Maria Stark was born Maria Collins Carbonell. In her adulthood, Maria married Howard Stark, and together they had a son that was not her biological son: Anthony "Tony" Stark. Maria was unsuccessful in preventing Tony from seeing Howard's alcoholism, something Tony would later face on his own. Howard secretly programmed Mistress, the AI that controlled the Arsenal robots, with Maria's brain patterns.[volume & issue needed]
On the Ides of March, Maria and Howard were killed in a 'planned' car accident.(possibly arranged by the Hydra).[volume & issue needed] Afterwards, Tony ran his father's company, started a charity in his mother's name (which donated funds to finance various charities and renovation projects as well as the Avengers) and later became Iron Man.
The Ultimate Marvel version of the character is renamed as Maria Cerrera, the second wife of Howard Stark. Maria was a brilliant scientist who suffered a genetic accident while she was pregnant with her and Howard's child. After Maria died during childbirth, Howard uses a newly invented biological armor to save the life of their son: Antonio "Tony" Stark, named after Antonio Cerrera (Maria's brother), who died at a young age. Years later, Loni Stane (Howard's first wife) tells Tony twice that she could have been his mother in a different set of circumstances but Tony says he'd still prefer his own mother instead of Loni.
While the Ultimate version of Maria Stark's life that was depicted has been retconned as an in-universe fictional TV show about Iron Man's life, her character is briefly mentioned by Gregory Stark (Tony's brother within the retconned Ultimate Marvel) when he joking says how he "came out of Mother before [Tony]" but this has since been discounted.
Maria Stark is named during a brief slideshow presentation in the beginning of the 2008 film Iron Man. Along with her husband, she dies in an accident many years before the events of the film, leaving Tony Stark an orphan at 17. She is also referenced in Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
She is later mentioned during a recording of Howard Stark in Iron Man 2 when he called for her to get their son out of his way.