Howard Stark as seen in S.H.I.E.L.D. #1.
Art by Dustin Weaver.
|First appearance||Iron Man #28 (August 1970)|
|Created by||Archie Goodwin (Writer)
Don Heck (Artist)
|Alter ego||Howard Anthony Walter Stark|
|Place of origin||Earth|
|Team affiliations||Stark Industries|
|Supporting character of||Iron Man
Howard Stark is an American fictional comic book character who appears in books published by Marvel Comics, usually as a background character in stories featuring his son Tony Stark. He is the founder of Stark Industries. The character was created by writer-editor Archie Goodwin and designed by artist Don Heck. He made his first appearance in Iron Man #28 (August 1, 1970).
Described as a brilliant scientist and ruthless businessman, Howard Stark worked alongside his father on various projects, and later founded Stark Industries. Howard 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.
Throughout the character's publication history, Howard Stark has been featured in several incarnations of comic book series. He has also been adapted for several animated TV shows and films. Throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character has been portrayed by Dominic Cooper and John Slattery.
Fictional character biography
The son of Howard Stark, Sr., Howard Stark 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, Arno, and adopted another, 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 the Watcher, Uatu. 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 Stark 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 he had been a disappointment to his mother as well as whatever problems there were with his father, Iron Man knew that his mother loved him unconditionally.
During the Original Sin storyline, a flashback revealed that Howard Stark first met Nick Fury following the death of Woody McCord during the fight against the Tribellians. Howard decided to show Fury the work Woody 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.
"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 he 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 son 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 Stark, scolded him 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 (a brilliant scientist) suffering a genetic accident while she 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.
The real history for the Ultimate version of Howard Stark is told in Ultimate Comics: Iron Man. The retconned version 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 to take his place as the CEO which his son eventually does after Josie's death.
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 appears in the animated series Iron Man, voiced by Neil Ross (in season one) and by Peter Renaday (in season two).
- Howard Stark appears in the 2007 animated direct-to-video film The Invincible Iron Man, voiced by John McCook.
- Howard Stark appears in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Fred Henderson. In the series, Howard 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.
- In Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, Iron Man named a satellite after his father called the Howard Satellite.
- Howard Stark is featured in Avengers Assemble, voiced by Stephen Collins. In this series, he had built Arsenal as his greatest invention. In "Thanos Rising", Howard was seen in a hologram transmission for Tony Stark which Steve Rogers also sees. Stark's hologram 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.
- Howard Stark is shown in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe movie series produced by Marvel Studios, portrayed by Dominic Cooper and John Slattery.
- Gerard Sanders portrayed the character in a brief memorial slideshow presentation in the beginning of the 2008 film Iron Man.
- Slattery first portrayed the character in the 2010 film Iron Man 2 where it is revealed that he is 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.
- 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. His contributions include providing Steve Rogers with both a costume and shield. After the Hydra battleship that Rogers raided crashed in the ocean, Stark made attempts to find Rogers before his expeditions led to the Tesseract.
- Cooper reprised the role in the TV series Agent Carter, and the Marvel One-Shot film of the same name; in the latter Peggy Carter helps Stark in the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- The 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier heavily implied that the car crash that killed Stark and his wife was caused by Hydra infiltrators within S.H.I.E.L.D. on December 16, 1991. A still photograph of Cooper as Stark appears in the film.
- Cooper reprised his role in the 2015–2016 TV series Agent Carter. In season one, 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 was also revealed that he was an old acquaintance of Joseph Manfredi.
- Slattery reprised his role in the 2015 film Ant-Man. In a flashback in the late-1980s, he witnesses Hank Pym's resignation from S.H.I.E.L.D. after the discovery of them 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. Towards the climax of the film, the car crash said to be the cause of the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark on December 16, 1991 is shown to have been caused by Bucky Barnes while under Hydra's control. It is revealed that The Winter Soldier caused the car to crash, and then killed the Starks with his bare hands after they survived the initial impact. This revelation results in Iron Man attempting to exact revenge on the former Winter Soldier, while Captain America tries to stop him from killing his friend.
- Howard Stark is featured in Captain America: Super Soldier, voiced by Liam O'Brien.
- Howard Stark appears in Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
- S.H.I.E.L.D., vol. 2 #1
- Goodwin, Archie (w), Heck, Don (p), Craig, Johnny (i). "The Controller Lives!" Iron Man 28 (August 1970)
- "Stark, Howard - Marvel Universe Archive". Marvel Comics. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- Hickman, Jonathan (June 1, 2011). Chapter One: Terribilita. Marvel Comics.
- Iron Man: The Iron Age #1-2 (August–September 1998)
- Tales of Suspense #39
- Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #1
- Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #2
- Original Sin #5
- House of M: Iron Man #1. Marvel Comics.
- House of M: Iron Man #2. Marvel Comics.
- House of M: Iron Man #3. Marvel Comics.
- Ultimate Iron Man #2
- Ultimate Iron Man #1
- Ultimate Iron Man #3
- Ultimate Iron Man 2 #5
- Ultimate Comics: Ultimate Avengers vs New Ultimates #3
- Ultimate Comics: Iron Man #2
- Iron Man Noir #4
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures, season 2 episode 26: "The Makluan Invasion, Part II: Unite!"
- "Thanos Rising". Avengers Assemble. Season 2. Episode 2. October 5, 2014. Disney XD.
- Breznican, Anthony (July 11, 2013). "'Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter' -- FIRST LOOK at poster and three photos from the new short!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- Abrams, Natalie (October 9, 2015). "Agent Carter casts Whitney Frost and more season 2 additions". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on October 10, 2015. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
- Anthony Russo; Joe Russo (dir). Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 2014. Marvel Studios.
- Walker, Tim (June 6, 2014). "Hayley Atwell goes to war with Dominic Cooper". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
- "Dominic Cooper Returns as Howard Stark in Marvel's Agent Carter". Marvel. Retrieved September 30, 2014.