The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about as incestuous as a Targaryen dinner party, so when a film as large as Avengers: Age of Ultron comes around it can be difficult to remember which face goes with which butt suit.
That’s where we come in. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until the release of the film, we’ll be giving you primers on all the major players.
Also, this primer (and all the others) will contain spoilers from the last several Marvel films. You’ve been warned. So, don’t whine. At least not at us…
If you missed the other primers, start here:
Next up: Iron Man
Iron Man?! i love that song! Duh, duh, DUH-DUH-DUH! DUH-NUH-Nuh-NUH-NUH-NUH-NUH-DUNH-DUNH-DUNH-DUNH!!!
No. Stahp. Not that one. Iron Man is a man who dons an incredible suit made of iron which is partially assisted by artificial intelligence, powered by an incredible miniaturized electromagnetic reactor and is packed to the brim with advanced weaponry.
Iron Man is played by Robert Downey, Jr..
so…he’s kinda like an iron batman?
Not entirely, though Iron Man is pretty much the closest one can get to being Batman without being Batman. His not-so-secret identity is Tony Stark, a billionaire, playboy, genius weapons engineer who uses his vast wealth and knowledge to contribute to the betterment of mankind whether it’s through his Iron Man persona or by designing technology that’s both incredibly efficient and clean.
“stark”? any relation to that stark guy from captain america?
Yup. Tony is the son of the late Howard Stark who, you may recall, was one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D. and also provided major assists to the United States government in the form of transportation and advanced technology and weaponry during World War II. Howard (with scientist Anton Vanko) was the original designer of the Arc Reactor and would, posthumously, save his son’s life. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that Steve Rogers wouldn’t even be who he is today without Howard. The elder Stark created the Vita-Ray Machine that, along with a “Super Soldier Serum” (invented by his colleague, Dr. Abraham Erskine), successfully transformed the wimpy Rogers into Magic Mike: ‘Murica Edition AKA Captain America. The ensuing research of the Super Soldier program even lead to General Ross’s “Weapon One” program, so one could even argue that Howard might have been indirectly responsible for the origin of The Hulk.
All right. I’ve got a headache now. Just tell me more about tony.
In Iron Man, following a weapons demonstration in a Middle Eastern desert, the U.S.Military convoy escorting Tony back to a local U.S. Military base was ambushed by the Ten Rings, a radical terrorist group. They captured Tony and offered him a deal: either he created the very same advanced missile systems so they could shift the balance of power in the area or they’d kill Stark. Being that Stark couldn’t go anywhere (he had a piece of shrapnel embedded in his chest near his heart due to the attack), he knew he’d have to perform a miracle to survive and escape. With the help of Ho Yinsen, a former surgeon captured by the Ten Rings years prior during a raid on his local village, Stark would construct a miniaturized version of the very same Arc Reactor which would not only keep him away from death’s doorstep, it would also power the various Iron Man suits Stark would create and–.
Ok, fine. Tony’s Arc Reactor solved his health issues, he escaped the cave utilizing a very crude and bulky iron suit and returned to America where created a brand-new, more streamlined Iron Man suit, while ending his company’s involvement with weapons manufacturing. That last bit didn’t sit well with long-time, close family friend and colleague, Obadiah Stane. (By the way, yes, that’s his actual name, not a Harry Potter villain or an alien from the Star Wars universe). It turns out that Stane was not only supplying our military, he had been selling Stark weaponry to the Ten Rings as well. His ultimate goal was to take Stark Industries from Tony by force. When his initial attempts failed and the truth was revealed, Stark went after Stane who had hijacked and made improvements to Tony’s original cave suit, The Mark I. After the two fought, Stane met his end by falling through the roof of the L.A. offices and electrocuting himself on a giant, prototype of the Arc Reactor that Tony had originally built, years prior, as an experiment.
Damn. That’s insane.
Oh, totally! But, there’s more. In Iron Man 2, Senator Stern (yes, the corrupt Senator from Winter Soldier) and the Senate Armed Forces Committee was breathing down Tony’s neck: they didn’t like that Tony had quit supplying weapons to them and they wanted his Iron Man technology under the false pretense that the Iron Man program was “a possible threat”. In reality, Justin Hammer, a dude they hired to replicate Stark’s stuff, was producing technology that was about as reliable as Windows Vista and that wasn’t flying with the Government. Stark defeated the SAFC after showing hearing attendees Hammer’s technology test footage, featuring his clone robot suits going haywire. Out of anger and frustration, Hammer hired Ivan Vanko, the son of Anton Vanko, to help clone Stark’s tech and, at the same time, destroy Stark physically and mentally. As it turns out, Ivan already had a bone to pick with Tony because, years earlier, Howard deported his father, Anton, back to Russia based on espionage charges born out of greed. Whereas Howard wanted to develop the Arc Reactor as a form of clean energy, Anton only wanted money and fame. Ivan wanted revenge.
Well, that’s not such a big deal. It’s only some industrial flunky and his goofy sidekick…
Yes, but what Hammer (and the rest of the world) didn’t know was that the small Reactor that Yinsen and Stark built had an unfortunate side effect: the Palladium (the element used to power the device) was poisoning Stark’s bloodstream and there was no cure. As a result, Stark was forced to make the incredibly difficult decision to hand his company over to his long-time assistant, Pepper Potts, in case of his demise. He would replace Potts with a new assistant in the form of Natasha Rushman, a notary he met days prior. Tony began sinking into a deep depression and, while he managed to defeat both Vanko and Hammer, he very nearly ended up losing his best friend, James Rhodes in the process. Not only did Rhodes have to subdue Stark (Stark drunkenly entertained his birthday party guests by goofing around with his Iron Man suits, recklessly shooting random objects with his eye beams), he ended up stealing Stark’s Mark II prototype suit and delivering it to the U.S. Military, which ended up being heavily re-built into a suit known as “War Machine: Mark I”. At this point, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. stepped in to help out as they deemed Tony too important to lose. Fury, tired of dealing with Stark’s shit, forked over a box of Howard Stark’s old stuff, in the hopes that Tony would be able to mine it for a cure. It was because of Howard’s past research, hidden in outtakes for an introduction video for the annual “Stark Expo”, that Tony was able to create a new
plot device element that was not only compatible and more powerful than the original Arc, it also was a Deus Ex Machina cured his palladium poisoning.
is there anything stark can’t do?! why isn’t he president?
I’d assume it’s his reckless attitude. And his womanizing. Which should make him a good candidate.
So, then he was in the battle of New york?
Well, originally, S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t even want him because they deemed him to be too irresponsible to be part of the actual Avengers Initiative due to his actions in Iron Man 2. They offered him a “consultant” position instead, which Stark accepted — if they forced Senator Stern to award him and James Rhodes bravery medals. S.H.I.E.L.D. accepted and, for one of his first “missions”, he was sent to a bar, by Agent Coulson, to prevent General Ross from releasing Emil Blonsky (AKA “The Abomination”) to S.H.I.E.L.D. custody because, as it turns out, S.H.I.E.L.D. was gonna try to tame him and bring him into the Avengers Initiative.
That makes no goddamn sense.
I know. But let’s move on: Coulson finally brings Stark into the fold after a godly object called The Tesseract was stolen from a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in New Mexico by Loki, the brother of Thor. As it happens, the Tesseract is an “Infinity Stone”, something that will be covered in an upcoming primer. Once owned by Loki and Thor’s father, Odin, it has unlimited power and potential, which S.H.I.E.L.D. was hoping to exploit in order to bring free, unlimited energy to the planet. In the wrong hands, it can be used as an extremely dangerous weapon. It turns out that Stark and Bruce Banner are, virtually, the only two people on the planet who can track the thing — which is a must since Loki wanted to use it to open a portal for a bunch of hostile aliens so that they he could take over the planet. Luckily, Coulson and Fury were able to re-start The Avengers Initiative, uniting Captain America, The Hulk (Banner), Thor, The Black Widow (Agent Natasha Romanoff), Hawkeye (Agent Clint Barton) and Stark to fight and cut the menace off in New York before they could get to the rest of the planet.
What’s in store for Stark in AGE OF ULT–?
Not so fast. There was an Iron Man 3.
Oh, come on…look, I got things to do…
Dude. This universe is huge. Plus, this was kinduva fun one. Stark’s experiencing a bit of post-traumatic stress from the Battle of New York and can’t sleep. He stays up for days at a time creating several new versions of the Iron Man suit. It isn’t until a series of terror attacks occur on U.S. soil that Stark snaps back into action. Remember the Ten Rings? Well, they had a new leader called “The Mandarin”, a weird, pseudo-enigmatic man who looked like a Middle Eastern Fu Man Chu. He had a personal vendetta, it seems, against anything that represented America. After the Ten Rings hit the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, critically injuring his old friend and former bodyguard, Happy Hogan, Stark publicly threatens The Mandarin on live television out of blind anger, causing the Mandarin to send some troops to Stark’s Malibu mansion, via fully-loaded gunships.
LET ME GUESS: he lives?
Yeah. Well, he nearly perishes in the attack. Stark manages to use his brand-new Mark XLII (That’s “42” for those of you who live in modern times — and, yes, he created 42 different suits) to take out two of the three gunships before the third sent Stark and a most of his mansion into the Pacific Ocean. Stark barely survives the attack but ends up getting knocked out. J.A.R.V.I.S., his A.I., flies the suit out of the water (containing the unconscious Stark) and halfway across the country before they run out of energy and crash-land in Tennessee. It’s here that Stark realizes that The Mandarin’s people believe him to be dead — so he goes undercover in a nearby town to investigate a similar attack and eventually discovers that the attacks are being instigated by a man named Aldridge Killian — and they aren’t “attacks”. It seems Killian has been experimenting with “Extremis”, an experimental drug capable of healing any wound and regenerating limbs in minutes. The problem? Two-fold: he’s been testing it on amputee war veterans and the drug doesn’t meld with many of them. The ones who can’t handle the drug are like walking bombs and explode if they panic. He even makes it personal by kidnapping Pepper Potts with the stuff.
Ok. Even I want this guy dead now! tell me he dies a terrible death…MAKE WITH THE DEATH!
Well, essentially, Stark uncovers Killian’s plot: The Mandarin is an actor, a complete fake, the “face of fear” as it were, and Killian intends to do away with the current President, which will allow the corrupt Vice-President to step in (Killian promised to cure his daughter with Extremis) and become Killian’s puppet. With control of both the President and the Mandarin persona, Killian would be able to manipulate global conflict for profit. That’s why Rhodes and Stark utilize all 42 Iron Man suits against Killian and his Extremis goons. When the fight comes down to Stark and Killian, Killian ends up killing Pepper…only to see Extremis work its magic and bring her back from the dead. She ends up destroying Killian. She panics about what she’s become — but Stark, being the genius he is, figures out the chemistry of Extremis and manages to stabilize Pepper’s condition — then uses Extremis to finally remove the shrapnel nearing his heart, as well as the Arc Reactor…
What? Wait…why would he do that?
I have no idea. That’s where we’re currently at.
So what’s next in age of ultron?
Welp…whereas Stark is a genius, the “reckless” part of him is what causes the crisis the Avengers battle through in the new film. Stark feels as though the Avengers are weary from battle and, in order to give them all a break, he invents a legion of remote-controlled robots — except one of them becomes self-aware — and he’s not happy with the team. This will obviously put Iron Man at odds with an already fed-up Captain America, which will obviously lead to the events in the next Captain America installment.
Pepper Potts: Tony’s never-fail assistant who puts up with Tony’s shenanigans, rain or shine, better or worse.
Howard Stark: Tony’s father who, despite his genius, had a very strained relationship with his son.
Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes: Tony’s BFF and main connection to the American military mind. Rhodes is also “War Machine”, donning a modified version of Tony’s Mark II suit.
J.A.R.V.I.S.: The name of the A.I. who assists Tony where ever he goes. J.A.R.V.I.S. is available in nearly every piece of hardware Tony has including his car, his phone and his suits. He’s based on the Stark Family butler, Edwin Jarvis.
Ho Yinsen: A brilliant surgeon who Tony first met at a New Year’s Eve tech conference in 1999. Tony, who was too drunk at the time to remember it, would meet him again, years later, in Afghanistan under unfortunate circumstances. Yinsen was instrumental in keeping Tony alive after his capture and helping him to build the mini-version of the Arc Reactor. He died during Tony’s successful escape attempt.
Ivan Vanko/Whiplash: Disgruntled son of the late Anton Vanko, who helped Howard construct the original Arc Reactor during the beginning of the Cold War before Howard had him deported on suspicion of espionage. Vanko wanted revenge against Tony for Howard’s perceived misdeeds against his father, Anton.
Maya Hansen: The inventor of “Extremis”, the experimental drug that can heal wounds and regenerate severed limbs. Hansen met her demise at the hands of Aldridge Killian but it’s assumed that her work on the drug has been improved upon by Tony Stark. The drug is a fairly large plot point in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Want more than movies? Need to pump some artistic iron? Check out these comics:
The Invincible Iron Man: Stark Disassembled
Tales of Suspense #39: Iron Man is BORN!
The Invincible Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted