Tony Stark is one of Marvel's most iconic heroes. Both a founding member of the Avengers and the flagship character for the MCU, the futurist superhero has proven his mettle time and again. That said, at the end of the day Iron Man is still just a man and there's only so much one man can do against the various gods, aliens, and superhumans populating the Marvel Universe.
Of course, his lack of powers is the point. What makes Stark such a compelling character is that he's just another unpowered guy like everyone else (albeit a genius billionaire in a mech suit). And like everyone else, sometimes he doesn't come out on top. Here are some examples of when Tony took such a beating, it's a miracle he survived.
10 Busted By Hulk
Tony Stark and the other members of the Illuminati were responsible for sending Bruce Banner into space against his will. When Hulk returned in the World War Hulk event, it was with the intent of smashing all those who wronged him.
Using one of his most famous suits, the Hulkbuster Armor, Tony clashed with the green giant in the skies over New York, only to be knocked right out of the air. During their fight, the Hulkbuster injected Bruce with nanites meant to depower the green giant so he could be slain by a missile bombardment. Instead, Hulk threw Iron Man through Avengers Tower and brought the whole building down on them both. In the end, only Hulk was left standing.
9 That Time Living Laser Leveled Up
Matt Fraction's run of Invincible Iron Man featured some of the most dramatic moments ever to befall the character. During the story "Demon," it's revealed that the Mandarin had been using technology to upgrade the powers of numerous Iron Man villains.
One of the villains to receive such upgrades was Arthur Parks, the Living Laser, whose powers are exactly what one would expect with a name like that. With Mandarin's help, Parks became even faster than before. He attacked Tony, cracking the node in Iron Man's chest and sending the billionaire into cardiac arrest.
8 The Nuclear Option
The "Armor Wars" storyline is considered by fans to be one of the greatest Iron Man stories of all time. Upon learning that technology in the Iron Man armor was being stolen and used by others (including numerous armored supervillains), Tony set out to destroy any mech suits which might be using Stark designs.
Near the end of the series, Iron Man faced off with an armored soldier called Firepower, a government operative whose suit incorporated stolen Stark Tech. During their fight, Firepower launched a nuclear warhead at Iron Man. Needless to say, Tony's suit was obliterated. Thankfully, he'd bailed at the last second and was flying the armor by remote at the time.
While a guy flying around in an armor-plated suit might have been cutting edge back in the 60s, as the years progressed, it started getting harder to claim that Iron Man really represented a futurist hero. That all changed when Warren Ellis wrote the miniseries Iron Man: EXTREMIS, focused on a serum designed to augment human biology by turning people into weapons.
A terrorist named Mallen became infected with the EXTREMIS serum and used his new powers in a series of attacks. When Tony tried to stop him, Mallen broke open the Iron Man suit with his bare hands and absolutely destroyed the armored Avenger. Stark only survived by injecting himself with EXTREMIS to heal, but he altered the serum to allow him to store the metal for the Iron Man armor inside the hollows of his bones.
6 Hacked By Skrulls
During the Secret Invasion event, the shapeshifting alien Skrulls were revealed to have infiltrated Earth, replacing people in key positions of power all over the globe. A series of coordinated attacks threw Earth into chaos as Skrulls impersonated heroes, the Fantastic Four's headquarters was sucked through a portal into the Negative Zone, and Tony Stark's technology was hacked.
At the time, Iron Man was in charge of Earth's security with Stark Tech running all planetary defense satellite and S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers. Furthermore, Stark's body had been turned into a biomechanical tech experiment thanks to EXTREMIS. When the Skrulls hacked his systems, everything failed, including his body.
5 Ultimate Beatdown
There is a reason Tony Stark had to build a specialized armor like the Hulkbuster--the same reason that Hulk appears twice on this list. This second example of Hulk nearly killing Iron Man comes from the Ultimates comic by writer Mark Millar.
When Hulk began rampaging through New York, his teammates were forced to try and stop him. At one point in the fight, the Hulk ripped the Iron Man armor into strips of metal, grabbed Tony Stark by his exposed (and very crushable) head, and threatened to cannibalize the billionaire. If Hulk had just squeezed a bit, the Ultimate Universe would have lost its Iron Man.
4 Haunted By His Demons
While all heroes have their own personal demons, it was in the legendary "Demon in a Bottle" storyline that Tony Stark came face to face with his most enduring enemy: alcoholism.
Over the course of this story, Iron Man's drinking led to him being removed from his position as leader of the Avengers and even driving his butler Jarvis to resign. But why is this a beatdown he barely survived? Well, if drunk driving can be lethal, just imagine piloting a mech suit under the influence. In the story's penultimate issue, Iron Man fought an island full of his enemies, then sank that island into the sea - not something to be attempted under the influence.
3 Patriotic Sacrifice
The Dark Reign crossover of the late '00s featured Norman Osborn assuming control of Earth's defenses and transforming S.H.I.E.L.D. into the new organization known as H.A.M.M.E.R. This was especially scary because all of the superheroes had registered their secret identities into a database during the course of Civil War. That database was in Tony Stark's brain.
In typical over-the-top Tony fashion, he decided the best way to keep other heroes safe was to wipe the hard drive (AKA his brain). This story climaxed with Tony unable to operate advanced suits, wearing his original armor as Norman Osborn - garbed in the Iron Patriot armor - pummeled him into a coma.
2 Mandarin's Leviathan
As was mentioned before, Matt Fraction's run of Invincible Iron Man pushed Tony Stark to the limit. Toward the end of the series, Tony had been imprisoned by his greatest rival, the Mandarin, who was now able to control Tony Stark's every action. Mandarin forced Iron Man to build massive metal leviathans for him - giant mechs capable of destroying the Earth.
In their final showdown, the Mandarin put each of his ten power rings into a different leviathan. Using these new mechanical bodies, the sentient rings began to sunder the Earth's mantle, even as Mandarin unleashed attacks against Tony. If not for other heroes arriving, both Iron Man and the Earth would have perished in that fight.
1 Facing The Phoenix
During the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, the Phoenix Force returned to Earth. The X-Men saw this as a chance for their species to come back from the brink of extinction, while the Avengers feared that the cosmic entity might destroy the planet. Iron Man did not want to take any chances, so he built a suit specifically designed to counter the Phoenix.
The brilliant inventor attempted to intercept the Phoenix before it reached Earth, flying his new mech straight at the fiery entity. Stark thought he might be able to disrupt the unique cosmic energy and maybe even kill the Phoenix. It's a miracle he survived.