Howard Stark is an American fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is usually depicted as a background character in stories featuring his adopted son Tony Stark. He is the founder of Stark Industries. Throughout the character's publication history, Howard Stark has been featured in several incarnations of comic book series.
Described as a brilliant scientist and ruthless businessman, Howard Stark worked alongside his father on various projects, and later founded Stark Industries. Howard was an inventive mechanical engineering prodigy, constantly creating new technology and looking for ways to improve it. He designed and built weaponry and devices that have revolutionized the industrial world, such as various technologies used by S.H.I.E.L.D. and its allies. Howard later had a wife and they had their child Tony. Howard's relationship with Tony was a difficult one, however, with Howard rarely expressing affection for the boy. Howard's one major weakness was his severe case of alcoholism, a problem Tony himself would inherit. In the comics, Howard and his wife died in a car crash, as the result of faulty brakes arranged by either business competitors Republic Oil & Gas or by the V-Battalion. Howard's death inspired his son to take both business and engineering seriously as Iron Man.
The son of Howard Stark, Sr., Howard Stark was born in Richford, New York. An avid and brilliant inventor from a young age, he was a brilliant scientist throughout his life. He and his father worked on various projects, and later founded Stark Industries. Throughout his young adulthood, Stark worked on various government projects dating back to the World War I and World War II era, like the World War I Captain America project with John Crowe Ransom, which came to completion during World War II; the World War II Manhattan Project; and the "Arsenal" robots, hidden in a subbasement in his mansion. During the 1950s, Stark was an agent of the secret science organization known as The Shield, partnered with Nathaniel Richards.
Stark married Maria Collins Carbonell and together they had a son, Arno, and adopted another, Anthony "Tony" Stark. He constantly pushed Tony to be the best, telling him that someone must have "iron in their backbone" to be successful. Behind his heroic facade, however, he was an alcoholic who had a strained relationship with his son. Howard was capable of devotion and respect towards machines, but he appeared to have little to no interest towards his son. Due to his power as a businessman, Howard was offered membership to the exclusive Hellfire Club, but Stark seemed uninterested in anything other than the lavish parties the club threw. It is believed Howard was also a member of the V-Battalion. He was targeted by the Red Skull (Johann Schmidt), and is rumored to have met the Watcher, Uatu. Stark also prevented Obadiah Stane from taking control of Stark Industries at least once.
On the Ides of March, Howard and Maria were killed in a car accident. It has been hinted that the incident was not random and possibly arranged by the V-Battalion, but this has never been confirmed; earlier indications were that the accident was caused by Republic Oil, but this is also unconfirmed. Tony ran his father's company, started a charity in his mother's name, and later became Iron Man.
When Iron Man was briefly trapped in Hell by Doctor Doom, Iron Man faced what appeared to be Howard Stark as one of Mephisto's torments. The spirit "wore" a demonic version of Iron Man's armor and taunted Iron Man about emotional weaknesses. Iron Man rejected the spirit's reality when it claimed that he had been a disappointment to his mother as well as whatever problems there were with his father, Iron Man knew that his mother loved him unconditionally.
During the Original Sin storyline, a flashback revealed that Howard Stark first met Nick Fury following the death of Woody McCord during the fight against the Tribellians. Howard decided to show Fury the work Woody McCord had been doing as defender of Earth, neutralizing any potential threat for the planet, and offered him Woody's job. Fury accepted and over the next years would secretly fight different superhuman threats from aliens to Subterranean monsters and extra-dimensional beings, and those had been the corpses the different parties had found.
In the alternate reality seen in the 2005 "House of M" storyline, Howard Stark was alive while Maria Stark's status is unknown. Howard turned over control of the company to Tony Stark when he turned sixteen. Although officially listed as retired, he worked with Tony to build an armor capable of taking on the Sentinels and powerful mutants during the conflict.
Howard and son Tony began to work on Sentinels with Forge and Henry McCoy after being awarded them an exclusive contract. They planned to incorporate a "Vision Project", although there were problems with the control scheme. The two also competed on the wildly popular 'Sapien Deathmatch' television show.
When Tony investigated a resistance group as Iron Man, Sentinels attacked. One, remotely controlled by Howard Stark, scolded him for getting involved. Howard was secretly plotting against Magneto with Hank Pym.
"Genome bomb" locations were discovered by Tony as Iron Man and the House was notified. Howard had programmed the Visions and Sentinels to serve him. He said this had all been part of a plan to make the mutants respect Tony for saving them. Tony would then use that as a chance to directly strike against Magneto. Tony refused to go along. Magneto suddenly appeared and personally dealt with Howard, killing him.
The Ultimate Marvel version of Howard Stark is shown dealing with his second wife Maria Cerrera (a brilliant scientist) suffering a genetic accident while she was pregnant. After Maria died during childbirth, Howard uses a newly invented biological armor to save the life of their son Antonio "Tony" Stark. A few years later, his business rival Zebediah Stane kidnaps and tortures Tony to attempt to learn how to manufacture the bio-armor for his own personal gain. Not long afterwards, Howard arrives with a SWAT team and arrests Zebediah. After the incident, a transparent version of the armor is developed, and Tony begins attending a prep school. This leads to Tony developing a prototype power-armor and befriending fellow student James Rhodes.
After finding out that bullies were ordered from an unknown individual to kill Tony, Howard decides to enroll his son Tony, Rhodes, and Nifara into the Baxter Building, where Obadiah Stane (Zebediah Stane's son) was also enrolled. Shortly after their arrival, Tony and Howard witness Obadiah murdering a pair of students and make it look like an accident. Howard sees Tony make his first Iron Man armor with the intent to punish Obadiah.
Sometime later, Howard was arrested based on planted evidence (by Obadiah) for Zebediah's murder. While the elder Stark was wrongly imprisoned for Zebediah's murder, his teenage son is forced to run Stark Enterprises. When Obadiah drugs a prison guard with a "hypnotizing bio-drug", the guard tries to kill Howard but fails. Howard is shot in the process and ends up in ICU.
While his son Tony is trying to fix all of his current problems, Howard recovered enough to go to prison, but the guards sent to escort him were not sent by the Police Department. Howard fights them off and escapes. Tony meets with him and thinks Loni (Howard's first wife and Obadiah's mother) is the mastermind behind the scenes trying to kill them all. Tony, Rhodes, Nifara, Howard, and Obadiah set off to Utah to find Loni. They arrive and their chopper explodes injuring Rhodes. Obadiah falls off a cliff, but Tony catches him as terrorists arrive on the scene. Tony flees, but follows them as they take Obadiah to Loni Stark and their hideout. Tony breaks into the compound and Loni floods it with poison gas trying to kill him, abandoning Obadiah. Tony saves Obadiah, but Howard and Nifara are taken captive by Loni. After Loni kills Nifara, she confesses to Howard that all she ever wanted was power, hence why she married Howard, divorced him, remarried with Zebediah, had Obadiah, and later had Zebediah killed.
Tony shows up, and Loni shoots Howard in the chest, threatening to shoot him again if he doesn't take the suit off. Tony takes off his Iron Man armor, and Loni shoots him in the head, not knowing that his entire body is a brain and will heal itself. Tony fights Loni, beats her, and tends to his father. Obadiah, mad that his mom abandoned him for dead with the poison gas, enters the room and kills her. Tony, Obadiah and Howard are all picked up by the feds and go home.
The real history for the Ultimate version of Howard Stark is told in Ultimate Comics: Iron Man. The retconned version is the founder of Stark Enterprises, but sought help from Chinese conglomerate Mandarin International. While his son Tony Stark is trying to start a company of his own along with girlfriend Josie Gardner, Howard continually tries to persuade Tony to take his place as the CEO which his son eventually does after Josie's death.
In the Marvel Noir miniseries Iron Man Noir, set in the 1930s, Howard Stark is believed to have been killed by Nazi agents. It is eventually revealed that he was subjected to chemical brainwashing by the Nazis and became that reality's version of Baron Zemo. Under this guise, he builds war machines for the Nazis based on original designs he shared with Tony at a very young age. He dies when Iron Man destroys Baron von Strucker's airship.