There's a good chance when you think of armored superhero, DC or Marvel, the first person that jumps to most people's minds is Iron Man. It makes sense -- the Marvel Cinematic Universe leading off with Iron Man has placed him at the very center of that world, and it's raised his profile in the Marvel Universe significantly as well. It's not as if the character doesn't deserve it either as he built his armor in one of the harshest conditions: in a cave (with a box of scraps), while dying from injuries sustained in a warzone. Since then, he's revised the suit again and again, making him able to stand alongside the Avengers as one of their heaviest hitters. He might not be quite as powerful as the Mighty Thor or the Incredible Hulk, but he's not very far behind them, thanks to his willingness and ability to continually improve and upgrade the abilities of his armor.
But Tony Stark's Iron Man armor isn't the most powerful suit in the Marvel Universe. Not by a long shot. There's a wide variety of heroes and villains alike who've created armors surpassing Tony, easily able to crumple his suit like a tin can if he went at them in a straight up fight. Of course, there are also suits of armor that aren't anywhere in the same league as the Iron Man armor, since it's not exactly easy to have the resources of a billionaire CEO. So for this list, we'll be looking at ten armors which are better than the Iron Man suit, and ten more that don't even come close.
20 STRONGER: DOOM 2099
However improbably, the Doctor Doom of 2099… is still the same Doctor Doom of the modern day, only transported into the future. This version of Victor enjoys numerous upgrades courtesy of the technology of the era, not the least of which being nanotechnology which basically alters Doom’s reflexes and response time.
Over time, Doom improves on his old armor, allowing him to turn intangible, send his brain through the internet (can you tell 2099 was in the '90s), and even remotely activate his infamous time platform. Stark couldn’t beat Doom when he and Victor were both using present-day technology. What chance does he have if there’s access to tech seventy years in the future?
19 WEAKER: IRON SPIDER
During the early 2000s, after Spider-Man started working a bit more closely with the Avengers and Tony Stark, he was given a new suit of armor following his battle with Morlun. The suit was built by Stark, fusing the design ethos of Iron Man and Spider-Man to give Peter his own suit of armor to go into battle with.
Though it boasted quite a few fancy gadgets, there’s no way Stark would ever make a suit for someone else more powerful than what he has for himself. It wouldn’t be smart, especially if they turned against him, like Peter eventually had to during the events happening during Civil War.
18 STRONGER: APOCALYPSE
One suit of armor barely ever thought about is the one worn by the man said to be the first mutant, En Sabah Nur. Apocalypse’s armor was crafted by the Celestials themselves, and grants him a number of additional abilities on top of his own incredible powers, including giving some of his power to people who worship him.
The armor is remarkably durable, having survived everything from fights against the X-Men to restraining the Hulk himself. While Stark’s armors have always been impressive, he’s definitely not capable of fighting on the same level as a Celestial most of the time.
17 WEAKER: DETROIT STEEL
A creation from Justine and Sasha Hammer, the Detroit Steel was meant to be the new weapon they’d sell to the military, helping their company become the foremost weapons maker. The suit was gigantic and gaudy, but it was also able to be mass constructed instead of being one big series of unending prototypes tuned for a single person like the Iron Man armor.
They contain chainsaws, cannons, and chest beams and offer upgraded strength, but the suit simply doesn’t compare to the work of art Stark has with the Iron Man armor. Nor is it intended to -- it’s mass-produced, it’s meant to be handed out to multiple soldiers to “revolutionize war”, not deal with superheroes.
16 STRONGER: IRON LAD
Nathaniel Richards was a young boy from the 30th century who just happened to be told by his future self he’d grow up to become one of the biggest threats to the Avengers of all time. Disgusted at the thought of becoming such a “conqueror”, Nathaniel struck out at his future self then traveled back in time to find the Avengers.
Now while Nathaniel doesn’t have the experience as a hero that Tony does, and would likely lose in a straight up fight, there’s no question his suit is superior to Tony’s. It’s reworked from technology given to him by Kang, meaning at best it’s technology from the 30th century, but it could easily be from even further in the future.
15 WEAKER: BEETLE
Abner Jenkins was a mechanic who decided to go into crime because he was tired of working a crappy, boring job. That’s gotta be the most relatable supervillain origin ever. But the Beetle (in any of the numerous incarnations) never poses much of a threat to any superheroes they face.
His armor increases his strength enough to lift a couple of tons at best, which is so far out of the league of Iron Man he barely deserves to be mentioned. The Beetle is competently designed armor, but it’s usually designed by someone that doesn’t have access to the sort of materials Stark uses.
14 STRONGER: IRON MAN 2020
As always, stronger is relative. At the time this suit was introduced, the year 2020 was 36 years into the future. There, Arno Stark was the nephew of Tony Stark, and spent a lot of his time operating as a mercenary while also running Tony’s business.
Spending a lot of his appearances hopping around time, Arno had one physical run in with Tony, and ultimately wound up being unable to beat Tony’s mastery with the armor and experience. But even with that being the case, it’s pretty hard to keep up with a version of the Iron Man armor from several decades in the future.
13 WEAKER: TITANIUM MAN
Any longtime Iron Man fan will notice that Iron Man has a lot of Soviet villains in his past. A Cold War creation, there was just too much opportunity to do stories about exceptionalism in America versus communism to pass up. Titanium Man is one of the best examples of this, with the character making their first appearance by challenging Iron Man to one on one combat in front of the world on live television.
Titanium Man lost the battle against Iron Man, and that kind of sets up exactly how every encounter the two characters have had since. The armor’s built with inferior materials and technology, and while often having greater strength than Iron Man, that was never enough to get him the win.
12 STRONGER: DESTROYER
The Destroyer armor is what happens when you need to go to war with the gods themselves. Created by Odin to fight the Celestials, the armor was crafted out of metal surpassing even that of Uru itself, and enchanted with Odin’s own magical energy to make him even more powerful. The suit is almost invulnerable, and grants its user super speed, strength, and stamina beyond measure.
It’s safe to say Tony isn’t capable of building an armor surpassing that of the gods themselves… not without access to some of their tech, at the very least. And while it didn’t actually win that fight with the Celestials, it was up against eight of them at once. Even Stark’s best efforts likely aren’t getting past one.
11 WEAKER: DARLA DEERING'S ARMOR
Darla Deering was a super successful pop star that was dating Johnny Storm when the Fantastic Four decided to go on a trip through spacetime. Though the team is only meant to be gone for four minutes, Darla winds up joining the team alongside She-Hulk, Ant-Man and Medusa and becoming the new FF.
When the original team is gone for longer than they expected, Darla dons an armor which gives her abilities mimicking the Thing’s strength. While the Thing is pretty impressive, and Reed could doubtless build an even better version of this armor, what Darla wore at the time isn’t any match for a suit finely tuned for what Iron Man needs it for.
10 STRONGER: KANG THE CONQUEROR
A theme of this list is Tony simply can’t keep up against technology which exists beyond what’s possible in the present day, especially if it’s far enough ahead they can capitalize off all of his inventions. In Kang’s case, he’s literally a time traveler, going to different eras to pull their best resources and weapons together to give himself an advantage in every encounter.
Kang’s armor is powerful enough to take a nuclear attack, and he can summon weapons from his armories through the time stream. He’s not one of the Avengers’ most major villains for nothing.
9 WEAKER: GUARDIAN
James Hudson was a scientist working for Am-Cam Oil, inventing a suit which would let them search for oil underground. But despite being made for such a mundane reason, Am-Cam Oil revealed it was meant to become a weapon, which led to going to the government in Canada and putting his talents to use there, where he would eventually become Guardian.
The armor granted him the ability to fly, lift up to four tons, and granted him access to a wide array of energy from an anti-gravity ray to electromagnetic beams. Pretty impressive, but James’ unwillingness to even approach this armor for the purposes of being a weapon puts it beyond the Iron Man armor, created by someone who built a fortune off making weapons.
8 STRONGER: DARKHAWK
Chris Powell was a young man who stumbled on an amulet which gave him mysterious powers. Spending years not knowing where the amulet came from (and even being lied to on its origins), during War of Kings we learned these powers really came from the Fraternity of Raptors, weapons initially created by Shi’ar technology.
Though the Darkhawk armor isn’t normally as strong as Iron Man’s, what it does have is the ability to alter and reconfigure itself at a whim to make better armor, weaponry, or even grow in size. It’s also capable of repairing itself when Chris isn’t wearing it, something even Tony Stark has yet to figure out for his usual armors.
7 WEAKER: STINGRAY
Though the character has a pretty cool design, there really isn’t much to Stingray. His suit grants him the ability to explore the depths of the sea, enhances his strength several times over, and electric blasts... but none of it is anywhere near the range of Stark tech. During the Armor Wars, when Tony was turning any armor using his tech to slag, he easily defeated Stingray in one on one combat.
He’s such a joke that the character was easily knocked out by Namor and almost killed in a recent issue of Avengers. He’s good for exploring the ocean, but Iron Man has battled much bigger threats and won.
6 STRONGER: INFAMOUS IRON MAN
The difference between Dr. Doom and Iron Man’s armors is a difference of degrees. Tony Stark runs one of the largest corporations in the world in Stark Industries/Unlimited, while Victor runs an entire country. Stark is one of the top five smartest minds in the world, while Victor is very likely top two (let’s not get into which spot he takes, in case he’s reading).
And while Stark embraces science over the arcane arts, Victor isn’t averse to magic in the least. All these things come together and illustrate a single fact -- when Doom took over Iron Man’s place in the world, he was unquestionably better at it.
5 WEAKER: CRIMSON DYNAMO
Predating Titanium Man all of two issues, Crimson Dynamo was created by Anton Vanko, a genius physicist specializing in electricity. Asked by the USSR to sabotage Stark Industries, Vanko wound up getting into it with Iron Man. Surprisingly, his armor originally DID have one benefit over the Iron Man suit -- it was able to keep running by a self-sustaining electric generator.
That didn’t stop him from losing to Tony Stark, and in time eventually the Crimson Dynamo simply couldn’t keep up. It would be upgraded almost as many times as the Iron Man armor over the years, but again and again it proved incapable of beating Stark out.
4 STRONGER: VIBRANIUM ARMOR DOOM
Just reading the words “Doom wore vibranium armor once” is absolutely scary. Still, during 2010 Marvel did a story called “DoomWar”, where Victor invaded Wakanda to gain control over their vibranium resources.
In the last two issues, he built an armor out of the vibranium, and with his magical abilities had the ability to detect all traces of the powerful metal on the planet. So essentially he was the same Doom as before, with an armor that had all the benefits granted by the wonder metal. Expectedly, this turned Doom into a high level threat which required the attention of not only Black Panther, but all the other major heroes on Earth as well.
3 WEAKER: WAR MACHINE
This being “weaker” than Stark’s armors is a bit of a half truth. The first time this suit was used, it actually was Stark’s. He’d wound up in battle against some assassins known as the Masters of Silence, and his remotely controlled armor wound up getting completely wrecked in that combat.
To fight back against this threat, Stark creates a more heavily armored suit outfitted with enough weapons to take out an entire battalion. Eventually, he customizes it specifically for James Rhodes and passes it on, and during that time it was roughly equal to Stark’s work. But Stark continued to innovate and add new abilities to the Iron Man armor until it far surpassed this design.
2 STRONGER: EIDOLON WARWEAR
James Rhodes didn’t always wear Tony Stark’s hand-me-downs. For a while in the '90s, the character had his own ongoing series, and while he wore the original War Machine armor for some time, about halfway through the series the suit was destroyed, and he was forced to bond with an alien suit known as the Eidolon Warwear.
The suit was well ahead of its time for the '90s, allowing Rhodes access to interstellar travel, something Tony Stark still can’t do without a ship. It also had high levels of adaptability to extreme environments, and was capable of repairing both itself and the wearer.
1 WEAKER: GUARDSMAN
Kevin O’Brien was a scientist who Stark met while checking out a plant in the Pacific Ocean. Impressed by his abilities, he invited him back to his main plant. Kevin proved so invaluable, Stark eventually revealed his identity as Iron Man to him, and built O’Brien his own suit of armor known as the Guardsman.
While the Guardsman armor was based off the design he was using, the suit itself was both stripped down from his usual armor and flawed from the beginning, eventually driving O’Brien insane and forcing Stark to face his friend in a one on one battle which resulted in O’Brien’s unfortunate demise.