Man of Iron, Feet of Clay1 of 13
So as of the Avengers: Endgame trailer, Tony Stark is stranded alone drifting in deep space, perhaps for months or even years, having gone four days without food or water and about to run out of breathable air in a matter of hours.
And that's one of the nicest things Marvel Studios has ever done to their flagship hero.
Tony may be brilliant, extraordinarily wealthy and has a history with women that would make the late High Hefner blush, but man ... Marvel sure likes to pile on the Downey.
Kevin Feige and co. just keeps throwing one haymaker after after in Tony's direction. So now just few months before we learn the true fate of the castaway Iron Man and if he dies a peaceful death on that ship, we look at the all the times the MCU has made his life a living hell.
His Origin2 of 13
Right off the bat, just about everything that happens to Tony Stark on screen is steeped in his personal pain and tragedy.
From almost the moment we meet him in Iron Man, he’s under attack for his war-mongering ways, quickly getting kidnapped and forced to design weapons for terrorists during a trip to the Middle East to show off his new rockets.
Of course, Tony did meet a new mentor while shackled in a cave – engineer Ho Yinsen, who helped him survive the shrapnel lodged in his heart with his now famous arc reactor – and who helped him build his first Iron Man suit.
But even that turned out awful, as Yinsen died in the escape attempt, which left Tony wandering the desert before being rescued by Obadiah Stane (which carried its own problems, as you’ll see…).
Stane's Betrayal3 of 13
No sooner does Tony make it home from captivity, his mind and battle-damaged heart set on dismantling Stark Industries’ weapon manufacturing wing than his father’s business partner – one of Stark’s own mentors – tries to steal his new clean energy arc reactor tech, and attempts to kill him in the process.
Sure, this one wound up mostly okay for Tony in the long run, but the betrayal from a father figure he identified with perhaps even more than his own father definitely set a pace for many of Tony’s closest relationships going forward.
Poisoned By His Own Heart4 of 13
Just when you think you’re doing fine, safe in your sequel movie driving racecars in Monaco, sealing corporate deals, dating super models – a guy has to come along and whip your car in half, claiming your dad was basically a huge criminal.
And if you’re Tony Stark, all of this also comes with a mysterious illness that’s stemming from the arc reactor in your chest which is, ironically, also the only thing keeping you alive.
Fortunately, if you’re Tony Stark you’ve also got access to the material to create an experimental new element that will save your life – but it also kind of relies on trusting yourself to perform open heart surgery on… yourself.
Sounds like a happy ending, but after all that, bearing in mind you’re Tony Stark, you’ll then get kicked out of the Avengers Initiative – even though you’re the only one they’ve got.
Coulson Murdered5 of 13
Turns out, when the chips are down and the Chitauri are invading, it doesn’t matter so much who’s been kicked out of the Avengers Initiative.
And it’s a good thing too, cause Tony is the guy who ultimately saved the day from the alien army (more on that in a minute).
But in the course of assembling the Avengers and fighting Loki, Tony’s friend Phil Coulson was murdered by the villainous Asgardian.
Sure, Coulson’s death galvanized the nascent Avengers (and Coulson eventually got better – though the Avengers don’t know that…) but that death certainly weighed heavily on Tony in the moment, and that’s just the start of the effect the Avengers’ first meeting had on him.
PTSD6 of 13
Turns out for Tony, the price of saving the world from alien invasion – and of barely making it out of a collapsing space warp lightyears away from home – is the very real consequence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychological condition stemming from those experiences.
There are no jokes or pithy reassurances here – Tony’s onscreen PTSD in Iron Man 3 represents a unique attempt to depict a very real consequence of putting one’s life on the line in extreme situations.
For Tony, this meant descending into a kind of obsession with refining and perfecting his Iron Man armor, finding ways to protect himself and others. But it also meant blinding himself to his personal life and leaving himself open to the manipulations of Aldrich Killian which wound up costing him nearly everything.
Happy Hogan Almost Dies7 of 13
Happy Hogan is Tony’s longsuffering personal assistant and, dare we say, friend. So when Happy, like so many of Tony’s friends, was damn near blowed the heck up, Tony spiraled into a deep depression and obsession with solving his friend’s attack – a search that ultimately led him to Aldrich Killian and his Extremis formula.
Killian’s machinations and manipulations of Tony's life through the Ten Rings terrorist organization and his false Mandarin figurehead eventually also lead to the destruction of his cool cliffside Malibu home.
Pepper Potts Dies ... A Little8 of 13
That Extremis formula, by the way, was incredibly deadly. It sometimes made human beings incredibly powerful, but in most examples caused death when the subjects exploded in thermal reactions.
In pursuit of stopping Extremis, Tony witnesses a murder first hand, which is something of a recurring thing for him. While she was secretly in cahoots with the villain, Tony’s former one-night-stand Maya Hansen is killed right in from of him as she attempted to turn Killian.
Even worse, Pepper was injected with Extremis, putting her at direct risk of literally exploding before Tony's eyes. Fortunately, that didn't happen - but Pepper did seemingly fall to her death during the conflagration that followed Tony's fight with Killian.
Yes, Pepper survived - but for a few minutes there, her death was the worst thing that ever happened to Tony.
ULTRON 'Kills' J.A.R.V.I.S.9 of 13
Tony sometimes has a hard time with making friends – but an easier time building them. Iron Man’s on-board A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. was perhaps his closest pal, confidant and banter partner through three solo movies and the Avengers. So J.A.R.V.I.S.’ seeming destruction at the ‘hands’ of Ultron (which of course, Tony created too) in Avengers: Age of Ultron must have hit Tony right in the arc reactor.
Though he eventually learned J.A.R.V.I.S. wasn’t dead (another recurring thing for Tony) and just hiding on the Internet and aiding the Avengers in secret, a full-on reunion wasn’t in the cards. While trying to upload J.A.R.V.I.S. into the Vision’s android body, the combination of the Mind Stone and Thor’s machinations made the Vision into someone who sounded like J.A.R.V.I.S. but was not him at all.
Tony replaced J.A.R.V.I.S. with F.R.I.D.A.Y. and while they seem to work together fine, the chemistry just isn’t the same.
Dumped By Pepper10 of 13
When it came to Pepper, Tony finally seemed to have gotten a happy ending. At the end of Iron Man 3, he cures her of Extremis and even his own reliance on the arc reactor. He then brags about her at the party at the beginning of Age of Ultron.
But the happy ending was short-lived, as we’d soon learn in Captain America: Civil War Pepper dumped him. Geez, why'd he blow up all those millions of dollars worth of armors again at the end of Iron Man 3 again?
His fragile emotional state due to the break-up along with Miriam Sharpe confronting him by the elevator for the death of her son in Sokovia clearly leads to Tony making some questionable choices.
Maybe that's why he's so desperate to make amends that he rushes headlong into conflict with his Avengers teammates.
His BFF's BFF Killed His Parents11 of 13
No sooner than Tony can even attempt to collect his thoughts from his big break-up with Pepper the government’s breathing down his neck to (rightly) take some responsibility for the destruction of Sokovia – an idea some of his friends in the Avengers did not take kindly to (sparking Civil War).
Adding insult to injury, Tony also learns the best friend of his good friend Captain America - Bucky (as the Winter Soldier) - murdered his parents and Cap didn’t tell him.
Cue the end of that relationship – and the start of a full-on fight between two Avengers teams splintering them into two. And oh yeah, Black Widow would also betray Tony (yet another recurring thing for him) and his best friend (not counting Happy, or Pepper or J.A.R.V.I.S.) James Rhodes would be gravely injured.
Peter Parker Dies In his Arms12 of 13
”Please Mr. Stark, I don’t want to go.”
Of all the things Tony Stark has experienced (accounting for Pepper’s short-lived apparent death), it’s hard to imagine much that could be more personally terrible for Tony than his young protégé Peter Parker disintegrating in his arms at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, begging for his life.
Well, maybe the feeling that must have come after, realizing his teammates, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and more, couldn’t stop Thanos from wiping out half of all life in the universe – and potentially realizing that everyone he loves (including, as far he knew, Pepper and Happy) could be among the lost.
That’s gotta be weighing on his mind as he floats alone in that spaceship – and it might even be his last thought as he dies up there. (Whoops, did we say that part out loud ... again?)
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