At first, the world had been happy with this new, flashy hero, Iron Man. Tony Stark had apparently hired him, to avoid something like Afghanistan happening to him ever again, and, well, as long as the guard was paid the big bucks like everyone suspected only Tony Stark could afford, there was no cause to suspect everything was amiss...
Even if a few nitpickers found the “unrelated” accidents that were happening in Stark's entourage strange...
Maybe some of them were already charting up numbers, counting how many death happened around Tony Stark's “bodyguard”.
But it was pretty clear that Iron man had been on the good side of whatever this anime-worthy fight was about. (When in doubt, look at which protagonist uses a bike with someone on it as a blunt weapon, you can kind of assume that one is the bad guy.)
The question of whether the other robot had been made by Stark too still stood, mind you, but it kind of got swiped under the rug when Iron man helped defeat terrorists and dismantled a drug trafficking ring in the following month.
After all, Tony Stark paid and equipped a guy to do good things, it counted for something.
And then, there was the Stark expo, Tony parading on scene with his bodyguard standing vigil behind him, and there was some unease at the sight of the real hero relegated to the sidelines while his boss took all the limelight...
It wasn't bad per-see, but it didn't sit well with most of the people, people who sometimes had to go through similar situations at work, and who looked at the show thinking “Tony Stark is just like all these other guys who sit at the top of the hierarchy, isn't he?”
When the hearing hit the web, the unease grew. Why was Tony Stark so involved in being the only one to own a suit of armor? Couldn't he share with his country? Or was he just afraid that his bodyguard wouldn't be the best around anymore, making him less invincible?
And then there was an incident in Monaco, and seeing Iron Man come in only when his boss was in danger while three other drivers had the time to die in between was very disturbing. At least as much as the knowledge that had he not refused to sell his armors, the terrorist Ivan Vanko would have been subdued a lot easier.
Why wasn't he sharing, again? Oh, yeah because no one else was able to make similar suits, right? And because baring any other such suit, there was no threat big enough to justify forcing Tony Stark to sell his blueprints...
Flimsy, isn't it?
Then there was the scandal of Tony Stark's birthday party, where he'd worn his bodyguard's suit and wreaked havoc amongst his own guest, destroying half his house on himself and his friend who had come to stop him.
Seriously, did he have to steal EVERYTHING away from Iron Man? He sure as hell wasn't able to pilot that suit, why didn't he leave that to the professional?
And then, there was a supposed “battle” caused by Hammer... Right when he was presenting his own take on armored suit. And Tony Stark's Iron Man swooped in and saved the day and all the innocent bystanders with the help of the other Stark-made suit of armor.
Seriously? Everyone knew Tony Stark was one of the best hackers to go around. Such a convenient “accident”, right. An accident that landed Tony's direct concurrent in jail and insured the there would only be one other armored suit besides his bodyguard's.
Fishy, that's what it was. And let's not even talk about the medal, the medal had no reason to be given to Tony Stark too, he hadn't even been there when shit went down. Hiring someone didn't warrant a medal.
And then, of course, the overly rich ass built himself a tower proudly claiming his name in the middle of Manhattan...
So when Iron Man swooped in to save civilians in Germany, well, yeah, it was cool, but what was his master planing, again?
If unease and suspicion had been the main feelings when the name Tony Stark was uttered, the portal spewing up an alien army in the heart of New-York, with a blue beam of energy emerging from the Stark Tower feeding it definitely sealed the the belief that Tony Stark was not all that clean.
Of course, no level of distrust could make the sight of a Stark-Industries patented nuclear warhead less terrifying. No one had actually expected Tony Stark to be that much of a psychopathic, life disregarding bastard.
But then, Iron Man rebelled against his boss, and went in to save Manhattan, and probably all of New-York.
Everyone watched with baited breath as the true hero of the day risked his life, redirecting the nuke into the wormhole, and almost staying lost in deep space.
The relief was intense, yet short lived, when a silhouette fell back down from the closing gap in space, but didn't slow down any.
Thankfully, the Hulk caught his team-mate between two building, and took him down to ground level marginally less brutally than the fall would have been. But then, before the Avengers could try to assist their comrade, the Hulk had shaken the golden Avenger like a rag doll and roared him awake.
A few hours later, Tony Stark was declared enemy of the nation.
Stark-Industries, by the way of the capable CEO, Virginia Potts, was sent an ultimatum to deliver any information that might be useful in tracking down the as of now missing criminal, as well as a demand to give over everything they had about the Iron Man suit.
The Iron Man suit's blueprint, however, had never been hosted in the Stark-Industries servers, and there was nothing the CEO could do about that.
The SWAT team that swooped in to secure all of Tony Stark's private servers found the memory banks neatly erased, reformatted, and scrambled by a magnetic pulse.
That rat bastard had planned his move well, and he was probably holed in some nuclear bunker with all his precious data and technology since things had started to go south. According to Shield, Tony Stark had “disappeared” at about the same time as the wormhole had opened.
As a gesture of good will, Pepper Potts rechristened the Tower Avengers' Tower, and offered to host all the heroes in it, and to provide them all the financial and technical support Stark-Industries could offer. (It at least helped a little in avoiding Stark-Industries total crash at Wall Street.)
No one understood Iron Man's stubborn refusal to let anyone get near his suit. Who was loyal enough to continue respecting the wishes of a man who so thoroughly betrayed you that he was ready to sacrifice you? With a goddamn nuke, on top of that?
Speculation ran wild for a while, but the most believable rumor was that the suit was actually providing Iron Man's pilot with life support, explaining both the over-reaching loyalty, and the total refusal to even so much as remove his face plate.
The search for the criminal Tony Stark went on for months and months, and there sometimes were news of one of his hideouts being found, but it was always swiped clean of any clue or Iron Man blueprint.
Obviously, Tony Stark wasn't only evil, He was an evil mastermind.