Ever since he kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008's Iron Man, Tony Stark has become a household name across the world. We cheered the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist on as he led the Avengers against threats like Loki, Ultron, and Thanos. We questioned his ideology in his Civil War battle against Captain America. Viewers smiled as he matured and started a family with Pepper Potts, and cried hysterically when he ultimately sacrificed himself to save the universe in Avengers: Endgame. Now that he's gone, everyone seems to be claiming they were Iron Man's biggest fans, but startlingly few people know some of the most interesting facts about the armored Avenger.
When Iron Man first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 all the way back in 1963, creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck had no idea that the character would become such an important part of comic book history. He's been a part of countless different Avengers rosters, he helped found Marvel's Illuminati, and he's fought just about every major Marvel villain and teamed up with nearly every hero imaginable. Tony Stark has been around the block for so long and done so much that only his biggest fans can say they know everything there is to know about him.
Comic book fans who want to brush up on their Iron Man facts or MCU enthusiasts who simply want to know more about the man who heroically sacrificed his own life to stop Thanos and his army, take note. Here are 20 Wild Details Only True Fans Know About Iron Man.
20 TONY STARK IS BASED ON HOWARD HUGHES
Tony Stark may seem like he's one-of-a-kind, but the beloved Avenger is actually based on real-life millionaire playboy philanthropist Howard Hughes.
According to Stan Lee, Hughes “was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a ladies' man and finally a nutcase."
It's definitely easy to see some major similarities between the two icons. Both of their fathers were successful inventors and businessmen. Tony and Howard both revolutionized the aviation industry, and they bolstered their family fortunes developing new weapons technologies. They had eccentric personalities and earned reputations as womanizers, but they were also known for their generosity and intelligence.
19 IRON MAN MARRIES CAPTAIN AMERICA
There's a large number of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans who love shipping Tony Stark with his Avengers teammate Steve Rogers, and in the comics, the two heroes actually get married in an alternate universe!
On Earth-3490, Tony is born Natasha Stark, and becomes the superhero Iron Woman. She marries her friend and teammate Steve Rogers, who is still that universe's Captain America. According to Reed Richards, in this alternate reality, there was no Civil War over the Superhero Registration Program because Natasha and Steve's relationship helped them come to a more peaceful resolution.
It's not quite the Iron Man and Cap coupling some fans hoped for, but it's still something!
18 STUDIOS DIDN'T WANT THE CINEMATIC RIGHTS TO IRON MAN
Before he helped launch the MCU, Iron Man wasn't nearly as popular a hero as he is now. The rights to the character had been passed around for years, starting at Universal Studios, who then sold them to Fox. Fox was too focused on their X-Men and Fantastic Four films to deal with a relatively unloved Avenger, so that studio sold the Iron Man rights to New Line. They failed to use the rights, and Marvel eventually got them back.
It's a good thing that no one seemed to want to make an Iron Man film, because if they had, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it likely never would have happened and the superhero genre wouldn't be nearly as successful as it is today.
17 HIS SUIT CAN LIFT 200,000 POUNDS
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor and Hulk often debate who is truly the "strongest Avenger." The films don't give Iron Man a fair shot to prove that he may actually be worthy of that title.
When Tony Stark's suit is fully powered, it can actually lift up to 100 tons, or 200,000 lbs! That's just his regular Iron Man suit, too — his Hulkbuster suit can lift an incredible 175 tons. So even though Tony may not have the musculature of some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, all he has to do is jump in one of his many suits and he can definitely hold his own in a lifting competition against even his buffest teammates and adversaries.
16 HE ENTERED MIT WHEN HE WAS 15
Even though Tony Stark was based on real-life genius Howard Hughes, his intellect is on a level likely never seen in reality. He has specialized expertise in electrical and mechanical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science, and in Avengers: Endgame, Tony became a master of time travel after only a day of research and consideration.
Tony didn't really put his brilliant mind to good use until he was an adult, but he was definitely one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe from a very young age. He entered MIT at the age of 15 and graduated two years later with a Master’s degree in chemical engineering. Comic experts have a hard time agreeing on how to rank Marvel's top geniuses, but everyone seems to rank him in at least their Top 10.
15 STAN LEE ORIGINALLY GAVE HIS MASK A NOSE
When Stan Lee saw one of the initial drawings of Iron Man back in 1974, he reportedly asked the illustrator why the helmet didn't include a nose. The hero's design was immediately changed to include one, and it stayed that way for several illustrations until Stan finally came to his senses and realized that helmets don't need noses.
It definitely didn't make much sense for the Avengers founder to have a completely non-functional nose, so we think this was the right decision. It's hard to imagine the MCU's version of Iron Man having a nose, especially one that wouldn't serve a purpose.
14 JARVIS IS THE STARK FAMILY BUTLER
Before he became Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Paul Bettany voiced J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark's highly-advanced AI system. J.A.R.V.I.S. did just about everything for Tony, from scheduling his appointments to helping Iron Man figure out his technology in combat and leading the Iron Legion. The J.A.R.V.I.S. acronym stands for "Just A Rather Very Intelligent System," but there's more to that name than some casual fans may realize.
Tony's artificial butler is actually named after the real-life butler who took care of him after his parents passed away, Edwin Jarvis. Jarvis was a main character in Marvel's Agent Carter television series, and he appeared alongside a past version of Tony's father Howard Stark in Avengers: Endgame.
13 IRON MAN BECAME DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Tony Stark and Nick Fury definitely didn't see eye-to-eyepatch in Iron Man 2, and Fury actually rejected the billionaire playboy for his Avengers Initiative program because he had issues with Tony's behavior and personality. Tony's questionable quirks didn't stop him from eventually stepping into Fury's role of Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics, though.
During the Civil War over the Superhero Registration Act, Maria Hill admired Tony's strict stance on heroes cooperating with the government and recommended he take her place as the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony kept the role for over a year, until Norman Osborn weaseled his way into the position and used the newfound power for his own nefarious plans.
12 HE BRIEFLY JOINED THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Thor decided to leave New Asgard so he could try to find his purpose alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the comics, Tony similarly took his talents to space to fight alongside the Guardians and donned a sophisticated new Space Armor suit which let him become the Intergalactic Iron Man. This suit enabled Tony to move at warp speed and sub-warp speed in space and featured enhanced back thrusters and a wrist-mounted explosive launcher.
Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark sadly won't be able to be a part of any future Guardians films, but his team-up with Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula in Infinity War was definitely one of the MCU's bests.
11 IRON MAN USED TO USE ROLLERBLADES
It's difficult to think of things Tony Stark's Iron Man suits can't do. They can launch missiles and fire repulsor blasts of pure energy. They can give their wearer superhuman strength and durability. They act as regenerative life support machines and can fly at supersonic speeds. Oh, and back when Iron Man first debuted, they could even rollerblade into battle!
That's right, in early Iron Man comics, the superhero's boots had retractable jet-powered rollerblades so Tony could roll his way around at an impressive 60 mph when he didn't feel like flying.
10 STAN LEE DIDN'T WRITE HIS FIRST APPEARANCE
Everyone knows that Iron Man was co-created by beloved Marvel writer and editor Stan Lee, but few fans realize that Stan actually didn't get the chance to write the superhero's first appearance. Tony Stark's solo comic began in May 1968, but he initially debuted in March 1963's Tales of Suspense #39. Lee had a very busy schedule at that time, so he didn't get a chance to write that appearance.
Lee was, of course, very involved in Tony Stark's future from that point forward. In addition to working alongside scripter Larry Lieber and designers Don Heck and Jack Kirby at the start of Tony's rise to comic stardom, Lee appeared in every MCU Iron Man and Avengers film alongside his iconic character.
9 HE ONCE MERGED WITH DC'S GREEN LANTERN
Marvel and DC are major rivals, but in 1996, the two comic book publishers briefly joined forces and merged their characters together to create new ones in an "amalgam" universe. One of their best joint creations was Iron Lantern, a combination of Iron Man and Green Lantern.
Hal Stark was a multi-billionaire, and the found of Stark Aircraft. His origin story was a perfect blend of Tony Stark's and Hal Jordan's, and Iron Lantern had all the strengths of the two incredibly popular and powerful heroes.
While DC Comics has since pretended that the Amalgam Universe never existed, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes 2005 designated it as Earth-9602.
8 TONY STARK WAS ACTUALLY ADOPTED
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony is Howard Stark's only son. Howard wasn't always the best, most supportive father, but by watching old home videos of him and traveling to the past and talking with him, Tony learned that his dad really loved him and that Howard considered him his greatest creation.
Their relationship is quite different in the comics. Howard Stark and his wife Maria had troubles conceiving a child, so they worked with an alien robot in order to finally create a healthy offspring. However, when they found out that the alien had secret plans for their son, Howard adopted Tony from a couple he'd met during his time with S.H.I.E.L.D. to throw the alien off the scent of his true son.
7 HE WIPED HIS OWN MEMORY TO PROTECT HIS FRIENDS
When supervillain Norman Osborn took over the Avengers, Tony was worried that he'd use S.H.I.E.L.D.'s private data for his own nefarious purposes. Norman wasn't too far removed from his time as the Green Goblin and would go on to form an evil Dark Avengers team, so Tony was definitely right to be so suspicious. What he did to protect his friends, however, was a bit drastic and incredibly tragic.
Tony moved all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s private data directly into his own brain, and then wiped his memories so Osborn couldn't get vital information about Starktech or the secret identities of the superheroes gained from the Superhuman Registration Act. Doing so protected his friends, but it sadly also caused him to forget them and stripped away large portions of his personality.
6 IRON MAN HAS EVEN MORE SUITS THAN SHOWN IN THE MCU
Iron Man has more suits than even the biggest fans have been able to keep track of in the MCU, but in the comics, he has even more suits! The hero has been around for over 50 years, and there are alternate universes with multiple different versions of him, so it's really difficult to say for sure how many suits Tony Stark (or some different version of him) has made. But the number is likely well over 100.
Tony has suits for space travel, for fighting or exploring underwater, and he even has suits that can turn invisible for stealth missions. He made a suit to fight the Hulk, one to fight the powerful X-Men cosmic entity The Phoenix Force, and the list goes on and on.
5 TONY USED TO OPERATE THE SUIT WITH HIS TONGUE
Even though we're likely decades away from seeing anything like an Iron Man suit in the real world, the MCU managed to make the idea of Tony Stark's superhero alter ego seem slightly realistic. With just a few voice commands, the armored Avenger could do a variety of wonderfully impossible things, and viewers didn't think anything about it. Being Iron Man wasn't so easy for Tony when he first started out in the comics, though, because Marvel didn't think people would believe such advanced technology would ever be possible.
Instead of running his suit through a voice-operated AI system, Tony used to have to hit a bunch of buttons and switches inside of his helmet with his tongue. It wasn't the most sanitary way to be a superhero, but Marvel felt like it was more realistic. Luckily, as the world became slightly more advanced, Tony was able to up his technology game and evolve along with it.
4 STARK INDUSTRIES MAKES LESS THAN WAYNE ENTERPRISES
Tony's work with Stark Industries helps him earn enough money to fund his hobby of making countless different Iron Man suits, each of which undoubtedly would cost millions of dollars to make. Surprisingly, though, that company actually pulls in far less than the company owned by DC's Bruce Wayne, Wayne Enterprises. Stark Industries makes about $20 billion annually, while Wayne Enterprises rakes in an incredible $31 billion.
That being said, in Forbes' 2013 list of the wealthiest fictional characters, they put Tony above Bruce, and claim that he's worth approximately $12.4 billion. So the two characters are about even, and fans who like arguing about who is richer may never get a clear-cut answer.
3 THE IRON MAN FILM DIDN'T HAVE A COMPLETE SCRIPT
The fate of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe depended on the success of Iron Man, but that didn't mean director Jon Favreau ran a tight ship when it came to the film. He was under pressure to make the studio's desired release date and trusted in the improvisational skills of Robert Downey Jr., so he and his star actually made most of the script up as they went along.
Several major lines and even some significant scenes from the film were likely improvised, and Jeff Bridges has said that there were days when he came to set and didn't know any of his lines because he simply wasn't given any in advance.
2 TOM CRUISE WAS ALMOST IRON MAN
It's hard to imagine anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, because even co-creator Stan Lee has stated that he looks exactly what he always imagined his character to look like, and because Downey Jr. shares so many of Tony's personality traits and even some of his flaws. No actor will ever be able to replace him as the iron Avenger, but one man got incredibly close.
When Marvel Studios was first casting for the man who would launch their cinematic universe, the first star that came to mind was Tom Cruise. It's possible that he would have done well in the role, but fans are still glad that he turned it down.
1 STEVE ROGERS TRAINED TONY STARK
Iron Man is one of the most formidable heroes in the entire Marvel Universe, but when Tony takes off his suit and doesn't have any tech nearby to help him, he isn't really much of a threat. He isn't oblivious to this weakness, though, so he asked one of the best tactical fighters he knew to help him hone his combat skills — Captain America.
Steve Rogers gave his friend and teammate some important fighting tips and tricks, so he'd be stronger both as Tony Stark and as Iron Man. To supplement the martial arts training he received from Cap, Tony went on to also train with Black Widow, Shang Chi and Black Widow, three of Marvel's other top hand-to-hand combatants.