The Many Armors of Iron Man

All commentary, anecdotes and cover scans are courtesy Iron Man Expert Extraordinare, Michael Hawkins. So complain to him, not me. Without further ado, here's Michael!

"As far as I am concerned, to make the most complete value judgements about the quality of any of the figures shown in the Iron Man archives you must go to the source material: The Comic Book. Iron Man has been around since 1963, originally appearing in Tales of Suspense until he graduated to his own book in 1968. To me, the action figure is more fun if it is a "canon" figure, taking its design closely from the source material (unlike "Firefighter" Iron Man). Also, you'll note that different artists treat the same armor differently, so your "late 60s-70s Iron Man" figure could look more like a George Tuska figure than a Gene Colan or Romita Jr./Bob Layton. These chronological images will give you a good idea of what has been happening in the life of Tony (Iron Man) Stark over the decades and will also allow you to compare the comic armor designs to the action figures. Enjoy!" - Mike Hawkins

Click on any cover for a larger pic.

Tales of Suspense #39

Tony Stark takes the hit of shrapnel in his heart and invents the original gray Iron Man armor with Prof. Yinsen. The armor's chestplate acts as a pacemaker for Tony's damaged heart and must be kept powered up. Also, tragically, this playboy/inventor/industrialist must always keep his shirt on with the ladies. (Years later Dr. Donald "Thor" Blake gave Tony an artificial heart, so the chestplate was no longer required to keep him alive.)


Tales of Suspense #40

After finding that his armor was a little too scary-looking for a hero, Tony paints the armor gold (or 100% yellow in comic printing terms), allowing him to take on the nickname "The Golden Avenger."


Tales of Suspense #48

Not sure whether this armor was designed by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, but Kirby did the cover and Ditko drew the interiors of this book. This armor has defined Iron Man's color scheme for most of the run as red and gold. I like to call this the "horned faceplate" armor. The gold mask can actually slide onto the top of his head so Tony doesn't have to remove the whole helmet now if he wants to get a drink of water. Stark built this new armor because the old armor was too heavy and drew too much power, requiring it to be recharged more often. Though lightweight and flexible, the armor is said to be just as strong. A neat feature: the gold leg and arm covers are magnetically pulled up from the boot and glove cuffs. Also, the new mask enables Tony's "expression to show...which will psychologically aid in instilling fear in the hearts of (his) enemies."


Tales of Suspense #59

In issue 54, Iron Man gets the helmet that, with a few cosmetic changes over the years, he retains until the mid 1980s. The problem is that that issue's cover shows the Mandarin firing directly into his face, obscuring our view of the mask. The burst on that cover states "Wait till you see Iron Man's new protective head mask! Ol' bullet-head seems to change his iron masks as often as a glamor girl changes her hair-do's...but THIS one is a doozy!" Luckily, issue 59 has a good shot of the armor AND helmet. Note the keen rivets.


Tales of Suspense #66

As you will see, the rivets are finally removed from the tops of Iron Man's faceplate. Just a note: during this early era in Iron Man's career, the artist's were incredibly inconsistent in drawing the details of the body armor. For example, Kirby would draw a line across the middle of Iron Man's chest plate, whereas Don Heck would not draw the line at all. Ditko would draw detail lines on the upper torso that all of the other artists dropped. Artists were also inconsistent with the rivets on Iron Man's faceplate. Eventually all of these details were dropped to create the more streamlined classic late 60s-70s Iron Man.


Tales of Suspense #95

Just a great shot of Gene Colan's Iron Man. Unlike Ditko and Heck, Colan's armor always looked like it had some weight to it. I have always been partial to the big round glove and boot cuffs and the big round power pods on his waist.

Invincible Iron Man #40

A good shot of George Tuska's take on Iron Man. Tuska really takes the title as the Iron Man artist of the 70s, having that decade's longest run. Tuska flattened out the boot and glove cuffs. This cover also demonstrates Iron Man's prowess in shooting people directly behind him without even aiming! That's some armor!


Invincible Iron Man #46

Here is the first appearance of the Guardsman (see Toy Biz's "Techno Wars" assortment of Spider-Man action figures. They at least picked the right colors). Originally the armor was created by Tony Stark to be worn by his friend and confidant, Kevin O'Brien, giving Iron Man a much-needed rest. Unfortunately, Kevin became extremely jealous of Stark's relationship with a girl named Marriane Rogers, believing Stark had stolen his girl. Also unfortunately, as Tony Stark mused in issue #97, the Guardsman "armor acts adversely on already unsettled minds." And that's just what happened to Kevin, who died in battle wearing the unit.


Invincible Iron Man #68

There's a warm spot in my heart for this short-lived addition to the classic late 60s-70s Iron Man: The Nose. Sure, most of fandom considers the nose to be Iron Man's goofiest addition and was glad to see it gone by issue 85, but that Mego doll WAS Iron Man to my young self. It was the best and most memorable present I ever got from my grandmother. And the Nose made the (Iron) Man! Some of his greatest adventures were had putting an end to the evil schemes of the Riddler and Mr. Mxyzptlk using his borrowed Batmobile! Maybe someday those epic tales will be presented in the comic book.
Anyway, for those of you in the "goofiest addition" camp, there were VERY IMPORTANT reasons for the addition of the schnozz. In issue 68's Iron adventure, the Mandarin fires a missile at Iron Man from his underwater sub, cracking our hero's plexiglass eye and mouth shields. He realizes that the shields won't withstand the pressure, so he surfaces and spends the last page of the comic dramatically creating his new helmet before diving back underwater after the Mandarin.
As the cover promises, here is "The shocking secret of Iron Man's new mask." On the last page, Tony says he'll put into the new helmet "the latest in integrated circuitry. I'll be able to translate my brain waves into usable electricity…so that I can mentally command my suit's equipment and weaponry! And this time I've fashioned increase-strength plexiglass-like eye-and-mouth shields that will withstand the deepest ocean -- and I'll finish the armor's changes with a slightly modified appearance…to allow a bit more expression to show -- and so perhaps increase the fearsome aspects of my character to those who oppose me!"
As you can see, the nose was intended to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, that superstitious lot! This proves that Iron Man must have hung out with Batman between panels and was allowed to take the Batmobile out for a spin on occasions.


Invincible Iron Man #77

A cool Gil Kane cover during "The War of the Super Villains" series… and the first Iron Man comic I ever purchased. It seems that over the past issues, super villains had been duking it out in the Black Lama's contest to win some golden globe of power. At the end of this issue, the globe is "won" by Firebrand, Stark's girlfriend's misguided brother, and he is transported through a dimensional warp to the Black Lama's world. Before it closes, Iron Man jumps in after him, swearing to bring back Firebrand with him "…or die trying!" The reader then dies waiting through the next two fill-in issues before the story picks up again in issue 80, ending in 81.


Invincible Iron Man #82

Another cool Gil Kane cover (humor me) and the second Iron Man comic I ever purchased. Stark's friend and chauffeur, Happy Hogan, is once again wearing the armor so that Iron Man and Tony Stark can be in the same place at the same time. And, for the interior art, great metal-looking armor by one of my favorites, Herb Trimpe, the book's George Tuska fill-in artist of the decade.

Invincible Iron Man #85

Happy Hogan is, once again, injured while having to perform super-heroic services as Iron Man in issue 82. In issue 84, Stark's experimental medical device, the "Enervator," is used, once again turning Hogan into the monstrous "Freak." In issue 85 Tony needs a new suit of armor to replace his battle-damaged armor. The new armor chestplate with iron briefs "feels just like cloth" in its depolarized state. And now, no more clunky, armor-carrying briefcase that can often be just out of reach when needed. "But now, by clenching my fists in a prearranged manner…I set off a pair of ultra-sonic signals in my rather "special" I.D. bracelet and wristwatch - which in turn activates the polarization unit in my chest-beam…causing the shoulder and collar rings to spring into three-dimensional form…and bringing about a downward slide of golden sleeves and leggings. Then "memory" circuits expand the cuffs of the gloves and boots as they reach my forearms and calves, fully encasing my hands and feet…while the mask slides over my head from behind. And, best of all, the entire change takes mere microseconds…," says Tony.
To be fair, the editor's note admits that this particular armor change was slowed down just once so that readers could take in the specifics of the new armor-changing process.
Also, Iron Man states that the armor contains all of the weaponry but is slightly more vulnerable. "Sniff!" And Tony says that "in order for the mask to retain its symmetry, the nose had to go…but somehow I don't think I'll miss it."

Invincible Iron Man #92

The Mysterious Melter destroys Tony's sonic-signal expanding armor (the
bastard!) so it's back to the attache case (as seen again in issue 95) and the old non-polarizing armor. PS - The Golden Armor on the cover is a robot controlled by Iron Man to psyche out his old foe.




Invincible Iron Man #97

The Guardsman is back, but this time he is Michael O'Brien, Kevin's brother. He feels that Stark stole his brother's girl and murdered him. Soon after, Michael realizes that the armor truly was driving him crazy as well. He then learns Stark's secret when Iron Man saves him from the Mandarin and realizes that Stark isn't the bad guy he thought he was and heads back to rethink his wasted years. Stark will soon fix his Guardsman armor and he will become one of the head guards of The Vault (jail for incorrigible super-villains).


Invincible Iron Man #100

Iron Man takes on the Mandarin and destroys his rings (until next time!). Just had to include this for the great Jim Starlin anniversary issue cover. I just wish he hadn't moved the chest bolts down and made them look like nipples.


Invincible Iron Man #126

Lead in to the following issue where Iron Man takes down evil corporate rival Justin Hammer and his super-villain goon squad. Well into the Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton run on the golden avenger. This classic cover shows off Layton's shiny armor technique and how he (or John Byrne) added the segments all the way down the hand and fingers of the glove that were first seen in issue 118.


Iron Man #142

In this issue, the Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton team introduces a fantastic concept to the series: Tony Stark's "special purpose prototype armor." Unlike the other heroes (think Batman action figure line), Iron Man actually does have different armored suits for different occasions. In this issue, Tony picks out prototype armor "# 14C," designed to operate for extended periods of time outside of earth's atmosphere. Of course, you have to add a bit of tension any time he uses prototype armor by having Tony specify that the armor has "never been fully field tested…until now." Stark uses this armor to help S.H.I.E.L.D. discover who microwaved a whole town. He traces the radiation source to a ROXXON (another amoral corporation out to do in Stark Industries) satellite and super-villain, Sunturian, the man transformed into microwaves.


Invincible Iron Man #152

Another Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton prototype armor is introduced: the stealth armor. The armor is black (or black and blue as printed in the comic to give it definition), and contains a "wave modifier" that bends radar waves around it, making Iron Man electronically invisible. The armor's boot jet sound is "dampened by advanced microbaffles." The armor also has a sonic scanner that, in this episode, allows him to get digital images of an East German (still a bunch of commies back then) top secret research facility's interior from the outside. Unfortunately, to add all of the "detection and evasion components" required removing all of the active weaponry, including IM's repulsor rays. This made for a really tough "field test" since he had to take on the facility's defense drones with his boot jets.

Invincible Iron Man #169

Though I'm a big fan of Denny O'Neil's Batman stories, I was really disappointed with his treatment of Iron Man. Stark's battle with alcoholism culminated in Michelinie/Romita Jr./Layton's "Demon in a Bottle" story in issue 128. O'Neil thought the wrapup was too quick and felt it necessary to drag our hero back to the bottle to the point of him losing his company and becoming a wandering drunk. Whereas Michelinie's Stark was himself whether he was wearing the armor or not, O'Neil decided that, like Batman, Stark and Iron Man should be two different personnas (see issue 158). As you can tell, I'm not a big fan of this run (except for a thumb's up to Yoe Studio's Luke McDonnell, artist of a good portion of O'Neil's run, currently drawing Big Boy Comics). In this issue, Magma gets the better of Iron Man and continues to trash Stark Industries. James "Rhodey" Rhodes then peels the Iron Man armor off of a stinking drunk Stark and begins to put it on.

Invincible Iron Man #170

In this issue, Rhodey puts on the helmet, fully encasing himself in the famous armor, and finishes off Magma. After the battle, and after Stark has cleaned himself up, he tells Rhodey to hang onto the armor for awhile, saying "anybody who wears the armor is Iron Man," and then goes out for a drink. Again, not what Michelinie's Stark would have ever said. A now humorless Rhodey remains as Iron Man for about a two-year period.

The All New Iron Man #174

In the previous issue, Stark the drunk loses his company to Obadiah Stane and the name is changed from Stark International to Stane International. Now, Stane demands the Iron Man armor as part of Stark International's assets. Rhodey keeps the armor, saying that the question of ownership will be decided by the courts and that he'll hang onto it until then. Most of Stark's key employees resign. The race is now between Rhodes, Stane and S.H.I.E.L.D. to get to Tony Stark's hidden lab and Iron Man's previous model and prototype suits first. Rhodey and scientist Morley Erwin arrive first and attach remote control units to the remaining armor. Then Rhodey guides them into the ocean to dispose of them. In the issue, Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. states that "There are eleven suits of armor an' I want 'em," though the cover shows twelve. Maybe he's allowing Iron Man his most recent suit. Six of the twelve armor suits are identifiable. They include the grey suit, the gold suit, the "horned faceplate" armor, the 60s-early 80s classic suit, the classic nose-mask suit, and the stealth armor. One of the suits looks like the space armor with the wrong mask, another looks like a second suit of the classic armor and another looks like the classic armor with a horned mask. The remaining three look like doodled-up variations on the classic armor. Wonder if there specialty function was ever considered?
In the following issue, since Nick Fury is diving for the armored suits to claim them as salvage, Iron Man dives underwater to take on Krang and his undersea army and destroy the remaining suits. By the issue's end there is only one suit of Iron Man armor remaining: the classic model.


Iron Man #182

Tony Stark, homeless drunk on the street, helps a homeless woman deliver her baby in a car in sub-zero weather. The woman dies and Stark ends up in the hospital from exposure, but the baby is alive. This inspires Stark to once again take steps toward sobriety. Meanwhile, Jim Rhodes has come back from the Secret Wars mini series with some alien armor refinements that aren't functioning correctly here due to earth's differing magnetic field or just plain different laws of physics. By the following issue, Rhodey has removed the attachments and had non-functioning gauntlets made.

Iron Man #191

In this issue, Stark debuts a new gray suit of armor. Since Stark headed to California with Rhodey, Morley Erwin and sister, Clytemnestra, to start Circuits Maximus, Rhodey has been getting stress headaches. He has been angry, assuming that Stark wants to take the armor back and jealous that Stark understands its workings. The two duke it out in the next issue and in the following, Stark tells Rhodey to keep the armor that he has earned. Stark is "not sure" if he really wants to be Iron Man again, but in the following issues, both appear as Iron Man.

Iron Man #200

Last issue, Stark's old friends were being kidnapped and Circuits Maximus was blown up, killing Morley Erwin and breaking Rhodey's leg. It was the work of Obadiah Stane. Stark, with a mad-on, puts on the new armor he had been tinkering with to take Stane down. Stane also is wearing his new Iron Monger armor (designed using one of Stark's discovered notebooks). This latest Iron Man armor is red and silver, so the Golden Avenger nickname doesn't apply again until issue 231. The reason the action-figure version of this armor is called the Hologram Armor Iron Man is probably because that is the first of the armor's new features illustrated in the comic. Stealth features are added into this new armor making it invisible to radar, and the armor's chameleon effect uses a hologram projector to make the armor blend in with the surrounding sky and clouds.
Other features include the armor's ability to absorb and return any form of energy and its ability to fire pulse bolts, which get stronger the farther they travel. Mark Bright comes on board as penciller.

Iron Man #215

Both new and old armor are featured as Stark and Rhodes head into space to take on the evils of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) at Stark's new satellite. Unfortunately, Rhodey's armor malfunctions and he is gets burned during re-entry. After this, Rhodey will not put on the armor again (…or, actually, just for a long, long time). Micheline and Layton are back for a second run on the title. Great stuff!


Iron Man #218

Here is the first appearance of Iron Man's "deep sea armor" or, in action figure talk, "Hydro Armor." Tony uses it to beat the Russians to some canisters of "the strongest death gas we've ever devised." Tony has been busy since all of his prototype suits were sent swimming and then blown up in issue 174-175. As he says in the issue, "My regular Iron Man suit can go underwater - but not for miles, or stay down for hours!" Some of the armor's "subaqua defense mechanisms" include its ability to provide an electric eel-style shock, produce an octopus-inspired ink screen, or fire mini-torpedoes. But if he's bored with the new, he can always fall back on the old repulsor rays included in this model. The armor also has a powerful halogen lamp beam and the boots contain "aquatic propulsion jets." Also, the armor has a smaller inner suit that can come out of the top of the larger outer shell. The inner suit can withstand the pressure of the deep for only a few minutes. Wouldn't it have been easier to just go back to the classic armor with the nose mask?


Iron Man #219

Iron Man takes on the high tech industrial saboteur, The Ghost. The only
reason I'm showing this is it is a good shot of the back of this model
armor. This is one of the few models with its own "backpack." The Secret Wars modification is the other "backpack" attachment that comes to mind.


Iron Man #229

This issue takes place during the Armor Wars series. Stark discovered that parts of his Iron Man technology had been stolen by the Spy Master for Justin Hammer. Hammer then incorporated the technology into the suits of many super-villains (and some good guys). In this series, Iron Man hunts down and destroys this unauthorized armor. This time he uses the stealth armor to head to the U.S.S.R. to take out the armor of the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man using his recreated stealth armor. Though the armor looks the same as the armor in issue 152, it has a few added features. In this issue, the stealth armor turns white against the snow. Iron Man describes this stealth module by saying that it "alters the way the (armor's) surface reflects light." Also, Stark was smart enough to include the repulsor rays in this model.

Iron Man #231

Here's a great front view of this model armor by Bob Layton. Iron Man takes on the Mandarin in this and the following issue. But more importantly, issue 243 ends with Tony Stark being shot through the chest by Kathy Dare, his own personal stalker. With his spinal cord severed, Stark is confined to a wheelchair and we are told that "Tony Stark will never walk again." In following issues he spends more and more of the time in his cybernetically controlled armor, which allows him to walk. In issue 248 an experimental bio chip is implanted in Tony's back. It is an organic computer that "instructs" the cells to repair Stark's damaged spinal cord. By the end of the issue Stark is walking again. This is the armor featured in the Marvel Super-heroes "Quick Change Armor" Iron Man. The figure could have used the extra yellow paint on the chest plate and Stark wasn't sculpted with his late 1980s perm.

Iron Man #256

John Romita Jr. returns as artist and writer John Byrne joins him two issues later. Over the course of J.R. Jr.'s run, he bulks up and squares off the armor a little more. At first I would consider it just a stylistic difference…

Iron Man #264

…but by the end of his run, Iron Man's boots have been modified. Previously, the boots were much more like the action figure's, with the foot extending below the separate iron calf-piece "leg warmer." Now, as you'll notice on the cover, the boots are super-bulky and one piece. I really like the "Mega Man" boots, myself. Also of note, this is the penultimate chapter in the Armor Wars II storyline. This sequel has absolutely nothing to do with the original Armor Wars and I can't even figure out why the title was chosen. In the story, it turns out that Stark's bio chip created nervous system can be controlled by unscrupulous scientists from the Marrs Corporation. Several times throughout the series they take over Stark's body. Stark imprisons his body in his cybernetically controlled armor, mentally guiding his Iron shell and keeping his body in check until he can find the bad guys. Also something to note: Iron Man's nervous system is pretty beat up by the end of this issue.


Iron Man #269

Stark's nervous system is pretty much shot by now and the only thing keeping him on his feet, and blocking any control signals coming from outside of his body, is an "exo-sheath neuro-net" (also referred to as an "electro-web exo-suit" and a "bio-electric mesh"). This suit is said to keep Tony's "heart and lungs functioning - and the rest of (his) nervous system doing its proper job." This is his full body, silver circuit suit that he keeps hidden with a layer of "pseudo-skin." This is the same silver suit that the Tony Stark action figure is wearing, though he never wears it with only his mask and boots.

Iron Man #278

These are the Iron Man chapters of the 19 chapter Operation: Galactic Storm series that ran through Iron Man, The Avengers and Avengers character books. The series had the Avengers caught in between the warring alien Kree race and the Shi'ar. Iron Man's new space armor appears in these issues...


Iron Man #279

... It is minimally modified from Iron Man's standard suit, the primary differences being a mouthless and more bulky helmet, backpack and belt. With the exception of the helmet, this armor is pretty close to the space armor of the action figure. The beginning of a very inventive run by writer Len Kaminski, with artist Kevin Hopgood beginning his run with issue 280.


Iron Man #281

The Masters of Silence featured in this issue and the following three are most-likely the inspiration for the Samurai Iron Man action figure. These high-tech samurai-ninjas have actually taken on the task of hunting down and killing Tony Stark, whom they feel is "without honor." A nuclear plant failure in Japan is linked to faulty parts provided by Stark Enterprises and the Masters are seeking vengeance. After an initial battle, they discover that the parts were actually purchased when Stark International was Stane International and that the parts were supplied by Justin Hammer's company. Iron Man then joins the Masters in taking the battle to Hammer.


Iron Man #290

Tony Stark is awakened from his cryogenic sleep, having mentally rewritten the code for his own digital nervous system. The only bad part is Stark will have to relearn all of his basic functions, and is currently paralyzed from the neck down. But "bed rest" won't keep Stark from heeding any calls for the Golden Avenger. Stark's new Iron Man armor is a vast improvement over his previous remote telepresense unit. The previous unit had a slight delay between the user's thoughts and the armor's actions (as seen during Iron Man's battle with the Mandarin's dragon "allies," chronicled by John Byrne from issues 270-275). The latest model, the NTU-150 (Neuromimetic Telepresence Unit) does not since data is transmitted through a subspace link. This model is also loaded with War Machine-like shoulder weaponry that rises up out of the armor.
Stark is able to control this unwearable armor from his bed with the User Interface Headset. This headset is plugged into a "neural port" behind Tony's right ear. This allows for the armor's visual, aural and some tactile information to be received, processed and responded to just as if the armor were a part of Stark's own body. Also, just like his body, if the armor is damaged to any large degree, Stark "feels" it, with "mortal damage" resulting in "fatal neural feedback." Personally, I like to think of this as the third "mouthless" armor (the first and second being the two space armor models).


Iron Man #291

The cover of this issue made for a great necktie (with either black or maroon background), one of the Iron Man items available that I never thought I'd see. In this issue Stark and Rhodes begin the slow process of reconciliation. Rhodey was pretty peeved to find Stark alive at the end of issue 289, having not been let in on Stark's cryogenic freeze and digital self-reconstruction plan. Still, before the end of the issue, Stark refers to the armor as the "War Machine armor" and personally gives it to Rhodey. Rhodey then puts a call in to the West Coast Avengers, probably to discuss his change in title from Iron Man to War Machine.


Iron Man #292

The Iron Man comic has been the inspiration for most of the figures that have shown up in the Toy Biz line, and elsewhere since its debut in 1963. But there have been far more armors worn by Iron Man than have been made into action figures. Here is a quick run-down of all the major armor variations that have made appearances through Iron Man's life in the funny books.


Iron Man #300

"Mouthless" model number 4 appears in this issue. This is the model that the Marvel Action Hour Iron Man (cartoon and action figure) is based upon, except that they decided to add back the mouth slit. As far as the plot of this issue and the why of this new armor, in the previous issue Tony was trounced by an improved Ultimo, the giant, humanoid Doomsday machine. Ultimo rips apart the NTU-150 and the resultant neuro feedback puts Stark out of commission. Rhodey then pulls together a group of Stark's friends who all share Stark's secret. He then fits each of them into Stark's old Iron Man suits and leads them as War Machine against Ultimo. The group is called the "Iron Legion."
The Legion includes the grey armor (from issue 191), the horned faceplate suit (miscolored), the classic late 60s to early 80s suit, the red and silver armor and the 1988 red and gold armor that immediately followed the red and silver (issues 231-281). Funny thing is, Stark must have been feeling pretty nostalgic in wanting to recreate some of these suits or else he had an ultra-secret stash. This has never been explained. The horned faceplate armor was destroyed in issue 175 along with all previous armor. Only one classic suit survived. The red and silver armor was blown up in issue 230. As for the 1988 red and gold armor, the telepresence unit was destroyed so I assume Tony still had a separate, wearable suit.
Back to the plot, the Iron Legion gets trounced. Stark recovers and is able to get out of his wheelchair ("I got better.") to put on this new armor. This armor was fabricated from Stark's design by HOMER (Heuristically Operative Matrix Emulation Rostrum), the computer artificial intelligence that Stark created for Stark Enterprises. Here's how Tony describes this latest suit: "It was time to rethink the basic design paradigm. So, instead of a single integrated suit…a modular component system - which can be reconfigured by swapping out sub-systems like the boots, gloves or helmets…and with plug-in points for auxiliary systems chosen according to specific mission needs. In today's case, a full spectrum scanalyzer - a magnetic railgun launcher (both attached to the forearms and explain the action figure accessories) … and a half-dozen compact utility modules (attached to upper legs)."
Suffice it to say, Stark arrives in the new armor to take out Ultimo and save the day.


Iron Man #304

The Hulkbuster armor is introduced at the end of this issue for the next issue's confrontation with the emerald giant. The armor is actually made up of modular parts that connect to the standard "mouthless" armor. Stark built the armor planning for a worst-case-scenario battle with the Hulk, not knowing that Stark Enterprises would be involved in a situation necessitating its usage. It turns out that Stane International built a plant to manufacture Gamma Bombs (the same bombs that created the Hulk). Stark got back all of the facilities he lost to Stane years ago, but now in the "Crash and Burn" series he's uncovering the extent of what Stane was involved in, a chunk of which is now tarnishing Stark Enterprises' reputation. Of course, word of the Gamma Bombs in the news was sure to draw the Hulk to the facility. After fighting a few rounds with the Hulk, the two work together to dismantle the plant. My favorite line in issue 305 is when the Hulk comments on Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor, saying "Something I've always wondered: which do you design first, the specialty armors - or the action figures?" The line was penned by writer Len Kaminski, who most likely would have been involved with the changes in the Iron Man comic to echo the new cartoon and action figure line. For example, the other heroes in the Iron Man cartoon were pulled together into their own team comic, "Force Works," a group funded and lead by Iron Man after Iron Man voted to disband the West Coast Avengers and that book was cancelled. Can't help but wonder whether the cartoon and action figure line were driving the comic book at this time. Would we ever have seen a "Firefighter Iron Man" in the comic if the cartoon/action figure line continued?


Iron Man #317

With the Cold War ended, Stark Enterprises opens a factory in Russia. This doesn't sit right with Iron Man's old Russian foe, the Titanium Man, who wants to tear the factory down (issues 315-317). Iron Man fights side-by-side with the Black Widow and the newly armored Crimson Dynamo. The Dynamo's new armor is similar to the action figure armor. Unfortunately, the Dynamo breaks a leg while trying to dissuade the Titanium Man from his course of action. To help the Russians save face (since it would look pretty bad for Russia's previous long-time enemy, Iron Man, to take down their hometown hero, the Titanium Man), Tony dons the armor of the Crimson Dynamo to do the deed. Another fun Len Kaminski series with art by Tom Morgan (the Iron Man Annual artist who finally graduated to a run on the book).

Iron Man #318

Don't ask me. It looks like some kind of Arctic armor appears at the end of this issue, but it doesn't look at all like the action figure. At the end of the issue, Iron Man flies up north to what looks like a secret "Fortress of Solitude"-type lair in the mountains. This is the last of the Len Kaminski stories and looks to be a set-up for the next issue.



Iron Man #319

My guess is that Stark built this new, menacing looking, "rivet face" armor in his "Fortress of Solitude" between issues. This is the beginning of a perfectly lousy series of "events." Either the editors of the Avengers line of books needed an "event" to boost sales or thought they'd just throw everything against a wall knowing that the Avengers line of books was going to be rebooted anyway after the Onslaught. The Onslaught event, occurring during issue 332, throws all of the Avengers heroes into another universe and into the Heroes Reborn event. I really don't know how far in advance this group was thinking, but it made for a pretty lousy few years of the book. Once again a writer change is made and it feels as if we are reading a totally different Tony Stark. Character, in this case, was secondary to the contrived "event" plot.
Anyway, lets get back to the "event" started in this issue, that would continue to run through Avengers, War Machine and Force Works. It turns out that Iron Man is discovered as a traitor and murderer who has been controlled by the evil time traveler, Kang, since who-knows-when. This series runs for many months until issue 325…


Invincible Iron Man #325

…when a younger version of Tony Stark is brought forward through time, from an alternate timeline, to help defeat his Kang-corrupted later self. The cover shows kid Stark as Iron Man in all of his new fin-headed glory taking on the corrupted Iron Man. Inside this issue, the evil Iron Man punches a hole through kid Stark, destroying his heart and the fin-headed armor. By the series end in the next issue of the Avengers, evil Iron Man is killed while foiling Kang's plan, supposedly redeeming himself. Young Stark is given an artificial heart by Don Blake in the following "Age of Innocence" special and begins his short-lived run as the Golden Avenger in the following issue of Iron Man. Initially, kid Stark only has iron, repulsor ray-shooting gauntlets powered by the chestplate that he must wear to keep his artificial heart beating. It will be a while before he can put together a full suit of armor, even though the cover of issue 326 shows him wearing the evil Iron Man rivet face suit.


Invincible Iron Man #328

A terrible series deserves terrible inconsistencies. Kid Stark completes his armor by this issue, but for some reason the chestplate shown in issue 327, on the cover of this issue and on the full suit of armor shown on the following issue's cover has the Omnibeam (the round yellow thingie) to the right of center. At all other times the Omnibeam is in the center of the chestplate. Also, there is no consistency in the treatment of the gauntlets. Additionally, the circular power pods, elbow pads, circles on the boot cuffs and on the stomach are lost by the following issue.


Invincible Iron Man #329

The Iron Man comic has been the inspiration for most of the figures that have shown up in the Toy Biz line, and elsewhere since its debut in 1963. But there have been far more armors worn by Iron Man than have been made into action figures. Here is a quick run-down of all the major armor variations that have made appearances through Iron Man's life in the funny books.


Invincible Iron Man #330

The Iron Man comic has been the inspiration for most of the figures that have shown up in the Toy Biz line, and elsewhere since its debut in 1963. But there have been far more armors worn by Iron Man than have been made into action figures. Here is a quick run-down of all the major armor variations that have made appearances through Iron Man's life in the funny books.


Invincible Iron Man #331

To be frank, each artist seems to be tweaking and doing their own thing with the armor. These "metal underwear cuffs" at the top of the legs do not appear in issue 328, are there in 329, are off again in 330, back in 331 and hang around for kid Stark's last appearance in this title in issue 332 (the last issue of Volume 1).


Iron Man v.2 #1

Marvel goes Image with this "event." The Heroes Reborn took Iron Man, the Avengers, Captain America and the Fantastic Four and started them over in an alternate universe. In this universe, Tony Stark is a creep but he gets a goatee, the only change that remains when the heroes return. Image artists Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were given these four titles to help boost their sales. I'm sure Volume 2 would have continued on if the event were a success. The Jim Lee studio artist, Whilce Portacio, couldn't draw an attractive, in-proportion person to save his life. He also avoided backgrounds like the plague.

Invincible Iron Man v.3 #1

Finally, the heroes return to the classic Marvel Universe and the Iron murderer/kid Stark fiasco is forgotten. With this issue, Marvel brought in a solid storyteller and a storyteller artist. Kurt Busiek (later with the help of Roger Stern) and Sean Chen had a fun run on this book. No spectacular concepts introduced, but good, fun superheroics. Also, the armor stayed the same for their 25 issue run. I've heard somewhere that this armor was supposed to be more "knight-like." I'd love to see an action figure of this suit, especially if it has the light up helmet and gauntlet features that were introduced with this armor.


Iron Man Tribute

This special Wizard issue occurs right after Iron Man #25. Joe Quesada becomes Editor in Chief at Marvel and begins to add some interesting concepts into the book. He also does some really powerful cover illustration, as you can see! With partner Frank Tieri, Joe had the armor become sentient. Eventually, we discover that this was part of Ultron's (a really evil sentient robot, for those who don't know) plan to replicate himself. Still, the armor destroys itself in creating an artificial heart to save Stark in issue 30. After this, Stark, paranoid about accidentally creating another sentient armor, goes back to the old technology, wearing his classic armor for a while (through issue 41).

Invincible Iron Man v.3 #44

Over the course of the last two issues, Iron Man begins working with Askew Laboratories to incorporate their SKIN technology into his latest armor. The SKIN is described as "liquid metal circuitry that shapes the object it is forming around into a nearly admantium-hard shell." This liquid metal flows out of the "Omnibeam" that is placed on the chest, until it covers the wearer in its pre-programmed way. Accessories with weaponry (gloves, boots, chestplate, helmet, etc.) are put on afterwards.

Invincible Iron Man v.3 #50

Here's a look at the latest armor design by penciller Michael Ryan as writer Mike Grell takes a stab at the Golden Avenger's adventures in 2002.


Essential Iron Man #1

If you want to read all of Iron Man's early adventures, Marvel has recently started reprinting 20 issues at a time in cheap, black & white volumes. These are the easiest way to read those hard to find super expensive mags! Click on the link above to go to Amazon's page selling this book.


All images, format, content, and design are copyright © 1994-2001 Raving Toy Maniac, Eric G. Myers, and Jason Geyer. No part of these pages may be reproduced without express written consent of the Raving Toy Maniac. Licensed character names and images are copyright © their respective companies.