Alcoholism. Futurism. The perils of maintaining awesome facial hair. Over the years, Tony Stark has dealt with some pretty serious issues within the pages of Iron Man as well as the overall wider Marvel Universe. He's had some great writers too, like Denny O'Neil, Kurt Busiek, David Michelinie, and Matt Fraction. But that doesn't mean every Iron Man story has been good. Some of them have been downright ridiculous, even.
For this list, we're looking at the Top 10 Iron Man stories that just don't make any sense at all. It could be the plot set-up or even just the way it all ended. No Iron Man comics are off-limits, anything that featured him prominently is fair game.
10 THE REPLACEMENT
When Tony one day realizes the danger of being a superhero probably doesn’t match up well with his heart condition, he decides to give the armor up. But wanting there to still be an Iron Man, he decides to find someone new to wear the armor. His friend Happy Hogan hooks him up with Eddie March in Iron Man vol. 1 #21, a former boxer.
March learns to pilot the suit well but later goes down after a particularly hard hit, jolting Tony back into action. Apparently, Tony never thought to see if a former boxer might have some kind of dangerous head injuries? Guess it’s easy to avoid doing health screening when the first pilot would’ve failed them as well.
9 IRON MAN VS. TITANIUM MAN
Tales of Suspense #69 sees the introduction of Titanium Man, a larger, greener, and lamer version of Crimson Dynamo. This storyline's elevator pitch is that Iron Man is challenged to fight Titanium Man as a way of showing whether capitalism or communism is the superior economics system.
While this issue is fun, it doesn’t exactly make much sense. Why did Tony accept the challenge? He has literally nothing to gain from it. Why is Titanium Man so stupid? He literally gets told they can’t make a suit as advanced as Tony’s but chances it anyway. This is really just cool because it’s such a high concept story.
8 MY SON...THE MINOTAUR
In the early days of Iron Man’s solo comic, there was an ongoing love triangle between Stark, his SHIELD bodyguard Jasper Sitwell, and Whitney Frost, who would become Madame Masque. On a mission to recover Frost in Iron Man #24, Iron Man runs afoul of a literal minotaur, once a sickly child cursed to become a minotaur because of his father’s attempts to cure him.
Despite Iron Man’s armor putting him on par with the Hulk and Namor in the past, for a number of flimsy reasons he winds up struggling against the Minotaur, and it’s only when he has a change of heart and decides to save Jasper and Whitney that Iron Man manages to make an escape from a collapsing cavern.
7 THE MASK IN THE IRON MAN
Lest this list consist solely of old Silver Age stories, we have The Mask in the Iron Man. After a battle with Blacklash includes Tony’s armor being struck by lightning, we have a storyline in which Tony starts to see his armor come to life. The armor is said to have endured all of Tony’s prior experiences and has all of his memories, but rather than behaving like Tony does and being a chill AI that hangs out with him, it acts like a jealous, jilted lover.
The only thing that stops it is Tony experiencing a heart attack only to be given the newly grown “heart” of his sentient armor. It feels like this only happened to put Tony back in the Classic suit for some time.
6 THE MYSTERIOUS MR. DOLL
Tales of Suspense #48 features Mr. Doll, a villain who can shape a mysterious doll to resemble a person, then cause them extreme pain. Iron Man catches him while he’s torturing someone else and starts tossing him around like a pizza, which should be the end of the story...but for whatever reason, Mr. Doll is capable of changing the figure in mid-air.
What makes no sense about this issue is the ending; Stark changes armors, not to avoid the doll, but...to better withstand the pain it causes. Worse, since Doll was chasing millionaires, the cops had already done their due diligence and were already guarding Stark and could’ve easily taken him down. He only had one doll, after all.
5 TEEN TONY
'90s Marvel had a ton of bad ideas until its eventual “reboot that wasn’t a reboot” Heroes Return set everything right. But before that, Iron Man fans had to suffer through Teen Tony. After Iron Man had been revealed to be a tool of Kang the Conqueror, the Avengers figured the only way to stop him was with a Tony from another timeline.
Okay, that’s cool, but...somehow someone got the bright idea to go and get a teenage version of Tony. In real life, obviously, they wanted to inject youth into the book, but...how does getting a Tony Stark with zero experience help the Avengers?
4 CONVENTION OF FEAR
Iron Man vol. 1 #72’s “Convention of Fear” is a strange story. After just barely defeating big villains like the Mandarin and Ultimo, Iron Man gets assailed by some lower-tier villains from his Rogues Gallery like the Melter, Whiplash, and Man-Bull.
Despite multiple attacks on his life, instead of figuring out what’s happening, Stark decides to go to a comic convention. Realizing he needs a disguise though, he goes as Iron Man! Obviously, the villains wind up there coincidentally as well, and Iron Man takes them out amidst fans who quickly figure out he’s not a simple cosplayer.
3 IRON MAN: THE CROSSING
Initially intended to be the denouement of the original Tony Stark, the stories leading up to The Crossing showed Stark acting more and more out of character, culminating in quite a big reveal: Tony has been working with Kang the Conqueror.
This would have been less ridiculous if it was a recent development, but the story implies this has been true for years. In that case...why now? Kang had the Avengers on the ropes before, why not use his double agent and win years prior? More importantly, if Tony was always given to be a bad guy...why bring back a version of him as a teenager?
2 CIVIL WAR
Civil War is a Marvel Universe story, but it’s also got Iron Man as, strangely, the main antagonist. When some inexperienced heroes fighting a villain leads to the deaths of hundreds, the world starts to question all these ungoverned vigilantes running about.
Tony Stark decides to become the face of the heroes willing to be “responsible” and side with the government. The trouble is, Tony spent several decades working against governmental control of both his inventions and the Iron Man armor. He even fought once with Nick Fury because SHIELD tried to do a corporate takeover of Stark Industries to force them into making weapons again.
1 TRAPPED BY THE RED BARBARIAN
Many of Stark’s earliest adventures present him as a Captain of Industry dealing with the “red scourge” of communism. It worked well for the era, though it looks dated nowadays. One of the most ridiculous villains Stark had from this era came from Tales of Suspense #42, known as The Actor.
The Actor could make himself resemble anyone with make-up and masks, even though that’s not how make-up worked at all back then. After successfully stealing some plans and weapons from Stark Industries, the Actor gets caught by Iron Man...who fools some bumbling members of the Red Army into believing he is the Actor...and steals his inventions back. The Actor then later pops up and is immediately shot, because his commander doesn’t believe it’s him. It’s a plot straight out of Hogan’s Heroes.