This month marks the 50th birthday of everyone’s favorite Armored Avenger, Iron Man. One thing that made Shellhead so unique among the superheroes is that until recent years he was one of the very few superheroes to sport a new look.
Often, the change in suits was necessary since Iron Man faced constantly changing threats and situations. This upgrading of his armor is one way to showcase how Iron Man keeps up with technology and the times. It is hard to imagine Iron Man being the popular hero that he is if he still wore that clunky Mark II armor seen in the early Avengers comic books.
There are many variations of his armor, while some were best left forgotten, others were very captivating and quite cool.
Stealth Armor Mark I (Iron Man # 152, Vol. 1)
One thing that stood out about this armor was its jet black color scheme, which lent itself to its stealth capabilities that made Iron Man electronically invisible.
Hydro Armor (Iron Man # 218, Vol. 1)
As its name suggests, this particular oversized armor was used for underwater missions, namely deep-sea salvages.
Hulkbuster Armor (Iron Man # 304, Vol. 4)
This large-framed armor boosted Iron Man’s strength to allow hand-to-hand fighting with the powerful Hulk. This concept led to other variants like the Asgardian Armor for fighting Thor and Spider-Man’s Iron Spider suit seen in the Civil War mini-series. The Hulkbuster armor apparently makes an appearance in the new Iron Man 3 movie as seen at the end of the latest trailer.
Extremis Armor (Iron Man #5, Vol. 4) & Bleeding Edge Armor (Iron Man # 25, Vol. 5)
What made this armor so radically different was that it was actually part of its wearer Tony Stark. He was critically ill and injected himself with a techno organic virus, which bonded the suit to his body. Stark was able to store the armor in his bones and controlled it with his brain impulses. For all intents and purposes, this armor turned Stark into a cyborg, a true Iron Man. This wasn’t a state-of-the art armor, it was simply futuristic. The next stage of his armor was the so-called Bleeding Edge Armor. However, Stark had the armor surgically removed later on.
Mark I (Tales Of Suspense # 39)
Sometimes retro is the way to go. Yes, its clunky and not aesthetically pleasing but it did a most important thing. It was the first armor to save Tony Stark’s life. Using raw materials and under life-or-death pressure, Stark demonstrated his genius with this creation. While funky in its inelegant, steampunk-like design, the armor would be replaced in the next issue of Tales Of Suspense by a more advanced golden armor. The basic grey look made a comeback of sorts in Iron Man # 191 (Vol. I) when Stark was forced to cobble together a makeshift suit when his regular armor wasn’t available to him.
Mark III (Tales Of Suspense # 48)
The iconic, modern look of the red-and-gold armor was introduced in this issue and it set the design template for all future Iron Man armor. The Mark III differed from the first two designs in that it had a sleeker look and was more versatile. The design became a mainstay for Iron Man’s look (except for bulky alternates like the Hulkbuster or his Space Armor). The armor looked even sleeker and more formidable with the debut of the more modern Mark IV (Tales Of Suspense # 66) with the famous repulsor rays and the Mark V (Iron Man # 85, Vol. 1). This two-color, dynamic motif culminated, with his current Black and Gold Armor (Iron Man # 1, Vol. 5), which is made of a fluidic “smart metal”, mentally controlled by Stark and is a testbed for new tech.
*Note: The above art was done by John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, Kevin Hopgood, Adi Granov, Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Greg Land
Special thanks to GEO