Perhaps it’s because Tony Stark was always destined to become Iron Man. Maybe it’s because fate realized Midgard needed a hero capable of seeing the bigger picture and therefore needed a genius that could handle the horrors a hero would see. Maybe it’s simply because Iron Man was destined to always exist no matter what universe and Tony Stark was the only one capable of wearing that identity first. Either way this Tony Stark walked a very different path but his destination was all the same. Held captive, betrayed, and donning a suit of armor that would be a beacon of hope as it stood beside other heroes.
So here is a story of Tony’s Stark’s path that led him to becoming Iron Man. It does not start with him as CEO of his company and at a weapon’s demonstration. It does not start with a doctor in a cave cutting him open as he screams. It does not begin with Obadiah’s betrayal as his greed leads him to seek the younger man’s death.
It begins in his father’s study as a four year boy hears for the first time that he should do better, do more, and be more like a hero that died long ago. Be like Captain America. It begins with a young boy in the care of a father who was too busy looking for a lost legend to care for his child. It begins with a young boy gaining a hero in the form of that legend and striving to be just like him if only it would gain him his father’s attention.
Tony Stark still is sent off to boarding school, he still meets James Rhodes, and he still doesn’t gain his father’s love or approval. Steven Grant Rogers, the man who became a legend that he could never live up to had joined the military to protect his country. Tony went from MIT to the military hoping to earn some kind of approval of his father. Tony joined the army just like the man who became Captain America and excelled as he did with everything else. He’d call home when he could but still he had not earned the love and approval he sought. Howard never had time to answer him and only Jarvis and his Aunt Peggy would answer his calls. Both never hesitated to tell him how proud they were of him. Somedays he’d wish that their approval would be enough and that he’d stop looking for the approval of a man who had been absent and verbally abusive all his life. That wish is never granted and he continued to strive for something that would forever be denied to him.
The times he had away from the military he spent with Jarvis and Aunt Peggy if they were free otherwise he went with Rhodey to his family’s house. His mother Roberta Rhodes or Mama Rhodes as Tony had taken to calling her, had practically adopted him as one of the family. Even with the welcoming embrace of Rhodey’s family Tony still looked to finally earn that proud gaze of a father he hadn’t seen in years.
With Howard ignoring his every call and always making sure to be busy with work or on a trip the times Tony was due for a visit it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Tony was injured on a mission and he didn’t care. The injury wasn’t even the worst of the matter. He was captured while in enemy territory. The army had contacted Howard knowing that showing their weapon’s supplier that they were doing everything in their power to find his son was in their best interest. When they’d called Howard however the man told them not to bother looking. That Tony was no doubt dead. So for the same reasons they called they didn’t spend long looking. It wouldn’t do them any good to piss off Howard Stark and end up being stuck with crappy equipment like Hammer Tech.
So Tony wasn’t found by the military he’d served. He instead found himself held captive by none other than Hydra. His captor was a cruel man called Alexander Pierce and the guard instructed to watch him and ensure he didn’t escape was a silent empty man they only called the Asset. Tony had lost his leg in the explosion that led to his capture but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from escaping. He just needed time and the proper opening. If a man in a spangling outfit could take down these guys in the 40s then a genius in the modern day could get one over on them. That’s what Tony told himself even though his first attempt had shown that the Asset was no normal man.