In the upcoming film Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr. reprises the role of Tony Stark, brilliant technologist turned armored superhero, to battle the terrorist cult leader known as the Mandarin. But this isn’t just the latest in a wave of superhero adaptations from Marvel Studios. Events have been building to this moment ever since Tony was forced to create a sophisticated suit of armor out of scraps in a cave. Understandably, it can be a little confusing at times trying to keep track of who’s who and how characters relate to one another in this fictional universe that spans not just three movies, but a whole Marvel Cinematic universe connecting various film franchises. But have no fear. Here’s a handy infographic to help you brush up and explore the relationships between Iron Man’s many super-heroic allies and fearsome foes.
Tony Stark (Iron Man)
Former CEO of Stark Industries, a prodigy who created his first robots and A.I. programs when he was a teenager. A kidnapping left him with deadly injuries and the knowledge of how dangerous his weapons were. To save his life and become a hero, he developed the Iron Man armor (Iron Man). Along with his own activities, he is a consultant to SHIELD (Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk) and an Avenger (Avengers). On at least one occasion, he attempted to duplicate Captain America’s invincible shield (Iron Man, Iron Man 2). Tony has developed a kinship with fellow scientist and Avenger Dr. Bruce Banner (Avengers).
Founder and former CEO of Stark Industries, a brilliant engineer and industrialist who died in a car accident alongside his wife. During World War II, Howard worked for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (which became SHIELD) and was armorer to Captain America. (Captain America: The First Avenger). Howard Stark’s research into arc reactor technology, aided by Anton Vanko, would later be fully realized by his son (Iron Man 2). It was Howard Stark who recovered the seemingly magical tesseract, following the fall of HYDRA (Captain America: The First Avenger).
Business partner to Howard Stark, then acting CEO of Stark Industries until Tony Stark took over. Stane hired agents of the Ten Rings to kill Tony, indirectly leading to the creation of Iron Man. Obadiah tried to copy the Iron Man technology, then died while battling Tony in his own suit of armor (Iron Man).
Military liaison to Stark Industries, an old friend of Tony’s who was trusted with the access codes to his lab and equipment (Iron Man). When Col. Rhodes donned armor himself, Tony nicknamed him “War Machine” and allowed him to keep the suit. Rhodey then had Justin Hammer modify the armor, eventually using it to combat Hammer’s drones (Iron Man 2).
Chauffeur to Tony Stark. A former boxer, Happy has given Tony some fighting training. He has also been trusted with Tony’s emergency Mark III armor (Iron Man 2).
Current CEO of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts spent years as Tony Stark’s personal assistant and gained a valuable reputation in the business world (Iron Man, Iron Man 2). She designed NYC’s Stark Tower alongside Tony, with whom she is now in a romantic relationship (Avengers).
Director of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, formerly known as the Strategic Scientific Reserve (Captain America: The First Avenger). Little is known about Fury, though he apparently knew Howard Stark well (Iron Man 2). After Tony revealed to the press that he was Iron Man, Fury approached him about the Avengers Initiative (Iron Man). Fury is known as “THE spy” to many people and no one is sure about all his plans and goals. Along with Iron Man, he has kept close tabs on the Hulk and the forces of Asgard (Avengers). He also seems to be concerned with an area of the Atlantic Ocean and an African country called Wakanda, home of the strange metal vibranium (Iron Man 2).
Natalia Romanova (Black Widow)
Natalia Romanova was trained since childhood to be a spy and assassin. Targeted by SHIELD, she was then instead recruited by agent Clint Barton aka “Hawkeye” (Avengers). The Black Widow first met Tony Stark when she was assigned to masquerade as his new assistant “Natalie Rushman” (Iron Man 2). They worked together against Justin Hammer and Whiplash, and then as fellow Avengers against Loki’s forces.
A field agent for SHIELD and trusted friend of Nick Fury, Phil Coulson contacted Tony Stark soon after he assumed his Iron Man identity and aided in his fight against Stane (Iron Man). He later encountered Thor, Sif, the Warriors Three and the Destroyer when they journeyed to Earth from Asgard (Thor). Along with Agent Sitwell, Coulson helped ensure that Nick Fury would not be forced to accept the Abomination as a member of the Avengers (The Consultant). Later on, Coulson helped in the fight against Loki (Avengers).
A rival industrialist to Tony Stark, Justin Hammer is willing to break laws and work with criminals if it will give him an advantage. He employed Whiplash to create battle drones for the military. He also modified one of Tony’s suits for Col. James Rhodes (Iron Man 2), modifications which later helped destroy Hammer’s drones. Hammer tech has also been used by the Ten Rings (Iron Man 3 Prequel comics).
The Mandarin is the leader of the Ten Rings (confirmed in the Iron Man 3 Prequel comics), a terrorist cult with agents from many different cultures. The Ten Rings were hired to kill Tony Stark but captured him instead, leading to the creation of Iron Man (Iron Man).
Ivan Vanko (Whiplash)
Ivan Vanko was the son of Anton Vanko, who helped initially conceive of arc reactor technology with Howard Stark (Iron Man 2). Tony developed it further to power his Iron Man armor (Iron Man). Seeking revenge for what he imagined as crimes against his father, Vanko created his own arc reactor to become the villain Whiplash, later joining forces with Justin Hammer. He was finally defeated during a battle with Iron Man and War Machine (Iron Man 2).
Despite Tony Stark’s refusal to aid his scientific research, Killian has created an impressive research group known as Advanced Idea Mechanics. Now, Killian has a new lease on life thanks to A.I.M.’s newest breakthrough, the Extremis project. What is A.I.M.’s connection to the Mandarin and what plans do they have for Tony Stark? (Iron Man 3)
Dr. Maya Hansen
A scientist with ties to Tony Stark’s past, Dr. Maya Hansen is the creator behind Extremis. But she may be unprepared for exactly what Aldrich Killian and the Mandarin hope to unleash.
Clint Barton (Hawkeye)
Clint Barton is an expert marksman and archer, one of several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who investigated the appearance of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir (Thor). Years ago, he was assigned to kill Black Widow but chose instead to recruit her to SHIELD, leading to a long association. Following his encounter with Thor, he was assigned to the tesseract research project and then joined the Avengers against Loki (Avengers).
When S.H.I.E.L.D. was still known as the Strategic Scientific Reserve, Steve Rogers became its first enhanced agent, his body pushed to peak efficiency thanks to Abraham Erskine and Howard Stark’s work in Operation: Rebirth (Captain America: The First Avenger). As Captain America, he fought during World War II with armor and weapons developed by Howard Stark. After being in suspended animation for decades, he was revived by SHIELD and recruited for the Avengers Initiative (Avengers). An attempt to duplicate Operation: Rebirth led to the creation of the Hulk and the Abomination (The Incredible Hulk).
Dr. Robert Bruce Banner (Hulk)
While working on a project to recreate Operation: Rebirth process that produced Captain America, Banner tested an imperfect serum on himself, creating his monstrous alter ego the Hulk (The Incredible Hulk). Despite the monster’s aggressive nature, it was selected by Fury as a better choice for the Avengers than the Abomination (The Consultant). Through training, meditation and his own unique methods, Banner has gained some control over the Hulk (The Incredible Hulk, Avengers).
A member of a race of long-lived aliens, Thor was once perceived as a god by the people of Earth. The magic-like cube known as the tesseract was once held by Thor’s people, but was apparently left in Tonsberg, Norway during a war with the Frost Giants (Thor). It remained in Tonsberg until World War II and was eventually recovered by the Strategic Scientific Reserve, known today as SHIELD (Captain America: The First Avenger). Decades later, Thor was temporarily exiled to Earth and encountered SHIELD agent Phil Coulson (Thor). Roughly a year later, when Loki decided to use the tesseract for his own schemes, Thor returned to Earth and was recruited into the Avengers team (Avengers).
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