When Tony Stark is Iron Man, he's usually on his own while battling villains and cosmic menaces. But is he really flying solo? Anyone who saw the films “Iron Man” or “Iron Man 2” saw that Tony’s suit was patched into an artificially intelligent computer program named J.A.R.V.I.S. that ran his lab and home.
This J.A.R.V.I.S. program was based on the character Edwin Jarvis, who was Tony’s family butler in the comic book universe and later became the caretaker of Avengers Mansion (which also happened to be the original Stark family home). The program even acted as a babysitter for the Fantastic Four for a while.
[TRIVIA NOTE: In the novelization of “Iron Man,” writer Peter David said that the J.A.R.V.I.S. acronym stood for “Just A Really Very Intelligent System.”]
Perhaps fearing that having a sarcastic butler around would make Tony seem too much like Batman, the "Iron Man" filmmakers decided to make Jarvis into an A.I. program since, over the years, Tony has had more than a few helping him out. The models for these programs have ranged from the aforementioned butler to a teenage "girl Friday" over the years, and we've compiled a list of some of our favorite A.I. assistants from Iron Man history.
H.O.M.E.R. (“Heuristically Operative Matrix Emulation Rostrum”): Created by Tony and one of his chief programmers, Abe Zimmer, it’s not known when H.O.M.E.R. was first brought on-line. But when readers met this A.I. program, it was revealed that he had personally overseen and supervised the automated construction of several of Tony’s armors, using Tony’s designs and occasionally experimenting with his own improvements.
H.O.M.E.R. was housed in the basement of Stark Enterprises’ Los Angeles branch, in a section called “The Armory.” He was a casual and friendly program who could uplink to other computer systems, as well as Tony’s armor.
After Tony was believed to have been killed in a battle, Stark International was sold off to rival companies and the Armory was scrapped under the order of Tony’s cousin, Morgan Stark. It’s assumed that H.O.M.E.R. was disassembled, since Tony didn’t re-activate him when he later showed up alive and well.
H.O.M.E.R. was a supporting character in the "Iron Man" cartoon series in the 1990s. Rather than just being a strange screen on a wall that spoke, he was animated with a holographic body that was identical to the next A.I. we're going to discuss.
P.L.A.T.O. (“Piezo-Electrical Logistic Analytical Tactical Operator”): For a time, Tony’s biggest classified experiments were done at a facility called “The Works.” To supervise the day-to-day operations and control the automated defense systems, Tony created P.L.A.T.O., basing him on similar programming to H.O.M.E.R. More forward and affable than his predecessor, P.L.A.T.O. interacted with people not just as a voice from a computer but with a holographic body that would patrol the hallways of The Works.
When Tony reformed the Avengers West Coast branch into a team called Force Works, he moved them into the Works facility (it was no longer in use) and P.L.A.T.O. helped the team in various ways. It’s assumed that P.L.A.T.O., like H.O.M.E.R., was disassembled when Tony was temporarily believed to be dead.
V.I.R.G.I.L. (“Virtual Integrated Rapidly-evolving Grid-based Intelligent Lifeform”): This A.I. program was created by the Tony Stark of an alternate future. Vicious and cold-hearted, V.I.R.G.I.L. was sent against the Force Works team as part of a scheme by the villain Immortus.
This A.I. also had a holographic body. But unlike P.L.A.T.O., V.I.R.G.I.L.’s form was composed of “hard-light,” allowing him to physically attack the heroes in different ways, such as turning his hands into massive claws. This A.I. program was destroyed by the heroes and has never resurfaced.
JOCASTA: Jocasta was actually not Tony’s creation. For years, the living robot Ultron had fought the Avengers in his repeated attempts to destroy all organic life. Possessing emotions himself, Ultron found he desired a companion and so he created a feminine robot and gave it a self-evolving personality based on the brain-wave patterns of Janet Van Dyne (a.k.a. The Wasp). But Jocasta turned on Ultron and went off on her own, working alongside several superheroes before she was seemingly destroyed.
Years later, Tony discovered that Jocasta’s programming still existed in the computers of his rival, Sunset Bain. Tony quickly freed Jocasta, uploading her to his own personal computers. Not only did she act as his assistant but, since she was a fully formed personality and not as limited as H.O.M.E.R. or P.L.A.T.O., she actually acted as Tony’s therapist on occasion (and she was fully qualified too, having learned all she could through online university courses).
Eventually, Jocasta regained a physical form. She helped the Avengers Initiative during the recent Skrull invasion of Earth and then went off to join Hank Pym when he formed his own team of Mighty Avengers.
FRIDAY: Good help was hard to find and at one time, Tony decided there was no point in trying to hire a new secretary. Instead, he created his own “girl Friday” with a new A.I. program that would appear as a hologram of a young woman. Friday had a sweet, almost child-like disposition and was happy to show up whenever her boss/creator needed her.
As time went on, Tony began using Friday less and less. A couple of years later, she showed up again, angry and spiteful. Tony was confused and then realized that Friday had evolved from having the disposition of a young girl to having the personality of a spurned teenager. She’d been abandoned and wanted some attention.
Tony saw Friday as a child who needed to learn and be nurtured. With help from his friends and butler Edwin Jarvis, he began raising Friday as a sort of adopted daughter.
Soon after this, Tony was fired from S.H.I.E.L.D. and then branded a fugitive, forcing the recent events where he had to delete his brain and reboot himself. With his memories of the past couple of years gone, it’s likely Tony has no idea that Friday evolved into a pseudo-teenager he was trying to raise. Heck, it’s even possible Norman Osborn wiped out her program when he took hold of many of Stark’s systems. So, only time will tell whether we see her again.
J.A.R.V.I.S. (“Just Another Rather Very Intelligent System”): The computer version of Jarvis was so popular in the film, the comics decided to follow suit and bring him into canon.
When Tony was a fugitive, he took some precautions, including giving his best friend and former love Pepper Potts her own suit of armor. Since she had no experience using any of Tony’s suits, our hero had equipped her armor with an A.I. program based on Edwin Jarvis.
This program helped out Pepper immensely in the use of her systems. And on occasions when Pepper was not wearing the armor and needed help, J.A.R.V.I.S. was able to operate the suit as his own body, providing much-needed support.
That concludes this look at the A.I. assistants Tony has used over the years. If you haven’t seen “Iron Man 2” yet, go check it out and see the film-version of J.A.R.V.I.S. in action!
Do you have a favorite Iron Man A.I.? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!