In Tony Stark’s quest to become the world’s greatest privately-funded superhero, movie audiences have seen no less than seven versions of his armor. And with Iron Man 3, even more are preparing for an official unveiling.
We’ve looked back on the years of comic book history to pick out suits that wouldn’t just be impressive to see on screen, but could help lay foundations for Iron Man’s future – wherever that may take him.
Everyone’s got their favorites, but here are 6 Iron Man Armors We Want In Marvel’s Movie Universe.
First seen in: Iron Man Vol. 2, Issue #1
Stemming from the “Heroes Reborn” comic storyline, the Prometheum Armor only came into existence in a ‘pocket universe’ detached from our own. After killing the first test pilot, the armor was scrapped until Stark was ravaged by the Hulk’s first episode.
That origin story would need to be rewritten to fit Marvel’s current movie universe, but it would be worth it.
The Prometheum Armor puts an end to managing the suit’s power reserves, or fears the charge will ‘run out’ due to massive exertion. Rather than relying on Tony’s chest-mounted arc reactor, the Armor absorbs Beta particles from the earth’s atmosphere, and – through science – produces enough energy to power the suit.
Once the energy is absorbed by the suit’s many components and on-board computer systems, heat (channeled through the many cables and tubes that compose the under-layers of the armor) is vented in the form of superheated plasma via the two large ports protruding from each shoulder, as well as the hands and knees. Whether that plasma is released into the atmosphere, or the face of an enemy is up to the wearer.
The technology doesn’t stop there: Prometheum is equipped with tractor beams, nanobots that can be injected into the bloodstream to provide first aid, and the ability to turn invisible. We don’t know what fights lie in Tony’s future, but we’re confident the Prometheum Armor could handle just about anything.
First Seen In: Iron Man Vol. 5, Issue #3.
We know what you’re thinking: if you’ve got a flying, repuslor-beam-shooting suit of armor, sneaking around to avoid security guards seems like more of an afterthought. But it’s probably best to just suspend disbelief and accept that some of Tony Stark’s investigations will lead him places that it’s best he not be seen.
For that job, a jet-black suit of near-invisible armor is a necessity. So it’s no surprise that Iron Man has had a Stealth suit of armor in the comics for decades now. Where the original MK I and MK II were depicted as completely black versions of the standard armor – equipped with technology to erase the suit’s radar signature – a digital age calls for a new take on covert design.
It’s fairly clear why we hope to see the current “Iron Man” comic’s MK IV Stealth Armor in live-action: the combination of black metal and ice-blue lighting worked wonders in TRON: Legacy, so just imagine what it would add to an aerial dogfight scene… fine, maybe we just want to see more white lights and glossy black armor.
But if Iron Man’s role in the next chapter of the Marvel movie universe is going to become even larger, Robert Downey, Jr.’s wit is only going to get him so far. He proved snooping wasn’t below him in The Avengers, so it only makes sense that Stark would up his game in the future. Seeing a silent, near-invisible suit of armor flying over clandestine military bases would be something genuinely new to the series, and the absence of weapons in order to power surveillance equipment builds suspense out of even the slightest unexpected twist.
First Seen In: Iron Man Vol. 3, Issue #42.
While the SKIN Armor was somewhat divisive among fans when it first appeared, its roots aren’t difficult to understand. As Stark’s armor became more and more advanced, and his dependence on the artificial intelligence contained within, it was only a matter of time before the suit gained sentience, and instilled the invincible Iron Man with a distrust of even the armor he had crafted himself.
This fear took the brilliant inventor back to the drawing board, crafting a far less impressive set of armor out of over-sized gauntlets, boots, and a chest-piece. Since the Iron Man 3 trailers have shown signs of a sentient suit and paranoid Stark, the films might follow a similar path.
But the SKIN Armor didn’t truly reach its heights until the development of Synth-Kinetic Interfacing Nano-fluid (SKIN). The stunningly-malleable SKIN is contained within the armor’s chest-piece, spreading over the entirety of the body on command. While flexible when needed, the fluid can also be hardened to near-Adamantium levels of invulnerability, making this armor arguably the strongest Stark has ever constructed.
As if the hulking shoulders and midsection of the armor wasn’t enough to prove that this incarnation isn’t one to mess with, the SKIN also features a retractable energy blade within the left gauntlet that can be reformed into a shield in a pinch.
In other words, if anyone is worried that the Iron Man movies might go the route of the comics and sport a sentient suit, don’t fear: a technophobic Tony simply means oozing liquid armor and an energy sword.
First Seen In: Fear Itself #7.
The origins of this suit of armor aren’t are as far-fetched as some others in Iron Man’s history – an Asgardian makes a play for Earth, and the planet’s heroes must stop the assault. With a little Asgardian magic, of course. In the “Fear Itself” crossover event, it wasn’t the trouble-making Loki (and given his apparent redemption in Thor 2, his days as a pure villain may be in the past) but Odin’s brother, ‘The Serpent’ setting his sights on the throne of Asgard.
To give humanity the best chance, Iron Man took a trip to Odin’s realm seeking back-up. While Odin wouldn’t give it, he did grant access to the skills of the dwarves of Svartalfheim (a realm soon to be explored in Thor: The Dark World) in crafting weapons imbued with magical energy. While he was there, he gave his own armor a few… upgrades.
The dwarves coated Iron Man ‘s standard armor in a layer of uru – the fictional metal from which Thor’s hammer was also forged – and magic from Odin. Dubbed the ‘Iron Destroyer’ armor by Stark due to the physical resemblance to the Asgardian bodyguard seen in Thor (2011), the suit merged technology with magic in a way only Iron Man could pull off.
All things considered, it’s actually believable that the Iron Man and Thor franchises could be linked via Tony’s armor. Besides the Iron Destroyer suit being capable of battling magical and mystical enemies (which wouldn’t be out of place in ‘Phase Two’) Stark has also used Asgardian magic to fuel the ‘Thorbuster’ armor when the god of thunder went rogue. But if we only get one, we’ll take the spikes.
First Seen In: Invincible Iron Man Vol. 5, #25.
There was a time when we would’ve thought that some of Iron Man‘s most cutting-edge technology would never be feasible in the more grounded world of live-action films. But with Iron Man 3 apparently diving headlong into the “Extremis” storyline, the door will be opened for where Tony Stark’s combined human-machine physiology could take him – Primarily, the creation of the armor he named ‘Bleeding Edge.’
More than just an upgraded version of Extremis, Stark referred to Model 37 (a.k.a. the Bleeding Edge Armor) as “what comes next” – an evolutionary step forward, if you will. Where Extremis granted Stark the ability to call the pieces of his armor to him at will – an ability shown in the first Iron Man 3 trailer – Bleeding Edge removed the need for external armor completely.
The armor is actually composed of microscopic nano-machines contained within Stark’s bones, able to be called to the surface in any shape he mentally commands. Thereby removing the need to ‘suit up’ or carry around bulky armor pieces (as dramatic as the process was in The Avengers) allowing Tony to become Iron Man anywhere, anytime.
It also seems about time to re-design the standard, bulky armor design for something a bit more striking. Replacing joints and plating for essentially a second musculature of armor, Bleeding Edge wouldn’t just be sleeker or sexier, but would give the character even more ability to emote alongside non-CG actors.
In other words, what should “come next.”
First Seen In: Iron Man Vol. 1, #304.
The super-sized ‘Hulkbuster’ Armor has gone through different iterations with varying writers and artists, but the basic theory is fairly simple: it’s a bigger, stronger (and as Hulk-proof as possible) version of Tony’s suit technology. The name tells you who it’s intended to keep in check, and over the years has come in handy more than once.
For fans of The Avengers, it may be hard to see the friendly pair of Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) going from swapping brilliant scientific insights to exchanging punches, but such is the risk when dealing with an enormous green rage-monster.
As much of a team player as the Hulk turned out to be by the end of The Avengers, hints have been dropped that ‘Phase Three’ could see not just adaptations of the “Planet Hulk” storyline, but “World War Hulk” as well. Ruffalo has confirmed that more movies are in the works, and it’s hard for us to think of a better use for the character. And if Hulk goes haywire, the ‘Hulkbuster’ is almost guaranteed.
Fans will debate which version of the hulking armor will be chosen to adapt, and filmmakers may go a completely different route. Either way works for us, since the prospect of the Hulk going toe-to-toe with an opponent his own size is promising enough – it even offered a few laughs and memorable moments in his last standalone film.
But put Stark into the role, knowing how quickly the pair became fast friends, and that’s the kind of drama (and CG extravaganza) we can get behind.
That concludes our list of Iron Man armors we hope to see in Marvel’s Phase Two & Three. We chose them based not only for the satisfaction of seeing their technology recreated on the big screen, but because they would actually fit the plot being developed by Marvel, despite being unconfirmed thus far.
What are your favorite variants on the standard armor? Are they ones you know you’re not likely to see in the next Iron Man or Avengers movie, but hope for anyway? Or are there any suits you feel shouldn’t be ruled out?
Iron Man 3 hits theaters May 3rd, 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.