In terms of popular culture, March 1963 was a pretty influential month. The debut album of a British pop band called The Beatles is released, the Alcatraz Island federal penitentiary was closed for good and issue #39 of “Tales of Suspense” was released by Marvel Comics. In the issue of this comic book, a millionaire bachelor scientist named Anthony Stark made his comic book debut along with his mechanical alter ego, Iron Man. Since then, the character has gone on to appear in hundreds of comics, television shows and has been the focus of two feature films (with the third coming in two months). Throughout Tony Stark’s tenure as ‘Shell Head,’ he has had quite a few different versions of his famous Iron Man armor. While this article is by no means a complete list of every suit of armor he has worn, we’ve done our best to hit all of the highlights. So, without further ado, the armors of Iron Man!
THE REGULAR ARMOR SERIES
A war prisoner, Tony Stark was forced to create a weapon by the Communist leader Wong Chu. He called Chu’s bluff and outfitted a suit of armor with several technologies he had already been perfecting and thus the Iron Man Mark I armor was born. Fitted to it were the now famous boot-jets, a magnetic field disruptor, a blow torch, and finger saw.
The very next issue of “Tales of Suspense” featured the already upgraded version of the armor. It differed from its predecessor by changing the color scheme from silver to gold and many now defunct features such as an attached megaphone. This was also the armor that Tony used the very first time The Avengers formed together to stop Loki. It is often referred to as the ‘Golden Avenger’ armor.
Created because he was almost killed in a fight with Mister Doll, the Mark III has become the design and layout for the armor that made Iron Man famous. This sleeker and more lightweight design has been the staple of Iron Man’s armor for decades and the first time his mask was ever equipped with the fabled “horns.” It’s often referred to as the ‘Ditko Armor’ because famous Marvel artist Steve Ditko designed it.
Two years later, the Iron Man armor would get another upgrade. The Mark IV armor’s primary difference, and largest addition to the Iron Man mythology, is the use of the repulsor rays. The helmet for the Mark IV was also a more slick and rounded design from the pointed ‘horns’ of the previous version.
Over ten years would go by before Iron Man upgraded his standard armor once again. The reason Tony upgraded this time was due to a fight he had with a villain known as ‘The Freak,’ who you might know as Happy Hogan. Yes, Tony Stark’s bodyguard was turned into a radioactive monster due to an accident at Stark’s lab and caused enough damage to the Mark IV to warrant an upgrade. This was also the armor that James Rhodes wore when he briefly replaced Tony behind the mask.
Another decade would go by before another suit of armor was created. Initially made as only a test model, Stark was forced to use it in a battle alongside James Rhodes in the regular Iron Man armor. The Mark VI was a throwback to the original armor but less bulkier. It used the same color scheme and had more rounded edges than its predecessors.
Later that same year the Mark VII would show up and be just as different of a design from the previous incarnations as the Mark III was to the Mark II. The Mark VII is widely known as the “Silver Centurion Armor.” It changed the color pattern from red and gold to red and silver and featured the biggest addition to the armor in its new found “Chameleon effect.” Using this effect, the armor could blend into the environment around it.
This armor was created to battle another armored villain called Firepower. It was designed specifically to negate his powers and was successful in defeating him. The armor was outfitted with the ability to travel through space and also featured a universal communicator. Stark thought the armor was far too powerful to be in the world and worried it might fall into the wrong hands. Tony decided to destroy the armor at first but had a change of heart.
Head to Page 2 for the Space and Stealth armors!