Anton Vanko was the Russian counterpart to Tony Stark and first appeared in Tales of Suspense #46. He invented his own suit of armor and became known as the Crimson Dynamo. Vanko eventually defected to the United States and a succession of agents has worn the Dynamo armor.
Mickey Rourke plays Ivan Vanko, a combination of the Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash. The original Whiplash was Mark Scarlotti, an employee of Stark Industries, who invented a pair of metallic whips that could channel energy.
After being confused for Hugh Hefner, Stan Lee pops up again and is mistaken for Larry King. Another Larry, Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle also does a cameo. Tony has JARVIS access the Oracle Grid later on to trace Vanko's phone call. Other cameos in the film include CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Bill O'Reilly, and Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors. He's the fellow who pitches the electric jet to Tony Stark in Monaco.
Sam Rockwell was actually on Jon Favreau's shortlist to play Tony Stark. He made a cameo appearance in Favreau's directorial debut, "Made." They would later work together on another comic book adaptation, "Cowboys & Aliens." In "Iron Man 2," Rockwell plays a much younger and much less competent version of Justin Hammer, a rival industrialist who hired a number of superhuman agents (including Whiplash) to destroy Stark and his company. Though he eventually died, Hammer's daughter, Justine, and granddaughter, Sasha, have continued his villainous legacy.
The dialogue, "It's me, I'm here. Deal with it," takes on a double meaning. Don Cheadle assumes the role of Lt. Col. James Rhodes following the acrimonious departure of Terrence Howard.
Tony jokes, "I'll settle for Secretary of Defense." In the comics, he actually served as the Secretary of Defense for a brief period. He was also director of SHIELD at one point.
The suits on display in the armory are the Mark I, the Mark II, the Mark III (still damaged from the first film), and the new Mark IV.
The Blu-ray bonus features and the novelization reveal the man giving Ivan Vanko his passport and documents is an agent of the Ten Rings.
Natasha Romanoff, alias the Black Widow, was originally a KGB agent sent to steal technology from Stark Industries. She was initially aided by Hawkeye before they both reformed. The Black Widow has been a valuable member of both the Avengers and SHIELD. She's also been the romantic interest for Hawkeye, Bucky, and Daredevil. Scarlett Johansson has done two other comic book movies, "Ghost World" and "The Spirit."
The role of Black Widow was originally offered to Emily Blunt, who was unable to accept due to filming "Guilliver's Travels" with Jack Black and Jason Segel. She was later offered the role of Peggy Carter in "Captain America," which she turned down. Her husband, John Krasinski of "The Office," was one of many candidates in line for the role of Cap.
A Black Widow movie was previously in development at Lionsgate with "X-Men" screenwriter David Hayter attached to write & direct. The project was eventually abandoned. In 1975, David Bowie purchased the rights to the character with the intention of producing a TV show with his wife, Angela, as the Widow with Ben Carruthers ("The Dirty Dozen") as Daredevil. Natasha Kornikoff, who designed Bowie's Ziggy Stardust outfits, was hired to design the Black Widow costume. Photos can be found on Getty Images (here and here). It never came to fruition.
Tony and Happy Hogan working out in the boxing ring makes sense as the latter was a former boxer. The music playing in the background is "The Magnificent Seven" by The Clash. Marvel's own magnificent seven: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Nick Fury will come together in "The Avengers."
The British driver is named Chapman, a reference to Joseph Chapman, a government agent who operates as the costumed Union Jack.
The label on Vanko's uniform reads, "B. Turgenov." Boris Turgenov was the second Crimson Dynamo. Along with the Black Widow, he was sent to kill Iron Man and Anton Vanko, the latter of whom sacrificed his life to stop him.
The green Formula-1 car is sponsored by Roxxon and their logo was previously seen on a skyscraper during the Iron Monger battle from the first film. Agent Coulson pumps gas from a Roxxon station in the short film, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer," which can be found on the "Captain America" Blu-ray.
In the comics, Tony did have a suit that could turn into a suitcase. He also invented a collapsible version of the armor that could fit inside a case. A great example can be seen on the cover of Iron Man #118. The red and silver color scheme is a nod to the Silver Centurion armor.
Happy Hogan became Tony Stark's driver and bodyguard after saving him from a car wreck after he suffered a heart attack.
According to JARVIS, Anton Vanko defected in 1963, the same year that Iron Man first appeared in the comics.
"You want to be the war machine? Take your shot." War Machine is the superhero name used by Rhodey.
Tony Stark's recurring battle with alcoholism was famously depicted in the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, widely considered to be one of the definitive Iron Man stories.
After a brief cameo in the post-credits scene of "Iron Man," Nick Fury makes his first full appearance in the sequel. Though Tony has refused to take part in the Avengers Initiative, SHIELD has continued to keep tabs on him. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson previously played cohorts in Frank Miller's "The Spirit," the critically reviled movie based on the comic strip by Will Eisner.
Nick Fury's problems in the southwest region refer to the events of "Thor."
The personal belongings of Howard Stark include a copy of Captain America Comics #1.
Next to the blueprints for the ARC reactor is a map of Antarctica. The Savage Land was a tropical area within Antarctica that was home to dinosaurs and genetically engineered mutates. In the past, Roxxon and a corrupt faction of SHIELD have sought to exploit the Savage Land's resources, one of them being vibranium, the material used by Howard Stark to construct Captain America's shield.
Howard Stark's notebook contains formulas and data about the Tesseract (which he calls the Hypercube) seen in "Thor" and "Captain America."
Pepper's secretary is Bambi Arbogast (first appearance, Iron Man #118), who worked in an administrative capacity for the U.S. Army before becoming Tony Stark's executive assistant for a time.
The crates containing Tony's new particle accelerator are marked "Project Pegasus." Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. (Potential Energy Group/Alternate Sources/United States) is a facility for the Department of Energy and based in the Adirondacks that is devoted to research in alternative energies. In the films, PEGASUS is the designation for SHIELD's facility charged with analyzing the Tesseract.
"What's this doing here?" Captain America's shield appears once again in Tony's workshop and appalingly used as a glorified paperweight. The shield made a very brief appearance in the first "Iron Man." In "The Avengers," Agent Coulson is revealed to be a huge fanboy of Captain America.
"Director Fury wants me in New Mexico." Agent Coulson is being transferred to New Mexico due to the arrival of Thor. His long drive to the Land of Enchantment is depicted in the short film, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer," available on the "Captain America" Blu-ray.
The new element invented by Tony and based on his father's research is the same energy emitted by the Tesseract. Before "Captain America" was released, many fans believed this new element was vibranium. It's even stated as such in the novelization.
The Variable Threat Response Battle Suit was the original name given to the armor when it was created by Tony in the comics.
The intro song for Justin Hammer is "Pick Up the Pieces" by Average White Band, which was featured on the soundtrack to Favreau's breakout film, "Swingers."
A banner at the Stark Expo reads "Circuits Maximus." After falling off the wagon, Tony lost control of Stark Industries to Obadiah Stane. Tony regained his sobriety and formed a new company called Circuits Maximus.
The screen in the bottom right displays the "Incident at Culver University" from "The Incredible Hulk" and the one in the upper right shows the crash site of Mjolnir from "Thor." This suggests that all three films occur around the same time and six months after the first "Iron Man."
Hotspots on the SHIELD Global Alert Map include:
- Southern California – The home of Tony Stark
- New Mexico – The arrival of Thor
- New York – The home of Marvel Comics where a majority of their characters are based. It's the state where Iron Man & War Machine battle with Whiplash and where Hulk and Abomination fought in Harlem.
- The Arctic Circle – The area where Captain America was lost
- Tonsberg, Norway – The village featured at the beginning of "Thor" and where the Tesseract was discovered by the Red Skull in "Captain America: The First Avenger."
- The Atlantic Ocean – Possibly a reference to Atlantis, the kingdom of Namor aka the Sub-Mariner. Namor was one of Marvel's earliest superheroes and a member of both the Avengers and the X-Men. He was also in the WWII-era team known as the Invaders with Captain America.
- Africa – Likely a reference to Wakanda, ruled by another popular Avenger, the Black Panther. Wakanda is also a primary source for vibranium.
The post-credits scene features Agent Coulson arriving at the crash site in New Mexico as the townies attempt to lift Mjolnir.
Marvel Studios Annotations: "Iron Man"
Marvel Studios Annotations: "The Incredible Hulk"
Marvel Studios Annotations: "Thor"
Marvel Studios Annotations: "Captain America: The First Avenger"
Marvel Studios Annotations: "The Avengers"