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Howard Stark

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Howard Stark
Howard Stark as seen in S.H.I.E.L.D. (vol. 2) #1.
Art by Dustin Weaver.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceIron Man #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
Supporting character ofIron Man
Captain America
  • Genius-level intellect
  • Highly proficient scientist, engineer, and businessperson

Howard Stark is a character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is usually depicted as a background character in stories featuring Iron Man and 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


Howard Stark was created by Archie Goodwin and designed by artist Don Heck. He made his first appearance in Iron Man #28 (August 1, 1970).[2] He was loosely based on Howard Hughes, a film producer and aviator.

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 such technology. 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 married to Maria Stark, and they had their child, Tony Stark. Howard's relationship with Tony was a difficult one. Howard's 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 V-Battalion. Howard's death inspired his son to take both business and engineering seriously as Iron Man.[3]

Fictional character biography


Original depiction

Howard Stark's first appearance in Iron Man #28 (August 1970)

Being the son of Howard Stark Sr., he was born in Richford, New York. An avid and brilliant inventor from a young age, Howard was a brilliant scientist throughout his life, becoming a power systems engineer. Stark and his father worked on various projects with his skills in engineering, 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 Captain America project with John Crowe Ransom which came to completion thanks to Steve Rogers, the 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 (S.H.I.E.L.D), partnered with Nathaniel Richards.[4]

Howard 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 his son 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. Stark 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, Stark 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 Stark 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 (March 15), 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 Roxxon's predecessor Republic Oil as part of Simon Krieger's corporate sabotage.[5] Tony ran his father's company, started a charity in his mother's name, and later went on to be Iron Man.[6]

Iron Man was briefly trapped in Hell by Doctor Doom,[7] and 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 claiming that Iron Man had been a disappointment to his mother as well as his father. However, Iron Man knew that Maria's love was unconditional.[8]

During the 2014 Original Sin storyline, a flashback revealed that Stark first met Nick Fury following the death of Woody McCord during the fight against the Tribellians. Stark decided to show Fury the work McCord had been doing as a defender of Earth, neutralizing any potential threat for the planet, and offered 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.


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 across various other comics under Marvel.[10][11]

Duplicate of Howard Stark


Iron Man confronted Arsenal and Motherboard on the eScape to which Arno Stark followed and discovered the digital engrams of Howard and Maria then salvaged these digital engrams when the eScape shut down.[12]

Arno is acquainted with the digital engrams of Howard and Maria and was able to give them a holographic form. With Jocasta's help, Arno is able to use bio-restructuring pods to give digital bodies to the digital engrams.[13]

During the Iron Man 2020 storyline, Arno has breakfast with the duplicates of Howard and Maria following a nightmare about the Extinction Entity.[14] After knocking out Mark One, the artificial simulation of Iron Man is brought to Arno's living quarters and learns the duplicates of their parents.[15] At Port Authority, Iron Man catches up to the duplicates of Howard and Maria who are 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 own DNA to fill out the missing pieces behind them. They suddenly stop moving as Arno plans to fix them and Tony. Arno is at his work station, 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. The two of them state to Arno that they are proud. 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 to shape Arno's virtual world.[18]

Other versions


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.[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]

Iron Inquisitor


As part of Mephisto's campaign against the Avengers with the aid of his multiversal 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.[22] Howard became enthralled to the Council of Red, to the point where he killed his son as part of the terms of the deal, and became the Iron Inquisitor, working as Hell's prime weaponer. As the Iron Inquisitor, he enacts Mephisto's will across the multiverse as his special agent.[23]

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 insults 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.[24] Iron Inquisitor was with the Council of Red when Mephisto made them known to Nighthawk and the Avengers.[25]

Following the death of King Killmonger, Iron Man is lured into a cave by Howard Stark out of his Iron Inquisitor armor who wants to parley with him. While he claimed that Mephisto wants him to kill Iron Man, Howard wants to put aside his differences with Iron Man and reshape the future. After Iron Man blasts him, Howard sets off an EMP trap that shocks Iron Man and destroys his armor. Then he proceeds to beat up Tony. After Iron Man regains control of his armor and destroys the Iron Inquistor armor, Tony breaks Howard's hands and leaves him behind to watch the world develop the right way. Howard dares Iron Man to come back and finish him off.[26]

Marvel Noir


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.[27]

Ultimate Marvel

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.[28] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] This version depicted in the Ultimate Iron Man series have been retconned as an in-universe fictional TV show about Iron Man's life.[32]

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.[33]

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 Sr. (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 Sr. to die instantly without his damaged machine body.[34]

Ultimate Universe


During the "Ultimate Invasion" storyline, the Maker escaped to Earth-6160 and remade it into his own image. In this reality, Howard Stark operated as Iron Man. Tony Stark still exists as his young son, and Obadiah Stane is his business partner running a company known as "Stark/Stane", one of the North American Union's largest corporations, regarded as a force of innovation and technological progress.

During an international event in The City at Latveria that is crashed by a clone army from the future, Howard Stark is knocked out when Obadiah Stane's armor explodes upon him being killed by a Vision clone. After a while, Howard is enlisted to help recreating the Immortus Engine, as he is believed by the Maker to be his creator.[35] Sometime after Obadiah's funeral, Howard learns about the Maker's Council and their purpose as the rulers of the Earth, as some of them give Howard condolences for Obadiah's death. Howard remembers Tony's advice during the funeral to fight back as they talk about current events and this new phase of their lives.

As he's taken into the depths of The City to work on the Immortus Engine, Howard meets a captive Reed Richards who wears a Doom-like mask and suit.[36] They plot against the Maker by shutting down the temporal forcefield surrounding The City, allowing Kang the Conqueror's armies to invade. Howard shuts down the damper of the Engine and causes an explosion that engulfs Kang's armies and the Maker. As The City's power conduit surges and closes the whole enclave up, Howard reacts in disappointment when he learns Kang's identity upon unmasking him.[37]

When Captain America views the historical files of the Maker's rise to power in the Stark/Stane satellite, one of them shows that Howard Stark, in his early days of operating as Iron Man, failed to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[38]

In other media



  • Howard Stark appears in Iron Man (1994), voiced by Neil Ross in "The Origin of Iron Man" and by Peter Renaday in "Not Far From The Tree".[39] In the former episode, Howard is seemingly killed following a plane accident. In the latter episode, it is revealed that A.I.M. captured and cloned him to take over Stark Industries. While the plan is foiled, the clone escapes and vows to return.
  • Howard Stark appears in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Fred Henderson.[39] This version was presumed dead in a plane crash and secretly captured by the Mandarin, who sought his help in finding the Makluan rings. Near the end of the series, Iron Man rescues Howard, who assists him and his allies in thwarting a Makluan invasion.
  • Howard Stark appears in the introduction sequence of Marvel Anime: Iron Man.
  • Howard Stark appears in Avengers Assemble, voiced by Stephen Collins in the original airing of "Thanos Rising", Troy Baker in re-airings of the aforementioned episode, and Charlie Schlatter in "New Year's Resolution".[39] This version is the creator of Arsenal and a friend of Peggy Carter.



Marvel Cinematic Universe

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

Howard Stark appears in media set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, primarily portrayed by John Slattery and Dominic Cooper. This version contributed to the Arc Reactor's creation and co-founded S.H.I.E.L.D. before he was killed by Hydra, with his death being covered up as a car accident.

Video games



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