Iron Man first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 (Mar. 1963)
Anthony Edward Stark, the adopted son of wealthy industrialist and head of Stark Industries, Howard Stark, and Maria Stark, is born on Long Island. A boy genius, he enters MIT at the age of 15 to study electrical engineering and later receives Master's degrees in electrical engineering and physics. After his parents are killed in a plane accident, he inherits his father's company.
Tony Stark is injured by a booby trap and captured by the enemy led by Wong-Chu, who then orders him to design weapons. Stark's injuries are dire and shrapnel is moving towards his heart. His fellow prisoner, Ho Yinsen, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose work Stark had greatly admired during college, constructs a magnetic chest plate to keep the shrapnel from reaching Stark's heart, keeping him alive. In secret, Stark and Yinsen use the workshop to design and construct a suit of powered armor, which Stark uses to escape. But during the escape attempt, Yinsen sacrifices his life to save Stark's by distracting the enemy as Stark recharges. Stark takes revenge on his kidnappers and heads back to rejoin the American forces, on his way meeting a wounded American Marine fighter pilot, James "Rhodey" Rhodes.
Back home, Stark discovers that the shrapnel fragment lodged in his chest cannot be removed without killing him, and he is forced to wear the armor's chestplate beneath his clothes to act as a regulator for his heart. He must recharge the chestplate every day or else risk the shrapnel killing him. The cover for Iron Man is that he is Stark's bodyguard and corporate mascot. To that end, Iron Man fights threats to his company, such as Communist opponents Black Widow, the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man, as well as independent villains like the Mandarin, who eventually becomes his greatest enemy. No one suspects Stark of being Iron Man as he cultivates an image as a rich playboy and industrialist. Two notable members of Stark's supporting cast at this point are his personal chauffeur Harold "Happy" Hogan and secretary Virginia "Pepper" Potts, to both of whom he eventually reveals his dual identity. Meanwhile, James Rhodes finds his own niche as Stark's personal pilot, revealing himself to be a man of extraordinary skill and daring.
The comic took an anti-Communist stance in its early years, which was softened as opposition rose to the Vietnam War. This change evolved in a series of stories with Stark profoundly reconsidering his political opinions and the morality of manufacturing weapons for the military. Stark shows himself to be occasionally arrogant and willing to let the ends justify the means. This leads to personal conflicts with the people around him, both in his civilian and superhero identities. Stark uses his personal fortune not only to outfit his own armor, but also to develop weapons for S.H.I.E.L.D. and other technologies such as the Quinjets used by the Avengers, and the image inducers used by the X-Men. Eventually, Stark's heart condition is discovered by the public and treated with an artificial heart transplant.
Iron Man possesses powered armor that gives him superhuman strength and durability, flight, and an array of weapons. The armor is invented and worn by Stark (with occasional short-term exceptions). Other people who have assumed the Iron Man identity include Stark's long-time partner and best friend James Rhodes; close associates Harold "Happy" Hogan; Eddie March; and (briefly) Michael O'Brien.
The weapons systems of the suit have changed over the years, but Iron Man's standard offensive weapons have always been the repulsor rays that are fired from the palms of his gauntlets. Other weapons built into various incarnations of the armor include: the uni-beam projector in its chest; pulse bolts (that pick up kinetic energy along the way; so the farther they travel, the harder they hit); an electromagnetic pulse generator; and a defensive energy shield that can be extended up to 360 degrees. Other capabilities include: generating ultra-freon (i.e., a freeze-beam); creating and manipulating magnetic fields; emitting sonic blasts; and projecting 3-dimensional holograms (to create decoys).
In addition to the general-purpose model he wears, Stark has developed several specialized suits for space travel, deep-sea diving, stealth, and other special purposes. Stark has modified suits, like the Hulkbuster heavy armor. The Hulkbuster armor is composed of add-ons to his so-called modular armor, designed to enhance its strength and durability enough to engage the Incredible Hulk in a fight. A later model, designed for use against Thor, is modeled on the Destroyer and uses a mystical power source. Stark develops an electronics pack during the Armor Wars that, when attached to armors that use Stark technologies, will burn out those components, rendering the suit useless. This pack is ineffective on later models. While it is typically associated with James Rhodes, the War Machine armor began as one of Stark's specialty armors.
The most recent models of Stark's armor, beginning with the Extremis Armor, are now stored in the hollow portions of Stark's bones, and the personal area networking implement used to control it is implanted in his forearm, and connected directly to his central nervous system.
In the live-action film [Iron Man 3](movie:24391), it shows that Tony Stark has built 43 suits of armor.
Tony Stark is an inventive genius whose expertise in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science rivals that of Reed Richards, Hank Pym, and Bruce Banner, and his expertise in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering surpasses even theirs. He is regarded as one of the most intelligent characters in the Marvel Universe. He graduated with advanced degrees in physics and engineering at the age of 17 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and further developed his knowledge ranging from artificial intelligence to quantum mechanics as time progressed. His expertise extends to his ingenuity in dealing with difficult situations, such as difficult foes and deathtraps, in which he is capable of using available tools, including his suit, in unorthodox but effective ways. He is well respected in the business world, able to command people's attention when he speaks on economic matters, having over the years built up several multi-million dollar companies from virtually nothing. He is noted for the loyalty he commands from and returns to those who work for him, as well as for his business ethics. Thus he immediately fired an employee who made profitable, but illegal, sales to Doctor Doom. He strives to be environmentally responsible in his businesses.
At a time when Stark was unable to use his armor for a period, he received some combat training from Captain America and has become physically formidable on his own when the situation demands it. In addition, Stark possesses great business and political acumen. On multiple occasions he reacquired control of his companies after losing them amid corporate takeovers.
Due to his membership in the Illuminati, Iron Man was given the Space Infinity Gem to safeguard. It allows the user to exist in any location (or all locations), move any object anywhere throughout the universe and warp or rearrange space. As with the other members of the lluminati and their respective gems, Iron Man has vowed not to use it on any occasion, even after the Secret Invasion and his fugitive status.