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When Was Iron Man's Armor First Autonomous?

In "When We First Met," we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a suggestion by Cy T., we look to see when Iron Man's armor was first autonomous.

What Cy had in mind was a bit from Superman #386 (by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Dave Hunt). This was after Lex Luthor was revamped as part of Superman's 35th anniversary along with Brainiac to make them more powerful and deadly threats to Superman. So Luthor upped his battle suit game a lot after he accidentally destroyed his own planet in an attempt to destroy Superman. Luthor's brain could not handle the fact that he destroyed his own people (including his wife and kid) and so he convinced himself that it was secretly Superman's fault, making Luthor hate Superman more than ever before.

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Well, in Superman #386, Luthor goes to visit Clark Kent. He enters without his armor, as his armor just flies around Metropolis without him...

As it turns out, Luthor wants Clark Kent to spread the "truth" of Superman's actions...

Luthor then jumps out of the window, but his armor is there waiting for him...

So there ya go, that's the level of autonomy that Cy is looking for.

The first closest example we have is a period where Tony Stark was paralyzed and he couldn't even trust himself to wear the Iron Man armor (because someone had "hacked" the cybernetic outfit he wore to interface with his armor while he was paralyzed). So, in Iron Man #272 (by John Byrne, Paul Ryan and Bob Wiacek), Tony is forced to operate the Iron Man armor remotely...

Tony would do that a lot over the next thirty issues. Does it count as autonomous if it is remote controlled? Probably not.

Interestingly, when Len Kaminski and Kev Hopgood introduced a new Iron Man armor in Iron Man #290 (a new remote-controlled unit), the design specs note that it DOES work autonomously...

So that's really the answer. My only problem with that is that we never actually get to see it DO that. It's just mentioned in the manual. That's a bit like cheating, right?

In Iron Man #27 (of the third Iron Man volume - by Joe Quesada, Sean Chen and Rob Hunter), the armor literally came to life and became sentient...

But that's not the sort of thing you're talking about, right, Cy? That's a whole other deal!

The next best example is the "S.K.I.N." armor by Frank Tieri and Keron Grant, where Iron Man's armor works sort of like a symbiote...

Robin Laws and Robert Teranishi introduced another sort of autonomous armor in Iron Man #71...

Then Warren Ellis introduced the idea of Extremis, the virus that merged Iron Man with his armor, basically, and so the armor really began to move autonomously just like Lex Luthor's armor, surrounding Iron Man, like this scene in Invincible Iron Man #1 by Matt Fraction and Salvadaor Larroca...

Thanks for the suggestion, Cy!

If anyone else has a question/suggestion for a notable comic book first, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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