Mainstream superhero comics can seem overwhelming to the new reader. With decades of stories to sift through, sometimes you need a helpful guide to highlight some good starting points. Here at Comic Booked, we don’t want people scared off by the daunting world of comics, so we’ve created guides like this one to simplify things. This guide asks, “Where do I start with Iron Man?”
Created for Marvel Comics by Stan Lee (of course), Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Iron Man first appeared in 1963’s Tales of Suspense #39. Tony Stark is a billionaire playboy whose company makes high-tech weapons guilt-free. But Tony has a crisis of conscience when he has a near death experience and is kidnapped by terrorists to build weapons for them.
Instead, Tony makes himself a lethal suit of armour and uses it to escape. His eyes opened by his experiences, Tony upgrades his armour and decides to fight for peace as Iron Man. The suit enables him to fly and shoot “repulsor blasts,” makes him very strong and durable, as well as coming with lots of other neat gadgets Tony is always creating.
Although he’s struggled with alcoholism and political turmoil, Iron Man remains a symbol that we should all take greater social responsibility, especially for our own actions. Like all superheroes, he represents that something good can yet come from something bad.
Okay, so where do I start?
For an origin story, you’ll want to check out Howard Chaykin and Gerald Parel’s Iron Man: Season One. It combines modern and classic origins very well (Tony’s captors are ambiguously Asian terrorists) and includes a corporate espionage subplot, making it feel very dramatic, despite the fun action. There’s a unique villain, but Tony’s inner demons are tackled brilliantly too.
Speaking of those demons, Tony’s battle with alcoholism is handled in the Demon in a Bottle storyline by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, with artists John Romita Jr. and Carmine Infantino. Although it was originally released before superhero comics really matured, it was very ahead of its time, and remains a classic for the character.
A more recent Iron Man classic is Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, which the third film is loosely based on. It sees an old friend of Tony’s contact him about a dangerous super-soldier formula that has been stolen. Tony’s physical, intellectual and moral limits are all tested here, and it is a pivotal story in the Iron Man mythos. Granov’s art may also look familiar, as he provided designs for the first movie.
If you’re looking for a good jumping on point for the present series, check out Believe. Kieron Gillen and Greg Land’s tale also involves the formula from Extremis falling into the wrong hands, but also represents a poignant change to Iron Man’s status quo as well as Gillen’s trademark quirkiness, well-suited to Tony Stark.
Although a Marvel event story, Civil War has Tony as one of the most important characters. He and Captain America lead opposing groups of heroes against one another in a battle of freedom vs. safety. It is another milestone for the character, one that may make you look at him differently.
Iron Man: Director of SHIELD is set during the period when Tony Stark was, indeed, in charge of the planet’s biggest security and intelligence organisation. If you fancy a different take on Iron Man, seeing him in a responsible role for once, this is the collection for you.
For Tony’s best buddy and occasional partner in crime-fighting, Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, AKA War Machine, there’s Iron Man 2.0: Palmer Adley is Dead (they have to call the series that; more people will buy it). Despite being Tony’s pal, Rhodey is very much a military man, but in this story is forced to confront a threat he can’t just shoot at.
I hope you found this guide helpful, as it was created in a cave with a box of scraps.
I actually never liked Iron Man until Civil War. I know that's where most people started HATING him, but I think it was just the natural progression of his character. It made him relevant again. Needless to say, I've been a fan ever since. Great guide!
I liked the character originally due to West Coast Avengers, and then went back and got back issues starting at the series now collected in Demon in a Bottle. That was the series that showed that Tony was human and made mistakes more than anything.
Thanks! Civil War was my introduction to Iron Man too, and to the entire Marvel Universe, actually.
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