More than fifty years ago, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck introduced the world to the “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” Anthony “Tony” Stark, in Tales of Suspense #39, a character who would later become the superhero known as Iron Man. Most fans of the character are familiar with the his comic book origins: captured by terrorists and forced to created a weapon of mass destruction, he instead produces his most fabulous weapon yet — the Iron Man suit.
The character has been through many developmental changes — both on a personal and an emotional level — and was even killed off at one point. Even though Tony Stark was the person responsible for creating the various high-powered Iron Man suits, he hasn’t always been the person wearing them. Over the years, dozens of other characters have been seen donning the metallic Stark-borne armors throughout Iron Man’s 8000+ appearances during Marvel’s illustrious comic history.
Check out 20 Characters Who Have Worn Iron Man’s Armor.
20. Bethany Cabe, Mike O’Brien, Carl Walker
Ultimo, a sentient superweapon, was created by group of unknown aliens to destroy all the inhabitants of the planet Rjak. Once he was done, he tracked down a group of Rajak survivors to an asteroid field near Earth and eventually crashed landed in China. Once the villainous Mandarin located Ultimo, he turned the robot’s destructive power against his enemies — namely, the Avengers. He was so powerful that War Machine convinced a group of Tony Stark’s friends, allies and former enemies, to create a temporary alliance using various Iron Man suits — The Iron Legion.
The group consisted of “Happy” Hogan (Tony’s limo driver), Eddie March (Happy’s friend and a retired boxer), Michael O’Brien (formerly known as The Guardsman, one of Iron Man’s foes), Bethany Cabe (Stark’s bodyguard and former lover), and Carl Walker (a former henchman for Justin Hammer). The alliance, while successful in defeating Ultimo, was ultimately short-lived, only appearing a few times.
19. Weasel Willis
Weasel Willis was a little known character in the Iron Man mythos but he nonetheless managed to not only wear the armor, but gave Tony Stark a fit while doing so. Making his appearance during Marvel’s Silver Age, Willis was a professional (though small time) thief who snuck into Stark Industries and made off with Tony’s briefcase. However, he had no idea the high-powered armor was inside. Once he discovered it though, he learned to use it to pull off petty crimes, such as robbing banks.
In an attempt to stop Willis, Tony had to wear one of his older Mark I suits. While the older suit was more durable than the one Willis stole, it was no match for its newer, more advanced weaponry. In order to defeat him, Tony goaded the criminal into exhausting all the suit’s energy until he was able to overcome him, (think Rocky versus Clubber Lang in Rocky III). After that encounter, Willis wasn’t heard from again.
18. Sonny Frisco
Appearing during the Secret Wars 2099 miniseries, Sonny Frisco is an alternate version of Iron Man but isn’t an alternate version of Tony Stark. That doesn’t make him any less of a genius, though. The inventor may be short in stature (he suffers from a form of Dwarfism) but he still wears a full-size Iron Man suit. Recruited by Alchemax CEO Miguel Stone, he became a member of the corporation’s very own private Avengers group.
After playing the role of corporate-owned hired hero, Frisco found himself in a different part of Marvel’s Multiverse — the new Prime Earth. Once there, his allegiances changed and he became a member of the terrorist organization called Fist. The group used his genius abilities to build a stable portal to other realities in order to recover the dangerous inhuman Glorianna (Rhonda Fleming), who had exiled herself to an unknown location after unsuccessfully attempting to force all of humanity to worship her.
17. Clarence Ward
Tony Stark has had many girlfriends in his lifetime. Pepper Potts, Emma Frost, Madame Masque, Bethany Cabe and Rumiko Fujikawa have all enjoyed the romantic advances of the world’s most desirable playboy. Rumiko, the daughter of businessman Kenjiro Fujikawa, appeared during the four-part Invincible Iron Man: Disassembled miniseries and dated Tony as more of a form of rebellion than actual love. Kenjiro was the Japanese businessman who took over Stark Industries while Tony was in a different universe.
During that same story arc, villain Clarence Ward stole one of Tony’s suits and used it to kill the entire Fujikawa board of directors, including Tony’s girlfriend Rumiko. The entire situation so enraged Stark that he negated the military’s use of his technology and publically retired from being Iron Man — though he continued to be active as the superhero in secret.
16. Eddie March
As a resident of the lower-income section of Bay City, Eddie March literally fought his way out of poverty, finding success as a prize fighting boxer. However, a dangerous blood clot put him against the ropes and he had to retire. Down on his luck and running out of money, March turned to his good friend and sparring partner Happy Hogan, who managed to land him a job at Stark Industries.
After earning Stark’s trust, it was revealed to March that Tony was Iron Man. With Tony suffering from heart problems due to the strain of using the Iron Man suit, he told Eddie he was considering finding a replacement to don the armor. March was more than happy to volunteer for the position. After fighting the Crimson Dynamo as Iron Man, Tony gave March his very own suit, which he would wear while battling Ultimo as a member of the Iron Legion.
15. Squirrel Girl
One of the most unique superheroes in the Marvel universe is Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl. The 14 year old girl with the ability to communicate with squirrels has proven she’s not to be underestimated, taking down major villains such as, M.O.D.O.K, Terrax and Thanos. At one point she even fought Deadpool (he now owns Squirrel Girl underoos) and met Iron Man by saving him from Doctor Doom.
While attending college at Empire State University, Squirrel Girl finds herself battling Kraven the Hunter after learning he is killing local squirrels, including her soon-to-be best friend Tippy Toe. Soon after, she discovers Galactus is en route to Earth, intent on devouring it. So, she steals one of Iron Man’s suits, uses it to travel to the moon with Tippy Toe to stop him, stopping to defeat Whiplash along the way. Not only does she manage to befriend Galactus, but she convinces him to focus on a nearby uninhabited planet rich in nuts.
14. Iron Grandma
Most people know that virtually all superheroes have parents, but most don’t realize that those same superheroes have grandparents as well. “Hacks of Vengeance” was a standalone story featured as a part of a group of stories in the parody comic Shame Itself Vol 1, which was led by The Daily Show writers Wyatt Cenac and Elliot Kalan. The story focuses on The Vision leading a team of geriatric Avengers (actually, their grandparents) who attempt to stop internet schemes that target the elderly.
The Early Bird Avengers are made up of the following team members: Iron Grandma, Hawkbifocals, Great Aunt Woman, Grey Panther, and Spider-Pop Pop. Other Marvel characters, such as Wolverine, Captain America, Wasp and Ms. Marvel, all make supporting appearances but truly, this tongue-in-cheek story is all about the super-powered octogenarians.
13. Iron Mandrill
After the mild success of the Marvel Zombies miniseries, a new miniseries idea was pitched to Marvel head Joe Quesada during a Q&A session by artist Mark Walsh: Marvel Apes. The simian-based superhero comic debuted the first of four issues in 2008. Set in an alternate universe (because that’s essentially the only way this story works), Marvel Apes follows Marty Gibbon as he teams up with Spider-Monkey and the Ape-Vengers to bring down the dangerous Dr. Ooktavius (aka Doctor Ooktapus) and Baron Blood.
The Ape-Vengers were made up of the following team members: Thorangutan Odinson, Janet van Dyne (Wasp), Robert Baldwin (Speedball), Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver), William Baker (Sand Monk), Edwin Jarvis, Henry Pym (Gro-Rilla), Fred Myers (Boomerangutan), and of course, Anthony Stark as Iron Mandrill. Also making appearances in the series were simian versions of Gorilla Girl, Captain America, Human Torch, Sue Storm, Mister Fantastic and Princess Python.
12. Lord Iron
Over the years, readers have seen many different versions of Iron Man — futuristic, alternate reality, zombified and even ape — but 1602: New World (a follow up to the limited miniseries 1602) was the first time Marvel took him deep into America’s past. Set in the time of King James and a pre-Revolution Americas, Lord Iron is tasked by King James to track down Hulk after he attempted to kill Sir Nicholas Fury.
Lord Iron’s origin mirrored that of modern day Tony Stark with some minor modifications: While in the Holy Land, he was kidnapped during the English/Spanish War and tortured by David Banner to create weapons, but instead produced a massive suit of armor powered by “lightning bottles.” Along with his Moorish friend Rhodes, the two cross paths with Peter Parquagh, J. Jonah Jameson, Norman Osborn, Captain Ross, and Rojhaz (the 17th century equivalent of Captain America).
11. Antoinette (Toni) Stark
Sixteen years before RiRi Williams thought about wearing the Iron Man suit (and a whole year before the she was born), Antoinette “Toni” Stark donned the super powered armor as Stark’s twin sister (in an alternate reality, of course). Residing in Marvel’s short-lived Mangaverse between 2000-2002, Toni took over Stark Industries after Tony goes into hiding for unknown reasons, introducing herself to the world as Iron Maiden.
However, her rise to power wouldn’t last, and Tony ended his reclusiveness after his sister dies during a battle with the Hulk (because it’s ALWAYS against the Hulk.) As it turns out, Tony went into hiding because he had spinal cancer, returning as only a head attached to a life support unit. Upon his return, he creates four huge vehicles for the Avengers that can combine to form a Stark Tower-sized Iron Man.
10. Natasha Stark
In 2009, the character Tony Stark was literally born a woman named Natasha Stark, who eventually claimed the title Iron Woman, in Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #2. Except for the gender change, this alternate universe version of Stark was exactly the same, save that she was romantically involved with Steve Rogers. Reed Richards came across the female Stark while searching for realities where the superhero Civil War had ended differently.
Turns out, Iron Woman and Captain America’s intimate relationship, and subsequent marriage, was the entire reason their universe’s Civil War never happened. To quote Reed Richards from the comic. “[Their relationship] was a deterrent to each other’s more aggressive behavior.” This allowed Richards to successfully complete the Superhero Registration Program and begin the Fifty State Initiative on his own Earth.
9. Hal Stark
Back in the mid-to-late-nineties, both DC and Marvel were struggling to pull in monthly subscribers, so they did something virtually unheard of up to that point — they literally combined their characters to create hybrid superheroes under the publication title, Amalgam Comics (see more of these crazy characters HERE.) One of the more interesting mashed up characters was Harold “Hal’ Stark, better known as the Iron Lantern, the multi-billionaire founder of Stark Aircraft. And as you’ve probably devised, the character was a mashup of the Green Lantern Hal Jordan from DC Comics and, of course, Tony Stark.
Almost every aspect about Hal Stark’s character was a smash up, visually and story-wise. The Iron Lantern suit was bestowed upon him by the dying alien Rhomann Sur, which saved his life by preventing metal shards from entering his heart after a flight simulator he built crashed landed. Even his enemies were hybrids from both comic universes, which found him battling Great White (Ultimo/The Shark), Madame Sapphire (Pepper Potts/Carol Ferris), and Mandarinestro (the Mandarin/Sinestro).
8. Norman Osborn
Norman Osborn, better known as the Green Goblin, is always looking for an angle to better pull off his diabolical plans. To that end, he donned an old Iron Man suit, decorated it in Captain America’s colors, and called himself Iron Patriot. Not only was he was able to fool the entire world into thinking he was an actual hero, but he even managed to pull the wool over actual heroes, such as Ares, Moonknight and Sentry, who join his new Avengers team.
To make his rouse even stronger, he brings Bullseye and Venom onboard the team as Hawkeye and the black-suited Spider-Man, then recruits Moonstone, Daken and Noh-Varr as well. He was able to his undercover operations for quite some time as the star spangled, armored “hero” but eventually, his true intentions came to light and he was ceremoniously defeated during the Siege of Asgard, which took place in Oklahoma. Naturally.
7. Mary Jane Watson
The red head known as Mary Jane Watson has been the apple of Peter Parker’s eye, in both print and film, since her debut in 1966. She’s held many jobs through the years — fashion model, actress, even owning a nightclub at one point — but currently, she is employed at Stark Industries in Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man series. Her most recent job has granted her immediate access to the many of Tony Stark’s suit pieces, and she even recently put on the Iron Spider suit.
This isn’t the first time Mary Jane has been seen in the armor though. During the Amazing Spider-Man Vol 2 run published in the mid-2000s, she helped her then superhero husband (they’ve since been divorced) Spider-Man defeat the villain Morlun (a dimension-travelling bad guy from the past with a chip on his shoulder for Ol’ Web Head) by actually wearing the Iron Man suit.
6. Harold “Happy” Hogan
Before he became Tony Stark’s limo driver and closest confidant, Happy Hogan was a struggling, but talented, boxer in New York City, going up against the likes of Battlin’ Jack Murdock (Matt Murdock’s late-father) and Eddie March. Time and again, Happy proved to be Tony’s salvation (they actually met on a racetrack after he pulled Tony from an experimental racecar he had crashed), and would often make public appearances in the Iron Man suit when Tony was otherwise unavailable.
However, while not necessarily skilled as a suit pilot (he’s crashed several), he proved to be more than just a public stand in for Tony several times. Once, he joined his friend Eddie March, James Rhodes, Carl Walker, Bethany Cabe, and Mike O’Brien as a member of the Iron Legion. On another occasion, he put on the armor to battle the deadly Mandarin, though that battle left both he and the suit severely damaged.
5. Steve Rogers
During a “What if?” series titled Bullet Points, writer J. Michael Straczynski asked the question “What would the Marvel Universe have been like is Dr. Abraham Erskine hadn’t inject Steve Rogers with the super-soldier serum?” The results were definitely interesting, as Erskine’s assassination by a German spy (who killed Benjamin “Uncle Ben” Parker in the process) caused the U.S. Government to scrap the Project: Rebirth experiment and move forward with Project: Iron Man instead.
Unlike the modern version of the Iron Man armor, which was built by Tony Stark, this version was actually grafted to the bone and flesh of Rogers, causing him quite a bit of pain. He would go on to help the Allies win World War II but not before Peter Parker accidentally becomes The Hulk. Because Uncle Ben is dead, The Hulk is now an out of control teenage bad guy, who not only gives Aunt May a heart attack, but also battles Iron Man, subsequently killing Rogers in the process.
4. Virginia “Pepper” Potts
There’s no other woman more entangled in Tony Stark’s life than Virginia Potts (nicknamed “Pepper” because her freckles and red hair). She became Stark’s personal assistant early on in her accounting career at Stark Industries, and has remained his loyal friend (and occasional lover) throughout his many ordeals. While she originally wanted to become Mrs. Tony Stark, she quickly became infatuated with Happy Hogan. The pair would eventually get married and adopt children.
Years later, while working with Stark in Taipei, she and Iron Man were attacked by Ezekiel Stane (son of Zebediah Stane), leaving Pepper with shrapnel dangerously close to her heart. While she would don the Iron Man suit from time to time for various reasons (usually as protection), it wasn’t until after the Stane attack that Tony built a suit designed specifically for her — the Mark 1616. Using the moniker Rescue, she used her suit mainly for its defensive purposes, but would often find herself fighting side-by-side with Iron Man and War Machine.
3. James Rhodes
Before he became the armor-wearing, minigun-sporting badass known as War Machine, James Rhodes was a pilot in the Marines station overseas, around the time Tony Stark had finished building his Mark II Iron Man suit. The two soon became close friends and Rhodes was even made CEO of Stark Industries at one point. During Stark’s dark days of battling alcohol abuse, he gave Rhodes permission to wear the Iron Man suit, eventually letting him take over the identity completely for a short period of time.
Rhodes wore the suit for so long that he ended up battling many villains including, Mandarin, Thunderball, Firebrand, Zodiac, Vibro, Radioactive Man, Krang and more. He became so skilled at piloting the suit (after some help from Morley Erwin), that Hawkeye invited him to join the West Coast Avengers, thinking it was actually Tony Stark in the suit. Soon after a falling out with Stark, he was given the War Machine armor, though he wouldn’t join the West Coast Avengers right away, instead choosing to go the solo route.
2. Riri Williams
The most recent character in this list is fifteen year old Riri Williams. Not much is currently known about the former M.I.T. student with a genius-level intellect, except that she is smart enough to reverse-engineer Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, then build one of her own from scratch using materials she found around campus. She was able to test drive/fly her new suit and showed her affinity for fighting crime by stopping two convicts as they attempted to escape the New Mexico Penitentiary. She damaged her homemade armor beyond repair in the process.
However, all of her exploits caught the eye of Tony Stark (who had just returned to being Iron Man after the Secret Wars) and he recently announced that she would be taking a step back from his role inside the Iron Man suit. With Tony stepping down as the one of the world’s superhero leaders, there was a gap to be filled, and while Riri has the heart, she doesn’t quite have the experience. However, she may soon be receiving some mentoring from the most unlikely of candidates — Victor Von Doom.
1. Tony Stark
While it may seem a little too obvious by including the creator of the Iron Man armor on this list, there’s no way it would be complete without him. Making his armored debut in a terrorist bunker in 1965, Tony Stark has created hundreds of high-powered Iron Man suits, not just for himself, but for dozens of other people during the many different series in which he has made appearances.
From specialized arctic armor, to underwater armor, to armor designed specifically to survive an encounter with The Hulk, to collapsible armor that fits in a briefcase, to armor designed for deep space travel — all-in-all Tony Stark has created over 80 different versions of the Iron Man armor (over 45 different versions exist in the just the Marvel Cinematic Universe). While many villains (and some allies) have attempted to recreate Tony’s legendary armored suit, none have been able to perfect it without his help or input (Riri Williams has probably come the closest), proving that without Tony Stark, the world would never have truly known Iron Man.
Maximum Effort Honorable Mention – Deadpool
Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is having about as banner year as any superhero could ask for. First he sets box office records as the highest grossing Rated-R movie in the history of ever. Suddenly, everyone from Quicksilver, to Lady Deadpool, to Psylocke, to Cable, to the entire X-Men team wants to co-star with him (except Spider-Man, the studios aren’t ready for that yet.) Then not only does Fox greenlight his sequel, but it starts filming soon and the writers want to produce his scripts forever – he’s clearly on top of the world.
Making 2016 an even better year, back in January he not only got to party with Tony Stark during one of his alcohol-induced “me” parties, but he convinced the drunken billionaire to let him wear the armor (read: he knock him out with a bottle of fruity wine and stole the suit for a joyride.) While he was out on the town drinking and flying, he even managed to stop an armored truck robbery and save a nuclear plant from exploding – that is, until Tony woke up from his beer nap highly upset and Cable popped in to get his help defeating Mister Sinister in Mexico.
Who’s your favorite Iron Man not named Stark? How will the newly anointed Riri Williams set herself apart from the pack? Sound off in the comments.
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