|Totally unrelated to the Black Sabbath song (or the W.R. Burnett novel, for that matter), this Iron Man was based on the comic book character created by Stan Lee and artist Dan Heck in 1963. The metal-suited hero had already graced the small screen once in 1966’s The Marvel Superheroes, but this series gave him his first headlining role. Joined together with episodes of The Fantastic Four, Iron Man made up half of the syndicated weekend package The Marvel Action Hour.
Iron Man was the alter ego of billionaire industrialist playboy Tony Stark, who suffered a life-threatening heart condition and built an advanced suit of armor to keep himself alive. The suit possessed the power of flight, could fire “repulsor rays,” and had a variety of other advanced weapons and gizmos.
In this series, Iron Man was teamed up with Force Works, consisting of bow and trick arrow expert Hawkeye, sorceress The Scarlet Witch, War Machine (Tony’s buddy Jim Rhodes in another Stark-designed suit), time/space traveler Century, and Tony’s girlfriend Julia Carpenter, a.k.a. Spider-Woman (not the same one from the 1970’s cartoon). Logistics were handled by Tony’s intelligent computer, H.O.M.E.R.
The heroes most often matched forces with The Mandarin, who wore multiple rings of great power. Assisting The Mandarin was his dragon, the equally evil Fin Fang Foom. A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) frequently showed up to raise a ruckus, as did their creation M.O.D.O.K. (the guy with the extremely oversized head). Other villains ranged from technology-powered baddies like Blizzard, The Beetle, and Stiltman to otherworldly enemies like Dark Aegis.
Over the course of the show’s two-season run, 26 episodes were produced. Subplots carried over through multiple episodes, often making major changes. Jim Rhodes went through a period when he was too claustrophobic to wear the War Machine armor, and in one memorable two-parter based on a storyline from the comic, even the all-important Iron Man armor was destroyed (Stark later built a new set). Iron Man did make a few changes to the character’s lore, but the show managed the difficult trick of satisfying the Saturday morning crowd while not alienating die-hard fans of the comic book.