Sunset Bain holds a Ph. D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). According to "Iron Man" vol. 3 #19 (August, 1999), during her studies Sunset met fellow student Tony Stark. He was a few years younger than her but already close to graduation, thanks to his brilliance. She seduced the guy and convinced him to show her around Stark Industries. While there she took notes of the security system. Not long afterward, the Stark facilities was burglarized and several prototypes of advanced technology went missing.
Sunset had apparently orchestrated the burglary and ended up in possession of the various designs. She used them to establish her own company, Baintronics. She no longer had any use for Stark and stopped dating him.
She debuted as Madame Menace in "Machine Man" #17 (October, 1980).
Major Story Arcs
Meeting Machine Man
Machine Man had lost his left arm in combat with another foe. Sunset had one of her agents steal the missing limb. That issue established a warehouse as the headquarters for her agents, while Menace herself lived in a penthouse apartment. She was immediately interested in the technology involved in building the Machine Man. But just the hand was not enough. She decided to capture the entire robot and use its designs to built an army of robots for her own use.
She used the missing limb as bait to lure Machine Man to a trap. She used two highly amplified, electrically charged magnets to capture him. She then went to meet Zarkoff, a prospective buyer of the robotic limb. Unsupervised, Machine Man escaped and followed her to the meeting on Zarkoff's ship. Zarkoff had his mercenaries attack both Menace and the robot, while he attempted to escape with the robotic hand. Menace easily evaded her assailants, shot Zarkoff and reclaimed the hand. But then Zarkoff activated the self-destruction mechanisms of his ship. Menace was able to escape but was forced to leave the mechanical limb behind.
In #18 (December, 1980), Menace had her agents shut down the warehouse base and clean up any loose ends. This failed to prevent Machine Man from following her again. She soon met Senator Miles Brickman, Machine Man's menace, establishing an alliance with him. She agreed to lure Machine Man to another trap, using a Sonic Disruptor against him. However this alliance proved disastrous for her plans. Brickman had come into conflict with Canada's Department H which answered by exposing various corrupt activities of his to the American public. Miles could do nothing to help while involved in a major corruption scandal. Her own activities came under investigation by Department H which used Alpha Flight ( Aurora, Northstar, Sasquatch) to dismantle her criminal organization. Menace escaped the encounter but at a serious disadvantage.
Weapons Supplier to super-villains
Her next few appearances involved not her own plans but providing weapons to super-villains. In " Ghost Rider" vol. 2 #63 (December, 1981), she provided the Orb with a new helmet and robot duplicates of Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze to use for practice. In "Solo Avengers" #17 (April, 1989), Menace delivered a shipment of high-tech weaponry to Dr. Octopus. However their meeting was disrupted by Hawkeye and Sandman. The former was investigating solo while the later had been sent by Silver Sable. Menace used a sonic weapon to incapacitate Sandman. She was surprised that it failed to effect Hawkeye. (He was suffering hearing problems at the time and was nearly deaf. He couldn't hear her weapon). She used a jet pack to escape. Octavius escaped shortly thereafter.
In "Iron Man Annual" #11 (1990), Sunset Bain had a business meeting with Tony Stark. They were conversing about potential deals between Baintronics and Stark Enterprises when said meeting was interrupted. Machine Man had been damaged in Battle with Termini and rushed in, seeking help. He brought with him the head of his love interest, Jocasta. Failing to recognize Sunset as Madame Menace, Machine Man soon left himself in her hands.
Sunset got to work building a duplicate of Machine Man, a prototype for a prospective commercial line of robots. However an attack by the Termini on her own plant, forced to summon Iron Man for help. Iron Man and a recovered Machine Man defeated the Termini. Then the heroes left in a hurry. Forgotten in Sunset's custody was the head of Jocasta. She mused about using it to complete her duplicate of Machine Man.
In "Spider-Man" #26 (September, 1992). Sunset assigned John Maxwell, one of her agents, to track down Stewart and Bill Smalls. They were two brothers and partners-in-crime who have managed to steal a Baintronics device. Specifically a personal force field device. All three men attracted the attention of Spider-Man who had them arrested by the police. In "Web of Spider-Man" #99-100 (April -May, 1993), Blood Rose ( Richard Fisk) and Spider-Man faced the New Enforcers, a team of super-villains. They included Blitz, Dragon Man, Dreadnought, Eel/Edward Lavell, Plantman, Super-Adaptoid (retconned to an inferior duplicate), Tangle, Thermite and Vanisher. While Spidey did manage to defeat them all and had them arrested by the police, the last panels revealed that all of them were simply the Outer Circle of the New Enforcers, field agents.
The Inner Circle of the New Enforcers , the masterminds, consisted of Madame Menace and her allies Controller, Fixer, Mentallo and Mr. Fear/Alan Fagan. They were planning to to seize leadership of the underworld for themselves. They considered the arrests of their agents to be a mere setback. There was an implication that there were further plans of the group to be included in an ongoing Gang War storyline of the time. However the entire storyline was soon dropped.
Against Iron Man
Sunset attended the "Welcome Back" party of Tony Stark. He had turned up alive after years "missing". (Actually killed during the Crossing storyline and resurrected in Heroes Return). She proposed a business alliance with him. Sunset was revealed to have hired Stuart Clarke (Rampage) and War Machine/Parnell Jacobs to destroy Astrodyne Systems, one of Stark's subsidiaries. The purpose was to create enough of a financial setback for Stark to need support in keeping the Maria Stark Foundation well-funded. She then offered to help in exchange for a joint venture. Stark figured out her betrayal while already injured from fighting the new War Machine. He passed out from his injuries before being able to answer. He had no time looking for evidence against his former lover.
Sunset had further dealings with Stark. Iron had just defeated Fin Fang Foom. The United States Navy hired Baintronics to have the dragon transported to a secure location. She took the opportunity to approach Stark again, offering him a contract working for Baintronics. Stark no longer trusted her but accepted. He wanted to get closer to her and investigate her shady activities.
The "work" Stark was hired to do involved a long-forgotten subplot. Sunset still held the head of Jocasta but had been unable to decode its programming. She wanted access to the secrets of Jocasta's artificial intelligence. Having Stark available for more intimate encounters was a bonus. Stark half-finished the job before recognizing whose operating systems this was and escaping out of Baintronics.
Stark returned as Iron Man and faced the new War Machine again. Meanwhile Bain completed his work and made Jocasta fully operational again. She used the Artificial Intelligence to operate a "smart weapons" system and attempted to test it on both armored opponents. However the loyalties of her supporters soon turned against her. Parnell left to avoid facing his old friend James Rhodes. Stuart Clarke's suspect loyalties forced Sunset to fire him. Jocasta broke free of Sunset's control and started sending evidence of Sunset's criminal activities to the authorities. Sunset was forced to eliminate Jocasta's files from her systems before too much damage could be done. Iron Man uploaded Jocasta's systems into his armor and delivered Stark's resignation. Sunset lost four valuable employees in a single day and was left empty-handed.
Sunset gained a new foe in the person of the Taskmaster. The plot started with Sunset's dealings with the Triads, Chinese gangs. She had employed some of their specialists for "delicate security needs". However these agents took the time to spy on Baintronics and search for weaknesses on Sunset herself. They used information gained to have their legitimate business front competing directly with Baintronics. She hired Taskmaster to foil their plans in retaliation. Then hired him for a second hit, sabotaging a semiconductor at Stark Enterprises.
Takmaster completed both missions with great success. Naturally he returned looking for payment. Instead he found himself targeted by police. Sunset had set him up to avoid paying him. Worse, the "arresting officers" were on her payroll and assigned to kill him. He survived and started manipulating events, looking for payback. He had the Baintronics-Triads rivalry escalate to full-blown gang war.
The heads of the two rival factions realized what was going on and called a truce. They worked together to capture Taskmaster. Once the job was done, Sunset had no further use for the Triads. He had every one of the active heads of the organizations assassinated, leaving the Triads leaderless for the time being. However her plans of executing Taskmaster where rather crude and failed easily.
Free once again, Taskmaster launched an assault on the Baintronics headquarters. He even managed to invade Sunset's personal office and shot her in the shoulder. But then her security team caused him to beat a hasty retreat. The series ended with Taskmaster maintaining surveillance on Sunset, waiting for any little opening in her defenses.
Hard Times and Punishment
Sunset had reportedly fallen on hard times. The once-powerful businesswoman was almost bankrupt. Her one chance at reclaiming her success was to have the War Machine armor operational again. She and Parnell had parts of the armor but needed the whole. They separately contacted Stuart Clarke and tried to recruit him to their side. Parnell counted on their old friendship, Sunset on her feminine wiles. By seducing Stuart, she had him murder Parnell for her.
Stuart's reward was unsurprising. She knocked him out and stole the armor. Leaving him alive proved a mistake. Stuart had another ally at the time, the Punisher. He had little trouble convincing the heroic serial-killer to go after the dangerous Madame Menace. Castle ambushed her in a public location and was seen shooting her. Rampage seemingly had his revenge.
Back to Machine Man
Sunset turned up alive and well in "Marvel Comics Presents" vol. 2 #10-12 (August - October, 2008). Machine Man was at the time the only inhabitant of the massive Area 51 facility the Nextwave team had gained by right of conquest. He was having a mental breakdown, using non-sentient robots to replay various of his memories and a number of delusions. (The story makes no clear distinction between them).
Menace entered Area 51, broke Machine Man out of his near-catatonic state and had him chase her, challenging him to stop her. She then somehow managed to merge him with Area 51, turning him into an enormous robot. She let him loose in Bombay, India, apparently fully expecting a rampage. Instead Machine Man got a grip of himself, calmed down the crowds worried at his arrival and got himself back to normal.
He then had Menace arrested for her trouble and placed into SHIELD custody. She wasn't too concerned about it. She promised this was only the start of a "wonderful antagonization". (Some of the flashbacks in this tale had Menace kissing Machine Man and mentioning an earlier relationship with Able Stack, his "father". Unclear if any of the flashbacks are accurate).
In Earth-8410 (Earth-Iron Man 2020) , Sunset had managed to defeat and dismantle Machine Man back in the 1980s. She had his parts in storage. Thieves managed to steal the parts and had him fully operational before long. But forty years had passed and Sunset was then an elderly woman. Her only friend was a rebuilt Jocasta. She got back in action against Machine Man and proved a strong opponent even in her seventies.
At one point Jocasta decides to rid the world of the humans (Marvel Zombies 5 #4) so se devolpes a virus and tests it on Sunset. Jocasta is only stopped when Machine Man learns of her plan and the only way to stop the virus is to destroy Jocasta. By this point Sunset has been infected long enough to devour her own arms and legs and it is unsure if by stopping the virus if it will change Sunset back to her normal self.