While Captain America has his shield and the god Thor wields his hammer Mjolnir, Iron Man is pretty much defined by his armor. However, Tony Stark's Iron Man suit isn't made from a secret vibranium-based alloy nor is it a divine godly relic. The Iron Man suit is a work of cutting-edge technology and like all tech, it must evolve with the times or risk becoming obsolete.
As a futurist, Tony Stark has probably strip-mined several major veins of ore to build all his Iron Man armors. But before he developed such famed suits as the Hulkbuster armor and EXTREMIS, he built his first Mark I armor with crude tools from salvaged munitions while held captive by insurgents. Here are ten facts about the Mark I that only a genius like Tony Stark could know:
10 Tony Wore It Long Past Its First Use
Tony Stark is basically the Steve Jobs of WMDs. As a teenager, he built revolutionary weapons in his dad's garage, reinventing the science of micromunitions with his new miniaturized bomblets, then growing his fortune by developing new military contracts. While abroad to help advise military operations in the field and oversee American troops using his tech, a bomb went off, sending shrapnel jagging into his chest. He was seized by enemy combatants, taken alive, but slowly dying from his wounds.
Tony's captors wanted him to build them weapons before he died of his wounds. He built the first Iron Man suit instead, using it to fight his way to freedom. Eventually, he'd made other newer armors. But for a very long time, Tony continued to fight wearing his original Mark I Iron Man armor that he built in captivity.
9 It's His First Avengers Armor
Iron Man is a founding member of the Avengers. Alongside Hulk, Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Thor, the billionaire invented helped establish the greatest superhero team in the Marvel Universe. Unlike the other heroes, Tony Stark had no powers. He was just a smart rich unpowered guy in a fancy metal suit.
When he first helped start the Avengers, his armored suit wasn't even all that cutting edge. In fact, when he joined up with the other heroes, he was still wearing the Mark I, the least sophisticated of all his armors. Still, even though it had been made with crude tools and leftover parts, it was good enough to make him one of Earth's mightiest heroes.
8 The Suit Can Read Its Wearers Thoughts
Just how high- or low-tech the original Mark I is supposed to be depends on who is writing Iron Man at any given moment. Given that the armored Avenger made his debut in Tales of Suspense issue 39 (way back in 1963!) there was not exactly a lot of digital technology around at the time, suggesting his first suit might be an analog armor. Even recent retcons describe his suit as a piece of equipment so unsophisticated he can operate it after taking extreme brain damage.
However, in the original Tales of Suspense story, it's revealed that the Mark I can actually read brain waves! That kind of technology would make the Iron Man armor a brilliant invention by even the most modern standards, showing just how genius Tony Stark really is.
7 It Was The First Thing Tony Made Which Saved Lives
As a weapons designer, Tony Stark has plenty of blood on his hands. During the "EXTREMIS" storyline which updated his origin story, a reporter informed Tony that 18% of the seedpod bombs which he made for the Air Force had failed to fire at the proper time, resulting in detonations that killed civilian children across the Theater of War.
When Tony Stark invented the Mark I, it saved his life from the shrapnel burying its way toward his heart. It was the first time he ever made something that saved a life. After that, he became a superhero to help others and began using his wealth to philanthropically do the same.
6 Tony Thought It Up Years Before Making It
Another tidbit revealed in the "EXTREMIS" story that had profound implications was that Tony Stark had already come up with the idea for a protective exosuit which he pitched to the military long before actually making the Mark I. He called it the "Iron Man Project" and Yinsen--the medical futurist who helped save his life--was present at a conference where he described the idea.
This explains why he could build the armor so quickly. A genius like Tony already knew how the exosuit had to work, so it was just a matter of constructing something whose plans he'd already designed.
5 It Changed Colors
When the Mark I made its debut in Tales of Suspense, Iron Man seemed like more of a horror character than a superhero, his iron-grey armor transforming him from a charismatic handsome playboy into a mechanical inhuman monster, a humuicular golem whose life was saved at the expense of humanity. When he reappeared in the next issue, the character actually scared away the people he was trying to save.
Wanting to be a symbol of hope instead of an object of fear, he repainted the Mark I with a new gold finish. Almost every future suit would include gold along with the signature "hot rod red."
4 Originally It Was Made In Vietnam
In recent stories about Iron Man, the character's origin has been retconned so that he was abducted in Afghanistan, but originally, Tony Stark wasn't in the Middle East at all. He was captured by guerrillas in Vietnam.
There are many reasons to update this origin. For one, the Vietnam War is now decades older than the in-universe age of Tony Stark (who seems to be in his early 40s). The original portrayal of Iron Man in Vietnam involved some really uncomfortable stereotypical depictions of Asian characters, heavy-handed anti-communist propaganda, and dated views on the war.
3 Tony Fought In It After EXTREMIS
During the "Extremis" storyline, several key changes occurred, including the previously-mentioned update of Tony Stark's origins. The story explored how futurists rely on major corporations and military contracts for funding. After being mortally wounded, Tony used the newly-made EXTREMIS serum to rewrite his DNA, storing parts of the Iron Man suit in the hollows of his bones.
This story marked the point where Tony Stark became a true futurist, a superhero powered by his own inventions! A few years later, he would have to downgrade that technology. After storing sensitive information on his brain's hard drive, he began to wipe his brain clean to keep that data from being accessed by the villain Norman Osborn. He couldn't operate his more advanced armors like that. However, even with half a brain, he could use the Mark I.
2 It Can Hold Its Own Against Modern Mechs
When Tony Stark took up his original Mark I while being hunted by Norman Osborn, he knew it was only a matter of time before the villain came after him. After all, Osborn was in charge of Earth's security at the time--a position that Stark had previously held.
Osborn repurposed one of the more recent Iron Man suits to make a new identity for himself as Iron Patriot--the red, white, and blue warmonger who used the colors of American patriotism to legitimize his Stasi-esque gangsterism. When Iron Patriot finally caught up with Iron Man, the hero tried fighting him off while wearing the antiquated Mark I. Surprisingly, the old suit held up for quite a while as it was assaulted with a full bombardment from the newer mech.
1 There Are LOTS Of Gadgets
That Iron Man would build gadgets into his suit should surprise no one. However, in the Silver Age, the Mark I seemed less like a streamlined exosuit and more like something out of the Inspector Gadget cartoons.
Some of these gadgets included a miniature saw in his fingertips, a hose that shot oil, and a radio jamming device that both created noise interference and allowed Iron Man to hijack speaker systems to speak through them at a distance. While these were fun in the Silver Age, the comics are better for having moved past them.