Iron Man (2008) – Comics You Should Read

Iron Man (2008) kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It set the stage for everything to come, with an updated origin story of a 60s hero, and a B-List one at that. It helped that the filmmakers had decades of comics, stories and characters to draw from.

If you want to read the comics that inspired Iron Man, here’s our Iron Man (2008) Reading List.

Tales Of Suspense #39
March 1963
Stan Lee, Don Heck, Jack Kirby

First appearance of Iron Man, Professor Yinsen, Mark I armour.

The comic that started it all when it comes to Iron Man. Tales Of Suspense was one of several anthology titles and many of the 60s Marvel Characters first appeared in them before graduating to their own titles (or not).

There is a lot of this comic in the film. Tony Stark is a talented weapons manufacturer. But it is Vietnam where he is ambushed, and forced to make an armour to both escape, and stop a piece of shrapnel reaching his heart. He is also assisted by a captured Professor Yinsen. The suit is a bulky silver grey, matching the Mark I armour in the film. The locations (and slightly racist depictions) were updated in Iron Man (2008) but otherwise – very comics accurate.

Tales Of Suspense #45
September 1963
Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein, Don Heck

First appearance of Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts.

A few months later, we meet two of Iron Man’s most enduring supporting cast – Harry ‘Happy’ Hogan and Pepper Potts, both reporting for duty in this film.

Happy is indeed Stark’s bodyguard, although in the comics he’s a boxer and much more physically imposing that Jon Favreau‘s portrayal. Pepper in the comics is a secretary and love interest, and would later develop into much more. The film version she is already a senior staffer at Stark’s company.

Tales Of Suspense #48
December 1963
Stan Lee, Steve Dikto, Dick Ayers

First appearance of Mark III armour.

Less than a year after his debut, Iron Man gets his first armour change. Ditching the  bulky Mark I, we see the first yellow-and-red version of the armour, a colour scheme that would be associated with Iron Man ever since.

That look would be used as the primary film armour – known as Mark III. It also served to quickly introduce the idea that there will be several designs for Iron Man’s suits, and they would evolve.

Tales Of Suspense #59
November 1964
Stan Lee, Don Heck, Chic Stone

First appearance of Jarvis.

The first appearance of Jarvis, by that we mean Edwin Jarvis. In the comics, he’s the butler for the Starks before becoming the butler for the Avengers. For the film, JARVIS is presented as AI for the first time, a big change from the comics. An AI Jarvis would eventually follow in the comics.

A better equivalent of Edwin Jarvis would appear in the Agent Carter series.

At this time, the Tales Of Suspense title was essentially split between Captain America and Iron Man.

All these early Iron Man adventures in Tales Of Suspense are readily available. There’s a deluxe hardcover under the Marvel Masterworks brand, and a more affordable digital version in the Epic Collection line.

Strange Tales #135
August 1965
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

The first appearance of SHIELD.

SHIELD originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-enforcement Division. It changed many times over the years, and then in the films they settled on Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division. Names aside, they were and remain a spy division with a superhero bent, with many connections to the Marvel comics universe.

They first appeared when Nick Fury was updated as a James Bond-like spy and joined their ranks.

Iron Man #118
January 1979
David Michelinie, John Byrne, John Layton

First appearance of James Rhodes.

James Rhodes became a very important part of the Avengers mythology, and was later retconned as playing an important part in Iron Man’s origins. He’s always been a military man and a friend of Stark’s. The film has added the role of Stark Industries liaison to his CV. His role as War Machine would come in later films.

Iron Man #163
October 1982
Dennis O’Neil, Luke McDonnell, Steve Mitchell

First appearance of Obadiah Stane.

Obadiah Stane’s role the villain remains pretty faithful to the comics, with some updating. Over the course of an epic storyline, we meet Stane as a tech rival of Stark’s. In the comics, he leads the villainous Chessmen, who are reduced to an allusion as a chess set in the film.

Iron Man #200
November 1985
Dennis O’Neil, Luke McDonnell, Steve Mitchell

First appearance of The Iron Monger.

The Stane storyline culminated in Stane taking the role of The Iron Monger. Like the film, the Iron Monger in the comics is much larger and much more physically imposing than Iron Man.

The Iron Monger storyline is collected in one edition.

Iron Man The Iron Age #1-2
August 1998
Kurt Busiek, Patrick Zircher, Bob McLeod

Best Iron Man Year One story.

The closest thing to an Iron Man Year One series is this – a two issue series written essay wonderful Kurt Busiek. Each issue focuses of either Pepper or Happy, and takes us through the early days of Iron Man, before he wore the red and yellow costume.

Worth noting that the films don’t go anywhere near the love triangle between Happy, Pepper and Tony that was an early feature of the comics.

Ultimate X-Men #9
October 2001
Mark Millar, Tom Randy, Scott Hanna

First appearance of Samuel L Jackson version of Nick Fury.

Nick Fury makes a cameo in this film. He has a long, convoluted publishing history, but for many decades was the head of SHIELD, the role he plays here. What’s interesting is the film took the look from the Ultimates version of the character, a spin off from the main comics. That version was blatantly based on Samuel L Jackson, so it’s wonderful they managed to get him for the film. This incarnation first appeared in this X-Men comic.

Iron Man vol. 3 #75
February 2004
John Jackson Miller, Jorge Lucas

First appearance of Christine Everhart.

Even Christine Everhart is from the comics. A very modern addition, she appeared in one storyline. The scene where Tony gets her name wrong at a party is lifted directly from the comics.


Other Iron Man (2008) comic book references

  • The terrorist group is called The Ten Rings. An allusion to the Mandarin. In the comics, the Mandarin was descended with Genghis Khan, who came from near the region of the terrorist.
  • A giant dragon appears on a billboard. Many speculate it’s an allusion to Fin Fang Foom.
  • We also see signs for the Roxxon Corporation. It’s a big evil corporation in the comics.

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