Iron Man is without a doubt one of Marvel’s most recognizable heroes. Ask anyone around the world who Iron Man is and they’ll tell you: he’s a man that’s covered in iron. He’s also a billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist, and one of the most bankable superheroes in cinematic history. But that’s not all he is.
Despite Iron Man’s claim to fame being that he’s just a regular human whose various suits help him accomplish superhuman feats, as it turns out, Iron Man is more than just the sum of his suits. Throughout different comic book, television, and film storylines since Iron Man’s 1968 debut, he’s accumulated a whole host of powers that most people aren’t aware of. Sure, everyone knows the basics – like his flight and weapons capabilities – but we’re diving into the powers that you don’t think about when you think about Iron Man.
To satisfy your curiosity of what makes Iron Man so badass in the recently released Captain America: Civil War, here’s 12 Superpowers You Didn’t Know Iron Man Has.
With the equivalent of a small country’s weapons arsenal packed into a suit that he flies around inside of, it’s easy to forget that Iron Man isn’t just a high-tech killing machine — he’s actually the genius who invented the high-tech killing machine. Well, technically Tony Stark invented it, but they’re one in the same, which is why we’re considering one of Iron Man’s most overlooked powers his genius-level intellect.
There are a lot of smart people in the Marvel Universe. Between Reed Richards, Hank Pym, and Bruce Banner, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Stark is just some cocky engineer who knows his weapons. But perhaps one of Tony’s – and thus Iron Man’s – greatest strengths is his superior intelligence. Often considered one of the greatest minds in the world of Marvel, Stark graduated from MIT at 17 and quickly made a name for himself; and then later he made a name for himself as Iron Man, the smartest superhero on the face of the Earth.
In case you’re thinking that if you took Iron Man’s suit away he’d no longer be Iron Man, think again. Unlike Batman, Iron Man’s powers have been upgraded over the years and the result is a superhero that can never be separated from his costume — because it’s hiding inside of him. And while Iron Man has had a collection of suits over the years that all have different capabilities, it’s the suit that’s a part of Iron Man (and Tony Stark) that truly makes him a superhero.
Starting with Iron Man’s Extremis Armor and evolving into the Bleeding Edge Armor, Tony Stark was able to create a suit that meshed with his mind and body. Controlled with his thoughts and implanted directly into his nervous system via nanotechnology, Iron Man’s suit can be stored inside of his bones, able to be deployed whenever the situation presents itself. Not only is this power able to give Iron Man the element of surprise when an attacker thinks they have the advantage on him, but it also takes Iron Man more in line with the rest of the Marvel Universe heroes; seemingly-regular people that can unleash their powers at any time, no matter what they happen to be wearing.
If you’re Iron Man it would be pretty essential to hear what the world is saying about you and who may or may not be chasing after you if you’re enjoying a Sunday flight in your suit. It therefore makes sense that Shellhead would have the ability to tap into the communications systems of the world and use the information he obtains to his advantage. But that seems like a pretty straightforward power that we’d all assume Iron Man has, so what makes it so intriguing?
Iron Man’s ability to access the world’s communications systems is actually more complex than it seems, and the casual Iron Man fan would have no idea just what he can do with this power. Thanks to Tony’s merging with his Iron Man armor after the events of Extremis, he’s actually able to talk – and listen – to machines all around the world, without his suit. This is because Tony’s brain developed a technopathic bond with the world’s machinery, and as a result he can tap into any system that he wants and have his way with it. It’s just another under the radar power that makes life as Iron Man a lot easier.
Iron Man’s gotten a lot of upgrades since his comic book debut, and he’s far from the frail alcoholic that had to become Iron Man in order to prevent the shrapnel in his body from killing him. In fact, Iron Man took a page from others in the Marvel Universe – specifically Wolverine and Deadpool – and gained the ability of super-human healing somewhere on his journey from forgotten comic book hero to multi-billion dollar movie icon.
Taking a page from his suit – which has been developed to patch and repair itself if damaged – Tony Stark is harder to take down than one might think. With a super-human ability to heal, Stark’s body can produce entire new organs if it needs to in order to keep itself alive. While he might not survive a gunshot to the head like Wolverine, Iron Man can still take some serious damage before calling it a day, inside and out of his suit.
When Iron Man got the Extremis armor, his suit’s operating system was hardwired right into his body’s nervous system. And while a lesser hero might use that nervous system OS to play solitaire with their mind all day, Iron Man quickly realized that this direct link to his brain granted him a super-human response time that he never had with his old suit; and he used his powers to fight evil, obviously.
Essentially a cyborg, Iron Man’s response time is instant, as all he has to do is think something and it will occur. Just like moving an arm or taking a step, Stark’s synapses fire a command to his suit and the command is immediately carried out, shaving precious nanoseconds off of life-or-death situations. This power essentially matches Iron Man up with the likes of Spider-Man’s spider-sense or the skills Cap got from the Super Soldier Serum, and thus it puts him on a level playing field with the more “traditional” superheroes that everyone knows about.
Not many people would think that a wealthy businessman who became a weaponized superhero out of necessity would be a great fighter outside of his suit, but those are the kind of people that Tony Stark would love to prove wrong. Unable to use his suit for a period of time in the comics, Stark was unwilling to sit on the sidelines and be just another powerless guy, so he turned to Captain America for help.
It was at this point that Cap started Stark on a relentless training regimen that would prepare him to be a great fighter, even when he’s not hiding behind the red and gold armor. Stark took to his combat training and eventually became a physically intimidating presence, learning how to give and take punches along the lines of the best fighters in the world.
As far as Iron Man’s powers go, radar avoidance isn’t the sexiest or most compelling. When you’re a nearly indestructible human weapon, not a lot of people are going to pay attention to the little things that make your powers useful. But that’s exactly why not too many people know about Iron Man’s ability to avoid any form of radar, which actually turns out to be one of the most useful powers that Iron Man has at his disposal.
When you’re flying into hostile territory or trying to take out any number of various Earth-destroying threats with the Avengers, you’re generally not going to want to draw attention to yourself. So when Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor, or The Hulk come smashing into your backyard, you’re going to notice; but that’s not the case with Iron Man. Having devised a genius cloaking system to avoid radar and other detection methods in his suit, Iron Man essentially has invisibility on his side — right up until he yells a sarcastic insult at the villain he’s fighting and gives himself away.
This is one of Iron Man’s powers that we’d love to see more of in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: his ability to project hologram decoys in the battlefield. While the MCU has shown phones and S.H.I.E.L.D. computers utilizing holograms for all kinds of nonsense, we’ve yet to see an awesome on-screen representations of what may be Iron Man’s most underrated power.
Iron Man has used his suit’s ability to project holograms in the past by projecting a copy of himself, out of the armor, in order to fool enemies and bait them into attacking him. He’s also projected multiple Iron Men in order to fool weapons and attacking forces, as well as chameleon-type blending capabilities that essentially make him invisible to everyone. Considering that so much of Iron Man’s powers are offensive-based firepower, it’s cool to see a defensive ability that really showcases the high-tech nature and intelligence behind his armor.
Your phone might die after a few hours of playing Candy Crush, but a high-powered suit that can make its user fly around and launch rockets can apparently never run out of battery; which has to be one of the coolest things about Iron Man — he’s always on. Although there’s been a fair share of power-failures and energy draining attacks on Iron Man in the MCU, in the comics, Iron Man is actually able to power his suit indefinitely using external energy sources.
Not only does using external energy for power save Iron Man a ton on his electricity bill, but it also means that he can take the energy from incoming attacks and energy discharges such as explosion and absorb them for power (we glimpsed this in his brief brawl with Thor in the first Avengers outing). One of the coolest elements of this power is the fact that enemies trying to wear down Iron Man don’t know that by shooting at him or trying to blow him up, all they’re actually doing is making him stronger.
You wouldn’t think one of pop culture’s most famous alcoholics would have indomitable will, but just like any legendary superhero, Iron Man has a stronger willpower than just about anyone on the face of the planet. Like Captain America and many in the DC Universe, trying to change Iron Man’s mind would be a futile effort, and giving up is an option that would never cross his mind.
Though indomitable will may be the most inevitable superpower on the checklist – right up there with "having a costume" – it’s essential to who Iron Man, and Tony Stark, is; that he has immense willpower and mental strength. Having recovered from alcoholism after one of the most iconic storylines in comic book history – "Demon in a Bottle" – Stark learned to emerge from challenges stronger than ever and never quit until he wins. It’s something so ingrained in Iron Man that you wouldn’t think twice about it, but it’s also one of his most useful powers.
If ignorance is bliss, then maybe being a genius is what makes Iron Man such a snarky asshole. Known by all in the Marvel Universe as a “futurist,” Stark is so intelligent that his mind works differently from everyone else. He can see the future by means of foreshadowing events before they happen based on reason and logic. There’s no mysticism involved here, just a good old-fashioned superpower based on brains.
Hawkeye called Iron Man out on this in Civil War, explaining that Stark must have known what was coming considering that he’s a futurist. It was an emotionally important moment, especially considering the tie-in to the Civil War comic book storyline. In the comics, Iron Man predicted the events of Civil War before they happened, thus proving that he isn’t some two-cent fortune teller at a carnival — he’s one of the only people in the Marvel Universe that can see ten steps ahead and plan how to react as a result.
In case Iron Man ever gets tired of blasting people with his repulsor rays, his central chest weapon is also capable of other feats that rarely get seen. Among the most interesting is his ability to generate a beam of ultra-freon, which would immediately freeze an opposing enemy and stop them in their tracks.
Along with Iron Man’s Freeze-Beam, he’s able to generate sonic blasts, create magnetic fields, and produce an electromagnetic pulse than can wipe out the power of anything nearby. All of these abilities are part of what is arguably Iron Man’s greatest power: his ability to change suits and weapons depending on his needs. At the end of the day, Iron Man is a great superhero because he doesn’t have a limited amount of tricks that he must rely on time after time. Thanks to his genius intellect and the other powers he’s accumulated since he became Iron Man, he can keep bringing new abilities to the table in order to surprise enemies — and delight fans.
Which power were you most surprised to learn that Iron Man has? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!