Appearing in 1963, Iron Man (Tony Stark) was part of the extraordinary creative explosion of Marvel Comics’ early years. He generally remained a major Marvel hero, and the Marvel movies of the 2000s+ with R. Downey Jr. made him famous.
This profile is an emergent history profile. It presents Tony Stark as published from 1963 to XXXXXXX without information from later eras – retcons included.
(The “XXXXX” will be filled once I’ve progressed enough. For now this stops in Tales of Suspense #48 because this is when the first red-and-gold armour is introduced, and I need a short breakpoint due to time constraints).
- Real Name: Anthony “Tony” Stark
- Marital Status: Single
- Known Relatives: Morgan Stark (cousin)
- Group Affiliation: Avengers
- Base of Operations: Stark plant in Long Island, New York
- Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185 lbs
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Black
Powers & Abilities
Tony Stark is a genius physicist, inventor and polymath engineer. He’s capable of designing, building and operating devices that are far, far ahead of what mainstream technology is capable.
At this stage his inventions frequently involve “magnetic force” and “miniaturized transistors”, since these were good early 1960s science buzzwords. However, his scientific and technical skills have four-colour breadth – he can invent nuclear artillery one day, and a healing serum that closes wounds using synthetic tissue on the next.
- The Mod. 1 Mk. 1 “Grey Armour” Iron Man suit in Việt Nam
- The Mod. 1 Mk. 2, soon to be known as the “Golden Armour” Iron Man suit
Stark is also a capable race car driver, and is generally in good shape… with one important exception.
This old heart of mine
Due to an embedded piece of shrapnel, Stark’s heart will malfunction and soon stop beating if his sinoatrial node’s bioelectric impulsion rate isn’t kept regular. At this point, the only solution to do this is to wear a special chestplate with a unique pacemaker.
This chestplate is light and thin, and can be worn even under a dress shirt. However Stark is ashamed of it, and arranges to never be seen shirtless by anyone (which seems to mean that his sex life is on hold). On the other hand it has doubled as a bulletproof vest on occasion, and it makes putting on the armour that much faster.
Much like the other components of the armour have a flatter, supple storage mode one gets the impression that the chestplate has an “undershirt mode” and a “battlesuit mode”. It is far bulkier as part of the Iron Man suit than when worn incognito by Stark.
Defender of the free world !
Both Tony Stark and Iron Man are highly regarded by the US military. Stark keeps developing incredible gadgets for them, and Iron Man keeps defeating terrible menaces and assorted Communists.
The US armed forces are thus willing to go long when helping Iron Man, especially when he can make a clear case about national defense. For instance, when Iron Man was trying to prevent the plans of a disintegrator ray from getting to Moscow, they let him ride in an ICBM which then dropped him deep into USSR from orbit via a parachute capsule.
Likewise, the police aren’t opposed to ignoring misdemeanours on his part, such as breaking speed limits. After all he’s an important man, so what he’s doing must be important !
During the early 1960s the elite, extraordinary engineer Anthony “Tony” Stark was chiefly working for the US military. One can imagine that he hailed from the Lincoln Laboratory given his profile.
Beyond his skills in the lab, Stark was a famous and wealthy playboy. A member of the jet set, his charm and attractiveness led to comparisons with Rock Hudson . At this point, the source of his wealth isn’t specified. The business aspect is at best a backdrop of the stories.
In 1963, the US had already been present in Việt Nam for years, but not in genuine force. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was still months away. Fiercely anti-Communist, Stark was enthusiastic about US strikes against the Việt Cong. He even joined Diệm‘s troops in the field to fine-tune his weapons.
During one such outing, the engineer tripped an explosive booby trap. The VC found him and treated him in one of their hospitals, reasoning that he was a valuable prisoner. However, one piece of shrapnel was lodged close to Stark’s heart and slowly drifted toward it, giving him a life expectancy measured in weeks.
The evil VC leader Wong-Chu tried to trick Stark and have him build one last super-weapon before the shrapnel reached his heart. However, the American was wise to him. He used the provided lab to build a suit of armour that would both allow him to escape, and keep his heart beating.
Another foreigner, the renowned Chinese physicist Professor Yinsen, had been captured and was thrown into the same lab as Stark. Also hating Communists, Prof. Yinsen was invaluable in allowing Stark to finish his odd metallic suit in time.
As the completed suit was charging up and saving Stark’s life, the Chinese academic sacrificed his life to buy time by delaying Wong-Chu and his men.
Once the suit was charged up, Stark blew up most of the camp, routing the Communists and seemingly killing Wong-Chu to avenge Mr. Yinsen. He then crossed the jungle to reach allied force. However, he was trapped in his iron suit – without it, his heart would fall victim to the piece of shrapnel.
(One gets the vague impression that the original concept was for Stark to be tragically, permanently trapped into his walking iron lung -like contraption. But by the next story the chest plate is easily hidden. He thus steps from a story beat that would have been appropriate for a 1950s short horror comic book story to a super-hero one.).
I am Iron Man
In the US, Stark built a much refined version of his Iron Man suit, and a pacemaker chestplate that he could wear even under a dress shirt. He began to secretly operate as Iron Man, handling very minor threats of the era such as nameless mad scientists, mobsters and escaped animals.
However, his greyish robot-like appearance made him look threatening, like a science-fiction war machine from another planet.
After seeing Iron Man in action, a date named Marion came up with the idea of repainting the suit in a shiny warm colour, like a mythical knight in shining armour. Stark applied a layer of golden polish to the suit, which solved his PR problem.
Early adventures of Iron Man included :
- Defeating Gargantus, thus freeing the burg of Granville
- Defeating Doctor Carlo Strange and his global blackmail scheme
- Foiling the Red Barbarian and the Actor who tried to steal Stark’s disintegrator plans
- Deposing Queen Kala of the Netherworld after she captured him, so a male general could rule in her stead (because women shouldn’t be in charge, even if they’re beautiful, you see).
- Visiting Ancient Egypt due to the schemes of the Mad Pharaoh, and meeting Cleopatra
- Stopping a theft by traitorous Stark scientist Gregor Shapanka, then surviving his revenge as Jack Frost
- Stopping the disastrous sabotage of the Crimson Dynamo (Anton Vanko) and convincing him to defect to the USA
- Surviving the onslaught of the Melter (Bruno Horgan), a fallen rival industrialist
- Enduring the pain inflicted by Mister Doll (Nathan Dolly) and taking him out
Iron Man was also a founding member of the Avengers. The early days of the team were rocky – they assembled as part of a ploy by Loki, and a Space Phantom sent in by Immortus attempted to make them destroy each other. Nevertheless, the Avengers endured.
Tony Stark is a tall, fit man who seems to be in his early 30s. He has a thin moustache à la Don Ameche, and is usually seen in an expensive suit or an engineer’s jumpsuit. In many ways he evokes an handsome Hollywood actor circa 1960, particularly Rock Hudson.
He often wears a hat — as was the style of the day — and occasionally smokes a pipe.
See the battlesuits’ own profiles for their appearance.
At this stage, Tony Stark is a man who leads multiple remarkable lives rolled into one :
- As an acclaimed scientist, inventor and engineer holding numerous awards
- As a patriotic defense contractor equipping US armed forces with groundbreaking gadgets and weapons to fight the Red Menace
- As a glamorous, jet-setting millionaire playboy chased by gorgeous socialites in designer dresses as he attends parties on the French Riviera or drives prototype race cars
- As a wealthy philanthropist
- As the masked super-hero Iron Man
Stark is a stalwart patriot, and will take any risk and face any danger to defend the USA. He endlessly defeats foreign Communist plots and spies.
Like most 1960s comic book characters he treats women as, at best, charming children.
Sometimes he’s amazingly confident, as if he knew he’s the hero of the story. For instance he thinks nothing of jumping back into time to the ancient world to play tourist, even though his life depends on power sockets. He just knows he’ll be safe and back in time.
At other time, he can be overwhelmed like any contemporary Marvel super-hero.
Though it’s not entirely coherent (especially since the stories are so short), in hindsight it is possible that alcohol may have been involved in such variations of Stark’s morale.
This makes him a little bit bully-like – he’s very confident when it comes to crushing inferior opposition, but when he faces something that could hurt him (such as Jack Frost’s ice jets) he becomes suddenly much more cautious and avoidant.
This is a 1960s profile, so the characterization isn’t complex yet. However, Stark follows the contemporary Marvel formula of having one terrible problem/flaw preventing him from being a cardboard comic book hero.
Generally, he’s a walking power fantasy. Wealthy, famous, nigh-universally respected and admired, driving awesome cars, handsome, White, awash in a sea of beautiful women as one of the most eligible bachelors in America, extraordinarily intelligent, confident, fawned over by the military, seen as an impeccable patriot, founder/owner/CEO of a large corporation…
Tony Stark is in many ways the Ultimate American Man of those days.
The one fatal flaw is his bum ticker. For unclear reasons, Stark is ashamed of his cardiac condition. He hides it and his chestplate as if it were a terrible thing. This is also why his identity as Iron Man is a secret, as people would recognize the chestplate (?).
Despite all his smarts, Stark keeps forgetting to recharge the pacemaker his life depends on. Stories frequently open with Tony nearly dying and needing to rush to a private room where he can plug his chestplate in.
Though this is a ham-fisted narrative conceit (look ! Tragic flaw ! Right here !) I suppose it could be seen as a symptomatic action on Stark’s part.
“No drawers filled with rocks can hold back iron limbs powered by electronic transistors !”
(Examining the new golden finish on his armour) “Wow ! What a difference ! Leave it to a woman to figure out an attractive appearance !”
“I have an announcement ! I’ve… uh… contacted Iron Man to entertain the hospital children tomorrow and the show will be carried on live TV !”
“The F.B.I. wanted to catch you spies red-handed, so we baited our trap with a phony, hollow bomb only containing ‘yours truly’ !”
“Right, Baxu !.. Iron Man ! I came to give you Netherworlders a demonstration of what will happen if you send your army earthward ! […] Stark spoke well of you as a man of courage and intelligence, so I will spare your life ! I believe *you* should be the natural ruler of the Netherworld instead of that beautiful but vain creature, Kala !”
“How amazed the world would be to see me lying on the floor like this… clinging to life by an electric current… But their shock would be even greater if they knew I was Iron Man. Alas, many secrets must live and die with Anthony Stark !”
“No ! Not magic ! Merely a device like this tiny fluoroscope energized by the most powerful transistors in existence ! It can penetrate foot-thick walls !”
“Hmmm… those officers stopped chasing me ! They probably think I’m en route to some emergency ! Well, I *am*, in a way !”
“Every device in my accessory belt is present and accounted for ! Like a pilot gives his plane a shakedown check before take-off, I must make sure my gear’s in working order before I zero in on a mission !”
DC Universe History
It is strangely easy to have Iron Man replace the Martian Manhunter throughout the history of the DCU and the JLA. However pushing J’Onn out is mean, especially if that means no Miss Martian. A lack of Miss Martian would be unbearable.
Stark could also have emerged relatively recently in the DCU. He would be the core engineer behind the Team Luthor battlesuits, who could get into a verbal fight with Lex Luthor.
Narrowly escaping death, he creates his own company as a LexCorp competitor, deploying amazing technology but staying masked and suited up at all times as the Iron Man.
A third possibility is to have Steel (John Henry Irons) absorb the Stark characteristics you are interested in – if the specific amalgam that would result is workable. Many of Stark’s traits would work poorly with Irons.
An odd variant on the previous approach might be to instead have Natasha Irons absorb the Tony-Stark-the-startup-guy traits and take his role as she launches her atypical but brilliant Silicon Valley company.
Innovate and disrupt !
Early Iron Man stories often begin with Stark demonstrating a revolutionary invention. Such inventions are then usually promptly forgotten, and do not change the world in any appreciable way.
These included :
- Roller skates with a tiny jet engine, allowing infantry to move along highways at 60mph on their own, without having to board trucks.
- Atomic naval cannons with a 500 mile range
- A healing serum that closes wounds by generating synthetic tissues within
- Radiation-proof coatings for space vehicles
- Artillery warheads fitted into a .50 BMG round
- Submachineguns capable of firing these rounds at 1,000 RPM
- A disintegrator ray that can make tanks vanish, but can be fitted within a big flashlight
“Super-inventors never changing the world” is a basic super-hero comic books trope. It had drawn many attempts at countering it, with one of the most famous being Watchmen. However, it has to be accepted for the main super-hero universes to work.
In the Marvel Universe, the simplest explanation might be that these extraordinary inventions all require some isotope of the super-rare metal Vibranium . Working with Vibranium would be extraordinary complicated , riffing on one of Feynman’s famous quotes (“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”).
Once the prototype, there is of course the issue of cost effectiveness :
- Vibranium is extremely expensive
- Vibranium prices might fluctuate wildly, which means that mass production of the tech will sooner or later run into massive losses
- The supplies of Vibranium are very limited in the first place
- Having access to what Vibranium is available might thus be gated by vicious political plays of influence as to which company or project will be allowed to buy that month. In large companies, into-company struggles are also likely. This would significantly reinforce the risk of large projects faceplanting.
This would *roughly* model the dynamics of comic book tech in the Marvel Universe, where only small-ish series are seen and are usually owned by actors with major political influence and deep pockets.
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Tony Stark (1960s)
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Responsibility|
|Int: 09||Wil: 08||Min: 06||Occupation: Inventor, playboy|
|Inf: 05||Aur: 05||Spi: 05||Wealth: 019|
|Init: 017||HP: 040|
Gadgetry: 10, Scientist (Analysis, Observation, Research): 10, Scientist (Drawing plans): 12, Vehicles (Land): 04, Vehicles (Power armour): 05, Weaponry (Power armour weapon systems): 05
Connoisseur, Credentials (US Military, Medium), Familiarity (Iron Man suits operation, Quick-change into Iron Man), Genius, Headquarters (Expansive), Language (Some Vietnamese), Scholar (Miniaturization, Weapon systems, Power Armour)
Jet set (Low), Business world (Low), US military (High), US law enforcement agencies (Low)
Fatal Vulnerability (Lacking his chestplate, or having it run out of juice), Public Identity (as Stark), Secret Identity
- CHESTPLATE [BODY (Hardened) 08, Miniaturization: 03, Misc.: suspends Stark’s Fatal Vulnerability, Limitation: Miniaturization lowers weight and thickness but not size. The CHESTPLATE can sub its BODY for Stark’s, but this has Partial Coverage (Vest).
The CHESTPLATE apparently had to be recharged every 7 hours or so, but this can be done from any electrical socket. It can also be recharge while sleeping, though that’s less comfortable]
- Attaché Case [BODY 03, Obscure: 09, Limitation: Obscure only to protect the secret compartment from being discovered by scans and inspections, such as X-Rays]
Source of Character: Marvel Comics from 1963 to XXXXXXXXX
Helper(s): Darci, Ethan Roe
Writeup completed on the 7th of June, 2016.