You've found yourself in a predicament. Whether you're about to fight an army singlehandedly, been drafted into a war on crime by Batman or have to fight Superman, you've encountered a big threat that requires more than your fragile human bones and precious organs can handle. Even Kevlar won't cut it when you're squaring off against individuals who can make concentrated death fly from their face. You're gonna need some protection, and these 15 powered armor suits are here to help.
To qualify, armors in question had to be a suit of protective material that runs on a power source; Cyborgs do not qualify. Also, we are going to draw the line at giant mecha, even though they are essentially huge power armor. With that in mind, these 15 battle suits are ranked based on power, toughness and overall style.
15 LADY STILT-MAN
Equipped with reinforced body armor, hydraulic stilts and the most ridiculous name ever, Lady Stilt-Man struts into your hearts in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #611 by Joe Kelly and Eric Canete. Like her hero, Stilt-Man (yes, seriously), Lady Stilt-Man’s telescopic stilts give her the ability to temporarily propel herself into the air, as well as reach things that are, like, really high up. Unlike Stilt-Man, Lady Stilt-Man asked herself, “Why not put super-strong telescoping stilts… on my arms?” Thus, she developed a set of adaptive hydraulic extending arms that seem like an obvious addition in retrospect, not unlike adding pockets on the Snuggie 2.0.
Why does Lady Stilt-Man get the position over Stilt-Man? Because of that name! Lady Stilt-Man is the dumbest named thing ever, and we are well aware that Lady Mastermind, X-Treme and Paste Pot Pete exist. Lady Stilt-Man’s name is in homage to her hero, implying that she is unworthy of The Stilt-Man moniker. In her debut, the defeated Lady Stilt-Man sobs, as crafting a set of personalized Stilt-Man armor is easily hitting the rock bottom of super-villainy.
14 ROCKET RED
First appearing in “Green Lantern Corps” #208 by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton, Rocket Red is a title given to any member of the Rocket Red Brigade, a group of super-enhanced Soviet heroes wearing a suit of battle armor originally designed by Kilowog. The Rocket Red battle armor augments the wearer’s already enhanced physical abilities, in addition to granting them flight and plenty of ordinance. Likewise, some incarnations of the suit have had a mecha-sense, allowing Rocket Red to take control of other machines.
Though the Rocket Red brigade primarily serve as peacekeepers for Russia, Rocket Red’s most shining moment would have to come during “The Return” from “Justice League Unlimited,” forming the second line of defense against the God-tier Amazo android. When a barrage of missiles prove ineffective against a robot with literally every superpower ever, Red switches to his shoulder-mounted gatling gun (a powered armor must-have) to shoot the golden god right in the face while boosting away in retreat. Rocket Red just witnessed the entirety of the space-bound Justice League members and Supergirl fall before the highly adaptive android, but here’s some face-bullets for you anyway, courtesy of the USSR.
13 THE POWERS INTERNATIONAL BATSUIT
Crashing in during the aptly named “Batman: Superheavy” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, this mechanized Batsuit is the GCPD’s answer to a Gotham without Batman. Electing Jim Gordon to step in as the new capeless caped crusader, the GCPD Batsuit compensates for a Batman who doesn’t have Bruce Wayne levels of combat training. Designed by Powers International (the primary corporate antagonist from “Batman Beyond”), the new Batsuit features electrified batarangs, thermal/sonic arm-cannons, cape-shaped bomb shield, digital camouflage, thermal detective vision, multi-response missile pods, and a built-in EKG/defibrillator/ambulatory response system. The suit also doubles as back-up, operating somewhat autonomously on a “nimble auto program.” Despite being “basic,” the program gives the suit enough combat-knowhow to effectively wield a pair of sharks as melee weapons.
There’s a certain amount of self-awareness of the inherent goofiness of this new Batsuit, as even Gordon comments that it looks like a “robobatbunny.” Thematically however, it’s interesting to see a bureaucratically designed Batman. This is a Batman fully integrated with the law, syncing with the Bat App, which is basically an emergency Bat-symbol app developed in the days after Batman’s (most recent) demise.
When Superman was about to be killed by Doomsday, Dr. John Henry Irons grabbed a big sledgehammer and tried to combat the monster before being buried under a pile of rubble. Though unable to repay Superman for saving his life, this moment of heroism motivated John to take up a heroic mantle in honor of Superman, crafting his own supersuit to become “The Man of Steel,” later shortened to “Steel” by a not-dead Superman. The original “Man of Steel” armor featured a rivet gun, a Superman Symbol in memoriam, rocket boots and of course a giant sledge-hammer.
Besides being one of the few African American heroes without black in their name (no matter how cool Black Steel may sound), Steel’s power armor grants him a variety of abilities that enable him to be an effective Superman. Besides the typical flight, strength and endurance, the most impressive piece of Steel’s arsenal is his “smart hammer," which hits harder the further it is thrown, can fly, and can seek out the weak points of a target thanks to an on-board computer guidance system. Also, it is impossible to read "Steel" without hearing Shaq’s voice in your head.
11 THE HELLBAT
Made by the Justice League for Batman in “Batman and Robin” #33 by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, The Hellbat is the Justice League's gift to Batman, allowing him to serve in the front-lines in scenarios that a guy dressed like a bat definitely wouldn’t survive. The Hellbat grants Batman increased strength, endurance, flight, adaptive camouflage, a uni-beam style energy blast and a shape-shifting cape that turns into bats when ripped off.
The Hellbat was forged in the center of the Sun by Superman to ensure its durability, outfitted with Cyborg-level technology and Speed Force tested by the Flash. That being said, the Hellbat runs off of Batman’s own metabolism, killing him if worn for too long. Factor in the prehensile shape-shifting cape, and it becomes apparent that this is basically Batman in a "Spawn" costume, Hellish theme and all. Honestly, the Hellbat is just a terrible gift: “Hey Batman! Here’s a suit that you need to wear to survive all of the ridiculous scenarios we find ourselves in, but will totally kill you if worn too long! Good luck figuring that out 'cause we gotta go fight Darkseid or whatever now.”
Making her debut in Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men," Armor, or Hisako Ichiki, has the unique mutant power of being able to summon a transparent suit of psionic armor, comprised of and strengthened by the memories of her ancestors. Therefore, the more members of Hisako’s bloodline that die, the stronger her armor becomes. This transparent exoskeleton is extremely durable, enabling Hisako to safely fall back into Earth’s atmosphere perfectly intact. Likewise, when under extreme duress, Hisako can increase the armor’s size, strength and physical weaponry drastically, at one point enabling her to engage in fisticuffs with Marvel’s resident kaiju, Fing Fang Foom.
Besides being unable to block lasers, Hisako’s exoskeleton cannot stop adamantium. As Wolverine demonstrates, his claws can penetrate Armor’s armor, but stops once it reaches his skin. Fortunately for Hisako, Wolverine’s claws are just slightly shorter than the thickness of Hisako’s armor. Interestingly, the Muramasa blad -- the one blade that can kill regenerating mutants like Wolverine and can cut through anything -- cannot cut through Armor’s armor, because you can’t cut a memory. So, Wolverine can kill Hisako, but Hisako cannot be killed by the thing that can kill Wolverine.
9 IRON SPIDER ARMOR
During “Civil War” by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, Iron Man gave Spidey his own arachnoid set of umber armor. The fact that Tony outfitted Spidey with three Doc Ock-esque arms (called “waldoes”) should have been a red flag that Peter was on the wrong side of the Civil War, however this suit’s perks were too good to resist. There’s a whole bunch of techno jargon weaved into this protein-scale nano-technology fabricated suit. In addition to the three telescopic arms equipped with cameras in the tips, the Iron Spider suit has an active camouflage, full-spectrum analysis visors, stingers, a mask filtration system with eight minutes of air, and seventeen layers designed to do whatever a mechanized spider can.
Spider-Man has worn a variety of armors over the years, most notably the silver bullet-proof armor, but as Spidey explains, “they haven’t developed a word for how cool this armor is.” The Iron Spider is a truly different twist on the classic character. In fact, it proved to be enough of a well-designed character to prompt the commission of a trio of Iron Spiders, all trained in authentic Spider-Man Spider-jitsu by Taskmaster himself.
Why would Superman (or any of his incarnations) need power armor? Debuting in “Infinite Crisis” by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez, Superboy-Prime designed his armor after the Anti-Monitor’s Harness, serving as an energy collector that feeds Prime yellow sunlight. While the armor helps Superboy compensate for his time spent imprisoned under red sunlight, it buffs the already super Superboy-Prime. Armored Superboy-Prime is able to take on The Teen Titans, Martian Manhunter, Powergirl and the whole Green Lantern Corps by himself. Armored Superboy-Prime is even powerful enough to kill Superboy (Connor Kent), catching/crushing his cloned Kryptonian fist as if it were nothing. The armor also has defensive capabilities, allowing Superboy to withstand a flurry of Black Adam’s magically imbued punches and any other magic attack — a Kryptonian’s greatest weakness next to kryptonite.
Superboy Prime's armor could have made him the strongest character in the DC multiverse, were it not for his immaturity and overall diva attitude. Regardless, it takes the combined strength of Silver Age Earth-2 Superman and modern Superman seizing Prime and charging through a field of kryptonite before plunging through a red sun just to destroy Superboy-Prime’s armor, leaving Superboy intact.
7 THE APOCALYPSE ARMOR
The Apocalypse Armor is a set of tubular gear crafted by the Celestials — basically the strongest entities in the Marvel Universe — given to “evolutionary caretakers” in their species to promote growth. In this instance, the Apocalypse Armor (dubbed by Psylocke in “Uncanny X-Force” #35 by Rick Remender, Phil Noto and Frank Martin Jr.), gives Apocalypse’s already overpowered power-set an advanced edge. In addition to offering Celestial levels of protection, the armor augments Apocalypse’s already advanced mutant abilities, allowing Apocalypse to enhance others, as well as granting him powers he is isn't even aware of.
The Apocalypse Armor has not only been worn by En Sabah Nur, but also his clone Evan, who was given the armor by Daken during “Uncanny X-Force.” When wearing the armor, Evan’s fledgling powers are greatly augmented, enabling Evan to save Wolverine from Daken, as well as nearly killing Mystique and Sabretooth. Being celestially crafted, the Apocalypse Armor is more durable than most armors on this list, with the only thing able to damage it being Jarnbjorn — a time-displaced, Asgardian enchanted blade from Kang The Conqueror.
6 BATMAN BEYOND
Though its agile and sleek design is somewhat deceptive, the "Batman Beyond" batsuit is totally a set of power armor. Bruce Wayne originally built the suit just to compensate for an aging Batman stuck in the never-ending war on crime, as wearing the suit enhances its user’s capabilities at least tenfold. Despite being “old” in Neo Gotham, the Batsuit remains cutting edge, equipped with an active camouflage, rocket boots, strength and durability enhancers, wire-tapping fingertips, bolas, deployable wings, an array of vision modes, retractable claws and wrist-mounted Batarang launchers. This suit is a power armor with an emphasis on power, but also grants the wearer some resistance to electric shock, fire and radiation, which is super-necessary when your primary antagonist, Blight, can render you sterile just by standing next to you.
When worn by Terry McGuinness, the Batsuit perfectly complements Terry’s more acrobatic fighting style, with the suit adapting to the wearer’s physical stature. Being the last Bruce Wayne designed Batsuit, there’s no way The Batman Beyond suit wouldn’t make it onto this list. As Joker explains, "Ears are too long and I miss the cape. But not too shabby. Not too shabby at all."
5 THE DESTROYER ARMOR
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Destroyer Armor is perhaps the most perplexing of power armors, as technically it cannot be worn. However, the Destroy has the ability to suck the soul out of any being that gets too close to it, animating the armor and serving as its power source. When powered up, the Destroyer armor exhibits ludicrous speed, strength and reflexes, flight, and the ability to transmute materials. The Destroyer’s most devastating weapon is a facial disintegration ray that can destroy anything, especially the first law of thermodynamics. However, The Destroyer Armor technically cannot be worn, but controlled -- as in issued commands. That being said, The Destroyer can easily overpower the will of its controller.
Created by Odin specifically to combat Celestials, The Destroyer Armor is comprised of an unknown metal stronger than Uru (the stuff Mjolnir is made out of), further enhanced with Odin’s magic. This results in a suit of armor that finally resolves the theological question: Could Odin create a suit of armor that even He himself could not damage? You’re goddamn right he can, as the Destroyer has withstood an energy blast from Odin without sustaining any damage whatsoever.
4 LEX LUTHOR’S WARSUIT
When your nemesis is the Man of Steel, you've got to step up your protection game, which is when you step into a hulking piece of battle-armor. Lex has donned many incarnations of his Warsuit, which, despite being specialized to combat Superman, serves as an effective suit of power armor no matter the occasion. When the villains of the DC universe finally make a run of taking over the world in “Forever Evil,” Lex knows not to leave his trusty Warsuit at home. The Warsuit is literally a match for Superman, made apparent by the fact that when Lex decides to finally prove to the world that we don’t need a Superman, the Lexcorp Warsuit enables him to act as an interim Man of Steel.
Equipped with the standard flight, super strength and durability, Lex also equipped his war-suit with kryptonite in every color of the rainbow, each specifically located in the fingers of the right gauntlet. Incidentally, the power-sapping red kryptonite is appropriately located in the middle finger.
3 THE JUSTICE BUSTER
Emerging in “Batman: Endgame” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, The Justice Buster is Batman’s answer to the Hulk-Buster, the very existence of which begs the question, “Why have a specialized set of powered armor designed to take out just one of your closest friends/colleagues?” The Justice Buster is specialized to go to war with the whole Justice League. For the Flash, there’s “REDRUN,” a frictionless coating gun hooked up to an aim-bot whose servers pack enough processing power to map Flash’s movements. For Aquaman, there’s a cute elbow-mounted pink foam cannon that immobilizes and dehydrates. There’s an electromagnetic nerve tree for Cyborg, while Green Lantern gets a citrine neurolizer.
The best parts of the Justice Buster are the gadgets designed to counter Superman. There’s plasma shields to deflect heat vision, thermal and thrust for the freeze breath, but our favorite is a knuckleduster inlaid with microscopic red suns that Batman calls his “Red Giants.” Batman threw “more money into this suit than about sixty percent of the world’s nations put into their respective militaries,” and judging from how effective The Justice Buster was in incapacitating a Justice League league poisoned with specialized Joker toxin, it was worth every penny.
2 IRON MAN
Created by by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Iron Man is almost an obvious choice for this list, as his entire gimmick / appeal is equipping a suit of realistic power armor, powered by an Arc Reactor. The vast majority of Iron Man villains like Titanium Man and The Iron Monger are just individuals wearing their own bootleg versions of Tony’s armor. In fact, there are so many cool variants of the classic Iron Man armor, from the flamethrower wielding Mk. I, to the stealth-drive enabled Iron Man Model 7, that we could literally make a list of the 15 best Iron Man armors and still forget something. The armor has featured some ridiculous abilities since its original appearance in “Tales of Suspense” #39 in 1963, like recharging the chest-plate with a 1980’s era Walkman, to projecting hologram decoys, and of course the emergency roller skates.
So, despite being the quintessential armored Superhero, which even Dr. Doom was impressed with during “Secret Wars,” why does Iron Man not make it into the top spot? Because the top spot is the only individual whose armor has proven to be superior to the Iron Man suit.
1 DR. DOOM
Given the fact that Dr. Doom has access to a time machine, he has the means to create the best possible armor ever. While Doom will change his equipment depending on the threat, his nuclear-powered armor typically features flight capabilities, deployable force-fields, a neural disrupter capable of downing Colossus, energy-tipped finger guns, life-support systems for survival both underwater and in space, and power suppressors in case he runs into Magneto. Given his meddling with mysticism, Doom’s armor is a melding of magic and science, offering protection from every threat. The suit even contains splinters of the True Cross, in the event that Doom needs to punch a vampire or Satan to death.
Why does Doom beat Iron Man? Despite Stark being able to make a suit for every occasion, Doom is focused on improving his original Tibetan forged armor. Also, Doom's suit totally beat the Iron Man armor in “Mighty Avengers” #10 by Brian Michael Bendis, and Mark Bagley. Finally, Doom has a sense of style, rocking the same classic Jack Kirby and Stan Lee design since 1962. Name one other superhero (yes, hero) who still wears his/her original armored suit 45 years later. We’ll wait.
Did we forget your favorite powered armor? Should we have included S.T.R.I.P.E.? Which suit would you add to your war-wardrobe? Would you kindly let us know in the comments?