Today, in honor of the release of Iron Man 3, we are giving you the 25 Greatest Iron Man Stories Ever Told, as voted on by the readers over at CBR. Each story is nicely framed so you can look up the trade and maybe purchase it to check on the history of the Ol’ Shell-head.
25. Iron Man: Hypervelocity #1-6
In this action-packed thrillride by Adam Warren and Brian Denham, Tony Stark debuts a new Iron Man armor. The concept is that if Tony ever sufferes life-threatening injuries in battle, a good chunk of his consciousness will take over a new Iron Man armor and keep fighting. The problem is that the bad guys convince SHIELD that this new armor has gone rogue and since Tony is unconscious, he can’t convince them otherwise. So the armor basically has to keep constantly moving, because if it ever stops, either the bad guys or SHIELD will get it. Great concept and really strong execution.
24. “Fight On! For A World Is Watching!” Tales of Suspense #69-71
You know how Iron Man’s armor was created while he was in a prison camp? Well, what if the Communists used that idea to create their OWN Iron Man? That was the concept behind this great three-part storyline by Stan Lee, Don Heck and a different inker for each issue (Colletta, Esposito and Wood). Iron Man faces off against the Titanium Man as the whole world watches to see who will win this match-up over who has the superior technology!
23. “Mandarin: The Story of My Life” Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
Matt Fraction and Carmine Di Giandomenico show us how the Mandarin is trying to sanitize his life story through a documentary of his life (the filmmaker, though, valiantly tries to defy the Mandarin and show us the TRUTH).
22. “Best Defense” Iron Man (Volume 3) #73-78
John Jackson Miller and Jorge Lucas did this fascinating story where Tony Stark decides to become the Secretary of Defense to prevent a corrupt politician from taking the position. This storyline likely influenced later stories, like Tony Stark becoming the Director of SHIELD.
21. “Crash and Burn” Iron Man #301-306
After Stark Industries is falsely implicated in a scandal, Iron Man has to prove his company’s innocence while facing a variety of challenges by outside forces who are investigating the situation (people like Venom, Captain America, the New Warriors, Thunderstrike and the Hulk). Len Kaminski wrote it and Kevin Hopgood and Steve Mitchell drew it.
20. “10 Rings to Rule the World” Iron Man #95-100
Iron Man is framed for treason and faces off against the Guardsman (who erroneously blames Iron Man for the death of his brother), Ultimo and Sunfire until he discovers that someone behind the scenes is pulling the strings. Someone with, you know, ten rings.
19. Iron Man: The Iron Age #1-2
Kurt Busiek, Patrick Zircher and Bob McLeod revisit the early days of Tony Stark’s time as Iron Man as we see Tony’s transformation from a bit of a jerk into a true hero through the eyes of the two people closest to him during this time, Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan.
18. “Hulk Is Where The Heart Is!” Iron Man #131-132
Bob Layton, David Michelinie and Jerry Bingham present this titanic tussle between Iron Man and the Hulk. One of the best superhero fights of all-time.
17. “Haunted” Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #21-28
Charles and Daniel Knauf, along with Roberto De La Torre, explore Iron Man’s new position as the Director of SHIELD along with his long-standing rivalry with the Mandarin by showing Tony literally being haunted by the ghosts of his past while the Mandarin plans on using Tony’s present (the Extremis) to annihilate nearly 98% of the world’s population, all in a goal to “improve” the world.
16. “Ghost in the Machine” Iron Man #219-221
Bob Layton, David Michelinie and M.D. Bright introduce the corporate saboteur the Ghost in this memorable three-parter that led directly into the Armor Wars storyline.
15. “Dragon Seed Saga” Iron Man #270-276
John Byrne, Paul Ryan and Bob Wiacek tell this story that ties in the origin of Fin Fang Foom with the origin of Mandarin.
14. “War Machine” Iron Man #281-283
A near-death Tony Stark tries to fight the Masters of Silence with a remote-controlled Iron Man suit. Realizing it is not going to be enough, Tony debuts a new suit of armor that has a lot more firepower (to make up for Tony’s lack of reaction time due to his ailment). After Tony “dies” a few issues later, the new “War Machine” armor is given to James Rhodes. Len Kaminski, Kevin Hopgood and Bob Wiacek was the creative team on this story.
13. “Armor Wars II” Iron Man #258-266
John Byrne took over as the writer of Iron Man with this long arc (with art by John Romita Jr. and Bob Wiacek that sees Tony fighting against his own armor (and the Living Laser). Even if Tony succeeds in winning this war, what kind of physical price will he pay for his actions?
12. “Stark Disassembled” Invincible Iron Man #20-24
Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca rebuild Iron Man from the ground floor up as Tony deals with his recent actions during Civil War by asking for forgiveness from Thor and a newly resurrected Steve Rogers.
11. “The Mask in the Iron Man” Iron Man (Volume 3) #26-30
In this Joe Quesada-penned tale (with art by Sean Chen, Alitha Martinez and Rob Hunter), Iron Man’s armor becomes sentient during a battle with Whiplash. As you might imagine, this does not end well for Iron Man.
10. “The Beginning of the End” Iron Man Volume 1 #17-23
Written by Archie Goodwin with art by George Tuska and Johnny Craig, this story introduced Madame Masque, who turned out to be an old Iron Man supporting character/villain named Whitney Frost. The real highlights, though, were the introduction of two notable tropes that later Iron Man stories used. First, via a Life Model Decoy of Tony Stark, Tony Stark had his fortune stolen for the first time. Second, we had the first fill-in Iron Man, as Tony enlists the help of a boxer friend of Happy Hogan’s named Eddie March. Like other replacement Iron Men to come, Eddie March’s tenure was short-lived.
9. “Iron Man Is Born!” Tales of Suspense #39
Written by Larry Lieber (from a Stan Lee plot) and drawn by Don Heck, it is only due to Marvel having so many great origin stories that this origin is not remembered even more fondly than it already is (and it already has been adapted seamlessly to film, which is a real rarity for superhero origins). Anyhow, you know the drill, munitions maker Tony Stark is in Vietnam and gets caught in an explosion and captured by the bad guys and forced to work for him. Only the genius of one of his fellow captive scientists prevents Tony from dying, but now Tony needs a machine to keep his heart pumping. Secretly, Tony and the other scientist build a suit of armor which Tony uses to escape (the other scientist, an old man, sacrifices himself for Tony). Tony avenges his fallen friend and now that he has a fancy suit of armor, becomes a superhero.
8. “The Five Nightmares” Invincible Iron Man #1-7
In an attempt to avenge the death of his father, Ezekiel Stane adapts Stark technology into weapons of mass destruction, forcing Tony Stark into a race around the world to avoid stopping a man who is basically a younger and faster version of himself, only without any regard for human life! This storyline brings Pepper Potts back into the Iron Man universe in a big way. The beginning of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s long run on Iron Man.
7. “Deliverance” Iron Man #182
Denny O’Neil, Luke McDonnell and Steve Mitchell had been having Tony Stark spiraling for some time, even giving up the Iron Man armor to his friend James Rhodes a year earlier. Finally, Tony Stark hits rock bottom on a cold, sad night when his drinking buddy dies in child birth. A rough story that began a long comeback for Tony.
6. “World’s Most Wanted” Invincible Iron Man #8-19
Now that Norman Osborn has taken control of SHIELD, Tony Stark has failed. He does not want to compound his failure, though, by giving Osborn access to the files from the Superhero Registration Act (including the secret identities of all registered superheroes). Tony erases all the existing files on the Act. However, due to his Extremis powers, Tony has the files in his brain. Osborn knows this, so he begins to hunt Tony across the globe. The only way to get rid of the files is for Tony to become brain dead, which he does to himself slowly but surely. It is a powerful arc by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca that has a nice prominent role in it for Pepper Potts.
5. “Extremis” Iron Man Volume 4 #1-6
Warren Ellis and Adi Granov revolutionized both Iron Man’s visuals (vis a vis Granov), his origin and the very concept of “Iron Man,” as Tony is forced to use an experimental technology that literally turns him more into a machine than a man. The look and feel of these issues were instrumental in the first Iron Man film.
4. “Iron Monger” Iron Man #190-200
This arc could theoretically go back as far as Iron Man #160, but that seems like a stretch for the rules of this feature, so I figured I’d go with the trade paperback plus a couple of issues beforehand. The concept of the story is that Obadiah Stane has stolen Tony Stark’s company. Tony felt into a pit of despair and self-pity but has finally fought his way back to sobriety. James Rhodes has taken over as Iron Man in Tony’s absence and Tony is fine with that. However, the suit was not MEANT to be worn by someone else for this long, so Rhodey is beginning to crack up a bit. Tony is forced to return to the role of Iron Man, first in an an obsolete armor and later in a brand-new look just in time to take on Stane for one last battle, under Stane’s new identity, the Iron Monger! Denny O’Neil is the writer. Luke McDonnell began the story as penciler (with inks by inking team Ian Akin and Brian Garvey) but the arc is filled with different pencilers, from Rick Buckler to Sal Buscema to Herb Trimpe to finally M.D. Bright, who took over as the regular artist with issue #200 (and stayed on the title for quite a while).
3. “Doomquest” Iron Man #149-150
It is fascinating to note that Doctor Doom and Iron Man, the two most famous men in armor in Marvel Comics, had barely interacted before this story. In any event, David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr. quickly corrected the miscarriage of justice by giving us this fanciful action-packed story where Doom and Iron Man are accidentally transported back in time to the days of Camelot. Iron Man finds himself fighting along side King Arthur while Doom ends up with Morgan Le Fay (who promised to help him in his quest to save his mother’s soul from Hell). After their battle, the two adversaries realize that they must join forces if they are ever to return to their own time. Layton and Michelinie returned to the story exactly a hundred issues later for a sequel.
2. “Armor Wars” Iron Man #225-232
The highlight of Bob Layton and David Michelinie’s return to Iron Man, Armor Wars finds Tony Stark irate that his armor has been used to power a bad guy’s armor. He decides then that NOone can have armor that uses his technology, even past uses that he had authorized (under the theory that he cannot trust anyone to keep his technology from a third party). This naturally puts him into conflict with friend and foe alike. His old pal Steve Rogers is especially angry at Tony when Tony’s attempts to shut down the Guardsmen at the supervillain prison The Vault results in a major prison break. Similarly, Iron Man’s actions lead to the Avengers expelling him from the team. Tony Stark also publicly “fires” Iron Man (he has provided a fake identity to provide to authorities trying to hunt Iron Man down). How far will Tony take his war? What will he do when the world believes Iron Man dead? Will he just let that become the truth? M.D. Bright finished out his run as Iron Man’s layout artist with this arc (Barry Windsor Smith drew the epilogue).
1. “Demon in a Bottle” Iron Man #120-128
This storyline is now best known for the way that it has Tony Stark confront his alcoholism. However, that is really only the end of the storyline. In fact, when this story was originally collected, it was called the rather generic “The Power of Iron Man,” not “Demon in a Bottle” (this was when collecting comic book storylines in a trade paperback was still quite novel, so the generic title made a lot of sense). The story begins with the introduction of one of David Michelinie and Bob Layton’s best new characters, the villainous Justin Hammer, who is sort of a super-villain franchiser. He provides the outfits and the bad guys give a cut of their take to him. He confronts Iron Man by first causing his armor to kill someone, making Tony Stark go on the run as a murderer. During this time, Tony learns hand to hand combat from Captain America himself, since he has to be on the run as himself. Tony eventually stops Hammer’s plot, but the stress of the affair leads him to a drinking binge that forces him to confront his alcoholism, along with the help of is girlfriend, Bethany Cabe. These were a great series of stories, even forgetting the excellent addition of alocholism to Tony’s characterization, which has been a major aspect of the character ever since. John Romita Jr. did a great job on layouts while Layton’s finishes dominated the visual appearance of the book.
That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let us know!