Iron Man made his first appearance in 1963, as part of “Tales of Suspense”, a series of science fiction anthologies which gave artists a place to showcase their work. The character was created, as almost all those early Marvel characters were, by the great Stan Lee and a group of writers and artists like Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and Larry Lieber.

Unlike a lot of superhero characters from the same era, there is no real separation between who Iron Man is in and out of his suit. Outside of the suit he’s Tony Stark, billionaire industrialist and brilliant inventor. A captain of industry. Inside the suit, he’s Tony Stark wearing metal. He’s not a nerd by day and an alpha male by night, or a dark and twisted hunter of criminals while in costume and a carefree playboy out of it. He is simply Tony Stark, a flawed, often wrong human being whose genius has been put to use designing an amazing technology which gives him power beyond that of your every day billionaire industrialist.

He’s never really had the popularity of Marvel characters like the Hulk or Spider-Man. Iron Man never had his own live-action TV show, you’re less likely to see him on t-shirts than say Wolverine, and he’s not exactly a role model. Still, Tony Stark has had staying power. He’s the most popular of that second tier of superheroes like Daredevil and Elektra, or the least popular of the top tier inhabited by the likes of Spider-Man and Superman.

Some have dismissed him as nothing but a Bruce Wayne knockoff, but the man inside the armor was actually based on real life industrialist and inventor Howard Hughes. Like Hughes, not only is Stark brilliant, driven, and wealthy, but he too suffers from dark, mental instability, an instability which eventually turned the character into an alcoholic. Perhaps it is those very human, normal, weaknesses which have made Iron Man such an enduring figure. Or maybe it’s the mustache. Chicks dig the mustache. Whatever the reason, Iron Man has stuck around, pleasing fans for decades in print and in the 90s with an animated television series.

For me it was other media like the animated series, not the comics which first introduced me to Iron Man. A lot of kids first paid attention to him in 1991, when he was the best playable character in the arcade game Captain America and the Avengers. Or maybe it was that animated series back in the 90s, where Iron Man faced off against the vaguely racist, magically nefarious Mandarin and his ten rings of power.

How ever you first encountered him, America at least recognizes Iron Man, but this summer at the movies will be the first opportunity many have had to really get to know him. To prepare you for the rise of Tony Stark, below is our guide to everything you’ll need to maximize your Iron Man movie experience.

Movie Review: Iron Man
By the end of his film Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is a light and fluffy character, a superhero colored in with bright bits of crayon, but he doesn’t start out that way. Ironically it’s early on in the story when Tony Stark, the man inside the bright red suit, is still a carefree playboy and globe-trotting arms merchant that he has the most edge. It’s there that Favreau’s superhero movie works best, as Stark is captured by a group of terrorists known as the Ten Rings (nod to all you Mandarin fans), injured, and forced to work in a dank cave designing weapons… read the rest

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Iron Man Cameo Spoilers
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Video: Trailers And Clips From Iron Man
Get a sneak peek at what Jon Favreau has in store.

Images: Stills And Posters From Iron Man
Freeze frame on Robert Downey Jr.'s cold, metal underpants.

Red Carpet: Pics Of The Cast At The Premiere
Peek in at Robert Downey Jr. and the gang as they walk the red carpet for Iron Man’s UK premiere.

Preview: Iron Man The Videogame
Play as Tony Stark on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and PSP.

"Like Will Ferrell, Director Jon Favreau is another one of those guys you just have to love. He even had something to offer when pigeonholed into some particularly bad episodes of "Friends". As Elf's director, he has the sense to give his movie just the right irreverent air, while backing up to let Ferrell do his thing. Elf still does its share of spreading traditional holiday cheer, but saves most of it for a climatic action-oriented ending, featuring among other things, a hilarious homage to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. The rest of the movie smartly focuses on a series of all out funny and sometimes warped comedy bits in which to entangle Ferrell's Buddy Elf. The result is brilliant..." read more

"The film begins with one of the most creative title sequences of the year. Favreau's camera zooms in, around, and through the movie's titular game, racing across the mechanical board like a rocket, and making the metal and cardboard device itself look as though it has come wonderfully alive. Silly and simple though that short bit of credits may be, it'll make you feel like a kid again..." read more

Charlie Bartlett
"It tries to tackle too much at once and so we’re left with a fun, rebellious coming of age story which randomly mixes in things like suicide, and expects it to work. Instead, it’s kind of confusing. How the hell are we supposed to react when a hilarious teen party montage is followed by Robert Downey Jr. putting a gun to his head? It’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by way of The Virgin Suicides, and believe me when I tell you the two absolutely do not mix..." read more

"A more-nebbish-than-usual Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, the cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle (and writer of the book Zodiac, from which the movie is based) who launches his own investigation to try and catch the killer. Why not, since the police, including inspectors Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), prove particularly useless. The film is loaded with talented actors—Robert Downey Jr. is playfully bizarre as fussy writer Paul Avery—stuck in thankless roles. Like the unidentified murderer himself, they each remain strangers..." read more

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
"Enter Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.), the mysterious new upstairs neighbor with a condition that causes hair to sprout on every inch of his flesh—and while he may resemble Chewbacca on the outside, inside he is just another pensive, artistic soul longing for a love connection. He finds it with Diane..." read more

A Scanner Darkly
"Is it: a nightmarish Orwellian vision of the not-so-distant future where privacy is a cherished relic of the past? A harrowing tale of addiction and its consequences that rises above the typical cautionary tale? A collection of deep philosophical discussions about the nature of identity and reality wrapped inside a noir-ish mystery plot? A gut-busting comedy filled with the drug-addled digressions and bumbling antics of Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson..." read more

The Shaggy Dog
"Robert Downey Jr., Danny Glover and Jane Curtin are just a few of the folks who flush out Shaggy Dog’s supporting cast. It’s a bit surprising to see so many big names in this sort of movie and with the exception of Downey Jr. all of them are horribly underutilized. Worst of all they end up playing second fiddle to a cast of CG animals, all of whom are infected by the same shaggy virus as Douglas..." read more

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
"Downey’s Harry Lockhart is a child magician grown into a petty thief whose last job goes horribly wrong. By a very strange turn of fate, he’s discovered as an actor and whisked off to L.A to star in a detective movie. At his very first Lalaland party, complete with the expected steaming, starlet-stocked, swimming pool, he meets failed actress Harmony Faith Lane (a stunning Michelle Monaghan) whose street-like name correctly suggests that she’s got a lot of mileage on her. They banter cleverly in Tracy-Hepburn mode, and it turns out that they knew each other at a much earlier time..." read more

Good Night, And Good Luck
"Good Night, and Good Luck opens with widely respected CBS anchor Edward R. Murrow being honored in a ceremony for changing the face of Journalism. At a time when everyone was terrified of their own government, he took a stand and flipped the Feds off. During a 1954 broadcast, Murrow did a character assassination piece on America’s ultimate nosey neighbor Senator McCarthy, using footage of his own words and pictures. Producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) joined this labor-of-love, with passionate colleagues including married couple Joe (Robert Downey Jr.) and Shirley Wershba (Patricia Clarkson) in tow..." read more

"Gothika fumbles around hinting at a romantic relationship between Downey and Berry’s characters, only to prove there isn’t one. Downey’s character (who can’t seem to decide whether to drug Miranda or kiss her) turns out to be nothing more than scene filler, an abandoned plotline that someone never quite got around to taking out of the script..." read more

"Robocop is the 80’s served up on a big shiny over-the-top platter. Unlike say Terminator or Die Hard which transcend their 80’sness through actual smart ideas (The Former) or sheer cinematic innovation (The Latter), Robocop wallows in it’s grand 80’s feel happier then a pig in the most disgusting slop you can fathom. Sadly, like the decade it emulates, Robocop quickly fell into ruin, destroyed by its own hubris and pound after pound of delicious nutritious womble dust..." read more

The Iron Giant
"The Iron Giant is everything you could want in a movie, all blended perfectly together. Never mind that it’s animated, it’s still the magical kind of film that a group of adults can gather around to watch and slip back into the almost magical joy and adventure of being a kid..." read more

The Hulk
"He's big. He's green. His pants are on more than one occasion purple. Yeah he's CGI, but it's good enough that he actually feels like a creature that's been fully realized. Next to Gollum, who remains light-years above any other non-living creation to grace any screen, the Hulk is the best CGI work anyone has done on film yet."

Batman Begins
"Batman Begins is a solid re-entry into the comic book hero's crime riddled world. Missing is some of the exhilaration and fun of its predecessors, in its place is a closer examination into the nature of the character. If there's fault to be laid, put it at the feet of Nolan who seems to understand the character, but not his karate chops. You won't see a lot of good "Pow!", "Bang!", "Boom!", or "Zowie!" in this version of Batman, Nolan appears incapable of making that sort of movie. Luckily, the film otherwise captures the Batman so well that any missing excitement can be forgiven. "

Batman (1989)
"Holy Great Peformances, Batman, the actors are great. Michael Keaton does a great job being a badass protector of the night and his Bruce Wayne, although a little off-putting on occasion, has some great underplayed comic moments. Early in the film, I wondered if Jack Nicholson was the right choice to play the Joker, but he quickly grew on me... This guy was madcap while still retaining a homicidal edge (while Jim Carrey was great as the Riddler in Forever, I never believed he'd be able to kill somebody). The supporting cast (Basinger, Wuhl, Michael Gough as faithful butler) all do equally capable work. Even Billy Dee Williams is good. "

X2: X-Men United
"Second time X-director Bryan Singer has created an absolute masterpiece. A consummate blending of deep delving character exploration, team oriented action, amazing set pieces, and PERFECTLY done mind blowing, super-powered, special effects that rip the roof off of any previous effects efforts in the genre. What makes this effects magic so wonderful is that it isn't noticeable as Hollywood trickery. Everything blends together seamlessly. Nowhere does anything in the film look any less than completely and utterly real. At no point does bad cgi creep in, nor overambitious action directing, resulting in such unrealistic karate moves that the audience can no longer buy in. It's an absolutely slick and positively beautiful presentation. From Nightcrawler's trademark BAMF! as he teleports into battle, to the insane weather effects of Storm finally and fully unleashed, each moment of movie misdirection works to fullest efficiency."

" Look back at the Superhero movies of the past couple of decades, the biggest being Superman and Batman. Both were entertaining, but one of the biggest complaints about the early Batman movies is that while they're riveting, they are almost too dark. Superman on the other hand, while enjoyable, lacked some of the edge that Batman had. X-Men has managed to successfully walk the fine line between these two. Not as disturbingly dark as Batman, but yet it still has the hard gritty edge that keeps the audience riveted to the screen. "

The Incredibles
"The Incredibles has everything you could possibly hope for not just in a superhero movie, but in great filmmaking. Pixar was already home to some of the brightest group of filmmakers working today, but Brad Bird has shaken things up and managed to take them to an even higher level. Like his previous film, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles has a kind of magic delicacy that's unique amongst its competitors. He's made a modern classic that'll be hanging around for generations, a film that you won't be finished with until you've seen it more than once. The Incredibles is one of the best movies of the year; take your kids or if you have none take yourself."

"The film hits its stride in all the moments where del Toro forgets about his silly hocus-pocus Apocalypse and lets his heroes interact and grow. Hellboy's longing for affection, his friendship with Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman's struggle to become normal, the Professor's love of his demon-like son, that's the real point of this film. The things you'll remember most are little details like Hellboy's love of kittens, not the way he fought a tentacle. Del Toro's save the world plot is just filler that should have been cleaned up and straightened out. It wasn't, probably in the name of staying faithful. The result is an extremely enjoyable experience that could have been even better had Big Red been given a more involving adventure."

"After a brilliant opening credit sequence, perhaps the first I've ever seen to actually incorporate Brail, Daredevil settles in to the business of telling a story firmly from the perspective of a superhero who just happens to be very much blind. Cursed with sadly clich origins, pre-teen Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is splashed with Toxic Waste. No, he doesn't become a pizza lovin Ninja Turtle, but rather loses his sight. To compensate, the conveniently available sludge also enhances all his other senses, touch, smell, hearing (and I assume taste) pushed beyond the limits of normal human use. This gives him a sort of radar sense, a super-hearing that lets him see with his ears, rather than his eyes. With superpowers like that, you have to wonder if he'd have called himself Batman had the name not already been so selfishly taken."

Spider-Man 2
"Spider-Man 2 is like stepping right back in to a familiar friend. It's not so much a new movie as just a continuation of the original, a visit back into a world which really hasn't changed so much, for which we're all the better. Peter's (Tobey Maguire) still desperately and secretly in love with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) while facing the consequences of accepting the great responsibility that comes with his great power. Responsibility also means he can't pay his bills and so he lives in a crappy, run-down apartment hounded by a landlord whom he can never afford to pay."

"Surprisingly, even though the Goblin's costume resembles that of a Power Ranger reject, Dafoe's body language projects a threatening and deadly presence in battle with Maguire's Spidey. Each and every scene is a piece of crime fighting JOY as Spider-Man fights two-bit thug and super-villain alike with uncanny wit and an assorted variety of web slinging, fist slamming action. Nothing happens without reason though, as even these scenes serve to further develop the characters within them. Spider-Man fights for a city that has been told to hate him. Saves lives even when the cops are trying to arrest him. He battles the uber-techno Green Goblin high above the city in aerial combat the likes of which I've never seen, all while protecting the innocent and his one true love."

Blade II
"Blade II is so far beyond the original, which was in its own right a good action film, that I fear the original may be quickly forgotten in this stellar sequel's shadow. The action is tougher, the shooting is sharper, the plot is tighter, the characters better. Director Guillermo Del Toro took Blade and made him twice the hero he was before. No, his personality hasn't changed, the tone of the series hasn't changed, nor has anything really tangible about the character or his surroundings been altered in some radical "make this my own" way. It's just better. Blade is everything he ever was in the first film or in the comics, just to the nth degree. As a result, the character, though he says little, comes off stronger, and more heroic than he ever did in the first film. Wesley needs this character. He IS this character."

The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
"If you're looking for superhero melodrama, you've plenty of other options. Leave this franchise alone and let it keep blasting the kapow! back into the superhero genre. Tim Story knows what he's doing. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the most flat out fun you'll have watching any superhero movie this year. "

Fantastic Four (2005)
"The one thing the movie does get right is the relationships between the characters, along with the public life their team lives. The result is a kind of dynamic of interaction that you can't get with a solo hero like Spidey, and the movie hits on that really well. Ben and Johnny are constantly at each other's throats in a playful way, with Johnny usually the aggravator. You can tell Reed loves Sue, whether he communicates it well or not, and vice versa. Surprisingly, Jessica Alba is actually quite good in this, possibly the best, most realistic role she's played in her career, despite being a comic book character. The true standout is Michael Chiklis who, despite being covered in uncooperative makeup, really manages to convey the sorrow of his character, a monster with a heart of gold."

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