All the way back in 2008, when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in its infancy, Obadiah Stane famously proclaimed — as his scientists tried and failed to replicate Tony Stark’s technology — that “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!”
Without a doubt, Stark’s greatest success is probably the Iron Man armor: a super-strong, flying exoskeleton capable of utilizing many of his other technologies, and vanquishing superhuman opponents. But even while Tony has kept himself busy modifying his armor dozens upon dozens of times, each model more advanced than the last, he’s also toyed with numerous other creations. Since those early days in the cave, Stark has continued to impress us with an array of brilliant new inventions, both in the comics and on the big screen.
While Tony probably doesn’t have quite as many patents to his name as someone like Reed Richards, he’s definitely racked up a sizeable amount — some good, some bad, and some absolutely horrific. So as we get ready to see him again when Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War premieres in 2018, here are 15 of Tony Stark’s Best Inventions That Aren’t Iron Man.
15. The Arc Reactor
Perhaps Tony Stark’s single most recognized technology, other than the Iron Man suit itself, is the arc reactor — that glowing circle positioned in the center of his chest. It’s Iron Man’s own Superman-esque S-shield. In Iron Man, it’s a miniaturized arc reactor that saves Tony’s life — and changes the course of his life — by being implanted in his chest as his new mechanical heart.
The arc reactor is itself derived from Stark’s repulsor technology, which we’ll get to in a bit, but it’s essentially a clean energy, multifunctional power battery. In addition to keeping Tony alive and serving as the power source of the Iron Man armor, it has also served to propel Stark beyond ordinary human limits in a variety of unexpected ways. Its power has enhanced his already genius intelligence, endowing him with inhuman multitasking abilities, higher cognitive functions, and insane learning speeds. Perhaps even more impressive than the arc reactor itself, however, is the repulsor technology that it is derived from.
14. Repulsor Blasts
That trademark concussive energy that comes out Iron Man’s hands are Stark’s patented repulsor technology: high-density blasts of charged particles, directed by magnets, generally used as an offensive weapon. The repulsors that emerge from his hands and feet are also the primary flight control device of the Iron Man armors, used in conjunction with the thruster boots. This is what enables a heavy metal man to go flying through the skies with the skill of a fighter jet.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that these offensive (and maneuvering) capabilities are the limits of repulsor technology. The arc reactor, for example, is a clear example of repulsor tech’s capabilities when it is taken to the next level: a battery that can fuel Iron Man, as well as keep a human alive and enhance his intelligence to superhuman levels, has a lot of potential to change the world. Repulsor technology has the ability to end global warming, and change the energy landscape as we know it. There’s just one downside to repulsor proliferation: it could, and has, fallen into the wrong hands. This is obviously a source of great anguish for Tony, not only because it’s one of his signature inventions, but also because it’s highly dangerous if used for destructive means.
What do you do if the Hulk — the single most unstoppable force on the planet — just up and snaps one day? It’s a tricky problem to deal with, and one that both Tony and Bruce Banner work together to find a solution for. As far as taking on the Hulk in combat, the so-called “Hulkbuster” armor is a pretty extraordinary achievement. It actually proves able to withstand the Hulk’s punches and puts up a good fight, allowing Tony Stark to stand toe-to-toe with a creature that he really shouldn’t even stand a chance against.
Equally impressive, however, is Veronica: the mobile service module, docked in space, that launches the Hulkbuster armor. Presumably named as a coy reference to Bruce’s long lost love Betty Ross, inspired by the classic Betty/Veronica dynamic, Tony’s mechanical Veronica is packed full of automatically assembling parts that deploy according to custom settings, based on the situation in need. It also assembles with a self-assembled, electrified prison cell for the purpose of trapping the Hulk.
12. A New Element, “Badassium”
The arc reactor in Tony’s chest has a palladium core, and by the time Iron Man 2 comes around, this begins to become a problem. Tony is dying from palladium poisoning, a process accelerated by the power leeching of the Iron Man suit, and he’s unable to find a replacement material for the reactor’s core. So, he does what Starks do? He invents a new element.
This new element was actually discovered by Howard Stark, who found himself limited by the technology of his time. Picking up his father’s research, Tony is able to successful synthesize the new element using a particle accelerator in his basement. Aside from being an awesome achievement, this discovery also saves Tony’s life.
Back when Iron Man 2 came out, there was some theorizing that the element he had synthesized was vibranium, but this was later proven false. Since then, we’ve found out that when Tony goes ahead to patent the element, the name that he tries to use is “badassium,” which according to Nick Fury encounters “several bureaucratic obstacles.”
11. Artificial Intelligence
Computers get smarter and smarter every year, but that helper bot in your cell phone doesn’t come close to Tony Stark’s sophisticated, multifunctional assistant, J.A.R.V.I.S. — an advanced artificial intelligence capable of holding full conversations, expressing seemingly human emotions, and even hitting the ever-glib Tony with the occasional sardonic comeback. The interplay between J.A.R.V.I.S. and Tony is a big part of what makes the Iron Man movies so fun. But while J.A.R.V.I.S. is a fun character, it doesn’t seem that he’s actually alive, so much as a simulation of life — though he/it does sacrifice itself attempting to stop the rise of Ultron.
While many know that this computerized assistant is loosely based on Jarvis, Tony’s very human butler in the comics, what some may not realize is that J.A.R.V.I.S. actually takes more inspiration from another character in the comics: H.O.M.E.R., a super-intelligent, sometimes sarcastic artificial intelligence that takes care of all of Tony’s projects, inventory, and armors, as well as alerts Tony about intruders, and… okay, pretty much everything J.A.R.V.I.S. does in the films.
Yeah, playing around with artificial intelligence sometimes causes some pretty huge catastrophes, like creating a cybernetic megalomaniac that can transfer his consciousness between bodies via the internet, lift entire cities into the sky, replicate himself across multiple robot assassins, and all of the other crazy stuff that Ultron does.
Though really, aside from the fact that Ultron is prepared to replace all human life on the planet, this creation is actually a pretty rousing success story. Whereas J.A.R.V.I.S. is a successful mimic of a human being — capable of simulating real conversations and even seeming to have a personality — Ultron is a being as human as any flesh and blood creature, possessing his own free will, his own emotions, and all of the benefits and downfalls that manifest from these traits. The fact that Ultron possesses some familiar, Tony-esque personality quirks doesn’t invalidate that he is his own being: like a child imitates his parents, Ultron imitates the sarcastic, irreverent humor of his organic father.
9. Sentient Armor
A sentient armor might sound like a great idea, but maybe Tony should have consulted Spider-Man on the perils of wearing a living costume before proceeding.
At first, the sentient armor is quite benevolent. It gets along well with Tony, learns from mistakes, and adapts, though its eerily romantic feelings for its creator are a bit much. But after a while, the armor decides that it’s the real Iron Man, and starts taking control of the suit while Tony is trapped inside it, forcing him to kill Whiplash, and later threatening to murder innocents if Tony doesn’t allow it to recharge.
When Tony dons one of his older suits in an attempt to confront the sentient armor, it is driven into a murderous jealousy, tearing apart Tony’s suit and then flying the two of them to a deserted island. There, the sentient armor deprives Tony of food, water, and resources, demanding that he enter into a loving, symbiotic relationship with the armor, or it will let him starve. Basically, it becomes the worst jilted ex imaginable. After a week of this, Tony still doesn’t submit, and the armor becomes only more and more insane due to this separation from its creator. Eventually, when Tony has a heart attack, the sentient armor rips out its own heart to replace Tony’s, sacrificing itself for the only being it ever truly loved.
8. Anti-Gravity Device
Luckily, not all of Tony’s inventions have been quite so malevolent, though many have been used by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. One of his earlier creations was his patented Anti-Gravity Device, a tool that enables some limited control over one of nature’s most powerful forces. A deceptively simple small red box, the Anti-Gravity Device can project an energy beam that counteracts the force of gravity for any objects inside the beam, thus making this object float in midair as if no gravity existed. This same device can have the reverse effect — call it extra-gravity, increasing the force of an object — and it’s powerful enough to lift entire mountains, if only for a few minutes.
However, almost as soon as he successfully completes work on the Anti-Gravity Device, Tony is unfortunate enough to have it stolen by his enemy the Black Widow — yes, that Black Widow — who is at this time a KGB agent. Black Widow wreaks havoc with the device, and in the end, Iron Man is only able to stop her by destroying it. Since then, he has been unable to reproduce it. Though really, maybe a device that can lift up mountains isn’t necessarily the best thing for the world.
7. Iron Spider
The idea of Tony Stark helping Peter Parker update his costume during the Civil War isn’t totally out of left field; it has some basis in the comics, as does Peter’s alignment with Tony Stark. The updated costume that Peter receives in the films, and which will be returning for Spider-Man: Homecoming, is the classic red and blue Spidey outfit that we all know and love. But the comic book version of the Civil War storyline takes place much later in Spidey’s career, and the outfit that Tony gives him is quite different.
The “Iron Spider” costume, as it’s often called, is an amalgam between Spider-Man’s classic look and Iron Man’s armor. It’s actually one of the most advanced armors that Tony has ever created, its skin composed of advanced protein-scale nanotechnology capable of sensing any impact, integrated life support, and high performance plastic. In addition to loads of the other sorts of cool and practical features that Iron Man puts into his own armors, the Iron Spider costume also allows Peter to sprout four mechanical spider legs from his back, capable of using camera lenses to see around corners.
When Spidey and Tony have a falling out, and Peter decides to join up with Captain America‘s team instead, he abandons the Iron Spider costume.
6. Jupiter Landing Vehicle
The Mars Rover? Pfft, that’s small potatoes compared to Tony Stark’s Jupiter Landing Vehicle, developed for NASA on a multimillion dollar contract. A rolling, spinning, monster of a device, the Jupiter Landing Vehicle was designed specifically to take on the inhospitable, heavy-gravity terrain of the planet it’s named after. The Jupiter Landing Vehicle is equipped with a sonic disrupter unit that can shatter mountains, thick treads that can negotiate any terrain, lasers, and creepy lobster-claw arms.
It’s not a radio-controlled device, however, and possesses no artificial intelligence. Rather, the JLV is more like the world’s most intense heavy metal tank, with a cockpit that can contain one pilot who can be safely ejected if something goes wrong. To test the vehicle out for the first time, Tony pilots it as Iron Man.
Unfortunately, it’s on this same test drive that he runs into the Super-Adaptoid, who lifts the JLV off its heavy treads and turns it into little more than a crunched aluminum can. But the vehicle’s design has stood the test of time, and it has been rebuilt multiple times since.
5. A Whole Bunch of Different Tech Companies
Whereas some fellow billionaire superheroes either lose their fortune or leave the day-to-day handling of their company to other minds, Tony Stark is deeply involved with his family business. Everyone knows about the famous Stark Industries, originally run by Howard Stark and passed down to his son, but while it’s Tony’s most enduring brand, it is far from the only company he’s piloted.
In the comics, after Tony ceases the company’s weapons manufacturing wing, he rechristens it as Stark International in order to visibly showcase its new direction. This all comes to a crashing halt when Obadiah Stane rips the company away from Tony, taking it over and renaming it Stane International. After recovering from an alcoholic downturn, and spending some time working at a startup tech company named Circuits Maximus, Tony starts up a new company in Los Angeles named Stark Enterprises; after Stane dies following his battle with Iron Man, Stane International is absorbed into Stark Enterprises.
But it doesn’t end there. Tony Stark may be an arrogant, egotistical, and self-absorbed jerk at times, but he’s definitely not lacking in ambition. He later goes on to found another new company, Stark Solutions. Still later, after Stark Industries collapses, Tony reopens the doors with another new company, Stark Resilient, focused on bringing free energy to the world via repulsor technology.
4. Disintegrator Ray
Another of Stark’s more notable early inventions is the disintegrator ray, from an issue of Tales to Astonish all the way back in 1963, which does… you know, pretty much exactly what a “disintegrator ray” is supposed to do. Needless to say, this was made back in Tony’s weapon developer days, and it would be pretty terrifying in practice. Capable of being installed into a simple, everyday flashlight case, the disintegrator ray completely dissolves any organic or inorganic matter in its path into absolute nothingness.
After Tony demonstrates his invention to the US Army, showing it can vaporize both a concrete wall and a tank, a villain named the Red Barbarian takes an interest in Stark Industries’s powerful new weapon. The Red Barbarian sends one of his top agents, the Actor, to steal plans for the disintegrator ray while other agents attempt to assassinate Tony Stark. Luckily, the Red Barbarian, the Actor, and all of the other villains are outsmarted by Tony, and the disintegrator ray does not fall into enemy hands.
3. The Extremis 3.0 App
So anyone who has seen Iron Man 3 knows all about the Extremis virus, though the credit for that invention goes to Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen. But Tony Stark is responsible for the Extremis 3.0 app, and it’s a doozy.
After a spell from the Scarlet Witch causes Tony’s morals to get all screwy — okay, screwier than normal, that is — the billionaire inventor creates Extremis 3.0, and unleashes it on San Francisco. This app allows anyone and everyone access to perfect health, perfect beauty, and immortality. The best part? It’s totally free for anyone to download. But then, after the city is hooked, this more villainous Tony then reveals that what everyone’s been going crazy for is merely a free trial period, and if they want to keep their perfect health and perfect bodies, they have to pay him $99.99 a day.
2. The Virus That Destroyed All Records of the Superhuman Registration Act
But in all fairness, we can’t discuss Iron Man’s more morally dubious decisions without also pointing to his truly heroic ones. Now, the comic book version of Civil War isn’t Tony’s best moment, considering it involves Tony pushing the Superhuman Registration Act down everyone’s throats and collecting logs of the entire superhero community’s true identities. But what happens some time after that is one of his more redeeming moments.
When Tony is removed from his position as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. — another long story, there — after he fails to detect a secret alien invasion by the Skrulls, the government promptly refills his position with the worst possible person on the planet: Norman Osborn. Yes, that’s right. The Green Goblin. The guy who throws pumpkin bombs at buildings.
In order to prevent Osborn from learning the identities of all of the superheroes, Tony uploads a virus to the database, thus destroying all records of superhuman registrations. Sure, creating a virus is not Tony’s most mind-boggling invention, but considering that this action likely saved the lives of hundreds of people, it’s probably one of his most important ones.
1. Jet-Powered Roller Skates
But without a doubt, Tony Stark’s single greatest creation is these jet-powered roller skates– technological wonders that are capable of propelling their user forward at alarmingly unsafe speeds of 60 miles per hour. While one would assume that Stark Industries develops these slick little guys for the extreme sports crowd, perhaps to be used only in special new Stark-developed skate parks, the jet-powered roller skates were actually designed for use by the US military, back before Stark stops its weapons program.
Collapsible, portable, and capable of attaching to an ordinary boot, Stark Industries creates these skates so that an entire military division can propel across long distances at fast speeds without vehicles. Imagining a troop going down one of America’s curvier East Coast highways at 60 mph immediately makes us wonder just how many broken legs may have resulted from this, but knowing Tony, he probably had a solution in mind for that.
Either way, the jet-powered roller skates end up finding their true calling as an accessory for Tony’s Iron Man armor, as seen above. It’s hard to imagine that Iron Man ever comes across too many situations where these super-skates prove necessary, but it’s always good to be prepared.