He is the hero who launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a founding Avenger, a billionaire playboy philanthropist — he is Iron Man. For all the swagger and charm of Tony Stark, it’s the stylish armor that we all love. Outfitted with an arsenal of weapons, able to take a pounding from the most dangerous supervillains, and ready for almost any task, the Iron Man armor is iconic.
The suit is such a great design that the world is keen to see in real life. From Obama claiming the U.S. is making Iron Man, to other inventors working on their designs privately, it sometimes feels like the world of Tony Stark is just around the corner – if you’re a genius billionaire inventor, that is.
With Infinity War coming soon there is already a lot of buzz over Iron Man’s latest armor, which will put the count up to 48 (at least!) for the MCU suits. After the teasing glimpse of his new suit-up style in the trailer, fans went crazy trying to link it back to the comics. We’ve already seen a host of adaptations of some of the comics’ best looks for Tony’s hardware.
With Tony’s constant tinkering with his design, there are so many models and marks to keep track of across comic books and movies – and perhaps soon in the real world.
Here are 20 Little Known Facts About Iron Man’s Armor.
20. Tony’s Kept The Red And Gold Color Scheme For 55 years
When you’re making a suit in a cave, you don’t have time to worry about looks. The original Model 1 was a bland and clunky grey thing that wasn’t much improved by a gold paint job.
After the creation of the original Model 1, it only took one more try for Tony to settle on his iconic red and gold look.
It happened in 1963’s Tales of Suspense Vol 1 48. After the less-than-scarily named Mister Doll takes out his heavy Model 1 suit, Tony works on a lighter and more fashionable replacement. Apart from a few special occasions, he’s stuck with the red and gold colors ever since. It is proof that he doesn’t need to change a winning formula.
19. Joss Whedon dissed the Triangular Reactor from Iron Man 2
Speaking of changing a winning formula, one of the pieces of the suit is both iconic and up for change from concept to concept. Yes, the arc reactor seems to flip from circle to triangle and back again on Tony’s (or the artist’s) whims. The same went for the MCU, with Iron Man using a triangular one in Iron Man 2.
When Whedon took the helm again for Age of Ultron, though, the change was short lived. In an interview with Empire, he said the Marvel execs wanted to know about evolving the design. “And so I said, ‘Great! Then you’re going back to the circle because the triangle is ….’ I’m sorry, but I’m a classicist, the circle has a meaning, the triangle does not.”
18. His Model 1 Had Some Strange Features
Whenever you start a project, it’s normal to try some things that don’t really work out. The original Model 1 suit had some great features, such as rocket boosters, flame throwers, and magnets to adjust the path of bullets in flight. It’s not bad for something thrown together in a cave in the middle of the Vietnam jungle.
It wasn’t all brilliant stuff, some of the features are a little situational — finger saws might come in handy, once.
Loudspeakers attached to the belt are also a little underwhelming compared to some of his other designs. The most bizarre of all is his metal kilt — added when he made the change to gold colors, it does have a function. It protects his most sensitive area. Well, after his shrapnel-filled heart, maybe.
17. The Model 1 Could Be Put On In 90 Seconds
90 seconds may sound like a long time to go from ordinary human to superhero, but that’s not the case. Without any robotic or electronic assistance, Tony could still suit up in a minute and a half — not bad for something knocked together by two prisoners of war with very limited resources. The newer suits obviously take much less time to put on, but a 90 second timeline to prevent permanent damage is nothing to complain about.
Of course, that wasn’t good enough for Tony. He’d spend the rest of his time as Iron Man working to make that time as short as possible. Later, audiences got to see some of his clever and crazy modifications to make the suit as speedy as possible to put on.
16. Tony Made A Suit That Turned Him Into A Sneaky Cold War Spy
Iron Man has always had some neat links to real world conflicts, thanks to his past as an arms manufacturer. From his comics origin in the Vietnam War to his MCU start in the Middle East, Tony’s been in the thick of it. While infiltrating East Germany in the 1980s, when Cold War tensions were running high, Tony used his prototyped Model 7 Stealth Armor to move around unseen.
Pitch black and based on stealth bombers, the armor was undetectable by radar or sonar.
The boots even supercooled his thrusters to keep him undetectable by infrared scanners. At first it was weaponless, but Tony upgraded it to have limited use repulsors, which also allowed the suit to change color to blend in with the background. Not even Q could design such an all-in-one spy gadget.
15. The Hulkbuster Armor Got Possessed By A Demon
Now this is just the kind of stuff that happens when you work with Doctor Strange — during the famous World War Hulk story arc, Tony produced his Hulkbuster Armor III to deal with the big guy. The fight went about as you’d expect, and Tony left the suit for ruin under the collapsed Stark Tower. Doctor Strange also took a gamble to stop the Hulk, and ended up releasing a demonic entity named Zom.
Zom was, as demonic entities tend to be, hell-bent on destroying the planet. His scheme was to use antimatter. Specifically, he wanted the antimatter that powered the Hulkbuster armor. In the armor, the demon took on Wong, Hercules, Namora, Angel, and Amadeus Cho, which shows how tough the armor really was! Zom was lured out of the armor by guile, and then defeated.
14. Model 52 Can Turn Into A Car
We all know Tony loves his cars. In the MCU, his color scheme is touched with hotrod red, but in the comics this goes to an insane level. The Iron Man armor doesn’t usually have to get stuck in traffic, but that said, the car also flies. It does have some uses, though.
In its debut, the first issue of the All-New, All-Different Avengers, Tony actually gives Captain America a ride.
It would also have allowed him to go around incognito, but it was melted in the same issue by the Warbringer. The suit did make a final appearance, flown in to land on Ultron, form around him, and send him on a drive right for the sun. Ultron escaped, because of comic book logic.
13. Tony Made A Suit Designed For A Vacation – In Space
Sometimes a good holiday is all you need to get out of a slump, and eight months as the Mandrill’s prisoner left Iron Man feeling very low and in need of a holiday. Tony built the Model 41 to be the perfect suit for space travel. Tony has made space armor before, with his first debuting in 1981, in fact, he’s also made custom models for hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
What sets this one apart is its purpose: it isn’t simply for quick space missions; it’s designed for a proper sight-seeing tour of the cosmos. This means its systems recycle everything the body requires, from air to fluids. Not too shabby for a space suit.
12. The MCU Mark II Iced Over In A Crazy Record Attempt
Now the MCU suits aren’t yet space ready, but that didn’t stop Tony from trying to break an altitude record in the original Iron Man movie. The famous icing over scene and its callback in the climax of his showdown with Obadiah Stane are really memorable moments from the first MCU movie. Unless you’re an aircraft fan, you may have missed the reason Tony’s flying so high.
On his HUD, you can see the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which is the world record holder for high-altitude flight.
11. The Suit RDJ Wore For The First Film Had About 450 Individual Parts
The Iron Man armor in the latest MCU films has been predominantly CGI, with Robert Downey Jr. wearing what the team call the “football suit”, which is more like a breastplate with the rest added with CGI. For fans of practical effects, it is a little disappointing that the films didn’t stick with the impressive armor Stan Winston Studios made for the first film.
The original armor had around 450 moving parts, according to its creators, and it was a real sight to behold. Unfortunately, the suit wasn’t very comfortable. The team from Industrial Light and Magic, who did the effects for Avengers, said the practical suit was very uncomfortable. That’s something the many Iron Man cosplayers out there could probably attest to.
10. Tony’s Guided Suit In Iron Man 3 Uses Subcutaneous Tech
As you’ll see later in this list, Tony Stark is not above hacking his own body to give himself an edge. While we’ve seen some great tech from him in the MCU, we often don’t see a lot behind the scenes of how it works. Iron Man 3 gave us a little insight into how Tony’s new armor knows where to go.
Iron Man 3 gives us a few shots of Tony Stark injecting the chips into his forearm before his entertaining first attempt at calling the armor.
In this movie, the armor is also meant to be more flexible so that it can wrap around him as it flies in. You can see a bit more of the behind the scenes for the sequence on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray, as well as a bit of RDJ’s martial arts practice.
9. The Civil War Suit Had Multiple Arc Reactors
One of the biggest vulnerabilities of Iron Man’s armor is its power source. The little arc reactor in the centre of its chest powers the whole thing, and without it the suit is useless. In a number of tense moments, we’ve seen Iron Man run out of juice in the middle of combat, sometimes leaving Tony having to power his suit with a truck battery, or hoping the system will come back online.
To remedy this, the Mark XLVI from Captain America: Civil War comes with a whole bunch of arc reactors, which act as backup power for the suit’s heavy duty uses. The suit naturally has the best tech, and we see the armor outpace even the Avenger’s Quinjet. That said, when Cap took out his main arc reactor, the suit lost too much power to keep up the intense fighting with Cap and Bucky.
8. The MCU Hulkbuster’s Nickname Is A Reference To Archie Comics
Fans were so excited for the arrival of the Hulkbuster armor in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was an instant classic, and inspired by the look of the Hulkbuster III in the comics. Before we see it in action, Tony promises to break out “Veronica.”
Tony loves cheeky nicknames, from J.A.R.V.I.S (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) to the Training Wheels Protocol.
So where does “Veronica” come from? The Hulk’s (or rather Banner’s) longest-running love interest is Betty Ross. She’s featured in both the 2004 and 2009 movies.
Whedon decided to sneak in a reference to Archie’s Betty and Veronica here. The line even had Mark Ruffalo wondering: “I thought I was breaking some Marvel taboo by asking.”
7. Tony’s Scary Inspiration
If there are any organisms in the Marvel Universe that are dangerous to play with, they’re definitely the symbiotes. Venom and Carnage are powerful symbiotes who have very dangerous effects on the psyche of the humans that host them. After some mind-altering events of his own, Tony uses elements from the symbiotes’ biology to develop a psionically bonded set of armor.
The crisp blue and silver Model 50, also called the Endo-Sym, is made of a liquid smart-metal. The startup process doesn’t use any tech; it’s completely driven by the user’s mind. Tony describes it as having the ability to feel, and implies it might even be alive. Who knew that Venom or Carnage’s parasitic tendencies could be used to fashion armor?
6. Tony Is A Cyborg
Tony has always used tech to give himself an edge in every field. His suits come outfitted with some phenomenal tech to help him maneuver, aim, and perform extreme acts. Tony has also used his tech to boost his own body with cybernetic enhancements like the Extremis Armor.
The armor has the usual exoskeleton, as well as a cybernetic layer wired into Stark’s genius brain.
This gives him superhuman reflexes and muscle response times, in addition to being a part of his very skin. He can use it to access any electronic device at the speed of thought and make phone calls with his mind. All of this is made possible by the Extremis Virus, which Tony had to use to heal some critical injuries.
5. The Bleeding Edge Suit Is Stored In Stark’s Bones
The Extremis Armor got an upgrade into the fantastically named Bleeding Edge Armor (Model 37). Sporting micro arc reactors, like the suit from MCU’s Civil War, this suit looks fantastic, and manages to really beat the big challenge of Iron Man’s armor: it’s built right into the man’s bones! That takes his cybernetics to a whole new level.
The nanomachines in his bones come out at his mental commands to form the suit, and they can also self-repair if it takes damage. The repulsors can even act as “eyeballs” to give him 360 degree vision. With the Infinity War trailer showing us Tony’s latest armor growing across his skin, fans immediately started speculating that it was the Bleeding Edge. Entertainment Weekly‘s covers for the movie seem to support this, as does Spidey’s donning of the Iron Spider suit.
4. His Suit Design Has Been Stolen By Other Geniuses
Iron Man in his many incarnations is always highly protective of his tech. His suits have megaweapon payloads inside them, including antimatter, so it makes sense that he would spend a lot of time tracking down stolen parts of his armor.
Even worse, there are enough geniuses in the Marvel universe who can reverse engineer them for their own devices. These include the villainous Norman Osborn and Victor von Doom.
Norman Osborn copied Stark’s design to develop the original Iron Patriot armor, blending Iron Man’s power with Captain America’s iconic appeal to American values. Recently, Victor von Doom has donned the suit in Infamous Iron Man, for better or worse. At the same time, we’ve seen hyper-intelligent teen Riri Williams adapt the suit’s design to become Iron Heart.
3. A Real Life ‘Iron Man’ Suit Has Set A New Flight Speed Record
The powers of Iron Man are still very far away in real life, if not impossible, but this doesn’t stop inventors out there trying to get us a few steps closer. One such inventor is Richard Browning, whose Daedalus suit is always compared to Tony Stark’s. While there are a number of different plans and prototypes for jetpacks out there, Browning’s definitely shares a lot in common with the Shell Head’s, with wrist-mounted jets to provide the thrust.
Last year, Browning set the newly created Guinness World Record for the fastest speed in a body-controlled jet-powered suit. At his fastest, Browning reached an impressive 32.02 mph (51.5 km/h) before falling into the lake below him. It may pale in comparison with the wonders of Stark’s armor, but it is certainly a great feat of technology.
2. The Most Underrated Power Of The MCU Armor Is Taking A Tank Shell Head On
It’s a given that the Iron Man armor is tough — we’ve seen it take blasts from alien weapons, thrown around, and even shrug off cars flung at it by Scarlet Witch. We even saw the Mark III take a direct hit from a tank shell. In the bombast of a Marvel movie it’s easy to just gape at the spectacle, but a bit of digging shows just how tough the Mark III would have to be to withstand that kind of force.
The tank in question is apparently a Chieftain tank with standard armor piercing shells, meaning the armor must have had to withstand a huge amount of force.
1. RDJ: The Real World Superhero
Many of the Marvel stars have done some great charity work with kids in need, and Robert Downey Jr. is no exception. He teamed up with Albert Manero, who runs a charity called Limbitless, which produces custom 3D-printed prosthetics. Manero got RDJ to present an Iron Man-inpired prosthetic to Alex, a young boy born with a partially-developed arm. To cap it all off, they introduced him as Tony Stark, and RDJ stayed in character the entire time. They even present the prosthetic “gauntlet” in a Stark Industries branded container.
Limbitless Solutions have produced a number of great geeky limbs, including white Storm Trooper limbs with the campaign tag #3Dhope. It’s great to see real world use of tech to help people, and of course our real world Iron Man had to be there to do his part.
Did you learn anything new about Iron Man‘s armor? Let us know in the comments!
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