Back in 2008, we were treated to Iron Man, the film that began the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. No one knew what it would be like and if they the studio be able to successfully adapt the classic look of Iron Man’s armor from the comics. Marvel was relatively new and the character was relatively obscure in comparison to the other major Marvel heroes adapted to film; characters like the Fantastic Four, Wolverine and of course, Spider-Man had already been done. There was a lot riding on the studio’s first feature film.
When you see some of the concept art we have in store for you, you’ll realize that the studio took extra care in what it wanted to present to the budding MCU audience with that first film and continued to do so throughout the rest of its phases since. It’s why Iron Man has become such a popular superhero. Some of these are pretty great and others…well, you’ll definitely be able to see why they were rejected. So let’s take a look back now at what Iron Man as a film series, and as a character, could have been. You decide whether or not the studio was right to reject these or not.
15. NOT SO SLEEK
You can probably imagine how much pressure there was to design an Iron Man suit for the film that was awesome in appearance while also being relatively believable. What we saw in that first film, after that massive, scrap metal prototype, was a sleek design with a great red and gold finish, perfectly capturing his comic book counterpart’s classic look.
This initial design for Iron Man (directed by Jon Favreau) by Ryan Meinerding, shows us something else. The color scheme is about right but it look just a little too bulky. It’s less “Iron Man armor” and more “Iron Man android,” complete with tube-like structures that almost seem to mimic the fibers of human muscle in appearance, presumably in order to hint at flexibility. It gives the armor quite an odd appearance. We’re glad the filmmakers turned this one down.
14. RIDDLED WITH BULLETS
The armor takes quite a beating in Iron Man. We see him venture into the war-ravaged village of Gulmira, taking on terrorists equipped with tanks and Stark Industry weapons. Stark flies (played by Robert Downey Jr.) away from that fight (if you can call it that) with one or two bullet holes in the armor, but otherwise unscathed. Later on we see Obadiah Stane (played by Jeff Bridges) fight Stark with his War Monger armor. While the Iron Man armor suffers way more damage there, it still doesn’t look anything like what is depicted in Adi Granov’s concept art piece.
You’ve probably noticed that the armor depicted above isn’t quite what we saw in the film. The damage is also much more extensive than anything the film showed us. That’s a good thing though since in the comics, he is known as the “Invincible” Iron Man. Wouldn’t want the film to show us armor that couldn’t take a mechanical punch.
There’s really only one major superhero who needs a car for his vigilante career and it’s not Marvel’s billionaire, playboy, genius with a ton of gadgets. It was enough for us that Tony Stark showed up to the party in that sweet 2008 Audi R8. It was the perfect compliment to his wealth and lifestyle. A red and gold car would have been a little much.
That’s exactly what we got in this concept piece by Harald Belker, which depicts what Tony Stark’s armor would look like if it was secretly a Transformer. It’s likely that if they actually adapted that to the big screen, it would just look silly, completely conflicting with the general tone and atmosphere of the film, mostly because it’s something you’re more likely to see in a kid’s show than a big-budget superhero film.
12. THE IRON MONGER
Obadiah Stane took Tony Stark’s prototype armor and rebuilt it, turning it into a superpowered monstrosity, in the comics, known as Iron Monger. The look of the Iron Monger armor in the film kept things simple, showing us that Obadiah made minimal changes to the armor’s exterior. The initial concept design by Ryan Meinerding gives us something a little different.
The armor is pretty much just as massive but sports a different kind of look, particularly with its mask, as you might have noticed. More significantly, the Iron Monger armor glows red from its wrists and chest, which, symbolically, makes sense since he’s bloodthirsty. In the context of the film however, the change in the color of the arc reactor’s light seems a little strange, keeping in mind that Obadiah took the thing right out of Tony’s chest.
The first time we see Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke) in Iron Man 2, he steps out on to the race track at Monaco’s Grand Prix with his arc reactor-powered whips burning his disguise off to reveal… a barely dressed villain with two mechanical whips strapped to his torso. It’s no the flashiest villain outfit but that’s why it works. Later on, he dons a fully armored suit, one that looms over Tony Stark’s own.
One of the initial designs show us a fully costumed Whiplash in lighter-looking armor with an evil-looking mask. The armor looks like it was unfinished and Vanko donned it so he could rush into battle. It makes sense for the character and might have actually worked in the film as it’s in-line with Ivan’s character. It’s different and it might have helped to make the ending of Vanko’s storyline feel just a little less formulaic.
10. ALL WRAPPED UP
In Iron Man 2, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) only ever comes face to face with Ivan Vanko once — in Monaco. There, Tony quickly saves her and Happy (Jon Favreau) from Vanko’s whip. Vanko threatens Pepper’s life one more time in the film but it’s indirect, through the use of his drones.
This concept art piece by Ryan Meinerding, hints at a different turn of events in which both Tony and Pepper are captured by Vanko. You might notice that these scenes doesn’t take place in Monaco and Tony already has the upgraded chest piece, which means there might have been plans to film a slightly different ending, one in which Vanko doesn’t have armor and makes a more direct attack. You decide if that would have been more or less exciting than the explosive ending the filmmakers went with.
9. WHIPLASH 2.0
Iron Man’s rogues gallery is, for the most part, pretty machine-based. A large battle between two suited guys (not counting War Machine) was sort of expected. Whiplash’s armor at the end of Iron Man 2 is big. The only things that really separate his armor from the one used by Obadiah Stane in Iron Man are the mechanical, electrified whips.
The design above depicts a different kind of Whiplash. The exterior is white and there’s only one whip. The other arm wields mounted turrets. One more notable thing about this design is the fact that the head resembles the drone heads used in the film, hinting at a different fate for Ivan Vanko since the initial intent might have been to have him controlling the suit from afar, much like he does with Rhodey’s suit and the drones during the climax of the film.
8. ALL THAT GLITTERS…
There were… a lot… of Iron Man suits in Iron Man 3 (directed by Shane Black). Each one seemed to have been built with a specific function in mind, like Igor, which was apparently built because Tony wanted an unnecessarily expensive way to hold up buildings. We can imagine that it must have been difficult for concept artists to come up with so many unique Iron Man designs for the film so it’s to be expected that not all of those designs are going to be golden.
Take this Iron Man design by Ryan Meinerding. It’s definitely unique from the other armor. The abdominal area looks like it was meant to be a little more flexible and the rest of it is reminiscent of medieval knights. For the most part it’s just a suit with slightly pointier edges, not really something that fit in with the rest.
7. IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! IT’S… A SHARK?
There is a wide variety of suit concepts designed for Iron Man 3, each one had to have a unique purpose or look. The suit depicted in the artwork above depicts an Iron Man armor built to look like a shark. Maybe it’s because sharks have aquadynamic bodies and the thought behind this design was that their features would aid in creating a more aerodynamic suit, allowing for faster flights.
This design is equal parts awesome and weird. Would it have looked strange for that armor to turn up in an Iron Man film (or any MCU film for that matter)? Maybe. Perhaps it’s the sweet combination in concept of nature and machine or man and beast, but we hope to see this suit make an appearance somewhere in the MCU, not necessarily anywhere near a battle.
6. THE MANDARIN
Iron Man 3 gave us Trevor Slattery (played by Ben Kingsley), the actor within the MCU playing the Mandarin for Aldrich Killian. Many fans were more than disappointed to find that out after the classic Iron Man villain was teased by Marvel in trailers. Thanks to the one-shot titled, “All Hail the King” (directed by Drew Pearce), we now know that the Mandarin does actually exist in the MCU, though he has never been shown.
This art piece shows us Trevor sitting on a simple chair draped with cloth, surrounded by the walls of a vaguely Asian crumbling building. It’s definitely not a studio so we can’t help but wonder if the initial idea for Iron Man 3 was for Ben Kingsley’s character to remain the MCU’s Mandarin. It might have saved a lot of fans from a lot of disappointment.
5. UP, UP AND AWAY
In his test flight back in Iron Man, Tony barely touched the stratosphere before his suit shut down due to a buildup of ice. Apparently, there was a point during the development phase of Iron Man 3 when it was thought Tony might, for some reason, break through that barrier with the help of a new suit.
The suit depicted above is quite clearly meant for the frigid temperatures and vacuum of space. Maybe it was because, by this point in the MCU, Tony had faced the extreme environment of outer space, both in Iron Man and very briefly in The Avengers, and wanted to be prepared. It makes sense for the character but it’s not necessarily something we would have needed to see in the film.
4. DEEP BLUE
We only ever see Iron Man take an intentional dive into deep waters once. It was in The Avengers when Tony placed the finishing touches on a project that would allow Stark Tower to run completely on clean energy. He wasn’t there for very long and throughout his many appearances within the MCU, he’s never needed to explore the depths again.
It makes us wonder about the thought behind the concept art above, which shows us an Iron Man suit specially designed for prolonged journeys into the ocean. It’s unclear when and why he would have used this suit in Iron Man 3 except, possibly, at the end when he summons all his suits to help him fight Aldrich Killian. Given its highly specialized design and function, it probably didn’t make much sense to include it at all.
3. HE CAME, HE SAWED
The Iron Man suits need to be combat capable, that’s obvious. It makes sense that Tony would experiment with all kinds of weapons in order to the better prepare himself the the odd, inhuman enemies he might face, from Extremis-enhanced thugs to Chitauri soldiers. Sometimes the weapon focus of each armor makes sense, other times… not so much.
Take, for example, the two suits depicted above, created for Iron Man 3. We see them fighting people, presumably Killian’s special soldiers, not with guns but buzzsaws and a hammer-like gauntlet attachment. As awesome as that might appear to be, those aren’t the most practical or effective weapons to use, especially against opponents that can regenerate entire limbs. It’s almost pointless, which is likely why these designs were rejected for the film.
Heaven help whoever stands in the Hulk’s way. With such an unpredictable being, precautions should be taken, which is why Tony created the famous Hulkbuster armor. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see him break it out after Hulk goes into a Scarlet Witch-induced frenzy.
It’s got the same color scheme as his usual armor but it’s just as large as the Hulk and well-equipped to take hits from him. Earlier designs show us something just a little different. With a silhouette of the Hulk beside it, this Hulkbuster armor design shows us something even more gargantuan and without the red and gold. If it hadn’t been rejected, would the fight have looked more epic? Maybe. It was an awesome fight anyway.
1. BULLET MAN
Aerodynamics are an important thing to think about since Tony spends a lot of time flying in his suits. He’d want to ensure that he could reach a critical situation in the nick of time. There are several ways to go about doing that of course: he could install more powerful repulsors, he could make the suit more aerodynamic, or he could do both.
Faster flight is what the design above is apparently trying to accomplish with its sleek, bullet-like design. It’s an awesome look, but given how the audience probably wouldn’t have been given a chance to fully appreciate its function, we’re glad it wasn’t used in the finished film. If it had, it probably would have just been seen briefly in the sky with the rest of the suits (as seen above) and then in the large, chaotic battle. It would have been a waste.
Are there any pieces of concept art you wish hadn’t been rejected? Let us know in the comments!
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