Iron Man (Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark) is a fictional character, a superhero in the Marvel Comics Universe. The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee, developed by scripter Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby, first appearing in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963).
A billionaire playboy, industrialist and ingenious engineer, Stark suffers a severe chest injury during a kidnapping in which his captors attempt to force him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He instead creates a powered suit of armor to save his life and escape captivity. He later uses the suit to protect the world as Iron Man. Through his multinational corporation ― Stark Industries ― Tony has created many military weapons, some of which, along with other technological devices of his making, have been integrated into his suit, helping him fight crime. Initially, Iron Man was a vehicle for Stan Lee to explore Cold War themes, particularly the role of American technology and business in the fight against communism. Subsequent re-imaginings of Iron Man have transitioned from Cold War themes to contemporary concerns, such as corporate crime and terrorism.
Throughout most of the character's publication history, Iron Man has been a member of the superhero team the Avengers and has been featured in several incarnations of his own various comic book series. Iron Man has been adapted for several animated TV shows and films.
Iron Man's premiere was a collaboration among editor and story-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, story-artist Don Heck, and cover-artist and character-designer Jack Kirby. In 1963, Lee had been toying with the idea of a businessman superhero. Lee said, "I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military....So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist....I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him....And he became very popular." He set out to make the new character a wealthy, glamorous ladies' man, but one with a secret that would plague and torment him as well. Writer Gerry Conway said, "Here you have this character, who on the outside is invulnerable, I mean, just can't be touched, but inside is a wounded figure. Stan made it very much an in-your-face wound, you know, his heart was broken, you know, literally broken. But there's a metaphor going on there. And that's, I think, what made that character interesting." Lee based this playboy's looks and personality on Howard Hughes, explaining, "Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies' man and finally a nutcase. Without being crazy, he was Howard Hughes."
Iron Man first appeared in 13- to 18-page stories in Tales of Suspense, which featured anthology science fiction and supernatural stories. The character's original costume was a bulky gray armored suit, replaced by a golden version in the second story (issue #40, April 1963). It was redesigned as sleeker, red-and-golden armor in issue #48 (Dec. 1963). In his premiere, Iron Man was an anti-communist hero, defeating various Vietnamese agents. Lee later regretted this early focus. Throughout the character’s comic book series, technological advancement and national defense were constant themes for Iron Man, but later issues developed Stark into a more complex and vulnerable character as they depicted his battle with alcoholism and other personal difficulties.
Writers have updated the war and locale in which Stark is injured. In the original 1963 story, it was the Vietnam War. In the 1990s, it was updated to be the first Gulf War, and later updated again to be the war in Afghanistan. However, Stark's time with the Asian Nobel Prize-winning scientist Ho Yinsen is consistent through nearly all incarnations of the Iron Man origin, depicting Stark and Yinsen building the original armor together.