For all that superheroes are (or were) supposed to live by an unimpeachable code of non-lethal violence, sworn to protect all life no matter how vile or undeserving, some heroes sure have racked up an impressive body count. Take Iron Man as an example. There’s no doubt that he’s done plenty of good (as well as, admittedly, some not so good) for the myriad Marvel Universes. He is, after all, a founding member of the Avengers and an established hero in his own right who has risked life and limb for humanity’s sake enough times to fill several 15-point lists.
But there have been plenty of times when, for Iron Man, saving the world meant hastening a person or two to their untimely demise. In addition to the untold thousands killed by the weapons formerly manufactured by Stark Industries, there are quite a few people -- heroes, villains and innocent bystanders alike -- that Tony Stark has murdered with a much more personal touch. Some of the deaths are justifiable, some are most assuredly not, and some are just plain accidental, but one thing is for sure: spending too much time around the Armored Avenger may end up being hazardous to your long-term health.
Iron Man's body count starts early. In his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39, we are told a now-familiar tale: millionaire inventor Tony Stark is critically injured and captured by communists, headed by Wong-Chu, in Vietnam. With the help of fellow prisoner Yinsen, Stark survives, but his heart is so damaged that he can only stay alive within the confines of a large, clunky suit of improvised armor. Yinsen is less lucky, sacrificing his own life to give Stark time to get away from the communists.
Wong-Chu also manages to get away, and the newly-dubbed Iron Man refuses to allow Yinsen's murderer to go free, but his suit is almost out of power. What's a proto-superhero to do? Wait until the fleeing Wong-Chu gets close to a munitions shed, light a line of fuel leading straight to the shed, then watch as Wong-Chu is blown to pieces.
Unlike in the comics, where Stane meets his end at his own armored hand, the 2008 film Iron Man gave Iron Monger a much more explosive demise. After rescuing himself from his Afghani captors, Tony Stark returns to America determined to begin undoing the damage done by his many years as an arms manufacturer. It's not long before he realizes that not only is his trusted mentor, Obadiah Stane, is actively trying to stop him from turning over a new leaf, Stane was actually the one who arranged for him to be kidnapped in the first place.
Stane even builds his own, more steroid-y version of the Iron Man armor and very nearly manages to beat Iron Man with it. Fortunately, Stark has a deadly Plan B: he orders Pepper Potts to overload his pet project, the arc reactor, sending Stane (and very nearly himself) sky-high.
Poor Kevin O'Brien. Despite being a stereotypical hotheaded, redheaded Irishman, Stark Industries scientist O'Brien had very little luck during his tenure as a superhero. Upon donning his own armor, Kevin O'Brien becomes the Guardsman, who keeps watch over SI and helps Iron Man in emergencies. But it isn't long before the armor's circuits start messing with O'Brien's mind.
That, combined with his unrequited love for Stark's girlfriend, leads him to lose a few marbles. It all comes to a head in Iron Man #46, when the Guardsman commandeers a hi-tech tank and resolves to get rid of Iron Man permanently. Still believing O'Brien can be saved, Iron Man tries to defuse the situation by destroying the tank's steering mechanism. Unfortunately, his repulsor ray is stronger than expected and hits the tank's fuel source, exploding both the tank and O'Brien.
What can be said about "Civil War" that hasn't already been said? The government tries to force superheroes to register. Some like this idea, some do not. The ones that do like it go to war against the ones that don't, or maybe vice versa. Who can tell anymore? Iron Man is on the "do like" side, and with help from Mr. Fantastic, he builds a clone of Thor to fight their former friends.
Due to a frankly unforgivable oversight on his creators’ part, the clone is capable of using deadly force and does so, murdering size-changing rebel Goliath (aka Bill Foster) with a lightning bolt in Civil War #4. Mr. Fantastic immediately shuts down the clone so he can put in an inhibitor chip to prevent such incidents in the future, but neither he nor Iron Man show much regret for their substantial role in Goliath's death.
In Tales of Suspense #73, Iron Man faces off against the villainous Black Knight, who decides it would be a good idea to kidnap Iron Man’s bestie, Happy Hogan. The incident culminates in a midair battle where the only way to defeat the Black Knight is to yank him from his flying horse and send both Iron Man and the Black Knight plummeting earthward (No word on what the horse thought of this).
Iron Man’s armor enables him to survive the fall, but the Black Knight’s armor is, evidently, not quite so durable. While Iron Man only finds Blackie’s cape at the end of the issue, in Avengers #48, we learn the Black Knight was in fact mortally wounded in the fall and survived just long enough to make his nephew, Dane Whitman, promise not to follow in his uncle's dastardly footsteps.
Hydra bigwig Doctor "No First Name" List was a busy man. After spending his time in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. conducting human experiments designed to grant the test subjects superpowers (always a good idea), List succeeds in The Avengers: Age of Ultron with the creation of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.
He doesn't get to celebrate for long, as the Avengers soon find his secret hidey-hole, and even the combined might of his test subjects is not enough to prevent them from storming in. Instead of running out the door like a sensible supervillain, List tries to delete his data before the good guys can get at it. As a result, like so many others before him, List ends up on the wrong end of Iron Man's repulsor.
If "The Crossing" is remembered for anything, it's for giving us Teen Tony Stark, a young version of the brooding industrialist playboy we all know and love. What is best forgotten, however, is why Teen Tony came to exist in the first place: the revelation/retcon that Tony Stark had been under the influence of the villain Immortus pretty much since day one. The Avengers pulled Teen Tony from the timestream in the hope that he would have a good influence on Evil Adult Tony, but not before our mind-controlled Avenger could kill a few more people.
First is Yellowjacket (aka Rita DeMara), who was only trying to warn the Avengers of an impending disaster and gets a repulsor blast for her trouble (Rude). Later that same issue, Stark gives similar treatment to Marilla, an Inhuman who had the misfortune to be living at Avengers Mansion at the time.
As a crazy murderous bastard enhanced by the Extremis virus, Eric Savin really didn't stand a chance of surviving Iron Man's wrath. Savin spends most of Iron Man 3 as the right-hand man of the deranged Dr. Aldrich Killian. In that capacity, he loyally steals, attempts murder, actually murders, destroys private property and kidnaps presidents as required, but the planting of a bomb on Air Force One proves to be his final act of supervillainy.
By the time Iron Man catches up with him, he has well and truly had enough of his artificially enhanced nemesis and, after Savin blows a hole in the plane, Iron Man creates a hole of his own: a great big one in the middle of Savin’s torso, courtesy of his armor’s chest repulsor.
As the name implies, the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline was not kind to the Golden Avenger. One of the worst incidents occurs in Iron Man #124. Iron Man goes to a reception in honor of Mr. Kotznin, ambassador from Carnelia, where Stark Industries hopes to build a factory. Kotznin chose Stark Industries over other companies purely because he is an Iron Man fanboy, and his decision has not gone over well with at least one Stark competitor: Justin Hammer, CEO of Hammer Industries.
Hammer does not deal well with rejection, and since he previously learned to remotely control Iron Man's armor, he can get revenge in hideous fashion. As everyone takes pictures of Ambassador Kotznin and Iron Man, Hammer causes one of the Armored Avenger's repulsors to go off, ripping a hole right through the unsuspecting ambassador's chest. Needless to say, Stark does not stay sober that night.
Several people have donned the Titanium Man armor over the years. This particular version is Gremlin, who wants to keep said armor for himself as opposed to letting the KGB (or anyone else) take its power from him. Unfortunately for Gremlin, this is in the midst of the first "Armor Wars" storyline (Iron Man #225-#232), when Iron Man was traveling the globe destroying all traces of his own tech to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. And since Gremlin's armor was created using Stark tech, he's next on the hit parade.
During their final battle, Iron Man tries getting Titanium Man off his back by flying them higher and higher, not realizing that his boot jets are raising the temperature of his foe's armor. To the horror of Iron Man, and especially Titanium Man, Gremlin's armor bursts into flames, and he plunges to his death.
In Iron Man #307, the cumbersomely named VOR/TEX downloads himself to Stark's body and wreaks havoc on his host’s life -- not only is the real Stark stuck in cyberspace, but VOR/TEX also takes the liberty of destroying Stark's sobriety by getting drunk. Two issues later, Iron Man gets back to the real world and lands a few punches. VOR/TEX complains about the pain, to which Stark responds that he doesn't know the meaning of the word and prompts VOR/TEX to explore Stark’s memories.
VOR/TEX does so and is accosted by the memory of every terrible thing that has been done to Stark (and that Stark did to himself). He is so distraught that he commits suicide right then and there. That's right -- Iron Man didn't even have to throw a punch to kill someone this time. All he had to do was take VOR/TEX on a trip down memory lane.
The best part out of many best parts of 2012's The Avengers happened right after the World Security Council ordered the launching of a nuclear weapon at New York City in an attempt to stop Loki, his alien frenemies the Chitauri, and their giant battle-whales from taking over the planet. With the Avengers holding the line and S.H.I.E.L.D. on the edge of their seats, Iron Man is quick to devise a plan, one that has an astronomical body count.
All he has to do is fly that bomb right through the portal the invaders arrived in and nuke every one of the Chitauri ships lurking on the other side. Without the power supplied by their ships, every last Chitauri drops dead, leaving a heck of a mess for whatever subset of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in charge of super-battle cleanup.
Another victim of the Immortus-controlled Iron Man, Amanda Chaney was a publicist hired to make Force Works, the team Iron Man was then leading, look good. She didn't have to worry about that for long, however. Unbeknownst to the team, one of their members, Cybermancer (aka Suzi Endo), has been replaced by an evil version of herself.
In Force Works #19, Chaney discovers the real Endo's cryogenically frozen body in the basement. Iron Man finds her snooping and, well, let's just say Chaney lives just long enough to call Spider-Woman's daughter, Rachel, and tell her of the danger Iron Man poses. Chaney would probably be happy to know her call very well may have saved the life of Force Worker Century, whom Rachel manages to warn before Iron Man attacks him. She'd probably be happier if she was still alive, but you can't have everything.
Immediately after the "Extremis" story arc, Yinsen's soggy burrito of a son hacks into Stark's Extremis and uses it to murder a bunch of people. Even Yinsen Jr.'s death (at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s hands, not Iron Man's) doesn't help much, as his death triggers a failsafe that causes all of Iron Man's suits to turn themselves on and start wreaking havoc. Most of Iron Man #12 is spent trying to stop all of the rogue suits, until one of the suits goes after Captain America, threatening to crush his head like a grape.
Iron Man, realizing that his Extremis is still controlling the armor and that the only way to stop it is by dying, electrocutes himself, bringing his heart to a screeching halt. The gambit succeeds, Captain America is saved, and paramedics even manage to revive Tony Stark, allowing him to kill another day.
Also known as Extremis, Mallen is certainly one of the more deserving recipients of Iron Man's lethal ire. From Iron Man #1 through #6 ("Extremis"), Mallen, a domestic terrorist recently granted superpowers, goes on a deadly rampage, invading FBI headquarters and killing countless agents. He even injures Iron Man badly enough that Stark is forced to inject himself with the titular Extremis, an all-too-successful attempt at recreating the Super Soldier Serum that transformed Mallen from ordinary remorseless terrorist to nigh-unkillable remorseless terrorist.
That "nigh" bit is important, though. After doing everything he can to put an end to Mallen's reign of terror, Iron Man is left with no choice but to eliminate Mallen in truly brutal fashion: by repulsoring his head off. He then kicks the headless body, because better safe than sorry.
Did we miss any other instances that Iron Man killed? Let us know in the comments!