercept Thor as he flies past Avengers Mansion to see if he needs their help. Thor declines the offer, telling them this fight is a personal one, and zooms off into the sky.
Back at Stark Industries, Happy asks Iron Man to convince the boss to put in a good word for him with Pepper. Iron Man agrees to do so, though he struggles with his feelings of jealousy. He decides it would be easier to get over Pepper if she had a steady boyfriend. Unfortunately, she misinterprets Tony’s opening statement as a request for a date and enthusiastically accepts. Not wanting to hurt Pepper’s feelings, Tony schemes to take her on the most unromantic date he can think of. Thus, evening finds them strolling down the crowded midway at Coney Island. When one of the rides goes haywire, Tony ditches Pepper with a lame excuse, dons his Iron Man armor, and saves the people in danger. She is clearly disappointed with the whole evening, and the next day Tony feels guilty and plans to make it up to her by taking her for a proper night on the town. However, he finds that his gambit has worked, and Pepper has finally agreed to go on a date with Happy.
At the end of the day, Iron Man responds to an intruder alert and finds that a masked archer calling himself Hawkeye has broken into the factory. His high-tech arrowheads are able to damage Iron Man’s armor, and Hawkeye makes his escape while Stark is replacing the compromised components. Then, Iron Man pursues Hawkeye to a small marina near La Guardia airport to retrieve his stolen technology. Though Hawkeye seems defeated after a brief battle, he manages to fire an arrow with an explosive tip that stuns Iron Man. The Golden Avenger recovers in time to see Hawkeye and a dark-haired woman pulling away into the fog on a boat. Iron Man tries to give chase, but nearly collides with an airplane landing at the airport. Though his foe escaped, Iron Man is satisfied that Hawkeye’s attempted theft was thwarted, and he doesn’t consider a guy with a bow & arrow to be a serious threat.
Soon after, Iron Man checks out a disturbance at one of the power plants serving Stark Industries and finds Spider-Man and a defeated Electro. Spider-Man quickly swings off, leaving Iron Man to turn Electro over to the police. A couple of days later, while testing a new underwater breathing apparatus, Iron Man spots Kraven the Hunter trying to sneak ashore after being deported. Iron Man easily captures Kraven and hands him over to the Coast Guard.
Returning to Stark Industries, Iron Man is summoned to the front office by Pepper when an injured Captain America staggers in. Cap reveals that he had been captured by the master-of-disguise known as the Chameleon but managed to escape. Iron Man promises to track down the Captain America impostor before he can infiltrate the Avengers. Though the Captain America he finds at the team’s headquarters protests his innocence, Iron Man chases him throughout the city for a showdown at a construction site. Cap rigs various pieces of construction equipment into traps to slow Iron Man down, and Tony begins to doubt himself when Cap saves Happy and Pepper from injury when they blunder into the battle. Finally, Giant-Man and the Wasp appear, having apprehended the Chameleon nearby. Iron Man realizes he’s been fighting the wrong man all along. It was the impostor who came to Stark Industries and set the whole thing in motion. Cap says there’s no hard feelings, but later, Tony berates himself for falling for the Chameleon’s deception.
Early one evening, Iron Man joins the Avengers for a special conference-call with the top brass at the Pentagon, where they learn of the menace of Kang the Conqueror. Traveling to Virginia aboard a specially-chartered DC-8 from Idlewild Airport, the Avengers find Kang relaxing outside his massive time-ship. Thor notes the conqueror’s air of absolute confidence, and when Iron Man questions him, Kang announces that he has claimed their world for his dominions and easily repels the Avengers with his fantastic technology. Soon, an undersecretary from the Defense Department arrives on the scene and takes charge, prompting Kang to reveal that he is a time-traveler from the far future, who had been known in the distant past as Pharaoh Rama-Tut. After a chance encounter with Doctor Doom, Kang explains, he decided to assume a new identity and conquer the 20th century. Having heard enough, the Avengers charge again, but Kang captures and imprisons them within his ship using various energy beams. The paralysis ray holding Iron Man prisoner interferes with the workings of his life-sustaining chestplate, and as the hours crawl by, Tony feels himself growing weaker and weaker. Finally, Thor smashes open Iron Man’s cell, explaining that he had been set free by Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade. Iron Man struggles to get to his feet as his life-support system comes back online. He rallies as the Avengers storm out of Kang’s ship and find it is now morning. However, Iron Man remains too weakened to do much more than watch as Thor and Giant-Man drive Kang to abandon his plans of conquest.
In the days that follow, Tony becomes concerned that his encounter with Kang has left his heart weaker than ever. At the Avengers’ next meeting, they discuss Spider-Man’s public act of cowardice during a battle with the Green Goblin in a New York supper club. Iron Man worries that it reflects badly on all superheroes. Days later, Spider-Man further humiliates himself by running away from the Sandman down a crowded street. At the same time, Iron Man becomes concerned about Captain America’s frame of mind, as the strain of his obsession with bringing Baron Zemo to justice starts taking its toll. Finding even these routine meetings exhausting, Iron Man volunteers to remain on monitor duty when the rest of the team attends an out-of-town charity benefit.
Unfortunately, Iron Man is immediately called back to Stark Industries when the factory is attacked by the Black Knight, who has just escaped from prison. Arriving as Tony Stark to assess the situation, he suddenly collapses in the front office while talking to Happy and Pepper. Despite his feeble protests, they refuse to leave his side until a doctor arrives. Luckily, the Black Knight’s attack causes a power failure, enabling Tony to crawl into his office and lock the door. He dons his Iron Man armor and attaches two disc-shaped power boosters to his belt, which finally make him feel strong enough to tackle the villain. Despite the Black Knight’s vast arsenal of unusual weapons, Iron Man soon defeats him. However, upon returning to his office, Tony realizes that his heart has become so weak that his chestplate alone is no longer sufficient; he needs the extra power afforded by his full suit of armor to stay alive. Thus, Iron Man informs Happy and Pepper that Tony Stark will be “out of town” for the foreseeable future and has left the armored Avenger in charge of the company. Iron Man realizes they know he’s lying and that they are suspicious of him, but he doesn’t know what else to do.
When a series of seeming earthquakes strike New York one morning, leaving huge, impossibly deep shafts where whole city blocks had been, Iron Man suspects it may be the work of Queen Kala of the Netherworld. However, when the Avengers arrive on the scene, the Fantastic Four inform them that the Mole Man is responsible. The Avengers agree to give the FF one day to deal with the situation before intervening. Several hours later, the city blocks return to their proper places and the FF report the Mole Man has been defeated and his underground kingdom destroyed by a chain-reaction of explosions.
While stopping a bank robbery being committed by Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, and the Executioner, the Avengers meet a new superhero calling himself Wonder Man. So overwhelmingly powerful is this interloper that Baron Zemo calls a retreat. After the villains escape, the Avengers question Wonder Man, who claims to have come from the heart of the Amazon jungles, and says he wants to join the team. Discussing the matter further at Avengers Mansion, Wonder Man reveals that he owes his powers to Zemo’s experiments, but they’ve also resulted in a strange disease that’s slowly killing him. The Avengers are glad to offer their assistance. Returning to his laboratory at Stark Industries, Iron Man tries to develop some transistor-powered device that will help Wonder Man, with little success.
A few days later, Iron Man receives a transmission from Wonder Man saying that both he and the Wasp have been captured by Baron Zemo and are being held in South America. Iron Man alerts Thor, Giant-Man, and Captain America, then sets off for Brazil at once. Iron Man is captured by Zemo upon arrival and watches helplessly as Wonder Man betrays them, defeating his teammates in rapid succession. However, Giant-Man manages to free Iron Man before losing consciousness. Iron Man battles Wonder Man, but the Enchantress soon casts a spell that makes him fall asleep. When he comes to, Iron Man sees that Wonder Man has switched sides again and is now fighting to save the Avengers. The tables have turned, so the villains retreat by blowing up their escape tunnel behind them. The Avengers turn back to Wonder Man, finding him lying on the ground near death. He tells them he wanted to do one noble thing in his life before the end. The toxins that Zemo used to empower him then take their toll, and he dies in Iron Man’s arms. Giant-Man is determined to do something to save him, and so when the Avengers bring Wonder Man’s body back to the United States, he takes it to his downtown laboratory. There, Iron Man assists him in conducting a thorough examination of the corpse and making a recording of Wonder Man’s brain patterns. A fingerprint match identifies Wonder Man as notorious embezzler Simon Williams, who had publicly blamed Tony Stark for his business failures. Tony feels a twinge of guilt and makes arrangements for a proper burial.
While leaving Avengers Mansion, Iron Man and Thor spot a heist in progress, as a gang of crooks tries to steal a collection of expensive fur coats. The two heroes easily disable the truck, overcome the crooks, and turn them over to the police.
Iron Man finds it increasingly difficult to account for Tony Stark’s prolonged absence, and rumors begin to circulate that he eliminated his employer for his own gain. The police launch an investigation, and news reports are broadcast that Iron Man is the prime suspect in Stark’s disappearance. When he contacts Avengers Mansion, Thor interrogates him about the situation. Iron Man swears he hasn’t harmed Stark, but Thor demands that he lift this cloud of suspicion as soon as possible. Hours later, while considering his options, Iron Man receives a call from Giant-Man, informing him that Hawkeye has once again raided Stark Industries and is holding Pepper hostage. Minutes later, Iron Man smashes into the factory and battles Hawkeye until the archer runs out of explosive arrows and retreats. Secluding himself in his private laboratory, Tony labors night and day seeking a means to compensate for his failing heart.
Fearing that he is dying, Iron Man proposes at the Avengers’ next meeting that they give Rick Jones some kind of costume and make him an official member of the team, noting his bravery during their encounter with Kang. However, Captain America claims that it’s his decision to make, and he needs more time to consider it. Giant-Man agrees to put the motion on hold.
Iron Man’s experiments are interrupted when Thor leads the Avengers to a mountainous region of Bavaria in search of a mysterious evil. Once there, they discover the X-Men are already working the case. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel, and Iceman reject Captain America’s offer to join forces and attack the Avengers, attempting to drive them off. The Avengers try to subdue the young mutants without hurting them. After a few minutes, Thor suddenly stops the fight, explaining that he has been contacted telepathically by the X-Men’s mysterious leader, Professor X. Now convinced that the X-Men should be allowed to deal with the situation, the Avengers take their leave and return to New York. Tony is glad to get back to his laboratory without further delay.
February 1963 – Iron Man struggles to maintain control of Stark Industries under mounting suspicion that Tony Stark has met with foul play. Furthermore, the police finally announce their intent to hold Iron Man pending a grand jury investigation, so the armored Avenger holes up in his Long Island beach house. However, the next morning he finds Happy climbing in through his bedroom window, doubtless searching for clues. Since his helmet and gauntlets are not handy, Tony leaps into bed and pulls the blankets up over him. He pretends to be ill as the astonished Happy calls Pepper. When she arrives, Tony chides them for not trusting Iron Man. The police soon arrive to interview him, and Tony claims to be too weak to get out of bed. Later, after everyone has left, Tony finally puts his helmet and gauntlets back on and watches from the terrace as Happy and Pepper drive off. Just then, a powerful energy beam shoots down from the sky and destroys the house in a massive explosion.
Police and fire crews are soon on the scene, and Happy and Pepper return as well. The news media report that Tony Stark must have been killed in the blast. Castigated by Pepper for his failure to act, Iron Man claims he was on the opposite side of the house when it happened and was unable to save Stark. Then, knowing it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the prime suspect in his own murder, Iron Man works throughout the next day and night to triangulate the point of origin of the energy beam. He finally calculates that it was fired from the Mandarin’s fortress in the remote Valley of the Spirits, and sets off for China at once. Unfortunately, upon arrival, Iron Man is taken prisoner by his foe once again and forced to listen as the Mandarin reveals his life story in excruciating detail. Iron Man is disturbed to learn that the villain’s ten deadly rings are an alien technology discovered inside a long-abandoned spaceship. Finally, having had a chance to recharge his armor, Iron Man breaks free of the death-trap and wrecks the Mandarin’s plans to spark a nuclear war between China and the United States. When the Red Chinese Army attacks the Mandarin’s fortress in retaliation, Iron Man abandons the fight. He soon hitches a ride in a U.S. military jet flying east across the Pacific Ocean. While he’s dozing off, inspiration suddenly strikes on a means to radically improve the life-support system in his chestplate.
Returning to Stark Industries, Iron Man immediately heads to his private laboratory to try out his new idea. The experiment is a success, and his improved chestplate allows him to finally remove the rest of his armor and put on regular clothes. Minutes later, Tony Stark strides into the front office. Happy is shocked and Pepper faints. Tony hastily concocts a story that he has gotten engaged to a debutante from Boston and was with her on her family’s yacht, cut off from the outside world, the whole time he was believed to be dead. Happy and Pepper are incredulous, but Tony embarks on an immediate inspection tour of his munitions plant to prevent them from asking for further details. One of his technicians, Dr. Donald Birch, tries to get a meeting, but Tony puts him off until next week. He is preoccupied with his conflicted feelings about Happy and Pepper’s relationship, recognizing they are a good match but still wishing he could have Pepper for himself. The news spreads quickly that Tony Stark is still alive and is back at work.
Over the next week, Stark Industries repeatedly falls victim to a mysterious saboteur, nicknamed “The Phantom,” and the situation prompts outrage from the military, Congress, and the unions. Tony puts in long hours dealing with irate representatives and patrolling the factory as Iron Man. Finally, late one night, Iron Man spots the Phantom trying to sabotage the factory’s computer control center. He chases the saboteur into a prototype lunar launch vehicle and traps him inside the capsule at the top. Iron Man then shakes the capsule until the Phantom surrenders. When the villain is unmasked, he is revealed to be Donald Birch, who admits he was jealous of Stark’s fame and fortune. The plant’s security guards turn Birch over to the police.
Giant-Man summons the Avengers to an emergency meeting, but when he says he has received a call for help from the ants, Iron Man assumes he must be joking. However, Thor is in one of his foul moods and their discussion quickly turns into a bitter argument. Giant-Man angrily decides he’ll handle the case on his own. Later, after a series of global tremors lend weight to Giant-Man’s bizarre theories, the Avengers meet again and learn from the Wasp that their oversized partner has gone missing. She is able to track Giant-Man’s cybernetic signals to the Mole Man’s underground kingdom of Subterranea, which was not completely destroyed after all. Then, following an attack on the mansion by a platoon of heavily armed Subterraneans, the Avengers descend to the Mole Man’s realm. They are surprised when confronted by a Russian with the power of intangibility, who calls himself the Red Ghost. Nevertheless, the Avengers defeat the Red Ghost, the Mole Man, and his hordes of Subterraneans, rescue Giant-Man, and destroy the villains’ arsenal of weapons. Upon returning to their headquarters, the team offers Giant-Man an official apology for doubting him earlier.
Soon after, the Avengers lose 24 hours when they are hypnotized during a charity event hosted by Count Luchino Nefaria, who has had his castle transported stone-by-stone from Italy to the New Jersey Palisades. As they return to the city, the team is suddenly attacked by the U.S. Army and a squadron of Air Force fighter jets. Confused, the Avengers defend themselves and disable the military’s weapons as best they can without injuring any of the soldiers. Unwilling to fight American forces, Giant-Man calls for a full retreat. The Avengers soon reconvene in their secret emergency headquarters, which is hidden in an abandoned, camouflaged railway tunnel deep in a forest. Listening to radio news reports, they learn that they are wanted for treason after trying to seize the reins of power from the government yesterday. Thor speculates that some evil group impersonated them, and Iron Man suggests there must be some connection with Nefaria’s castle. Despite the national state of emergency and the declaration of martial law, the Avengers make it back to the castle without being captured, but Iron Man, Giant-Man, the Wasp, and Thor are quickly paralyzed by Nefaria’s defensive systems. Captain America succeeds in getting inside the castle, but long, frustrating minutes pass before Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade escape the castle to free the Avengers. Learning from the boys that Nefaria is actually head of the infamous international crime cartel the Maggia, the Avengers smash their way into the castle’s dungeons, rescue Cap, and defeat the Maggia gunmen there. Army troops invade the castle in time to hear Nefaria’s confession, and the Avengers are cleared of any wrongdoing. However, they discover the Wasp has received a gunshot wound to the chest.
The Avengers race the Wasp to the hospital, where they learn that her condition is critical. Thor flies to Norway to fetch a Doctor Svenson, a pioneer in lung restoration surgery. However, once he has been brought in to examine the Wasp, the uncooperative Svenson turns out to be an alien in disguise. When his mask is removed, the alien quickly dies of asphyxiation, unable to breathe Earth’s air. In desperation, the Avengers search the globe for the alien’s secret base, where his people are holding the real Svenson. The team finally locates the aliens near the North Pole, where they have constructed an enormous city inside a cavern of ice. However, the Avengers are captured and taken before Ogor, ruler of the Kallusians. He explains that his people are a peace-loving race from a distant galaxy, driven to take refuge on Earth by an intergalactic war, even though they found the atmosphere to be poisonous to them. Svenson had stumbled upon their city while on a research expedition and had agreed to help the aliens with their respiratory problems. Ogor refuses to turn over Svenson, prompting Thor to break free and attack. He forces Ogor to release the rest of the Avengers and the team valiantly battles the Kallusian militia. However, Svenson appears and stops the fight, telling the Avengers he had agreed to remain with the Kallusians because they intend to leave Earth as soon as their extraterrestrial enemies finish searching this sector of space. When Giant-Man explains why they need Svenson to come to New York, the surgeon is torn by his dilemma. The matter is resolved suddenly when an alarm sounds—the aliens have been discovered by their enemies. The Kallusians prepare to make a last stand on Earth in a battle that would surely devastate the planet, but Thor threatens to destroy their weapons unless they depart for outer space immediately. Knowing they can’t waste time fighting the Avengers now, Ogor relents. As they get ready to leave Earth, the Kallusians use a teleportation device to send Svenson and the Avengers back to New York. They rush to the hospital where Svenson performs the operation that saves the Wasp’s life. With the Wasp convalescing, Giant-Man steps down as Avengers’ chairman, and Thor is elected to take over those duties.
His recent adventures prove to Tony that, despite the improvements he’s made, his chestplate’s life-support systems are still being pushed to their limits every time Iron Man goes into action. He realizes that he may have no choice but to limit his activities as a superhero for the foreseeable future.
March 1963 – When the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. is assassinated by HYDRA, Tony Stark speaks on behalf of the ruling council as the CIA’s Colonel Nick Fury is recruited to be the agency’s new Executive Director. Having been brought aboard the Helicarrier, Fury is at first reluctant, but agrees to serve when a HYDRA mole tries to kill him before he’s even accepted the job. Tony is convinced that Fury’s wartime exploits with the Howling Commandos and his many years of intelligence work make him the perfect man for the job.
Not long after, Iron Man joins Thor, Giant-Man, Wasp, Captain America, and Rick Jones at the engagement party for Reed Richards and Susan Storm at the Fantastic Four’s headquarters in the Baxter Building. The X-Men are also in attendance, as are some of Reed’s scientific colleagues and Sue’s society friends. During the party, Iron Man mentions Fury’s appointment as head of S.H.I.E.L.D., knowing both Richards and Ben Grimm are mutual acquaintances of his. Captain America, who’s been suffering from memory problems since emerging from suspended animation, begins to recall fighting alongside Sergeant Fury during the war as well.
Tony Stark’s story about having a fiancée in Boston soon unravels, but he skillfully manages to avoid revealing anything about his true whereabouts during the time he was missing. Tony realizes that Pepper has, as a result, again become ambivalent about her relationship with Happy, and wonders what he can do about it.
April 1963 – One evening, Tony Stark learns that the Black Widow and Hawkeye have teamed up to kidnap Happy and Pepper. Tony soon arrives at the rendezvous point and offers to trade the plans for his latest weapons for his friends’ safety. The Black Widow orders one of her squad of Soviet agents to examine the blueprints. While the spies are thus distracted, Tony sets off a smoke bomb that covers his transformation into Iron Man. The Golden Avenger easily dispatches Natasha’s gun-toting cronies, but runs into trouble when Hawkeye hits him with arrows that can dissolve his armor. In desperation, Iron Man forces Hawkeye to abandon the fight by stunning the Black Widow with a jolt of electricity. After they have fled, Iron Man ditches his ruined armor and returns as Tony Stark to free Happy and Pepper. Back at the factory, Tony’s first order of business is to fashion a new suit of armor to replace the one destroyed by Hawkeye’s acid.
At the next Avengers’ meeting, Rick Jones trips, hits his head, and is knocked out for a few minutes. Iron Man is a bit embarrassed that he proposed Rick for active membership, and is relieved that none of his teammates have brought the subject up again.
Feeling he is an impediment to Happy and Pepper’s romance, Tony decides to take an extended tour of his aerospace facilities in the Midwest. However, he is so distracted by his conflicted feelings about Pepper that he leaves the attaché case containing his new armor behind in his executive office. He only realizes his mistake a week later when he hears news reports that Iron Man has suddenly gone on an unstoppable crime spree. Tony races back to New York and dons his obsolete Mark-II armor to confront the impostor. During the ensuing battle, the crook makes several tactical errors, which Tony exploits skillfully. However, the less-advanced systems of his old armor place too much of a strain on Tony’s injured heart, and he soon collapses. He manages to hold on until his foe’s power supplies fail, at which point Tony is able to shut the new armor’s systems down. The police identify the impostor as a small-time burglar known as “Weasel” Wills. Luckily for Tony, Wills has gone completely insane, ensuring that Tony’s secret identity will not be exposed.
May 1963 – Iron Man is summoned to Avengers Mansion by the team’s latest chairman, Captain America, who expects an imminent attack by the Masters of Evil. When Rick Jones is then kidnapped by Baron Zemo, Iron Man requisitions an XL-750 rocket plane from Stark Industries so the Avengers can pursue Zemo’s airship. However, Iron Man and Thor soon exit the ship to confront the Black Knight and the Melter, leaving Giant-Man and the Wasp to chase down the Enchantress and the Executioner. While Cap flies off in pursuit of Baron Zemo, the rest of the Avengers finally surround the four criminals on a busy Manhattan street. Afraid that many of the gawking bystanders might be harmed in an all-out battle, the heroes are reluctant to attack until Thor uses his enchanted hammer to transport them all to another dimension. Unfortunately, the Enchantress and the Executioner recognize what he’s trying to do and escape from the space-time vortex. Carried to an alien world, the Black Knight and the Melter remain defiant, but quickly learn their technology no longer functions and are easily captured. After turning the two hapless villains over to the police, the Avengers decide to call it a night.
The next morning, Iron Man, Giant-Man, and the Wasp meet at Avengers Mansion to see if there’s been any word from Captain America. In Cap’s absence, Iron Man assumes the role of acting chairman. The Wasp mentions that Thor stopped by, mumbled something about a “Trial of the Gods,” and rushed off again. She then changes the subject and reveals that she intends to take a leave of absence from the team. When Giant-Man immediately agrees to do likewise, Iron Man decides to step down as well, since the life-support system in his chestplate has been giving him so much trouble lately. He also believes he needs to dedicate more time to Stark Industries, since there has been renewed rancor toward him on Capitol Hill. The meeting is suddenly interrupted by Hawkeye, who announces that he want to join the Avengers. Iron Man is shocked, but Hawkeye explains that he never set out to be a “super-villain,” but was a victim of circumstance, and was then led astray when he fell in love with the Black Widow. Now that she has been gunned down by Soviet agents for her repeated failures, Hawkeye wants a second chance to be a hero. Iron Man believes his story, and convinces Giant-Man and the Wasp to give Hawkeye a shot. He is quickly sworn in as the team’s second recruit.
Over the next few days, the Avengers start a recruitment drive, realizing they’ll need new members to keep the team viable. Though the Sub-Mariner turns down an offer of membership, which is made based on his service in the Invaders during World War II, the Avengers soon receive a letter from Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, two young mutants who until recently were in the service of the infamous terrorist Magneto. Tony Stark meets the pair when their ship from Europe docks in New York, and after a photo-op, he escorts them to Avengers Mansion. Tony makes sure they are comfortable, then goes off to don his Iron Man armor. Then he, Giant-Man, and the Wasp conduct an extensive interview with the super-powered siblings, asking them about their service to Magneto and their desire to become Avengers. Satisfied that their search for redemption is genuine, the Avengers accept Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as their next two recruits.
During the official induction ceremony, Captain America and Rick Jones finally return from their confrontation with Baron Zemo in the Amazon jungle. Cap reports that the Nazi war-criminal perished in the battle, but is then shocked to learn of his teammates’ decision to quit and leave him with three raw recruits. They try to assure Cap that it is only temporary. Iron Man then leads the new Avengers outside for a press conference. Afterwards, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp, Captain America, and Rick Jones conclude their final meeting. They are concerned by Thor’s absence, but decide that he must be occupied with personal matters and would surely contact them if he needed help. When their business is concluded, they go out to inform Jarvis of their decision and introduce him to Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. The butler is a bit taken aback by the sudden change of roster, but accepts the situation with his characteristic professionalism. Finally, Iron Man says farewell to Giant-Man and the Wasp and returns to Stark Industries to bury himself in his work. Over the next few days, though, Tony provides the Avengers with several advanced aircraft for their private use, so the team will no longer be dependent upon public transportation. He also sees about upgrading the mansion’s security systems.
Tony Stark meets with Senator Harrington Byrd, who has come to personally oversee the testing of a new minisub for the U.S. Navy. While they’re in the front office, Happy requests that he be allowed to pilot the craft during the test. But when Tony tells him that Iron Man will be conducting the test, Happy loses his temper and quits his job on the spot. Occupied with Senator Byrd, Tony is unable to go after Happy to learn what he is so upset about. The test proceeds in Long Island Sound as Byrd and his entourage watch from the docks. Iron Man pilots the craft across the sound to the open ocean. However, near Nantucket Island, Iron Man discovers the undersea marauder Attuma and his barbarian hordes readying a weapon to use against the surface world. Recognizing Attuma from Giant-Man’s recent report, Iron Man leaves the sub and attacks. He fights his way through the troops to battle Attuma directly, but the warlord manages to trap Iron Man in an undersea cave, expecting his oxygen supply to soon run out. Iron Man escapes barely in time and, having no other options, locks the minisub on a collision course with Attuma’s weapon. Though his gambit is successful, Iron Man is forced to tell Senator Byrd that the sub was a failure. Furious that the taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted by a frivolous playboy, Byrd vows to convince the Pentagon to cancel Stark’s defense contracts.
Over the next few days, Pepper argues with Iron Man about Happy’s sudden resignation, leading Tony to realize just how deeply she cares for Happy. When they finally receive word that Happy has gone to visit his grandfather in Ireland, Tony decides to fly over there and convince Happy to return to work. After Iron Man arrives at the grandfather’s farm, Happy is obstinate, rejecting the Golden Avenger’s assertions that both Tony and Pepper want him back. The discussion reaches an impasse, so Happy and his grandfather go outside to cool off. Suddenly, Iron Man hallucinates that he’s fighting the Crimson Dynamo, Jack Frost, Gargantus, the Melter, and the Black Knight in the Irish countryside. When he has defeated the last of his foes, Iron Man suddenly wakes up in the farmhouse. He overhears Happy on the phone with Pepper, and she has convinced him to return to America. On his way home, Iron Man is troubled by his hallucination, and remembers having a similar “dream” earlier in which he battled the Crimson Dynamo and the Unicorn atop a suspension bridge. He thoroughly checks his armor for anomalies, but finds nothing that could have caused it. Later, Tony decides to renew his reputation as a womanizer, hoping this will encourage Pepper to see Happy in a more favorable light.
June 1963 – Tony Stark becomes increasingly worried about his mental health after his ne’er-do-well cousin, Morgan Stark, returns from Europe looking for help repaying a gambling debt. While driving to a dinner-date with a blonde cover girl, Tony believes he sees a rocket standing in a wooded glade. Going in for a closer look, Tony finds a thermonuclear bomb inside the rocket. He immediately calls in a bomb squad, but when the authorities arrive, they can find no trace of the rocket or the bomb. Tony then sees a “spaceman” lurking in the trees, but an exhaustive search turns up nothing. Dismissed as a crank, Tony returns to his factory. He conducts another search of the area as Iron Man the next morning, but finds no evidence. Unfortunately, word has leaked to the press that Tony Stark has been seeing UFOs and Little Green Men, and a gaggle of reporters descend on the factory to pursue the story. While they’re there, Tony spots a flying saucer hovering over his facility, but no one else sees it. He begins to wonder if he isn’t cracking up from the strain of the last few months. After hearing that Senator Byrd is using this latest incident to further his push to relieve Stark of all national-security related projects, Iron Man takes a special sensor device to sweep the wooded glade again. This time he witnesses the landing of yet another spacecraft, from which several large, brutish aliens emerge. Iron Man drives them off after a strenuous battle, during which Morgan Stark stumbles upon the scene. When the authorities arrive, Morgan corroborates Iron Man’s story, and enough physical evidence is found to prove Tony Stark wasn’t just seeing things. In gratitude to his cousin for salvaging his reputation, Tony pays off Morgan’s gambling debt and sends him back to Monte Carlo with Happy and Pepper as his escorts. Tony hopes that the romantic getaway will help Happy and Pepper get their relationship back on track.
Soon after, Tony Stark attends the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm at the Baxter Building. Arriving with a gorgeous brunette on his arm, Tony sees that Nick Fury and some of his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are working security for the event. Inside, he mingles with the Fantastic Four and the X-Men until they are joined by Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Giant-Man, and the Wasp. He is introduced to Doctor Strange, a purported master of sorcery. However, when numerous super-villains begin staging an attack on the building, Tony ditches his date and becomes Iron Man to come to his friends’ defense. Outside the building, Daredevil enters the fray, and Thor soon appears as well. The fight quickly escalates into an all-out brawl in the street. Among the villainous horde are Attuma and his undersea barbarians, the Black Knight, Electro, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Grey Gargoyle, agents of HYDRA, Kang the Conqueror, the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android, the Mandarin, the Melter, and the Unicorn. Finally, Mister Fantastic produces a strange device that creates a temporal vortex to send all the villains back into the past. The ceremony proceeds without further incident, and Iron Man takes his place beside his teammates. During the lavish reception that evening in the Baxter Building’s grand ballroom, he makes an appearance as Tony Stark to explain away his absence during the fighting. Tony enjoys the party, but ends up having a bit too much to drink.
Tony spends the next several weeks working on a variety of inventions, among them a component called the SMR, which can disrupt and disable electronic systems from a short distance.
July 1963 – Tony Stark receives a telegram from the Soviet Union challenging Iron Man to fight someone called the Titanium Man at a neutral location, a message that has already been sent to newspapers around the world. Convinced that America’s honor is at stake, Tony accepts the challenge, despite his misgivings about the strain on his chestplate’s life-support systems. As arrangements are made for the Cold War confrontation, Tony works diligently to improve his armor’s systems to enable him to handle an extended battle. Finally, accompanied by Happy and Pepper, Tony travels to the neutral nation of Austria. While checking into his hotel, Tony runs into a former girlfriend, Countess Stephanie de la Spiroza. She offers to join him for a nightcap, but he declines, preferring to get a good night’s sleep. At dawn the next day, Iron Man meets the Titanium Man on an old battlefield from World War II, which is still littered with rusted tanks and other wrecked equipment. Tony is impressed by his opponent’s sheer physical size, but is confident that the Titanium Man’s armor is not as advanced as his own. The contest has become a worldwide media event, and as the numerous government officials and other V.I.P.s clear the area, the combat finally begins.
Iron Man is quickly put on the defensive by the Titanium Man’s ruthless tactics, and he is worried when he realizes that his power levels are dropping more rapidly than he’d anticipated. He soon decides his only chance of victory is to use the SMR to disable his foe’s armor. During the first rest period, Iron Man jets back to his hotel to retrieve the component. However, he discovers it has gone missing. Finding Countess de la Spiroza’s monogrammed handkerchief nearby, he realizes she must have taken it to entice Tony to meet with her. With no time to waste searching for her, Iron Man flies back to the battlefield and sends Happy to track her down and bring him the SMR. Unfortunately, Happy fails to return before the second round begins, and when he runs into the combat zone to deliver the component, a stray energy blast from the Titanium Man strikes him down. Furious, Iron Man runs over to his fallen friend. Before slipping into unconsciousness, Happy gives Iron Man the SMR, calling him “Boss.” Tony immediately realizes that Happy has deduced his secret identity. Fearing Happy has died, Iron Man renews his attack on the Titanium Man with uncharacteristic savagery. The SMR works as intended, and the Titanium Man finds his armor’s systems suddenly failing. Then, for the benefit of the TV cameras, Iron Man kicks his communist foe around the battlefield for several minutes until he finally surrenders. Iron Man pries off the Titanium Man’s helmet and delivers it to the judges’ stand. Iron Man is proclaimed the winner, and Senator Harrington Byrd congratulates him on behalf of the entire free world.
Learning that Happy is still alive and has been rushed to the nearest hospital, Iron Man declines to participate in the victory parade the senator has planned and leaves at once to visit his injured friend. He is forced to stop at the hotel to recharge his chestplate, then decides he’d better visit Happy as Tony Stark. When Tony arrives at the hospital, he finds Pepper and Countess de la Spiroza, and is disappointed to learn that Happy is in intensive care and can receive no visitors. The Countess demands Tony’s attention and is infuriated when he tells her to shut up. She storms out, vowing to make him regret speaking to her that way. Tony and Pepper maintain their vigil throughout the night as Happy is operated on by a top surgeon flown in from Vienna. Tony is disturbed to realize that Pepper blames him for what’s happened to Happy and hates him for it. At dawn, the doctors report that Happy survived the operation but is still dangerously weak and must remain hospitalized. Thoroughly disheartened, Tony and Pepper return to the United States without him. Iron Man is celebrated upon his arrival in New York, but he is in no mood for the ticker-tape parade the mayor wants to throw in his honor. Pepper makes his excuses to the city government and, retreating to his private lab, Tony broods on the irony that Pepper has developed a new hero-worship for his armored alter-ego.
Iron Man receives a call from Captain America, asking why he would vouch for a known criminal like the Swordsman, who used the pretense of joining the team to nearly kill the Avengers. Confused, Iron Man assures Cap that he’s never met the Swordsman. They determine that the holographic transmission Cap received of Iron Man recommending the Swordsman must have been a sophisticated fake.
August 1963 – When the Avengers are charged for needlessly wrecking a subway line and destroying a commuter train, Tony Stark reimburses the transit authority for the damages, since the team has already exhausted its emergency funds to pay for earlier mishaps.
Days later, Tony Stark is kidnapped by the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android. Having battled the artificial creature at Reed and Sue’s wedding a few weeks ago, Tony recognizes it instantly. Though unable to get his armor on before being captured, Tony hangs on to his attaché case as he is carried off. When he is brought to the villain’s hidden lair, Tony learns that the Mad Thinker is in the employ of Countess Stephanie de la Spiroza. She is still intent on getting back at him for being rude to her in Austria. Curious about its contents, the Thinker tries to force the lock on Tony’s attaché case, which causes it to emit a powerful sleep gas. With his foes unconscious, Tony dons his Iron Man armor and battles the Awesome Android. The Thinker soon revives enough to activate additional defensive systems, but Iron Man disables the android and blows up the master control panel. The resultant chain reaction of explosions destroys the base, but Iron Man flies the Thinker and Countess de la Spiroza to safety.
After turning the Mad Thinker over to the NYPD, Iron Man returns to Stark Industries. There, Tony learns that Senator Byrd is threatening to call him before Congress to force him to divulge Iron Man’s true identity and turn over the secrets of his armor to the United States military. Tony knows that mass-producing the Iron Man armor would be a recipe for disaster, so he resolves to stall the senator’s committee until he can think of a solution to his dilemma.
September 1963 – Not long after he has installed a new secure messaging system in Avengers Mansion, Tony Stark meets with Nick Fury and his two closest advisors, Timothy “Dum-Dum” Dugan and Gabe Jones, to plan a strategy to safely disable the betatron bomb HYDRA has launched into orbit. Tony suggests they use a prototype robotic aircraft he calls the “Braino-Saur.” However, as Tony and Fury head to the lab for a demonstration, a squad of HYDRA shock troops invades Stark Industries and captures Fury. Not having his attaché case handy, Tony can only seal himself into a bulletproof cubicle and wait for the villains to depart. Tony immediately prepares the Braino-Saur ship for launch and meets with the S.H.I.E.L.D. executive council to outline his plan. Then, as HYDRA holds the world hostage, Tony blasts off and pilots the Braino-Saur to a rendezvous with the betatron bomb in orbit. He successfully deactivates the bomb as a S.H.I.E.L.D. taskforce rescues Fury.
With HYDRA defeated and many of their agents taken into custody, S.H.I.E.L.D. impounds a good deal of the terrorist group’s advanced technology. While examining the cache of weapons, Tony discovers a device called an “image inducer,” which they had used to torture Fury. Intrigued by the potential of such a device, Tony decides to experiment and see if he can improve upon it.
Tony is forced to assume command of S.H.I.E.L.D. operations when two villains called Mentallo and the Fixer hijack the Helicarrier and capture Nick Fury. He orders Dugan and Jones to ready their assault force, then meets with Dr. Niles Nordstrom, head of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ESP division. Nordstrom’s telepaths have been unable to detect the villains for some reason, and attempt instead to make mental contact with Fury. While there, Tony collapses into a chair with intense chest pain. Nordstrom assumes Tony is having a heart attack, but Tony merely swears him to secrecy and slips off to recharge his chestplate in private. When the telepaths reach Fury, Tony orders the assault force to retake the Helicarrier as he activates a device to neutralize the miniature hydrogen bomb Fury has warned them about. The villains are taken into custody and Fury soon arrives at the ESP division to debrief Nordstrom and Tony. Fury is surprised to see how haggard Tony looks, but Tony blows it off and changes the subject. Fury reports that the device Tony had invented to allow him to communicate so clearly with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s telepaths was too uncomfortable to be practical, so Nordstrom agrees to discontinue its use. Later, back in his laboratory, Tony discovers that Mentallo and the Fixer had installed devices in their helmets that shielded them from psychic attack, and he decides to try and reverse-engineer the technology.
Tony develops a prototype of a device he calls a “coaxer,” which can influence the behavior of others by hacking into their central nervous system. He gives the device to an earnest young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, expecting him to merely deliver the device to Fury for testing.
Soon after, Iron Man rushes to the New York hospital where Happy Hogan was transferred after the doctors in Austria determined he was strong enough to travel. Happy has vanished without a trace, and Iron Man determines that the Black Knight must have kidnapped Happy on his flying steed. Iron Man tracks the villain to a lonely castle on Oyster Bay, some thirty miles away. As Iron Man enters the darkened castle, the Black Knight shorts out the hero’s armor with his energy lance, putting a tremendous strain on Tony’s injured heart. The Black Knight then carries his foe high into the sky upon his winged horse intending to drop him to his death. Iron Man’s systems come back online in time for him to grab a stirrup to save himself, but their struggling causes the saddle strap to come undone, sending both men plummeting toward the ground. Iron Man manages to maneuver himself over the bay and lands in the water. Making it to the surface and back to shore drains his power reserves to dangerous levels. With no time to search for the Black Knight, Iron Man staggers back to the castle and finds Happy, unconscious and near death. After calling the police, Iron Man collapses into a shadowy corner. He is unable to recharge his armor since the building’s power has been shut off. When the authorities arrive, they take Happy away in an ambulance, but fail to see Iron Man, who is too weak to even call for help. He uses his dwindling power reserves to send a mayday message to Stark Industries.
About forty-five minutes later, Pepper Potts arrives in one of Tony’s sports cars and finds Iron Man lying helplessly on the floor. She helps him to the car so he can plug his recharger into the dashboard cigarette lighter. He draws enough power from the car battery to keep himself alive for the drive back to the factory. Once there, Pepper helps him get set up to recharge his armor properly. However, he stops the recharging process early when Pepper informs him that Happy is to be treated with Stark’s highly experimental enervator device. Concerned about possible side-effects, Iron Man jets to the hospital at once, where he discovers that the enervator’s radiation has caused Happy to mutate into a savage, superhumanly strong freak. Devoid of reason, Happy attacks Iron Man, then smashes through a window and stalks off into the darkness. His power levels dropping rapidly, Iron Man lures the brutish Happy back to Stark Industries, hoping to find some means to reverse his transformation. Unfortunately, just outside the main factory complex, Tony passes out from the strain on his heart.
Iron Man is awoken by the sound of gunfire and sees several policemen firing at Happy in an upper window. After rescuing Pepper from her deranged beau, Iron Man renews their battle. Inside the lab, Iron Man is surprised to find Senator Harrington Byrd lying unconscious on the floor. Iron Man then leads Happy to another section of the lab and lures him into a device which finally reverses his transformation. A massive energy feedback nearly destroys Iron Man’s armor, and Tony must remove it quickly before it becomes red hot. Tony then revives Happy, who proves to have developed temporary amnesia. The police suddenly break down the door and enter with Senator Byrd. The senator reveals that he thinks “The Freak” was a thug hired by Stark to keep him from personally delivering his subpoena, and has now fled the scene with Iron Man. Furthermore, Byrd mistakes Tony’s exhaustion for a hangover and demands that the industrialist accompany him immediately to Washington, DC to testify before Congress. Tony complies, leaving Pepper to see that Happy receives proper medical attention.
Tony grabs an attaché case containing a spare suit of armor and rides next to Senator Byrd in the back of a police car. However, while driving out of the factory complex, the squad car is suddenly enveloped in a nimbus of light and Tony finds himself teleported to the Mandarin’s fortress in China. Fearing the attaché case might be booby-trapped, the Mandarin blasts it with one of his rings, sending it flying out a window and into the moat. Tony is thus forced to watch helplessly as the Mandarin activates a gigantic android he calls Ultimo. While the villain is occupied with the Red Chinese Army troops advancing on his castle, Tony tries to slip out of the room. Unfortunately, the Mandarin hears him and blasts him full in the chest with a force beam. Tony is pushed out of the room and falls down a flight of stairs, though his chestplate takes the brunt of the blast, allowing him to survive. He dives into the moat to retrieve his attaché case, then dons his Iron Man armor and goes to intercept Ultimo, who, to his surprise, is 25 feet tall and blue. Iron Man manages to dodge the disintegrator beams from Ultimo’s eyes, but finds he is unable to damage the android with any of his offensive weaponry. Instead, Iron Man tricks Ultimo into firing a blast into the dormant volcano from which he just emerged. The volcano erupts and Ultimo is consumed in the lava. Iron Man then fights his way out of China until being intercepted by the U.S. Air Force on his way to Formosa. He arranges military transport back to the United States.
The next evening, Tony finally returns to Stark Industries in New York, only to discover it has been closed down by order of the federal government. Finding a newspaper on the ground, Tony learns that Senator Byrd has cited him for contempt of Congress, his defense contracts have been suspended, his assets have been frozen, and there is a warrant out for his arrest. Desperate, Tony makes his way to Avengers Mansion, but the place is deserted. He walks to Pepper’s apartment, but she is not home either. He puts his armor back on and wanders around the city streets aimlessly, trying to decide whether he should give Senator Byrd’s congressional committee what they want. While at the waterfront, Iron Man is suddenly fired upon by an Atlantean warship in the harbor. Iron Man drives the ship off, but then must break into his factory to repair the damage to his armor. Minutes later, the Sub-Mariner appears, seething with rage, and attacks him. Barely able to defend himself, Iron Man tricks Namor into hurling him into his high-security laboratory. He seals its ten-ton vault door before Namor can stop him and dons a brand-new suit of armor. Fully charged and ready to face his foe, Iron Man emerges from the lab to find the Sub-Mariner has departed. However, their battle has drawn the attention of the police guarding the complex, and they attempt to arrest Iron Man for unlawful entry. The Sub-Mariner suddenly attacks again, and while they fight, Iron Man realizes that Namor was in pursuit of the Atlantean warship and blames Iron Man for interfering. The battle rages throughout the complex, until Namor spots the warship surfacing in the harbor again. He breaks away from Iron Man and sets off after it. Iron Man decides to let him go and flies off to get a few hours’ sleep. First thing the next morning, Tony makes a call to Senator Byrd’s office, ready to testify before Congress.
While flying down to Washington, DC, Iron Man is intercepted by the Titanium Man, who is intent on getting revenge for his humiliating defeat two months ago. Worried about collateral damage, Iron Man leads his foe to a less populated area outside the city. Unfortunately, a crowd soon gathers there as well, among them Happy and Pepper. The Titanium Man tries to use Pepper to force Iron Man to surrender, but the Golden Avenger rescues her and risks his life to get close enough to cause the Titanium Man’s armor to short-circuit. A last devastating blow sends the Titanium Man crashing to the ground. Senator Byrd arrives on the scene to congratulate Iron Man on defeating his Soviet counterpart a second time. However, the Titanium Man activates his boot jets and soon disappears over the Atlantic Ocean before Iron Man can capture him.
Tony Stark finally takes his seat before Senator Byrd’s congressional committee. He is worried after hearing talk that the military wants to deploy platoons of soldiers in Iron Man armor on the battlefields of Vietnam. However, just as the session is about to get underway, Tony suddenly feels a sharp stabbing pain in his chest. He realizes his heart has become too weak for his life-support system to compensate, then blacks out.
Tony regains consciousness some time later, finding himself in a hospital’s intensive care unit. The doctors have managed to get his chestplate working again and stabilized his condition, though his health remains extremely fragile. When Happy and Pepper arrive to see him, Tony learns that his injured heart has become public knowledge, and has been traced to his misadventure in Vietnam sixteen months ago. Also, Stark Industries has been allowed to reopen, and Senator Byrd is content to postpone the hearings until Tony has made a full recovery. Unfortunately, he also realizes that this revelation has undone all his efforts to make Pepper despise him, and her infatuation with him is as strong as ever, much to Happy’s disappointment. For the rest of the month, Tony is too weak to get out of bed.
October 1963 – Over the next few weeks, Tony Stark makes a slow recovery after being transferred from the ICU to a private room. He is worried about a rash of stories in the press suggesting that he and Iron Man are one and the same, following investigative reporting into his relationship to the Golden Avenger. One day, Happy comes to see him, confirming that he does indeed know that Tony is Iron Man but wants to help him preserve that secret by wearing the armor himself. Tony is reluctant, but sees no other way. He shows Happy how to access the armor in the attaché case and how to put it on. He then communicates with Happy remotely during a number of test flights around the Washington, DC area to ensure that Iron Man is seen by as many people as possible. The gambit works, as the public takes it as evidence that the bedridden industrialist cannot possibly be the armored superhero. As Happy is returning the armor, he suddenly disappears in a nimbus of light, and Tony realizes the Mandarin’s teleportation beam has struck again. Desperate to save Happy, Tony leaves the hospital and makes his way back to Stark Industries. He immediately retreats to his private laboratory and constructs a suit of armor powerful enough to compensate for his weakened state, at the cost of minimizing its offensive capabilities.
Iron Man then rides a multi-stage rocket launched from Stark’s missile-testing complex until its capsule splashes down in the South China Sea. From there he jets to the Valley of the Spirits and storms the Mandarin’s fortress, fighting his way past the villain’s guards and automated defenses. He finally confronts the Mandarin in a dungeon where the helpless Happy is being tortured for information. Iron Man overcomes both the Mandarin’s kung fu and his alien rings to batter the villain into unconsciousness. He then programs the armor Happy is wearing to fly him safely to the nearest U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan. Before leaving, Iron Man discovers the Mandarin is still trying to trigger a nuclear war between China and the United States, having hijacked a Chinese missile and sent it to strike an American military base in the region. Hacking into the missile’s guidance system, Iron Man redirects it at the Mandarin’s fortress. Despite the Mandarin’s renewed attack, Iron Man escapes from the castle seconds before it is obliterated by the missile strike. After surveying the smoking rubble from the air, Iron Man flies off to catch up with Happy. From Okinawa, they arrange transport back to New York.
November 1963 – Tony realizes that his health is continuing to deteriorate, and as his new armor requires so much power to compensate, it is largely impractical to continue acting as Iron Man. Thus, he devotes himself primarily to his research projects, hoping to secure a lasting legacy before his seemingly imminent death. When his former teammate Giant-Man, now called Goliath, phones for help finding a qualified lab assistant, Tony recommends Bill Foster, a biochemist at his Baltimore facility. Foster soon accepts the job and resigns from Stark Industries.
Iron Man agrees to attend a special executive meeting of the Avengers, called by Captain America to discuss making an offer of membership to Spider-Man. Thor joins them as well, along with currently active members Goliath, Wasp, and Hawkeye. After a contentious debate and a consultation with Daredevil, the Avengers agree to give Spider-Man a readiness test before making an official offer. They split up to search the city for the wall-crawler, and some hours later, Thor reports that he found Spider-Man and made the proposal. The next day, at the appointed time, Spider-Man arrives at the mansion and the Avengers greet him warmly. However, Spidey becomes impatient when he realizes the Avengers haven’t even decided what manner of test to give him. Hawkeye goads him into a fight, which quickly escalates into an all-out brawl. As Thor intervenes, Iron Man suggests that they send Spider-Man to track down the Hulk, who’s been spotted in the city recently, and bring him back to Avengers Mansion. The web-spinner sets off, brimming with confidence, but a few hours later, he returns empty-handed, claiming he was unable to even locate the Hulk. Before the Avengers can question him further, he quickly swings away. Iron Man is puzzled by Spider-Man’s attitude, and his teammates are suspicious and disappointed.
Tony receives a request to create a restraining suit to protect astronaut John Jameson from his own super-strength, which he gained after exposure to strange spores during a spacewalk. Within a couple of hours, Tony has a team of his technicians build a prototype suit and deliver it to the military research installation where Jameson is being studied.
Days later, Tony is stunned when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He immediately confers with Nick Fury, who tells him that the situation is under control and Iron Man is not needed. Tony later learns that Fury likewise refused to let Captain America assist in the investigation, but he remains confident that S.H.I.E.L.D. will get to the bottom of the plot to kill the President.
December 1963 – Tony passes a quiet month working diligently in his laboratory complex. He is relieved that his recent reclusive behavior has encouraged Pepper to spend more time with Happy. He makes only one appearance as Iron Man, to attend the Second Annual Avengers Christmas Charity Benefit. While he enjoys socializing with his fellow heroes, he is less than pleased to see the Black Widow is there as Hawkeye’s date. He cannot help but remain suspicious that she has truly abandoned her allegiance to the Soviet Union. As the party winds down, Tony Stark finds himself wondering if he will survive to see another Christmas, or if his failing heart will soon give out once and for all.
January 1963 – The official launch of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier occurs behind the scenes a couple of months before we first see it in Strange Tales #135. For further background on Marvel’s super-spy agency, see Whence Comes... S.H.I.E.L.D. We pick up Iron Man’s adventures in Tales of Suspense #53 and following. The Avengers interrupt Thor’s temper tantrum in Journey Into Mystery #101, and the team’s failed attempt at socializing is seen four issues later. Iron Man is called to account for his negligence in Avengers #7, then helps out his teammates against the Masters of Evil. Tony Stark remains behind the scenes as Don Blake and friends deal with the Grey Gargoyle in Journey Into Mystery #107. The Avengers work out together at the beginning of Tales to Astonish #59, then offer Thor some help in Journey Into Mystery #108. For Hawkeye’s version of events, see Hawkeye & the Black Widow. Like most of Marvel’s heroes, Iron Man makes a cameo appearance in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. Iron Man’s capture by Kang the Conqueror in Avengers #8 sets in motion all the events to follow. The Avengers discuss Spider-Man’s reputation in Amazing Spider-Man #18, and respond to the Mole Man’s actions in Fantastic Four #31. The team meets Wonder Man in Avengers #9, and is seen returning his body to the United States in a flashback in West Coast Avengers #2. Iron Man and Giant-Man make their recording of Simon Williams’s brain patterns in a flashback in Avengers #58. Iron Man and Thor apprehend a gang of thieves at the beginning of Avengers #13, which seems to occur a few weeks before the main story. The Avengers battle Immortus and the Masters of Evil following their meeting in Avengers #10, but the Enchantress erases those events from the timeline following the villains’ defeat. Finally, Iron Man and his teammates run into the X-Men in Germany in Uncanny X-Men #9.
February 1963 – The Avengers’ battles with the Mole Man and the Red Ghost, Count Nefaria, and the alien Kallusians are chronicled in Avengers #12–14.
March 1963 – Tony Stark is on hand as Nick Fury is recruited to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. in the agency’s debut story in Strange Tales #135. As is often the case in these early S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, no mention is made of Tony’s superhero identity. Interestingly, the spy agency’s robotic doppelgängers, called Life Model Decoys (LMDs) are already standard issue, but at this point all they seem able to do is walk around. The engagement party at the Baxter Building is held in Fantastic Four #36.
April 1963 – Rick Jones takes a spill in an odd little back-up story in Captain America #221. It’s possible that Tony Stark is actually responsible for “Weasel” Wills losing his mind at the end of Tales of Suspense #65. As we learned later when Jim Rhodes took over using Stark’s Iron Man suit, the cybernetic interface can adversely affect the operator’s sanity if not properly calibrated. We can assume that the cybernetic systems were much more crude at this early stage and the effects therefore much more pronounced. Wills may have already had a fragile mind, allowing for a total psychotic break after only a week or so of heavy usage.
May 1963 – Iron Man wraps up his first stint with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers #15–16. The Sub-Mariner’s service in the Invaders is not mentioned in the original story, as that team was not created until about a decade later. The original Avengers’ final meeting is shown in Journey Into Mystery #116, and the new members are introduced to Jarvis in a flashback in Avengers #280. While saying goodbye to Giant-Man and the Wasp in Avengers #16, Iron Man mentions Thor being off in “the place he calls Asgard.” This would seem to indicate that at this point Tony Stark does not believe that Thor is really the mythological god, but is merely a mortal superhero using the legends of the Norse deities as his shtick. I’m curious how long it took Thor’s teammates to realize he was exactly what he said he was. Avengers #17 makes it clear that Stark has provided the team their first private aircraft, so they no longer have to hitch rides on commercial flights. In Tales of Suspense #67, Iron Man is unaware that his hallucinatory battles are induced by Count Nefaria using a sinister new technology.
June 1963 – In the following issue, Tony Stark remains unaware that Count Nefaria is responsible for the illusions that bedevil him. He also fails to suspect that his cousin Morgan has been forced to act as Nefaria’s agent and is the one operating the illusion-projector. Luckily for Tony, and by the wildest of coincidences, he encounters some real aliens, called the Froma, just in time to salvage his reputation. Happy and Pepper are still in Monte Carlo when Tony attends the wedding of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl in Fantastic Four Annual #3.
July 1963 – In Tales of Suspense #69–72, Austria, which maintained official neutrality during the Cold War, is obfuscated as “Alberia” for some reason, though the surgeon being flown in from Vienna is kind of a tip-off. The SMR component is first called a “sub-miniature reducer” and then a “sub-miniature reverser,” so I took the easy way out. Captain America would certainly have contacted Iron Man following the events depicted in Avengers #20.
August 1963 – Tony Stark remains behind the scenes in Avengers #21 when he forks out some bucks to pay for the Avengers’ mistakes when they are being manipulated by the Enchantress.
September 1963 – Tony Stark is again behind the scenes in Avengers #26, having just installed the team’s new messaging system. He appears next in the S.H.I.E.L.D. stories in Strange Tales #138–140, 143, and behind the scenes in #144. I was surprised to discover that Tony did not actually invent the image inducer used later by Nightcrawler and other members of the X-Men, but developed his version from tech confiscated from HYDRA. This suggests further that the device originated as alien technology stolen from the Gnobians during World War II. It is possible that the “coaxer” device Jasper Sitwell demonstrates in Strange Tales #144 is also based on HYDRA tech. Sitwell claims that Tony Stark gave him the device personally, but since Tony does not recognize him when Sitwell is later assigned to Stark Industries, it is likely that Tony assumed he was merely a courier and forgot about him as soon as he left the office. In Tales of Suspense #73, it is said that the Black Knight’s castle is located on Chesapeake Bay, some thirty miles from Washington, DC. Given the rest of the story, however, this makes no sense. It would take Pepper about five hours to drive there from Flushing, Long Island, and another five to drive back, all while Tony is supposedly on death’s door. And clearly the Freak did not walk from Maryland all the way back to Stark’s factory in New York. Thus I assume the castle was really located on a bay thirty miles from Stark Industries, and Oyster Bay on Long Island Sound seemed the ideal candidate. Iron Man is unaware that the Black Knight was fatally wounded and died soon after their encounter, as revealed in Avengers #48. When Tony stops at Avengers Mansion in Tales of Suspense #79, the team is off rescuing the Wasp from the Collector. His subsequent battle with Namor crosses over into the Sub-Mariner feature in Tales to Astonish #82. When Tony collapses during the congressional hearing in Tales of Suspense #84, a doctor on the scene discovers his chestplate. Luckily, it is only a dull gray metal bodice and not the distinctive red and gold front of his Iron Man armor.
October 1963 – Fortunately, Happy Hogan doesn’t wear Iron Man’s helmet long enough for the cybernetic systems interface to affect his sanity.
November 1963 – Tony Stark makes a cameo appearance in Avengers #32 to recommend Bill Foster to Hank Pym. Iron Man then appears in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3. Stark remains behind the scenes when John Jameson copes with his newfound superpowers in Amazing Spider-Man #42. The Kennedy assassination occurs behind the scenes, naturally.
December 1963 – This brings us up to Tales of Suspense #86.
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