For over 55 years, Iron Man has been one of the most prominent superheroes defending the Marvel Universe, either as a co-founder of the Avengers or in his own solo adventures. As such, the character has had decades of classic comic book stories long before he ever made it to be the big screen as the inaugural superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With next year poised to be a cataclysmic one for the Armored Avenger, we're taking a look back at some of the character's most memorable classic comic book adventures. Since Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark changed the character forever after 2008's Iron Man, we'll be sticking to stories featuring Iron Man from before his cinematic debut,
Demon in a Bottle
Tony Stark, the Marvel Universe's most famous futurist, is constantly improving the capabilities of Iron Man, but the biggest thing that Tony has struggled with is improving himself. This reached a breaking point in the classic 1978 storyline "Demon in a Bottle," as Tony's problems with alcoholism reared its ugly head and began affecting not just his personal relationships but his superhero activities, putting countless innocents in danger.
Created by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, John Romita, Jr. and Carmine Infantino, the return of some of Iron Man's greatest enemies, including Justin Hammer, led the Armored Avenger to rely heavily on booze to self-medicate his problems. The ongoing drinking problems would put his relationships at risk and led to Iron Man stepping down as the Avengers' leader for a time in a tale that brought Tony down to his personal rock bottom.
After uncovering an illegal Stark Industries arms deal made with Doctor Doom by an unscrupulous employee, Iron Man confronted the iconic villain in Latveria, and the resulting battle resulted in the two accidentally being teleported to Arthurian England. As Iron Man allies himself with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Doom joins forces with Morgan le Fay, leading to an epic, medieval conflict.
"Doomquest," by Michelinie, Layton and Romita, Jr., would be the start of Iron Man's antagonistic relationship with Victor Von Doom, a figure normally associated with the Fantastic Four. The 1981 storyline has a instant success, leading Marvel to commission two sequels from Michelinie and Layton, pitting the two characters against each other once again in scenarios that similarly took these two tech-based characters more into fantasy than traditional superhero fare.
Tony's ongoing conflict with Justin Hammer would reach something of climax in the 1987 storyline "Armor Wars." Created by Michelinie, Layton, Mark D. Bright and Barry Windsor-Smith, the story saw Spymaster steal the technology behind the Iron Man armor to upgrade the Iron Avenger's extensive rogues gallery, which lead Tony to hunt down rogue uses of his technology around the globe and shut it down for good.
Tony's obsessive quest to bring his legacy in order strained his relationships with several longtime allies, including Captain America, and put him and Iron Man under public scrutiny as the conflict intensified. The epic storyline was regarded as an overnight classic and would haunt Tony for years to come, including the next story on this list.
Armor Wars II
By 1990, John Byrne had returned to Marvel Comics after relaunching Superman for DC Comics after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and teamed with Romita, Jr. to chart a new course for Iron Man. The creative team's most prominent story was "Armor Wars II," which had little to do with its namesake predecessor directly but revisited Tony's ongoing struggles with similar technologically oriented foes in a seemingly endless gauntlet.
After control of Tony's body is hampered by the nefarious Marrs Corporation, he develops a new armor to regain mobility but with a heightened sense of vulnerability. As Tony struggles to adjust to his new status quo, a resurgent Mandarin expands his dominion over China, with the help of Fin Fang Foom, putting Iron Man in a renewed battle for his life against his deadliest foes.
Mask in the Iron Man
One of the more offbeat stories in the Iron Man canon focused on Tony's relationship with the armor and artificial intelligence guiding it in 2001's "Mask in the Iron Man." Then-Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada teamed with artists Sean Chen and Alitha Martinez to highlight Tony's ongoing struggles with his personal securities through the perspective of the very armor he was long associated with.
Taking inspiration from stories like Frankenstein, the artificial intelligence pilot the Iron Man armor gradually grew more self-aware and resented its creator, pitting Tony in a fight against his greatest creation -- and a foe that knew him better than he knew himself.