Tony Stark goes through billion-dollar Iron Man suits the way most people go through socks. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Stark wears the Mark LXXXV (that’s 85!) armor for the final battle in Avengers: Endgame, which makes sense considering he built (and ultimately destroyed) 30 suits in Iron Man 3 in order to help cope with his Chitauri invasion-inspired PTSD, and made 34 other suits in the five years after Thanos snapped away half the universe. But although the first Iron Man movie shows Tony creating his first suit of armor (as Obadiah Stane so eloquently puts it) “IN A CAVE WITH A BUNCH OF SCRAPS,” as he did in the comics, the number of suits Stark makes in the Marvel Comics universe is a bit different than in the cinematic universe.
First appearing in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963), Stark’s original gray armor was drab and simplistic, and he wasted no time sprucing it up with a gold-colored version in the very next issue. Eight issues later (Tales of Suspense #48, December 1963) came the familiar red and gold design that has been Iron Man’s trademark color palette ever since. At one point in the 70s, old Shellhead even sported a nose on his faceplate (The Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1 #68, June 1974), allegedly due to some miscommunication between Stan Lee and the book’s editors, which was done away with when the most iconic version of the red and gold armor appeared in The Invincible Iron Man volume 1, #85 (April 1976).
The 1980s saw no less than seven new armor designs, including the bulked-up Space Armor, the black Stealth Armor, and the silver and red Silver Centurion armor. In the 1990s, thirteen new designs appeared as fans were first introduced to the War Machine armor (The Invincible Iron Man volume 1 #281, June 1992), as well as the ever-popular Hulkbuster armor (The Invincible Iron Man volume 1 #304, May 1994). In the first decade of the 2000s, sixteen new armor designs graced the pages of the Iron Man comics, with standouts being the Hulkbuster II design and the Thorbuster armor… which actually got torn apart by the Thunder God!
In the last ten years, there have been a record number of new armor designs. The Bleeding Edge armor, which is stored inside Stark’s “post-human” body; the Iron Destroyer armor with its resemblance to Thor’s nemesis, the Destroyer; the massive Phoenix-buster armor, created for obvious reasons; the Godbuster and Ultron-buster designs; these are just a handful of the 20 new armor designs that have appeared in the comics since 2010.
Doing the math:
- 1960s – 3 Designs
- 1970s – 2 Designs
- 1980s – 7 Designs
- 1990s – 13 Designs
- 2000s – 16 Designs, plus 20 new designs in the past decade
It would appear that Tony Stark has made 61 different Iron Man suits in the comics, not too far off from the 85 in the cinematic universe. But one design fans will probably never see up on the big screen is the Fin Fang Foom-Buster armor (which is actually a twenty-story mecha composed of two submersibles, two gunships and two aircraft), created to fight kaiju-sized creatures. Perhaps it could come in handy if there is ever a Marvel/Pacific Rim crossover!