Written by Old Bluffer 4th Jun 2008
Tony Stark is the genius heir to the throne of Stark Industries - an American weapons firm who produce the most devastating munitions in the world.
Tony was building advanced micro-processors and engines before he hit puberty, and with his technological brilliance, his family company makes enough money that they could hire Bruce Wayne as their telephone cleaner if they wanted to.
This opens up possibilities for Stark to enjoy everything money can buy, and he is most definitely not mean when it comes to indulging. Drink, gambling and gorgeous women seem to be his more normal vices, but he puts his own unique spin on everything he does. For example, his personal jet is filled with beautiful and attentive air hostesses, who are also the in-flight entertainment when they pole dance for Tony's pleasure.
Despite (or because of) this sybaritic, arrogant, womanising persona, he still somehow manages to be a charismatic charmer, and his brilliantly named personal assistant, "Pepper Potts", is rather in love with him against her better judgement.
All good things must come to an end though, and Tony is betrayed by his mentor and business partner, Obadiah Stane, who arranges for him to be ambushed and assassinated by a shadowy organisation known as the "Ten Rings", whilst on a stylish sales pitch.
However, once they realise who their victim is, the group kidnap and imprison him instead in an Afhgan cave complex, while they try and extort more money from Obadiah. As one of the leaders eloquently puts it: "You gave us trinkets to kill a prince."
The abduction didn't go entirely smoothly though, and Stark is mortally wounded by shrapnel, some of which lodges dangerously close to his heart. Luckily for him, his kidnappers have also taken a man skilled in field surgery, Dr Yinsen. Yinsen patches him up in the best way he can, and is something of an improvisational wizard, as he rigs up an electromagnet which he implants into Stark's chest cavity, to prevent the shrapnel from moving any closer to the heart.
This isn't the most convenient of prosthetics, as it is powered by a whacking great car battery which Stark needs to carry about with him, presumably for the rest of his life.Yinsen soon befriends Stark, but seems saddened by the way a man with so much talent has chosen to squander his life.
Stark: "You got a family?"
Yinsen [prophetically]: "Yes, and I will see them when I leave here. And you, Stark?"
Tony Stark: [quietly] "No."
Yinsen: "So you're a man who has everything, but nothing."
The Ten Rings are hard taskmasters though, and take the opportunity to order Stark to spend his time in captivity to make them this season's must-have baby killer, the Jericho Missile.
Stark doesn't have much choice but to capitulate in order to buy himself some time. He orders them to bring him a truckload of raw materials and technology, and proceeds to go into a three month burst of inventive productivity that would make both the A-Team and MacGyver retire in shame.
It is at around this point that we realise why the terrorist / guerilla warfare group aren't doing rather better in their bid for world domination, as despite rigging the cave with CCTV and watching Stark's every move, they completely fail to cotton on to the fact that he is very clearly not making anything like a missile system.
First of all, he creates an ultra-miniaturised version of a previous Stark invention, the Arc Reactor. He replaces Yinsen's crude electromagnet with this, freeing himself from carrying around the battery, and arming himself in the process with enough power to send a Delorean back to Pre-Cambrian times.
He then starts to forge himself a powered exo-skeleton from spare missile parts, which eventually the evil assortment of Arab / Russian / Taliban / Non-Western guards realise doesn't look much like the picture of the Jericho Missile they have been given!
They burst into the cave and threaten to force-feed Yinsen with hot coals unless Stark makes their missile - a threat which rather loses its effect when they then leave and blindly just trust that he'll do it.
More fool them of course, as Stark rushes the completion of his suit of armour, and with the help of Dr Yinsen, prepares for a guts-and-glory escape.
The guards are onto them though, and the laptop they are using to upload firmware into the suit's microprocessors is evidently only fitted with old-style USB sockets, as the data transfer is taking too long.
Yinsen realises this and decides to sacrifice himself to buy Stark the time he needs. He grabs a machine gun from the corpse of the first unlucky guard to trigger Stark's one and only booby trap, and races into the tunnel complex, spraying the roof liberally with bullets. The enemy soldiers back off, but inevitably he is outflanked and raked with fire.
By this time though, Stark is powered up and ready for some payback. Anyone that comes within stomping distance of him gets well and truly pounded by the suit's amplified limbs.
[It should be noted that the soldiers play fair, and follow the conventions of any comic book metaverse, by sportingly never shooting through the eye or mouth holes of the suit's mask!]
Before he leaves, he finds the dying Dr Yinsen, who makes it clear he had no illusions about what his fate would be, and that his previous optimism was actually cleverly disguised fatalism:
Stark: "Come on, you're going to go see your family again."
Yinsen: "My family's dead. I'm going to see them now, Stark. It's okay. I want this."
He then urges the billionnaire, "Don't waste two lives." before expiring.
Stark emerges from the cave complex a changed man. He casually despatches more enemy soldiers, flies to freedom and returns to America with a grim resolve. He holds a press conference and announces that Stark Industries will make no more weapons for non-Americans to shed blood with. He then goes back to his personal workshop, to refine his "Iron Man" suit - the upgraded version won't be made in a cave that's for certain...