Iron Man Noir: How Tony Stark Became the Hero of Yesterday

Before redefining Batman in the DC Universe, award-winning writer Scott Snyder first reimagined a different rich playboy superhero for Marvel Comics with artist Manuel Garcia. As part of Marvel's Noir line, set in an alternate universe during the 1930s, Snyder and Garcia teamed up to create Iron Man Noir in a fan-favorite miniseries first published in 2009.

Now, CBR is taking a look back at the the Noir Universe's Armored Avenger and how he was able create an advanced power suit with the limited technology of the pulp era.

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The concept of Marvel Noir began when Fabrice Sapolsky, editor of the French comic magazine Comic Box, pitched the concept of an alternate incarnation of Spider-Man blending the classic superhero with film noir sensibilities and a stylized 1930s setting to writer and artist David Hine in 2006. Impressed, Marvel announced the creation of the Marvel Noir Universe, featuring noir and pulp-tinged versions of several of their popular characters, reimagined for this gritty, predominantly monochrome world.

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There would ultimately be nine Marvel Noir miniseries in all, published from 2009 to 2010, including two Spider-Man Noir miniseries, two X-Men Noir miniseries, and a Daredevil Noir miniseries that received particular acclaim for taking advantage of its moody setting. Spider-Man Noir and the Noir Universe would be adapted to other media including video games, animated series, and a memorable appearance in last year's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with the character voiced by Nicolas Cage.


The Marvel Noir Universe incarnation of Tony Stark is still a genius playboy billionaire philanthropist, but he's also a globe-trotting adventurer in the style of Indiana Jones and Doc Savage. Stark's latest expedition leads him and his team, which includes James Rhodes and Doctor Gialetta Nefaria, to find a fabled emerald mask deep within a remote temple in the heart of a Latin American jungle. Nefaria reveals she is secretly working with the Nazis, including Baron Zemo and Baron Strucker, with Stark and Rhodes barely escaping with their lives.

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Teaming up with Pepper Potts upon his return home, Stark reveals that his heart has been damaged over the course of his adventures, and that he requires an electrical device to survive. Using Nefaria's journal, Stark discovers the location of Atlantis and enlists Captain Namor to guide him through use of his ship and submarine to find a trident made from the mythical metal orichalum, a substance capable of serving as a major power boost.


After Pepper is kidnapped by Zemo and Nefaria, who embraces her villainous identity as Madame Masque, Tony builds an advanced suit of armor using schematics left behind by his long-lost father Howard Stark before his mysterious disappearance years ago. The Noir version of the iconic power armor has clear steampunk influences with a large steam-powered pack prominently on the armor's back and hoses connecting the power source to other components of the suit. It's constructed much more piece-meal than the classic armor, although it still possesses the electromagnetic arc reactor at the core of the breastplate.

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Tony and Rhodes discover that Zemo is actually the missing Howard Stark, who's working for the Nazis by constructing similar suits of armor for himself and the Third Reich. Engaging in a massive battle at Zemo's castle to rescue Pepper, Stark uses the last of the power in his repulsors' energy to supercharge the orichalum and cause a massive explosion, wiping out Howard and his armored army. With Pepper now returned to safety, Tony vows to abandon his adventuring in favor of dedicating his resources directly towards defending the world from rising threats.

Although Iron Man Noir has a handful of appearances, his series represents the bulk of the Marvel work from one DC's biggest writers and remains something of a hidden gem within the Marvel Noir Universe.

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