Or – “Does Whatever An Iron Can!”
Anthony Stark, since his inception, has been an interesting character, one whose power comes from his weakness, and whose weaknesses stem from his power… His costume was designed not to fight crime, but to save his life, and his origins in the Vietnam conflict gave his adventures a realism and grounding that a lot of heroes never achieve. Even we set aside his tendency to get involved in corporate espionage and probably insider trading, Iron Man has had any number of moments that stick in the mind. But which ones made the Matthew list? Details after the jump…
1. Clothes Make The Man
We have to start our list with one of the first dramatic moves that Stark ever made. After debuting his armored identity, he did make a minor change in color scheme, but it wasn’t until Tales of Suspense #48 that a battle with the mysterious Mr. Doll (a.k.a. Mr. Pain) forced him to make drastic changes to his costumed identity…
This change set the standard for years to come, as the changing needs of technology and his heroic mission caused Stark to repeatedly rework and revamp his armor again and again…
2. Fighting Ford?
In the 1970’s, relevance became the buzzword, and real-life political and social concerns made their way into the adventures of our four-color heroes. Even Captain America had a run-in with the head of the Secret Empire, who was revealed to be “someone very high up in our National Government.” (They meant Richard Milhous Nixon.) Iron Man didn’t lag too far behind, as he repeatedly clashed with the Black Lama, who turned out to be…
…an alternate universe version of President Gerald Ford. The story is pretty much incoherent, but this panel shows the alternate reality versions of Nelson Rockefeller and his wife (then Vice-President.) This storyline also led to the next heavy-duty Iron Man moment…
3. How Does He Smell? Terrible!
Anthony’s various adjustments to the Iron Man included one questionable addition to his mask during the aforementioned Black Lama saga… a NOSE.
In his defense, this mask wasn’t just a “Nose-Mask,” but was designed to allow his facial expressions to show through, undoubtedly to make the artist’s job easier. Marvel Legend has it that back in the day, Stan Lee would occasionally come through the office and comment, leading to misunderstandings about things, and he made a remark that a drawing of Iron Man needed more expression. This is what came of it. Knowing is, indeed, half the battle.
4. Demon In A Bottle
Unlike the previous two, this moment is one that most EVERY Iron Fan would number among Tony’s most memorable. Under attack in both his superhuman and boardroom guises, his company fighting off a hostile takeover by the nefarious Justin Hammer, can anyone blame Tony for leaning hard on alcohol to lower his stress level?
“Aw, geez… Fergot to open th’ window,” he slurs as he flies into the night. More unpleasantness is to come for Tony, but this is the first step down a path that Tony ends up walking more than once.
5. An Army Of Super-Villains
A huge moment for Iron Man that most people DON”T remember came during that same storyline, as Justin Hammer proves that he is ready for Tony Stark and his “armored lackey” (This was long before the identity of the man in the iron mask was public, mind you) by paying several DOZEN of the Marvel U’s worst to be his personal strikeforce. Tony’s response?
Wade into them like Torq at the funnel cake stand! Iron Man whoops up on all of them, hitting the Jim Ross hat trick and beating each like a government mule at a slobberknocker from which they ran like scalded dogs. After all, the name on the book ain’t “Army Of Schmendriks.”
6. Quest For Camelot!
Some of the greatest Iron Man stories come when he’s completely out of his element. Witness the accidental transportation of Stark and Victor Von Doom back in time to ancient Camelot. The two armored rivals (in what was, to my memory anyway, their first major conflict) t0ook side in the battle between Morded and Arthur, but were forced to work together to get home…
More amazing than the fact that they were able to cannibalize a working time machine out of their armors is the moment that follows, wherein Doom admits his grudging respect and allows Tony to leave Latveria unmolested. “We shall meet again,” says the King of Latveria. “I’ll be waiting,” replies Iron Man. That is HARD CORE. (Of course, with ruined armors, they both had to walk home.)
7. The Man Makes The Clothes
It should be noted that not all great stories about Iron Man are great stories for Tony Stark. In fact, not all Iron Man stories are ABOUT Tony Stark. During Obadiah Stane’s campaign of terror against Tony, we found that even an Iron Man could reach his limit. Retreating into a bottle again, Tony turned over his armor to good friend Jim Rhodes, and was forced to face the indignity of being pimp-slapped in his underwear by three-time loser Magma…
For several months afterwards, Tony fell further and further into despair and alcoholism, while Rhodey performed the duties of Miss America Iron Man. It didn’t end until Stane and Stark met face to armored face, a story which I told in a recent Hero History.
8. Armor Wars
As a weapons manufacturer, Tony has occasionally had to deal with the revelation that his wares are also the tools of evil men. One pivotal story led to him disavowing the manufacture of weapons entirely. But when he found that super-villains had pirated his ARMOR designs and used them to create suits like the Enforcers, the Mauler, and the government-utilized Guardsman suit, Tony set off on a campaign to destroy what he had created. Problem the first: The Guardsmen were used as guards at the Vault, a prison for metahumans. Problem the second: to destroy their armors, he’ll be forced to betray one of his oldest friends…
The armors end up destroyed, but so does the friendship between Tony and Steve. (At least until they rebuild it so they can smash it again during Civil War, as we’ll see in a moment.)
9. Teen Tony?
The greatest indignity of all, the worst of these, and yet an awesome moment in the biblical sense, comes during the events of “The Crossing,” wherein the Avengers find that they have a traitor in their midst. It is revealed that Iron Man is under the thrall of Kang the Conqueror, and has killed several innocents to cover his tracks. The Avengers come up with an interesting gambit to try and rehabilitate their partner: Using a time machine to pull a younger version of him, before he was tainted by the Kangster, to fight his older self…
Their battle ends with the elder Tony dead, and young Anthony Stark trying to relearn the craft that his older self made his living at. It was an interesting, if humiliating, turn of events, but was sadly retconned soon after.
10. Director Of A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.
Anthony’s biggest moment, at least in terms of public presence, came in the wake of the Civil War. When it became clear that the Superhuman Registration Act was going to pass and change the nature of the Avengers and heroing forever, Stark positioned himself to be the face of SHRA. Sacrificing much of his credibility, many relationships and some dignity, Iron Man was able to be named head of S.H.I.E.L.D. after Captain America’s arrest, allowing him to protect his friends and the world, albeit in a different fashion than before…
In recent months, we’ve seen the toll that these actions took on him, and even his best efforts couldn’t keep his successor from being an utter disaster. The major act of heroism performed as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. was destroying the database of all known superhero secret identities rather than have it fall into the wrong hands.
THE END… OR IS IT?
I don’t promise that these are THE greatest Iron Man moments of all time, just the ones that stick in my mind. In any case, it’s obvious that we’ve barely scratched the surface of a legacy of heroism. Join us next time for the ten most awesome Ambush Bug moments (over Stephen’s dead body.)
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Which fabulous Iron Moments did I, in your opinion, forget to mention?