In his introduction in 1963’s Tales of Suspense #39 (Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck), wealthy playboy Tony Stark was hurt and created a suit of armor to free himself and survive. Using the armor to fight injustice, he became Iron Man, one of the Marvel Universe’s most respected superheroes. Not only is he a great hero on his own, but he’s one of the founding member of the Avengers, one of the greatest superhero teams ever. For decades, Iron Man has been on the side of good, fighting evil, but he’s never been a straight hero like Captain America.
Stark has been a flawed hero since the beginning, prone to overconfidence and arrogance about his genius. He’s also fallen into alcoholism and struggled with his relationships while also not above using his power armor to benefit his own company and get richer. He also has his own code of ethics that can clash with others. There have been times when Iron Man’s done some pretty rotten things, and other times when he’s been just plain evil. With Robert Downey Jr. returning as Iron Man in Spider-Man Homecoming, CBR thought it was time to tell the truth about this billionaire, philanthropist and genius, warts and all.
15. MADE WEAPONS
One of the defining parts of Iron Man’s origin is the theme of redemption. Tony Stark started out as an enthusiastic dealer of weapons used to kill people around the world. When he was injured by his own weapons, he quit making them. Or at least, that’s the version people who saw the movie know. The comics are a little different.
In the original comics, Stark was hurt by a trip mine, not his own weapons. He also didn’t stop selling weapons right away. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the Vietnam War that he stopped altogether, but started up again at different times during his comic run. That means even the redeemed Tony Stark is still a man who profited from the deaths of others. That’s a lot of blood on his hands.
14. KILLED AMBASSADOR
In Iron Man #124 (David Michelinie, John Romita Jr.), the classic “Demon in a Bottle” storyline continued, where Tony Stark fell into the depths of alcoholism, but the moment that triggered his fall is often missed. At the beginning of the story arc, Stark found his armor starting to malfunction. Despite that, Stark agreed to send Iron Man to a ceremony to represent his company and meet with a foreign ambassador.
When Stark met the ambassador, the repulsor in one of his gloves fired, killing the foreign dignitary and causing an international incident. It turned out that Justin Hammer was controlling the armor remotely, but even being cleared of the murder didn’t stop Stark from blaming himself and drinking from the pain of his guilt. It’s not the only time Iron Man killed, but it’s one of his most horrific murders.
13. ARMOR WARS
In 1987, Iron Man #225 (David Michelinie, Bob Layton, Mark Bright) began “Armor Wars.” In it, Iron Man discovered the designs for his armor had been stolen. Faced with the idea that his armor could be used by criminals, Stark decided to seek out everyone who used power armor and disable any of his technology that might be in them.
It started off badly with Iron Man attacking Stingray, who was sponsored by the government. That led the US to demand Stark shut down Iron Man. Since they didn’t know he and Iron Man were the same, that led Stark to “fire” Iron Man. He went on to attack S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America (at that point, using the “Captain” identity), the Soviet Union, and was stripped of his Avengers membership. Even other heroes aren’t safe from his wrath.
12. EXILED HULK
The Hulk has been a force for good in the Marvel Universe, but has also caused untold destruction around the world. With his unpredictable temper and almost infinite strength, many people have tried to stop him, and that includes the U.S. government and other superheroes. Starting in 2006 with Incredible Hulk #92 (Greg Park, Carlo Pagulayan), the Hulk was tricked into going into space, where they tried to send him to an uninhabited world.
The organization that arranged to exile Hulk came to be known as the Illuminati, and it included Iron Man. When Hulk crashed on a remote planet, he ended up becoming a gladiator and the ruler of the entire world. When the world was destroyed, Hulk came back to Earth for revenge. It was all thanks to Iron Man.
In 2011, the “Age of X” (Mike Carey, Clay Mann and Steve Kurth) crossover introduced a timeline where almost all mutants had been exterminated. The survivors were being hunted to extinction by twisted versions of the Avengers, one of the most evil among which was Iron Man.
First introduced in Age of X: Universe #1 (Simon Spurrier, Khoi Pham), at some point, Tony Stark had been infected with a virus that permanently bonded him to his suit, which slowly absorbed the organic parts of his body. Now calling himself Steel Corpse, he was an enthusiastic hunter and killer of mutants. When he tried to repent and stop his mission, his armor began killing mutants on its own, and he asked Captain America to kill him. Too little, too late to redeem him.
10. THE INCURSIONS
In the 2015 “Time Runs Out” event, the multiverse of the Marvel Universe was being destroyed as alternate worlds collided in what were called “incursions.” Different factions of heroes and villains began working together to destroy or save different worlds. On one side, Namor and Thanos led a Cabal, which secretly destroyed alternate realities to save the mainstream 616 universe. Meanwhile, the Illuminati, which included Iron Man, tried to stop the incursions without destroying the other Earths.
In Avengers #44 (Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli, Kev Walker), Iron Man was confronted by Captain America about the fact that Stark knew about the incursions beforehand, and that they couldn’t be stopped, but didn’t say anything. Rogers blamed Stark for letting them all run on false hope, and the two of them fought to the death.
In 2011, Alex Irvine and Lan Medina introduced Iron Man: Rapture, a four-issue miniseries where Tony became obsessed with improving himself to live forever. First, he created an artificial heart. Then he gave himself a new arm and cybernetic implants. It wasn’t long before he had turned himself into an artificial intelligence called Stark 2.0, bonded permanently with the armor and created a virtual world to live in called StarkWorld.
Stark 2.0 locked down the building and pulled everyone who connected with the computers into StarkWorld, whether they wanted to or not. It took a fight with Rhodey on the outside, and an intervention by Pepper in the virtual world, to stop him. In the end, Stark had to die. It was an alternate history, but still counts among his worst offenses.
8. CONQUERED THE WORLD
Marvel’s series Exiles was about a team of superheroes and supervillains from alternate realities assembled into a team called Weapon X, which would travel to different universes on missions. It was really all about taking the best and strangest characters and throwing them into living versions of “What If.”
In 2003’s Exiles #23 (Judd Winick, Kev Walker), Weapon X went to an alternate reality where Tony Stark manipulated the world economy and triggered a war between humans and mutants to thin out the super-human population. Without their influence, Stark was able to make himself the absolute ruler of the world. Once again, in another reality, Iron Man was a force of terror instead of a force for good. We can only hope he never gains that power in the real universe, but he came close.
7. EXECUTED CRIMINALS
The year 2006 brought a new Iron Man series with new problems, starting in Invincible Iron Man #7 by Daniel Knauf, Charles Knauf and Patrick Zircher. International criminals began dying with witnesses saying the murders were being committed by Iron Man. Tony Stark had become more aggressive, and when the Avengers tried to stop him, discovered he wasn’t in control.
It turned out that the son of Ho Yinsen, the man who saved Stark’s life in Afghanistan, had been controlling Iron Man and his armor remotely. The targets of the murders were all people who were involved in Yinsen’s murder. Iron Man’s spare battle armor was triggered to cause havoc all over the world, and it took Iron Man, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to stop them. Afterwards, even Tony blamed himself for the devastation.
6. KILLED SUPREME INTELLIGENCE
In 1992, the crossover “Operation: Galactic Storm” was another turning point for Iron Man where he tried to do the right thing. In the storyline, the Avengers were caught in a war between the intergalactic Kree and the Shi’ar Empires. The Kree Supreme Intelligence turned out to have arranged the war to annihilate billions of the Kree, hoping to trigger an advancement in evolution.
Having captured the Supreme Intelligence in Avengers #347 (Bob Harras, Steve Epting), Iron Man led a faction who wanted to execute the Kree leader for genocide while Captain America led the majority who felt that went too far. As a founding member of the Avengers, Iron Man drew enough members to kill the creature. It showed Iron Man could make the hard decisions.
5. KIDNAPPED ULYSSES
The original “Civil War” crossover was a turning point for Iron Man that we’ll get to later, but for the moment, let’s talk about 2016’s Civil War II.” Created by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, the miniseries centered around an Inhuman named Ulysses Cain who gets the power to predict the future. While Captain Marvel and her team believe they should be using Ulysses to stop crimes before they happen, Iron Man was opposed to the idea. To stop them, Iron Man kidnapped Ulysses.
While Tony’s intentions were good, the kidnapping of Ulysses triggered the second civil war between Iron Man, Captain Marvel and their teams. They fought over the concept of free will and determinism, and even if you agreed with Tony’s side, his methods caused a lot of problems.
4. FAKED DEATH
In 1983’s Iron Man #169 (Denny O’Neil, Luke McDonnell), Tony Stark’s alcoholism went out of control, and he gave his power suit to Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes to take over as Iron Man while he worked out his problems. It went even further in Iron Man #284 (Len Kaminski, Kevin Hopgood) when it seemed like Tony died and Rhodey took over as CEO of Stark Enterprises.
It was an emotional time for Rhodey, which is why he didn’t take it too well when he discovered years later that Tony had faked his death and put himself in suspended animation instead of dying. While he had used the time to heal his body, Rhodey felt betrayed that Tony hadn’t told him the truth, and it was kind of messed up to lie to his closest friend.
3. WORKING WITH KANG
If you thought the twist of Captain America secretly working for Hydra in Secret Empire was a big one, you should know he wasn’t alone. One of the darkest moments of Iron Man came in the 1995 crossover known as “The Crossing,” where Iron Man was revealed as a traitor. Beginning in Iron Man #319 (Terry Kavanagh, Tom Morgan), Tony Stark revealed he had been working for Kang for years.
After Tony killed the second Yellowjacket and Gilgamesh, the Avengers traveled back in time to get a younger Tony Stark to fight his adult version, and Stark-Prime almost killed teenage Stark, except he sacrificed himself to let teen Stark become the new Iron Man. The whole story was retconned as Immortus pretending to be Kang, and the older Stark was merged with the younger Stark. Marvel tried to pretend it never happened.
2. CIVIL WAR
The 2006 Civil War miniseries (Mark Millar, Steve McNiven) tore the Marvel Universe apart with Captain America on one side and Iron Man the other. When the US passed a new bill requiring all superheroes to register with the government, Iron Man worked with the government to round up superheroes who opposed it.
When you talk about Iron Man on the wrong side, where do we begin? The fact that Tony worked with government soldiers to hunt down and imprison his fellow superheroes? The fact that he got Spider-Man to unmask publicly, something Peter ended up making a deal with the Devil to reverse? The fact that he created a clone of Thor, which killed Goliath? The whole thing was a disaster, and Tony came out looking like a real villain.
1. EXTREMIS 3.0
When it comes to an evil Iron Man, the worst in the mainstream continuity was Superior Iron Man. In earlier issues, the Scarlet Witch cast a spell that inverted the personalities of superheroes and supervillains, including Iron Man. When the spell was reversed, Tony managed to shield himself, letting him stay secretly evil.
In 2015’s Superior Iron Man #1 (Tom Taylor, Yıldıray Çınar), Tony Stark released a smartphone app in San Francisco that let everyone use the Extremis 3.0 virus to change their body however they wanted. However, it wasn’t long before Stark revealed the app was a trial period, and that everyone using it had to pay $99.99 a day. Stark even gave Daredevil brain damage to keep him from revealing his plan. It took a rewrite of reality to undo the effects of that one!
What’s the worst thing you think Iron Man ever did? Let us know in the comments!
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