The Invincible Iron Man, since 2008, has become one of the Marvel Universe’s greatest heroes and is a popular character among fans. The story of Tony Stark has gone down in history as legend along with Peter Parker, Clark Kent, and Bruce Wayne. Being the hero that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a lot to love with this character (and a lot to hate, but that depends on your perspective).
Something to note, though, is that people who are now fans of Marvel generally only watch the movies (there are some that read the comics as well, but they are few and far between). Because of this, many Marvel fans have no knowledge of the history behind each character and the kinds of changes they went through throughout the years. This is true for Iron Man as well. Apart from three movies and three crossover appearances, many people aren’t going to have knowledge of this character outside of that.
It’s quite a shame as well because Iron Man is one character that Marvel wasn’t afraid to change. Tony Stark has had so many different suits over the years that probably aren’t all remembered. If you’re an Iron Man fan or even a Marvel fan, in general, I encourage you to keep reading. We’re going to take a look at the history of Tony Stark: the Invincible Iron Man.
Here are 15 photos of the character that you really need to see.
15. Model I Armor – 1963
I would be remiss to talk about the history of Iron Man without discussing the suit of armor that started it all. After being captured in Afghanistan, Tony Stark was told to build a weapon for terrorists. Instead, he put together the first suit of armor that would turn him into Iron Man. From the get-go, it’s clear that Stark was only working with the materials available to him because the suit itself is quite clunky and similar to a “prototype” if you will. Nonetheless, it got the job done, gave Tony Stark his method of escape, and allowed him to avenge his friend Yinsen.
The Model I Armor has become a classic in Iron Man history and made its triumphant debut in the Iron Man film. However, just as Stark quickly redesigned it at home in the movie, he did the same in the comics. That being said, the comic variant wasn’t much of an improvement. It was slightly sleeker and featured a gold build that would later factor into his choice of color. It also serves as a way to reflect his personality. The gold suit was the one that he wore when founding the Avengers.
14. Model II Armor – 1963
Despite how seemingly outdated it was, the Model I Iron Man suit actually served Stark very well. He used it in his crime fighting and put away a few criminals. However, as Stark became much more known as Iron Man, it was only a matter of time before more powerful villains began showing their faces. As Vision puts it in Captain America: Civil War, “His mere presence invites challenge.” In the case of Iron Man, it was Mister Doll who came into the picture. Realizing that he was due for a much-needed upgrade, Stark went to work.
The result was the Model II Armor: one of the most drastic evolutions of the Iron Man suit in comic history. This model was the foundation for all Iron Man suits to come and held many of the functionalities that would become a trademark for the character. Tony Stark could now fly much longer distances, take much greater hits, and move at faster speeds. The new design was sleek, light, but still packed a powerful punch. The suit would become effective enough for Stark to keep it for a few years.
13. Model III Armor – 1965
Tony Stark found the Model II Armor to be very effective for a few years, and he kept it the entire time. However, understand that Stark never sits on his projects for very long. As a matter of fact, he is constantly working on his Iron Man suits to see what he can improve and how he can enhance its abilities. He knew that the Model II could be perfected as well. Tony Stark eventually realized that he needed a bit more firepower and a good long-ranged attack before he would start doing some real damage as a hero. This led him to finish the Model III Armor in 1965.
This armor is very similar to the Model II, except for the fact that it doesn’t have the horns and is yet again a sleeker design. The most notable upgrade is the addition of the Repulsor Rays (you know, those things in the movies that Iron Man shoots out of his hands). While the suit was increasingly more effective, the design was mocked by some of his friends who said that he looked like a Shell Head rather than an Iron Man. Either way, the Model III became the basis for function in an Iron Man suit.
12. Space Armor – 1981
As you’ll see with a lot of Iron Man’s history, many of the suits were created to fit a particular need, but they wouldn’t necessarily be used all the time. Tony Stark was investigating a mysterious death in Allentown when he came across a being known as the Sunturion. The character flew into space, and Stark knew he had to follow. However, his armor at the time wasn’t designed for such adventures, so he went back to the drawing board. This led him to create the Space Armor (Model V).
The suit itself is almost useless on Earth; it’s quite heavy and clunky. However, in the reaches of outer space, that’s where it truly shines. The Space Armor is fitted with an advanced life-support system and a way of filtering oxygen. The Space Armor also made use of cameras and little exo-units that could increase Stark’s field of view. Tony Stark made sure to include Repulsor Rays in this model, even adding a deflector beam that could push objects away from him. Needless to say, Stark thought about almost everything with the Space Armor, but it was far from perfect.
11. Stealth Armor – 1981
Tony Stark was investigating a space station for Roxxon one day, but it wasn’t long before he was detected and driven away. Because of this, he knew he had to come up with a new design: one that would allow him to slip under radars and past watchtowers. This solo principle is what led to the creation of the Stealth Armor (Model VII). The Stealth Armor, as you might imagine, prioritized stealth over any other capability found in an Iron Man suit. Luckily for Stark, the suit excelled at its intended purpose, allowing him to sneak into all kinds of heavily guarded structures. (He even managed to sneak into the Soviet Union with it.)
The armor itself featured an all-black design, making it very difficult to detect at night. The suit was designed to absorb radar, which made him invisible to anyone using it. It could also disrupt ECM, and alter sonar signals. This suit had it all. Unfortunately, because so much effort was put into making the suit stealthy, corners had to be cut. The original model had no combat capabilities on board, and that includes having no Repulsor Rays. However, the suit was designed to escape conflicts if things got too hairy.
10. 2020 Armor – 1984
Writers love placing their well-known heroes in different lights. In 1984, Marvel decided to do this with Iron Man. By placing the character 40 years in the future, we got to know Tony Stark’s nephew instead of him. Arno Stark was a brilliant mind, just like his uncle, and worked on his own variant of the Iron Man suit. However, Arno wasn’t as morally upright as his ancestor and instead decided to use the technology to become a mercenary of sorts. The advanced Iron Man suit that Arno used came to be known as the 2020 Armor.
All of the beautiful tech on “present day” versions of the Iron Man suit were there, plus some new additions. Each finger on the gauntlets had separate lasers that could cut through just about anything. The suit had a “Flying Star Blade” that was quite deadly, if I do say so myself. Then there was the tractor beam and the on-board handgun. Needless to say, the 2020 Armor had it all. What makes this kind of interesting nowadays is that we’re only three years away from 2020. Look at Iron Man’s suit now and compare it with this one.
9. Silver Centurion – 1985
It wasn’t long after Tony Stark had his time as a superhero that his friend Rhodey wanted in on the action. In order to include his friend, Stark decided that he would create a new suit. The result was the Mark VIII, otherwise known as the Silver Centurion. However, Rhodey wouldn’t don this suit. Instead, Tony himself would use it in many battles against multiple villains. The Silver Centurion was originally used by Stark to take down Obadiah Stane. (Movie fans might know him better as the Iron Monger in Iron Man.)
The Silver Centurion suit was as capable as its name suggests, having a host of new tech on board for maximum destruction. The repulsors and uni-beam were enhanced to only get stronger the farther they traveled. The suit had a force field that could deploy for about six seconds, and the life support system allowed Stark to wear the suit for days. What made the Silver Centurion impressive was its “chameleon effect.” The suit could generate a hologram on its body that would allow it to blend in completely with its surroundings. Oh yeah, the suit was also helpful in finding stolen Stark Tech.
8. Undersea Armor – 1987
Considering the fact that Tony Stark had already gone into space and perfected the art of stealth, it was only a matter of time before the writers wanted to put him underwater. That’s where the Undersea Armor came in. All of the Iron Man suits had the potential to go underwater, but not without significant drawbacks. Because of this, Stark designed a suit specifically for this purpose and had some fruitful results.
While it’s clear that the Undersea Armor could rival the Model I in terms of bulk, there’s no denying its usefulness. It features an entirely unique design apart from the head, which was taken from the Model IV. The Undersea Armor comes equipped with many animalistic abilities as well, including being able to surround itself with electricity like an eel and spray a thick black chemical like an octopus. The jets that normally sent Iron Man flying were instead fitted to propel him far distances underwater. The general layout of the suit was also redesigned to accommodate the difference in pressure. The suit even has a fail-safe feature: if things become disastrous, the suit can eject Stark a great distance, hopefully to the surface.
7. Crusader X Iron Man – 1990
There isn’t a lot known about the Iron Man from Earth 2122, but it’s more the context of the character that makes him interesting. The world of Crusader X is very different from the world that we know. In it, the British won the Revolutionary War, meaning, America doesn’t really exist on this Earth. Captain Britain, as opposed to Captain America, is the staple hero of this universe. And it only gets more interesting from there with the inclusion of freedom fighters and a unique take on Tony Stark.
Tony Stark of Earth 2122 is very different from the Tony Stark that we know. Instead of wanting to do good, Stark sits on the moral fence. He has shown that he has no problems with killing innocent people in the long run. To couple this big personality, he has a big and menacing Iron Man suit. Its true powers are never fully discussed, but it’s clear that it packs quite the wallop. This suit also gained Stark a spot on the team known as the Sons of Liberty, a group who wants freedom from Britain. While Stark himself isn’t that impressive in this reality, his suit is worth a look or two.
6. Arctic Armor – 1995
So far, we’ve explored how Tony Stark designed a suit to go into space, a suit that can pass under the radar, and a suit that can travel underwater. Now we’re going to take a look at the suit he designed for extremely cold temperatures: the Mark XIV, or Arctic Armor. Apparently, Tony Stark holds a secret bunker in the frozen tundra of the Arctic. We’ll let that slide considering that most villains wouldn’t exactly find it easily. In order to get to this bunker, he built the Arctic Armor to protect him from the cold.
The capabilities of this suit aren’t well-known, as the suit hasn’t appeared a lot. What’s interesting to note is that the suit is a light blue color, meaning that Stark would have wanted to make it blend in with the scenery a bit. The uni-beam also has a hexagonal shape as opposed to a circular or triangular one. Whatever that signified in terms of firepower, we may never know. The Arctic Armor also appears to have blasters over the wrists that were likely a modification on the Repulsor Rays. Either way, it’s an interesting suit to look at.
5. Iron Lantern – 1997
If you love the JLA/Avengers crossover, you’re going to go crazy over the Amalgam Universe. This is an alternate reality where DC’s and Marvel’s characters join together and have combined origin stories as well as powers. Tony Stark was combined with the Green Lantern in order to become the Iron Lantern.
In this reality, Harold Stark was close to an alien ship when it crash-landed. Shrapnel pierced his heart, and in a last-ditch effort to save his life, he built a suit of armor using the battery on the alien’s ship. Not only was the suit extremely useful, but it was infused with the power of the Green Lanterns. From that moment on, he became the superhero known as the Iron Lantern and worked to destroy all the amalgamated villains of his home world.
The Iron Lantern suit itself is quite impressive. Having the tech and brilliance of Tony Stark already makes him quite capable. However, the power of the Green Lantern enables him to create the energy constructs that we have come to love. Combining these two powers makes the Iron Lantern one of the most powerful suits of armor on this list. If you don’t know who Green Lantern is, that’s because DC pretends that the movie doesn’t exist.
4. Sorcerer Armor – 1998
The Iron Man and Green Lantern combination wasn’t the only one we would see Tony Stark take. In yet another alternate universe, Tony Stark and Stephen Strange were close friends. However, while leaving a party, Stark got into an accident that crushed Strange’s hands. Feeling guilt over the event, Stark promised his friend that he would do whatever it took to restore his hands. This led him to the mystic arts, where he was met by Baron Mordo and the Ancient One. Stark trained and eventually perfected his craft. However, he was still a brilliant inventor and made a new suit for himself after he was named the Sorcerer Supreme by those who trained him.
The power of the Sorcerer Armor, in a nutshell, is a combination of the tech of the Iron Man suit and the mystic arts of Doctor Strange. Using these abilities together made Stark one of the stronger Sorcerers Supreme, and he was able to even defeat Dormammu. The Sorcerer Armor didn’t do much to enhance his magic abilities, but it proved to be more than capable against bad guys.
3. Iron Manor – 1999
Earth 9997 is quite a mouthful to say, but it’s interesting nonetheless. In this reality, the Terrigen Mist that created the Inhumans essentially spread to all of humanity. Tony Stark wanted nothing to do with it, fearing how it would affect his brain. In order to avoid it, he created the Iron Man suit. However, his work didn’t stop there. After Norman Osborn became the President of the United States, Stark began working for him, constructing more Iron Man suits and robots (always a good idea when doing things for the Green Goblin).
Tony Stark’s most unique creation to come out of Earth 9997 is easily the Iron Manor. If you’re looking at the name and thinking that it sounds more like a home, then you’d be spot on. Tony Stark’s home can actually transform into a giant robot known as the Iron Manor. It’s a colossal invention and helped in the conflict against the Celestials. Unfortunately, the Iron Manor would only be able to keep fighting for so long, and its destruction became imminent. In the casualty, Tony Stark was impaled and died of his wounds. However, his death became a major turning point for that story arc.
2. Iron Avengers – 1999
Earth 9997 is interesting on the Tony Stark side of things for more than just the Iron Manor. In this reality, the Avengers consisted of many of the superheroes that we know and love, such as Captain America and Scarlet Witch. However, the Absorbing Man attacked D.C. one day, and that fight ended up with many of the Avengers losing their lives. They were far from forgotten, though. Norman Osborn instructed Stark to create new versions of these fallen heroes, which prompted him to craft the Iron Avengers.
The Iron Avengers are a pure testament to the genius of Tony Stark. Each robotic form of these superheroes had its own arsenal of Stark Tech. However, they were also programmed with the respective personalities and powers of the Avengers that they represented. The hero to lead this organization was the Vision — one of the few surviving members of the original team (kind of ironic considering that he’s a robot himself). Regardless, the Iron Avengers proved to be very effective and showed comic readers what Tony Stark was really capable of. While we probably won’t see them on the big screen anytime soon, they deserve to be remembered in the history of Iron Man.
1. Thorbuster – 2003
There are many dangers in the Marvel Universe, and many of them come from the Avengers themselves. We’re all familiar with how Bruce Banner tends to Hulk out and destroy half of the world in a matter of minutes. This motivated Tony Stark to create the Hulkbuster Armor. But we know about that one. Stark has actually created more “busting” suits of armor than just the Hulkbuster.
The Mighty Thor is the noble Prince of Asgard, but even he can get drunk with power sometimes. There was one instance when he actually tried to take over the entire Earth, which prompted action from other superheroes. Stark responded by creating the Thorbuster Armor, which was based on the Asgardian robot, the Destroyer. The Thorbuster Armor not only had all kinds of impressive tech inside but also made use of Asgardian Magic to effectively bring down the God of Thunder. The suit itself was so strong that it was able to physically compete with one of the strongest versions of Thor known to comic book history. The Thorbuster Armor remains, to this day, one of the most powerful Iron Man suits ever created.