December 31, 2008

The best and worst Iron Man armors

Yesterday I saw a couple posts at a [couple] comics blogs opining on their favorite and least favorite Iron Man armors of all-time. Some of the facts and monikers in these posts were erroneous, but then what would one expect from Iron Man fan "novices," right? So, what we need here is a truly informed opinion ... from one who has been an Iron Man fan since the very early years ... who made a second-tier Marvel character his favorite over "marquee" characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four! In other words, MINE!!


The Silver Centurion. This armor marked a drastic change from the 20 year Iron Man norm. Red and gold IS Iron Man. It defines him. His nickname is the "Golden Avenger." So what do you do when there's no gold in his suit?

Who cares? This armor was magnitudes more powerful than anything ever seen before (hence it was a bit bulkier) and the color change did have a reason: Tony Stark had just recovered from a long bout with alcoholism. He was still wary of even becoming Iron Man again. He still wanted to "forget" about much of his past.

Interestingly, Iron Man creator extraordinaire Bob Layton helped design this armor, but he didn't really like it. So, when he and writer-pal David Michelinie reassumed the mantle of Iron Man in the mid-80s, they quickly ditched the red and silver suit in favor of a new red and gold outfit. (See my past post about this armor.)

The Classic Red and Gold. There's a reason this suit is in the top five -- because it's the longest-lasting IM suit of all! Twenty years this bad-boy endured. Twenty years! This outfit saw "minor" modifications during its tenure, probably the most drastic of which was the adding of a "nose" to it in the mid-70s (issue #68 for you sticklers) and then an "instantaneous" method of "armoring up" less than twenty issues later (issue #85).

Also notable is the fact that several other people wore this outfit other than Tony Stark, most importantly of which was right-hand man Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes. This began in issue #169 -- when Stark succumbed to alcoholism.

The War Machine. This was a bigger change in armor design than even the Silver Centurion; however, it appeared seven years later in 1992. Writer Len Kaminski (one of Iron Man's best all-time writers and way underrated in my opinion) came up with this outfit when Tony Stark's long-time nemesis Justin Hammer sent some high-tech assassins to murder Stark. This suit gets away from a lot of the "exotic" weaponry Iron Man is known for in place of "old school" items like a Gatling gun and wrist-mounted machine gun! It's armor was also a lot tougher than that of previous suits, constructed from carbon-composites that could withstand the slicing energy blades of Hammer's hit men.

This was the armor that Stark bequeathed to Jim Rhodes to use on his own; you may remember Terrance Howard in the movie looking at one of Stark's suits in the movie and uttering "Next time" -- a clear homage to this moment and possibly a look at things to come in "Iron Man 2."

Iron Man 2020. This is actually an armor from an "alternate reality" -- that of Arno Stark, [supposed] nephew of Tony Stark in the [alternate reality] year of 2020. Arno actually began as a mercenary -- a "gun" for hire and was far from what we'd consider a hero. Eventually, 'tho, he evolved into that role (see the Iron Man 2020 graphic novel) and saved the planet from a worldwide computer meltdown.

This suit was, due to its futuristic design, packed with exotic weaponry, and was much "meaner" looking with a grimacing face-mask and serrated shoulder cuffs. In an issue of Iron Man (#250), David Michelinie and Bob Layton showed that this outfit survived to the year 2093 and was used by Arno's grandson Andros Stark. But Andros was a total baddie, in league with the 20th century-surviving Dr. Doom who plotted to wipe out most of the planet's population.

The Hulkbuster Armor. Also created by the aforementioned Len Kaminski (shortly after the War Machine, by the way, in issue #304) for Tony Stark to combat -- who else? -- the Hulk. But even with this suit, Stark was hard-pressed to beat the Jade Giant (as is practically every Marvel character). No matter; Kaminski's description of this armor's capabilities is what Iron Man is all about, as is Tony Stark creating a "specialized" outfit for "specialized" situations!

COMING SOON: Hube's Worst Iron Man Armors Ever.

Posted by Hube at December 31, 2008 11:40 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Gotta disagree on the War Machine armor, it belongs in the 5 worst. It's barely Iron Man armor, the whole best part of Iron Man was that he wasn't a killing machine, he was a passionate genius who figured ways OUT of fighting rather than into. This armor was only made "old school" because tony no longer had the strength to use his good armor's power, so he had to settle on.. machine guns.. REALLY? This is why Kaminski goes down as one of the worst writers in IM history. He obviously didn't understand what drives Tony Stark. A repulsor ray is more powerful than any of the garbage on the War Machine armor. I think the problem is that the Iron Man armors have been way to High Tech for most people to understand. They only understand "big guns = power" and that's what War Machine is, and it's why War Machine was one of the worst and most unlike Iron Man. It's really sad that they want to stick this garbage in the second movie. There is absolutely no use for it. Even the prototype armor is better than War Machine armor.

At least the Hulkbuster series, Tony admits he was TRYING to fight, rather than avoid a fight, and was wrong for doing so. So the Hulk buster armor was just a big mistake.

Kaminski screwed with all the origins, and just ruined the IM history. Worst of all, he set the stage for TEEN TONY.

Posted by: Chris at May 11, 2009 06:24 PM

Ah, but Stark HAD to design a different armor if you remember who he was going up against: The Masters of Silence, who were impervious to beam weapons. (See IM #281.) That's not "settling" on guns, it was out of pure necessity.

And Kaminski was KEENLY aware of Stark's origins and was quite true to them. Just reread the "War Machine" arc. Why was he after Justin Hammer with the Masters of Silence at his side? To do RIGHT by his honor and that of his company. Also reread #306. That is classic Tony Stark. I think you're dead wrong in your assessment.

And Len didn't "set the stage" for Teen Tony. Indeed, he QUIT the book instead of writing that garbage! Trust me -- he told me (and others) that directly.

Posted by: Hube at May 11, 2009 07:53 PM