Iron Man was inventor Tony Stark, a wealthy young arms manufacturer who was in Vietnam in 1968 testing a new range of miniaturized electronics, when he was captured by a local warlord. Injured and forced to produce arms to endanger American soldiers, Stark fought back by creating a metallic suit of armor for himself, defeating the warlord and escaping his captivity.
Iron Man first appeared in the anthology title Tales of Suspense, which featured science fiction and supernatural stories. The character's original costume was a bulky gray armored suit, replaced by a golden version in the second story (issue #40, April 1963). It was redesigned as sleeker, red-and-golden armor in issue #48 (Dec. 1963); that issue's interior art is by Steve Ditko and its cover was by Jack Kirby.
Iron Man stories moved to the one-shot Iron Man and Sub-Mariner in April 1968, before the character debuted in his own title with The Invincible Iron Man #1 in May 1968.
In his premiere, Iron Man was an anti-communist hero, defeating various Vietnamese agents. Throughout the character’s comic book series, technological advancement and national defense were constant themes for Iron Man, but later issues developed Stark into a more complex and vulnerable character as they depicted his battle with alcoholism (as in the story "Demon in a Bottle") and other personal difficulties.
The basic design of Iron Man's armor would evolve over the next few years to become more sleek and futuristic; the classic red-and-gold design would appear in late 1963 (designed by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko), which would remain, with subtle variations, through unto the present day.
Iron Man would become a founding member of The Avengers, and would remain an important member of that team for many years.
The character of Iron Man was introduced to a much wider audience with a 2008 film adaptation directed by Jon Favreau. Robert Downey Jr. starred as Tony Stark. It received generally positive reviews from film critics, grossing $318 million domestically and $570 million worldwide. The character returned for a couple of sequels as well as appearing in films such as The Avengers and Captain America - Civil War.