Howard Stark

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Howard Stark
Howard Stark (Earth-616) from S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol 1 1 page 03.jpg
Howard Stark as seen in S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 1.
Art by Dustin Weaver.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceIron Man No. 28 (August 1970)
Created byArchie Goodwin (writer)
Don Heck (artist)
In-story information
Full nameHoward Anthony Walter Stark[1]
Place of originRichford, New York
Team affiliationsStark Industries S.H.I.E.L.D
Supporting character ofIron Man
Captain America
  • Genius-level intellect
  • Highly proficient scientist, engineer, and businessperson

Howard Stark is a 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 appeared in several animated television series and films. Actors John Slattery and Dominic Cooper have portrayed the character throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise.

Publication history[edit]

The character was created by Archie Goodwin and designed by artist Don Heck. He made his first appearance in Iron Man No. 28 (August 1, 1970).[2] He was loosely based on film producer and aviator Howard Hughes.

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.[3]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Original depiction[edit]

Howard Stark's first appearance in Iron Man No. 28 (August 1970)

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 is a power systems engineer. 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.[4]

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.[5] Tony ran his father's company, started a charity in his mother's name, and later became Iron Man.[6]

When Iron Man was briefly trapped in Hell by Doctor Doom,[7] 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 that Maria Stark had loved him unconditionally.[8]

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.[9]

Howard Stark Sr.[edit]

Howard Stark Sr. is an obscure character. He is the father of Howard Stark and the grandfather of Tony Stark. He is occasionally mentioned in passing throughout the years.[10][11]

Duplicate of Howard Stark[edit]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Other versions[edit]

"House of M"[edit]

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.[19]

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.[19]

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.[20]

"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.[21]

Ultimate Marvel[edit]

Howard Stark in Ultimate Iron Man. Art by Andy Kubert.

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.[22] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] This version depicted in the Ultimate Iron Man series have been retconned as an in-universe fictional TV show about Iron Man's life.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

Marvel Noir[edit]

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.[29]

Iron Inquisitor[edit]

As part of Mephisto's campaign against the Avengers with the aid of his multiverse counterparts, one of the many alternate reality allies he recruited is a version of Howard Stark from Earth-4111 who made a deal with Mephisto for eternal power and immortality.[30] Howard Stark became enthralled to the Council of Red where killed his son as part of the terms of that deal. Howard became the Iron Inquisitor and worked as Hell's prime weaponer where he constructed the Iron Inquisitor armor while in Mephisto's Realm. As Iron Inquisitor, he enacting Mephisto's will across the multiverse as his special agent.[31]

Far from Avengers Mountain, Multiversal Masters of Evil members Doom Supreme and Kid Thanos meet up with Iron Inquisitor and Mephisto in the form of a dog as he nears the corpse of Orb. At one point, Kid Thanos insulted Iron Inquisitor by claiming that his armor resembled a crustacean's shell. As Doom Supreme and Kid Thanos enter a portal to meet with their teammates and get back to work, Mephisto and Iron Inquisitor talk about what to do with the Multiversal Masters of Evil as Mephisto's dog form eats at the fragments of Uatu's eye.[32] Iron Inquisitor was with the Council of Red when Mephisto made them known to Nighthawk and the Avengers.[33]

In other media[edit]


  • Howard 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 former episode, Howard died in hospital following a plane accident. In the latter episode, it is revealed that AIM had captured Howard for a telepathy experiment before creating a clone of him to assist in their efforts to take over Stark Industries. While the plan is foiled, the clone escapes capture and vows to return.
  • Howard Stark appears in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Fred Henderson. This version was presumed dead following an airplane crash, but was secretly kidnapped by the Mandarin, who sought his help in finding the Makluan rings. Near the end of the series, Iron Man rescues Howard, who assists his son and his allies in thwarting a Makluan invasion.
  • Howard Stark appears in the introduction sequence of Marvel Anime: Iron Man.
  • Howard Stark appears in the Avengers Assemble animated series, voiced by Stephen Collins in "Thanos Rising"[34] and by Charlie Schlatter in "New Year's Resolution".[35] This version is the creator of Arsenal and an acquaintance of Peggy Carter's.


Marvel Cinematic Universe[edit]

Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark in the film Captain America: The First Avenger

Video games[edit]


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