Considering how popular Iron Man has gotten over the last ten years, it’s hard to imagine a time when he wasn’t everyone’s favorite hero. But while the character of Iron Man was prominent in the comics, he didn’t have the rabid fans that some of his superhero comrades did—that is, until Robert Downey Jr. put on the suit, and made Iron Man the very first hero in what we now refer to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since Iron Man’s introduction over 50 years ago, he’s been a fairly popular hero, but never quite reached the heights of fandom akin to heroes like Spider-Man or Batman. He’s closer than ever now, but fans should know that Tony Stark has been an interesting character with a deep back-story and, of course, an endless closet of amazing suits. So, new and old fans alike, read on to learn something new about the billionaire genius in the flying armor.
43. Too Many to Count
Since Iron Man has been around for over 50 years, and there are alternate universes with multiple versions of him in the comics, it’s difficult to say exactly how many suits Stark has made. If only Earth-616—the name of the original Marvel universe—is considered, then he’s currently at Mark 53. But that doesn’t take into account all the modifications and changes he’s made to these suits, nor the ones in other universes. Let’s just say he’s made well over 100 suits and leave it at that.
42. Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
There have been multiple attempts throughout the years to recreate the Iron Man suit in real life. There’s the Human Universal Load Carrier, which is an exoskeleton that can carry up to 200 lbs and go up to 10 mph. Richard M. Browning has a version that consists of six micro jet engines that can lift him 10 feet off the ground. And then there are the many cosplayers who have built replica suits with working parts, like a helmet that can open and close. So whether you want a suit that makes you strong like Iron Man, fly like Iron Man, or just look like Iron Man, there’s something out there for you. Sadly, nothing yet that can do all three.
41. A True Billionaire
In the Superior Iron Man comic book series, Stark is actually a villain, akin to a pharmaceutical fat cat. He’s known for giving the world a free drug called Extremis that makes people immortal, among other things, but only for a short period of time. He then began charging people one hundred dollars a day to use the drug, which in turn caused people to do whatever it takes for money to buy it.
40. Mrs. Rogers
There’s a universe in the comics where Tony is born a woman named Natasha Stark who goes by the name Iron Woman. However, what’s interesting, or weird, depending on how you look at it, is she ends up falling in love with, and marrying, Steve Rogers AKA Captain America. I’m going to go with weird.
39. The Butler Did It
In the Iron Man films, J.A.R.V.I.S is Tony Stark’s AI system, but in the comics he’s an actual human being whose full name is Edwin Jarvis. He’s the Stark’s family butler who took care of Tony after his parents died.
38. Someone’s Been Hitting the Gym
When the Iron Man suit is fully powered, it can lift up to 100 tons—that’s 200,000 lbs! That doesn’t even take into account the Hulkbuster suit that Stark created for the sole purpose of, well, dealing with the Hulk, which can lift up to 175 tons.
37. Keeping up With the Times
Since Iron Man has been around for decades, the location of his origin story has changed several times to stay relevant. In the comics, Stark originally built the suit in Vietnam, but that was later retconned so that he built it in the Gulf War, before Afghanistan was finally settled upon for the movie.
36. Child’s Play
Stark is as witty as he is smart, and he’s not one to shy away from a childish joke from time to time. Take for instance, his artificial Butler, J.A.R.V.I.S, which stands for “Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.” Well played Stark, well played.
35. Skipped a Few Grades
Forget about Doogie Howser; Stark is the OG wunderkind! Stark entered MIT at the age of 15 and graduated two years later with a Master’s degree in chemical engineering.
34. It Was a Good Deal
In our world, Area 51 is a government property that many believe is used to hide anything and everything to do with aliens. However, in the Marvel comics Stark actually owns the property after he purchased it from the state. So far, he’s only used it to hide the reality gem, one of the infinity stones. That’s technically an alien artifact, so I guess it still fits.
33. A Forgettable Look
In 1974, Lee reportedly saw a drawing of Iron Man and asked the illustrator why there wasn’t a nose on the helmet. Rather than giving the obvious answer (“because it’s a helmet”), a nose was drawn on and it stayed that way for a few illustrations, until Lee came to his senses, realized how weird it looked and had it removed.
32. Training Partners
Recognizing that he isn’t as powerful out of the suit as he is in it (duh), Stark asked Captain America to teach him how to fight so he could properly defend himself in any situation. That’s one heck of a sensei.
31. Lending a Helping Hand
Lee is the mastermind behind the majority of Marvel superheroes and Iron Man is a part of that list, but with a twist. Due to his busy schedule, Lee wasn’t actually able to write the first appearance of Iron Man in the Tales of Suspense comic. Instead, that honor fell into the more than capable hands of Larry Lieber.
30. Director Stark
Stark has held a lot of titles in his lifetime, one of which was Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, which he took over after then Director Maria Hill suggested he take the job during the Civil War storyline.
After the events of Civil War II, Stark’s physical body was in bad shape, but he was able to find a way to keep his mind intact. It was discovered that he put his mind/consciousness into a mainframe, turning himself into an AI system akin to J.A.R.V.I.S.
28. Playing the Field
There have been several different versions of the Avengers over the years, and Iron Man has been a part of most of them. Not only was he with the original team, but he was also a member of the West Coast Avengers, New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and Force Works, which was a team Iron Man started after the West Coast Avengers disbanded.
27. Lost in Space
Iron Man pulled a Lebron James in the comics and decided to take his talents from Earth to space and join the Guardians of the Galaxy (the Miami Heat of the Marvel universe, obviously). He may never appear in a Guardians movie in the MCU, but he will more than likely team up with them, and several other heroes, in Infinity War.
26. Why Fly When You Can Skate
Around the same time that Iron Man’s helmet was being drawn with a nose on it, there was a version of his suit that had retractable jet powered rollerblades that could reach up to 60 mph! As cool as that sounds, the idea was scrapped not long after. Here’s hoping future MCU films bring it back though!
25. Steep Price to Pay
Over at the website Mashable, they calculated everything that Tony Stark owns, from his suits, to his house, to his cars, and they estimated that it would cost over $10 billion dollars to be Iron Man. So anyone who has $10 billion lying around, go for it—everyone else is out of luck.
24. A Little Help Here
Stark was once appointed Secretary of Defense for the United States of America by the president, mainly out of necessity. The government was trying to recreate Stark’s tech and suits, but they were terrible at it and nearly blew up Washington. They decided to bring Stark in to lend a hand and oversee the operation. That’s right, probably best to leave it to the pros.
23. Where It All Began
Iron Man debuted in issue #39 of Tales of Suspense in 1963 (Robert Downey Jr. was born two years later, in 1965). The superhero would go on to receive his first standalone issue in 1968.
22. Challenge Acceptedwoodenposters
Lee claims he created Iron Man as a way to challenge himself and see if he could get readers to like someone they would normally hate. At the time, in the 1960s, the majority of his readers would have been anti-war and military, so they should have been against an arms manufacturer like Stark. Instead, he went on to become one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
21. Unlikely Combination
There’s a version of Iron Man in the comics called Iron Lantern, who is a combination of Marvel’s Stark and DC’s Hal Jordan, AKA the Green Lantern. This isn’t fan made either, as back in 1996 DC and Marvel comics joined forces to release Amalgam Comics, an imprint that was were filled with superhero mashups from both sides. Who did Iron Lantern fight? Well, Mandarinestro of course!
20. Can’t Always Be Liked
Believe it or not, there was a period in time when fans actually hated Iron Man. During Marvel’s Civil War storyline (in the comics, not the movie) he was one of the main antagonists due to his involvement in hunting down other superheroes who refused to register with the government, including many fan favorites.
19. Up There With the Best of Them
Iron Man may not be the most popular superhero overall, or even within Marvel, but he isn’t far behind. On IGN, Iron Man is ranked number 12 on the Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All-Time list, number 10 on the Top 25 Best Marvel Superheroes list, and number three on the Top 50 Avengers list. Always a bridesmaid…
18. Ladies Man
Apparently, Iron Man was popular with the ladies in the comics and in real life. Lee claims that he used to receive a lot of fan mail from women about Iron Man, which was rare, as the majority of fan mail being sent to comic book publishers was from men.
17. Family Secret
It was revealed in Marvel Comics’ Iron Man #17 that Tony was actually adopted by Howard and Maria Stark, and that they had a son before Tony named Arno, who’s been in hiding since their death.
16. Passing the Torch
Stark once stepped down from being Iron Man and handed the mantle over to a 15-year-old kid genius named Riri Williams, who graduated from MIT at a young age like Stark, and even built her own Iron Man suit in her dorm room. She went by the name Ironheart.
15. Founding Father
Just like in the movies, Iron Man was one of the five founding members of The Avengers in the comics, but the team was a bit different, with the members consisting of the Hulk, Ant-Man, Thor and Wasp. Hard to even picture the Avengers without Cap.
14. Eternal Sunshine of the Stark Mind
Stark once “rebooted” his mind to wipe it clean as a way to stop the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D Norman Osborn (AKA, the Green Goblin) from going into his mind and finding out the secret identities of other superheroes. The procedure left him with significant brain damage.
13. Optimus Stark (Or Tony Prime)
Stark has honestly thought of everything when it comes to his suits. Model 53 is a suit that can transform into a flying car, essentially making Iron Man a transformer. The crossover writes itself.
12. Inside Out
Stark has a suit called the Extremist armor that’s actually stored inside his body and comes out when he needs it. So basically, the suit wears him until he needs to wear the suit. It’s like a 50/50 relationship.
11. That Sounds Uncomfortable
When Stark joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, he built a suit that would allow for space travel. However, there aren’t a lot of rest stops in space, and considering travel times are longer than normal, Stark decided to install a catheter for when he needed to go to the bathroom. Apparently, a flap or holding it in wasn’t an option.
10. Colorful Wardrobe
Stark’s suits range in color and most of them serve a specific purpose depending on the situation. His first suit was gray, and he’s had silver suits, silvery blue suits, and even black suits for stealth mode. But his most common suit, and the one everyone knows him for, is of course the red and gold.
9. Aqua Suit
Regardless of the circumstance, Stark more than likely has a suit for it. Aside from his stealth and space suits, he even has one for underwater purposes. He’s like a robotic Aqua Man, minus the talking to fish ability.
8. Look Ma, No Hands!
Today, Iron Man’s suit is essentially voice operated thanks to an AI system, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 1963, the best way Stark could think of to operate his suit was by hitting a bunch of buttons and switches inside the helmet with his tongue. No joke.
7. Rooted in Reality
Stan Lee based Iron Man, or more accurately, Tony Stark, on the real-life millionaire playboy philanthropist Howard Hughes, which must be where Stark got that description for himself in The Avengers.
6. Round 2
There was a Civil War II in the comics, and Stark was at the forefront of it again, but this time ended up on the losing end. In fact, the damage done by his counterpart, Captain Marvel, was so devastating that he was left in a coma clinging for life.
5. Nobody’s Perfect
In the comics, it’s well known that Stark is an alcoholic, and his battle with addiction was brought to light in the iconic 1978 Demon In A Bottle storyline. The fact that a superhero was forced to battle with such a human problem was revolutionary at the time. This was actually loosely adapted in Iron Man 2, when Stark gets drunk at his birthday party and fights Rhodey.
4. Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
Even as an AI system/hologram, Stark wasn’t able to escape his demons, as he was still seen as an “alcoholic” even in this digital form. However, because he can’t drink, he calls it a “code-based modification of [his] behavioral modifiers.” We can all pretend like we know what that means.
3. Break Out the Checkbook
If anyone is interested in building their very own fully functioning Iron Man suit, one that’s that is fully powered and can fly, believe it or not much of the technology in Stark’s suit actually exists; it would only cost a measly $100 million to make. Honestly? Seems doable.
2. Stupid Rich Part One
In the battle of the billionaire superheroes, Stark’s company, Stark Industries, comes up short behind Bruce Wayne’s company, Wayne Enterprises, in annual revenue. Even though Stark Industries pulls in $20 billion annually, Wayne Enterprises has them comfortably beat with a whopping $31 billion. It’s not a competition guys!
1. Stupid Rich Part Two
In 2013, Forbes released another version of their Fictional 15 list, which ranks the wealthiest fictional characters. Stark is no stranger to previous versions of the list, and in this edition he landed at number four with an estimated worth of $12.4 billion. Oh, this means he’s worth more than Bruce Wayne, making them even. In case you were wondering, Scrooge McDuck was number one.