Naturally enough, when you have a creative mind for building things the way Tony Stark does, you’re going to constantly want to change your technology. As a result, Iron Man has gone through dozens of armors throughout the years, with some armors being special designs used for unique occasions and some being his new “standard” outfit. It is only natural, then, that some of these armors are better than others. Some become classics and some become, well, punchlines.
CBR takes a look at Iron Man’s ten oddest armors, with the notable exception of his very first armor. His initial grey armor was built in a cave while Tony was held captive by a sadistic warlord, and Tony had to cobble together whatever he had on hand to keep his heart pumping and turn it into a weapon that he could use to escape. You can’t criticize a guy for designing an armor that just looks like a plain, boring suit of armor when he did it under those circumstances. Similarly, we’ll also be excluding armors from similar situations (where Tony had to cobble something together quickly) and also armors from alternate universes. We’ll make one exception for a particularly notable armor from the future. Without any further ado, these are Iron Man’s craziest armors.
10. Asgardian Armor
During the “Fear Itself” crossover event, Iron Man was desperate to do whatever he could do to help save his planet from the wrath of the Serpent, the ancient Asgardian fear deity who was also Odin’s brother. The Serpent had called down eight hammers to transform powerful beings on Earth into his generals, his “Worthy.” The Earth was driven into a panic, both by the attacks by the Worthy (who had possessed people like the Hulk, the Thing and the Absorbing Man) and from the Serpent’s ability to instill fear in people’s hearts. Tony Stark broke his sobriety as a “sacrifice” to Odin to give him a chance to use uru, the same metal in Thor’s hammer, to help create weapons to fight against the Serpent and the Worthy (Odin planned on just razing Earth to get rid of the Serpent). So Iron Man and his Avengers teammates showed up in “Fear Itself” #7 (by Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen and Wade Van Grawbadger) in weapons made out of uru (plus Stark technology) blessed by Odin. Iron Man’s spike-filled uru armor was quite the sight to see! Weird, but awesomely weird.
9. Arctic Armor
In “Iron Man” #318, Len Kaminski finished out his run on “Iron Man” with a story designed to set-up incoming writer Terry Kavanagh and Iron Man’s mysterious behavior that led into the Avengers crossover “The Crossing.” So at the end of the issue, Iron Man goes to a secluded sanctuary in the middle of the Arctic. So Kaminski and artist Tom Morgan give Iron Man a special “Arctic Armor” that appeared only at the end of this issue. This armor is odd because there’s really no explanation as to what is special about the armor besides the fact that it is blue and white, which are “cold” colors. But it’s not like there’s anyone out there for Iron Man to hide from, so it is not like he needed camouflage. Plus, he doesn’t use the armor after this point, despite remaining in the Arctic hideaway throughout “The Crossing.” So it’s just plain ol’ weird. Not a bad looking armor, though.
8. Tile Armor
In “Iron Man” (Volume 3) #71, writer Robin Laws and artists Robert Teranishi and Eric Cannon introduced a new Iron Man armor that never really ended up being used at all since they were off the book after this short, three-part arc. The armor was an odd one, as besides a strange basic design — with a spiky helmet for some reason that doesn’t seem to present itself in the story — the whole armor is made out of little tiles that could shoot out and work independently of the armor. It was described as an “ablative” design, meaning that it was meant to break apart on contact, but it would just reconfigure itself due to a force field holding it together. It was definitely a novel approach for an armor design, but one that was probably a bit too “out there.” Plus, of course, there was the matter of the armor being introduced in a fill-in arc right before a new creative team took over.
7. The Crossing Armor
Perhaps in a nod to the fact that Tony Stark was losing his sanity in the Avengers crossover, “The Crossing,” in “Iron Man” #319 (by Terry Kavanagh and Tom Morgan), Tony adopted a new armor that he would use for the rest of the crossover. The armor was marked mostly by the large rivets featured throughout the armor, as well as the bizarrely large gauntlets that Iron Man would wear. This would begin an era of Iron Man armor design where artists would increasingly go with designs that do not seem like they would actually work (from a balance perspective) as the gauntlets are way too big. At least this armor did introduce some new features, like a magnetic outside that would eliminate ricochets from gunfire. Once Iron Man becomes the main villain in “The Crossing,” the design makes a bit more sense, as it works more for a villain than a hero.
6. Teen Tony’s First Armor
During “The Crossing,” the Avengers decided that the only way that they could combat evil Tony Stark in the present was to go back in time and get Tony Stark from before Kang began manipulating his mind, which it turns out was when Tony was a teenager. So the Avengers traveled back in time and returned with Tony. In “Iron Man” #325 (by Terry Kavanagh, Dan Abnett and Jim Calafiore), the Avengers traveled to Iron Man’s arctic citadel and attacked him in his armory, in front of all of the armors he ever wore. While the Avengers battled against Tony, teen Tony was free to disable the locks on the armor and pick one with which to fight adult Tony. Oddly enough, of all the armors to pick from, Teen Tony picked one that had never been used before, with a very strange, spiky look to it. As it turned out, he made a poor choice, as adult Tony easily tore him apart, broke through the armor and badly damaged Teen Tony’s heart. Almost killing his younger self finally snapped adult Tony out of it, and before he sacrificed himself to stop Kang, he built an advanced chestplate to keep Teen Tony alive.
5. Teen Tony’s Second Armor
With the adult Tony Stark now dead, his younger self remained in the present (his future) and became the new Iron Man. In a nice little touch by writer Terry Kavanagh, Tony slowly but surely built up his new Iron Man armor, piece by piece, after taking over the title in “Iron Man” #326 (first gauntlets, then an advanced chestplate, etc.). However, the end result was just as odd-looking as adult Tony’s rivet armor, with its debut in “Iron Man” #328 (art by Dave Hoover and Mark McKenna) showing off yet another example of an oddly balanced armor, with its gigantic gauntlets and top-heavy design. Jim Cheung was the regular artist on the book at the time, and when he drew the armor, he made it look a little bit better, but it was still a strange design, especially coming from a Tony Stark who had recently been living in the past until the Avengers plucked him out of the timestream.
4. S.K.I.N. Armor
In 2001’s “Iron Man” (Volume 3) #42 (by Frank Tieri, Keron Grant and Rob Stull), Tony introduced a new idea for armor involving S.K.I.N. (Synth-Kinetic Interface Nano-fluid), a liquid alloy that could change into a lot of different shapes. He did a prototype for it in #42, and then two issues later, Tony officially debuted his new armor using this alloy. This armor was likely the peak of the generation of Iron Man armors where each new artist seemed to be trying to top the other one to find the most off kilter and top heavy approach to armor design. Keron Grant was (and is) an extremely inventive artist and he clearly enjoyed pushing the boundaries of armor design, which is appreciated. Here, though, he just took it a bit too far. This design was dropped just six issues later.
3. Iron Man 2020
We kept alternate reality Iron Men off of the list for the most part, because they are too easy to be strange for the sake of being strange, and since they often appearing only in one-off stories. The exception, then, is Iron Man 2020, since he has been a recurring character since making his debut in 1984’s “Machine Man” #2 by Tom DeFalco, Herb Trimpe and Barry Windsor-Smith. We are certainly not saying that there isn’t something to be said for the fact that in the future, with Tony Stark out of the picture, his slimy cousin Morgan’s son, Arno, would not have the same access to technology that Tony would have. So his almost steampunk “future” technology could be slightly explained. But still, the notion that the Iron Man of the future looks worse off than the Iron Man of 1984 is still pretty darn funny. Although, as we saw from Tony’s “The Crossing” armor, perhaps giant shoulder rivets was a fashion statement ahead of our time, and Iron Man 2020 just took it to the spiky next level. I suppose we will find out in four more years if whoever is drawing “Iron Man” adds some spikes to the mix.
2. Classic Gold Armor
In much the same way that it is unfair to criticize the original grey armor because of the circumstances it was created under, then it seems a bit unfair to knock the gold armor, as well, since it was basically the same armor as the original, just in a different color. However, we think that there is a notable exception as to why the original gold armor is fair game to mock. In Iron Man’s second appearance in “Tales of Suspense” #40 (by Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein, Jack Kirby and Don Heck), a female friend of Tony Stark explained to him that Iron Man’s grey armor was scaring people. That’s fair enough, we suppose, as it was just a basic hunk of metal.
The funny thing, though, is that Tony’s response to this was not to actually re-design the armor to make it look better. Oh, no, Tony just spray-painted the thing gold! Isn’t that the laziest approach to a new superhero costume that you can think of? The guy didn’t even spring for actual gold plating. Luckily, eight issues later the awesome red and gold armor made its debut.
1. The Nose Armor
As the story goes, Stan Lee was looking at some Iron Man artwork in the early 1970s when he remarked to staffers around him about Iron Man’s face, “Where’s the nose?” Lee was commenting on the fact that the facemask seemed to be too small, as if it were skin-tight, so there would be no room for Tony’s nose. However, since no one wanted to actually question the big boss, they just took that comment as “Iron Man should have a nose on his armor.” And thus, in “Iron Man” #68, Mike Friedrich, George Tuska and Mike Esposito had to explain why Iron Man now had a nose on his costume. Their explanation? Having the nose would make his face more expressive, and thus would be easier to strike fear in the hearts of criminals. We kid you not, that’s precisely the reason that they gave. The nose was roundly mocked by fans, and even Friedrich made fun of it when he had Iron Man attend Comic-Con International in San Diego. In the story, people thought that he was doing bad cosplay, since he had a nose and the other people dressed as Iron Man did not have the nose. The nose got the boot in “Iron Man” #85.
What do you think is the craziest Iron Man armor of all-time?
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