Howard Stark as seen in S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 1.
Art by Dustin Weaver.
|First appearance||Iron Man No. 28 (August 1970)|
|Created by||Archie Goodwin (writer)|
Don Heck (artist)
|Full name||Howard Anthony Walter Stark|
|Place of origin||Earth|
|Team affiliations||Stark Industries|
|Supporting character of||Iron Man|
Howard Stark is an American fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is usually depicted as a background character in stories featuring his son Tony, and also in stories featuring Captain America. He is the founder of Stark Industries. Throughout the character's publication history, he has been featured in several incarnations of comic book series.
Howard Stark has also been adapted for several animated television series and films. Actors John Slattery and Dominic Cooper portrayed the character throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise.
Described as a sarcastic scientist and ruthless businessman, Howard worked alongside his father on various projects, and later founded Stark Industries. He was an inventive mechanical engineering prodigy, constantly creating new technology and looking for ways to improve it. He designed and built weaponry and devices that have revolutionized the industrial world, such as various technologies used by S.H.I.E.L.D. and its allies. Howard later had a wife and they had their child Tony. Howard's relationship with Tony was a difficult one, however, with Howard rarely expressing affection for the boy. Howard's one major weakness was his severe case of alcoholism, a problem Tony himself would inherit. In the comics, Howard and his wife died in a car crash, as the result of faulty brakes arranged by either business competitors Republic Oil & Gas or by the V-Battalion. Howard's death inspired his son to take both business and engineering seriously as Iron Man.
Fictional character biography
The son of Howard Stark, Sr., Howard was born in Richford, New York. An avid and brilliant inventor from a young age, he was a brilliant scientist throughout his life. He and his father worked on various projects, and later founded Stark Industries. Throughout his young adulthood, Stark worked on various government projects dating back to the World War I and World War II era, like the World War I Captain America project with John Crowe Ransom, which came to completion during World War II; the World War II Manhattan Project; and the Arsenal robots, hidden in a subbasement in his mansion. During the 1950s, Stark was an agent of the secret science organization known as The Shield, partnered with Nathaniel Richards.
Stark married Maria Collins Carbonell and together they had a son, and adopted Anthony "Tony" Stark. He constantly pushed Tony to be the best, telling him that someone must have "iron in their backbone" to be successful. Behind his heroic facade, however, he was an alcoholic who had a strained relationship with his son. Howard was capable of devotion and respect towards machines, but he appeared to have little to no interest towards his son. Due to his power as a businessman, Howard was offered membership to the exclusive Hellfire Club, but Stark seemed uninterested in anything other than the lavish parties the club threw. It is believed Howard was also a member of the V-Battalion. He was targeted by the Red Skull (Johann Schmidt), and is rumored to have met Uatu the Watcher. Stark also prevented Obadiah Stane from taking control of Stark Industries at least once.[volume & issue needed]
On the Ides of March, Howard and Maria were killed in a car accident. It has been hinted that the incident was not random and possibly arranged by the V-Battalion, but this has never been confirmed; earlier indications were that the accident was caused by Republic Oil, but this is also unconfirmed. Tony ran his father's company, started a charity in his mother's name, and later became Iron Man.
When Iron Man was briefly trapped in Hell by Doctor Doom, Iron Man faced what appeared to be Howard as one of Mephisto's torments. The spirit "wore" a demonic version of Iron Man's armor and taunted Iron Man about emotional weaknesses. Iron Man rejected the spirit's reality when it claimed that Iron Man had been a disappointment to his mother as well as whatever problems there were with his father, Iron Man knew of being loved by Maria unconditionally.
During the 2014 "Original Sin" storyline, a flashback revealed that Howard first met Nick Fury following the death of Woody McCord during the fight against the Tribellians. Howard decided to show Fury the work McCord had been doing as defender of Earth, neutralizing any potential threat for the planet, and offered him Woody's job. Fury accepted and over the next years would secretly fight different superhuman threats from aliens to Subterranean monsters and extra-dimensional beings, and those had been the corpses the different parties had found.
Howard Stark Sr.
Duplicate of Howard Stark
When Iron Man confronted Motherboard and Arsenal on the eScape, Arno Stark went into the eScape and discovered that Tony's opponents have the digital engrams of their parents. When the eScape shut down, Arno salvaged these digital engrams.
Arno became acquainted with the digital engrams of Howard and Maria Stark and was able to give them a holographic form. With help from Jocasta, Arno was able to use the bio-restructuring pods that he created to give the digital engrams their physical bodies.
During the "Iron Man 2020" storyline, Arno has breakfast with the duplicates of Howard Stark and Maria Stark following a nightmare about the Extinction Entity. After knocking out Mark One, the artificial simulation of Tony Stark, Arno brought him to his living quarters. Tony learned that Arno used the same pods he used to create duplicates of their parents. At Port Authority, Iron Man catches up to the duplicates of Howard and Maria who he instructed to not leave the safety of Bain Tower. Their condition gets worse because they left Bain Tower and that Arno had to use his DNA to fill out the missing pieces when creating them. They suddenly stop moving as Arno plans to fix them and Tony. When at his work station, Arno is working on reviving his parents by recreating the Arsenal and Mistress bodies from the eScape. Arno heads to the Stark Space Station with Arsenal and Mistress who now possess the memories of Howard Stark and Maria Stark. The two of them state to Arno that they are proud of him. When Tony Stark uses the Thirteenth Floor to reach the Stark Space Station and confront Arno, Arsenal and Motherboard fight his allies until the arrival of the Extinction Entity. As everyone engages the Extinction Entity, Tony, Arno, Rescue, Machine Man, Jocasta, Motherboard, and Arsenal push the Extinction Entity close to Earth's orbit as the Avengers, Force Works, and the A.I. Army attack it's tentacles. It then turns out that the Extinction Entity was just a simulation and was the result of the disease that Arno thought he cured himself of. He now states that the holographic armor made from the eScape is now part of Arno's life support as he allows Motherboard and Arsenal to download themselves in order to shape Arno's virtual world.
"House of M"
In the alternate reality seen in the 2005 "House of M" storyline, Howard Stark was alive while Maria Stark's status is unknown. Howard turned over control of the company to Tony Stark when his son turned sixteen. Although officially listed as retired, he worked with Tony to build an armor capable of taking on the Sentinels and powerful mutants during the conflict.
Howard and Tony began to work on Sentinels with Forge and Henry McCoy after being awarded them an exclusive contract. They planned to incorporate a "Vision Project", although there were problems with the control scheme. The two also competed on the wildly popular 'Sapien Deathmatch' television show.
When Tony investigated a resistance group as Iron Man, Sentinels attacked. One, remotely controlled by Howard, scolded Tony for getting involved. Howard was secretly plotting against Magneto with Hank Pym.
"Genome bomb" locations were discovered by Tony as Iron Man and the House was notified. Howard had programmed the Visions and Sentinels to serve him. He said this had all been part of a plan to make the mutants respect Tony for saving them. Tony would then use that as a chance to directly strike against Magneto. Tony refused to go along. Magneto suddenly appeared and personally dealt with Howard, killing him.
The Ultimate Marvel version of Howard Stark is shown dealing with his second wife Maria Cerrera suffering a genetic accident while the brilliant scientist was pregnant. After Maria died during childbirth, Howard uses a newly invented biological armor to save the life of their son Antonio "Tony" Stark. A few years later, his business rival Zebediah Stane kidnaps and tortures Tony to attempt to learn how to manufacture the bio-armor for his own personal gain. Not long afterwards, Howard arrives with a SWAT team and arrests Zebediah. After the incident, a transparent version of the armor is developed, and Tony begins attending a prep school. This leads to Tony developing a prototype power-armor and befriending fellow student James Rhodes. After finding out that bullies were ordered from an unknown individual to kill Tony, Howard decides to enroll his son Tony, Rhodes, and Nifara into the Baxter Building, where Obadiah Stane (Zebediah Stane's son) was also enrolled. Shortly after their arrival, Tony and Howard witness Obadiah murdering a pair of students and make it look like an accident. Howard sees Tony make his first Iron Man armor with the intent to punish Obadiah. Sometime later, Howard was arrested based on planted evidence (by Obadiah) for Zebediah's murder. While the elder Stark was wrongly imprisoned for Zebediah's murder, his teenage son is forced to run Stark Enterprises. When Obadiah drugs a prison guard with a "hypnotizing bio-drug", the guard tries to kill Howard but fails. Howard is shot in the process and ends up in ICU. While his son Tony is trying to fix all of his current problems, Howard recovered enough to go to prison, but the guards sent to escort him were not sent by the Police Department. Howard fights them off and escapes. Tony meets with him and thinks Loni (Howard's first wife and Obadiah's mother) is the mastermind behind the scenes trying to kill them all. Tony, Rhodes, Nifara, Howard, and Obadiah set off to Utah to find Loni. They arrive and their chopper explodes injuring Rhodes. Obadiah falls off a cliff, but Tony catches him as terrorists arrive on the scene. Tony flees, but follows them as they take Obadiah to Loni Stark and their hideout. Tony breaks into the compound and Loni floods it with poison gas trying to kill him, abandoning Obadiah. Tony saves Obadiah, but Howard and Nifara are taken captive by Loni. After Loni kills Nifara, she confesses to Howard that all she ever wanted was power, hence why she married Howard, divorced him, remarried with Zebediah, had Obadiah, and later had Zebediah killed. Tony shows up, and Loni shoots Howard in the chest, threatening to shoot him again if he doesn't take the suit off. Tony takes off his Iron Man armor, and Loni shoots him in the head, not knowing that his entire body is a brain and will heal itself. Tony fights Loni, beats her, and tends to his father. Obadiah, mad that his mom abandoned him for dead with the poison gas, enters the room and kills her. Tony, Obadiah and Howard are all picked up by the feds and go home. This version depicted in the Ultimate Iron Man series have been retconned as an in-universe fictional TV show about Iron Man's life.
The real history for the Ultimate version of Howard Stark is told in Ultimate Comics: Iron Man. In addition to being Gregory Stark's father, he is the founder of Stark Enterprises, but sought help from Chinese conglomerate Mandarin International. While his son Tony Stark is trying to start a company of his own along with girlfriend Josie Gardner, Howard continually tries to persuade Tony to take his place as the CEO which his son eventually does after Josie's death.
The Ultimate version of Howard Stark Sr., created by Warren Ellis and Steve Kurth, and first appeared in Ultimate Comics: Armor Wars #4 (April 2010), is an equivalent of Titanium Man which also resembles Iron Monger as well. Having faked his own death, he went to work for "Project Tomorrow" to create human/machine hybrids, such as himself and the Arsenal Units. Desiring an "upgrade" for himself, Howard hired Ghost and Justine Hammer to steal upgrades from Iron Man's lab. After Remnant 242's theft, Howard (confused about what the item can do) forces his subordinates to have answers, eventually coercing his grandson to unlock Remnant 242 but is surprised to instead discover a mechanism that could shut down and destroy machinery, which caused Howard to die instantly without his damaged machine body.
In the Marvel Noir miniseries Iron Man Noir, set in the 1930s, Howard Stark is believed to have been killed by Nazi agents. It is eventually revealed that he was subjected to chemical brainwashing by the Nazis and became that reality's version of Baron Zemo. Under this guise, he builds war machines for the Nazis based on original designs he shared with Tony at a very young age. He dies when Iron Man destroys Baron von Strucker's airship.
In other media
- Howard Walter Stark appeared in the 1990s Iron Man animated series, voiced by Neil Ross in "The Origin of Iron Man" Pt. 1 and by Peter Renaday in "Not Far From The Tree." In "The Origin of Iron Man", Howard died in a hospital after a plane explosion, though it is implied he was actually assassinated by Justin Hammer. In "Not Far From the Tree", someone who appears to be Howard is rescued from AIM. Howard reveals to Tony Stark that he had been traded by Nick Fury for a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with A.I.M. However, Fury reveals that Howard had been captured by A.I.M. for a mind-reading experiment and was later killed. The man that had been rescued was a clone, created with Howard's memories as part of a plan for A.I.M. to take over Stark Industries, and the clone escapes capture and vows to return.
- Howard Stark appears in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Fred Henderson. This version is supposedly killed in the airplane crash but was eventually revealed to have been abducted by the Mandarin because his company had uncovered what they supposed to be a Chinese temple on American soil, which turned out to be a tomb for one of the Mandarin's Makluan Rings; Stark was supposed to help the Mandarin in recovering the other nine rings from across the world. Near the end of the series, Stark is found and freed by his son whom he knows to be Iron Man, and proves instrumental in thwarting the Makluan invasion of Earth and reforming the Mandarin.
- Howard Stark is mentioned in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In the episode "Living Legend", Captain America mentioned to Iron Man knowing Howard back in World War II.
- Howard Stark appears briefly in a magazine cover along with Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane in the introduction sequence of Marvel Anime: Iron Man.
- Howard Stark is featured in the Avengers Assemble animated series, voiced by Stephen Collins in "Thanos Rising" and by Charlie Schlatter in "New Year's Resolution". This version is Arsenal's creator and Peggy Carter's acquaintance. In the episode "Thanos Rising", he is seen in Arsenal's hologram transmission for Tony Stark which Steve Rogers also sees. Howard states that Arsenal can absorb anything into an alternate dimension with a chance to self-destruct. Of course some of Stark's hologram messages have corrupted over the time. In the episode "New Year's Resolution", Howard and Peggy had just finished apprehending Doctor Faustus in 1949 on New Year's Eve when they are attacked by robots posing as Hydra agents which bring them to the present. Kang the Conqueror wants to eliminate Stark so that neither Iron Man nor Arno Stark would exist. During the confrontation, Howard uses one of Iron Man's armors to fight Kang. Captain America and Iron Man defeat Kang and help send Howard and Peggy (as well as Faustus) back to 1949.
- Dominic Cooper portrays Howard Stark in Agent Carter. In season one, in 1946, he enlists Peggy Carter to help him find out who has been framing him for selling weapons on the black market while he goes incognito. Howard even enlists his butler Edwin Jarvis to help in Peggy's mission; Peggy and Edwin discover that the culprits are the mysterious Leviathan organization. Unbeknownst to Peggy, Jarvis has been secretly keeping Stark posted on the happenings in the mission. In season two, Stark helps Carter when it comes to the Zero Matter threat. It is also revealed that he was an old acquaintance of Joseph Manfredi.
- Dominic Cooper is set to reprise his role as Howard Stark in the Disney+ animated series What If...?
- Early screenplay drafts written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and David Hayter for New Line Cinema's Iron Man film pitted Iron Man against his father as War Machine.
- Howard Stark appears in the 2007 animated direct-to-video film The Invincible Iron Man, voiced by John McCook. In this version, Howard is still alive and the head of Stark International and has a strained relationship with Tony over his mother's passing. At the end, they both rekindle their relationship and vow to run the company equally.
- Howard Stark is alluded in Iron Man: Rise of Technovore; Iron Man named a satellite after his father called the Howard until it's sabotaged by Ezekiel Stane using Technovore armor.
- Howard Stark is shown in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe movie series produced by Marvel Studios, portrayed by John Slattery and Dominic Cooper.
- Gerard Sanders portrayed the character in a brief memorial slideshow presentation in the beginning of the 2008 film Iron Man where he is an acquaintance of Obadiah Stane.
- Slattery first portrayed the character in the 2010 film Iron Man 2 where it's revealed that he's one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s co-founders. Having placed a message for Tony Stark in a film reel, Howard gives Tony closure in their strained relationship while providing his son a diorama of the 1974 Stark Expo to perfect the Arc Reactor which he and Anton Vanko started.
- Cooper first portrayed a younger iteration in the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger that aided in the Super Soldier Project and then the Strategic Scientific Reserve during World War II. His contributions include providing Steve Rogers with both a tactical uniform and trademark shield. In 1945, after the Red Skull's Hydra battleship that Rogers raided crashed in the ocean, Stark made attempts to find Rogers before his expeditions led to the Tesseract.
- Cooper reprises his role in Marvel One-Shot film Agent Carter, where in 1946 Peggy helps Stark with the subsequent formation of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Cooper is briefly seen as the character in the 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. His image appears in a news article when Dr. Zola reveals to Steve Rogers that Hydra was responsible for the death of Howard Stark and his wife in 1991, covering it up as a car accident.
- Slattery reprised his role in the 2015 film Ant-Man. In a flashback in 1989, he witnesses Hank Pym's resignation from S.H.I.E.L.D. after the discovery of trying to replicate the Pym Particles without consent. While objecting to Pym's actions, Stark felt that Mitchell Carson did deserve Hank's punch following Mitchell's inappropriate comment about Janet van Dyne.
- Slattery again reprised the role in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War. On December 16, 1991, the car crash said to be the cause of the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark was caused by the Winter Soldier while under Hydra's control, causing the Starks' car to crash and then killing the Starks after they survived the initial impact.
- Slattery again reprises the role in the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame. In 1970, he meets his time-traveling son (under the alias of Howard Potts). Howard is unaware of his son's identity and mission to retrieve the Tesseract. The two converse about their lives which ends in Tony obliquely thanking him for everything. Confused, he asks Jarvis if they have met Tony before as he gets into his car and taken to meet with Maria, who was pregnant with their son.
- Howard Stark is featured in Captain America: Super Soldier, voiced by Liam O'Brien.
- Howard Stark appears in Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
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