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This Iron Man Suits Guide will go over the many innovative suits that Tony Stark has made. It will cover the multiple variations he created to help him face different enemies and obstacles.
We’ll look into the different functions of many of their various functions. We’ll explore strengths and weaknesses. I think some of them clearly outshine others but also how each one leads to the ideas we see today in film and comics.
I’ll go over how the designs went through phases before settling in on the Bleeding Edge design that became the most infamous and the awesomely oversized Hulkbuster suits you know and love.
- Many of these armors are upgrades of previous ones and will be listed together.
- Tony Stark is the only version of Iron Man I’ll use for reference in this article.
- The Cinematic Iron Man suits will be noted beside their comic book counterparts, but focus will be on the originals.
- One-shot suits may not make this list unless I find them to be specifically iconic or important to the character growth.
- There are over 61 different suits that have been used.
- The Iron Patriot Armor isn’t included as it was technically Norman Osborn’s (later Jim Rhodes) suit, not a real Iron Man Armor.
The First Armor
The Mark 1: This armor was, in fact, made to save his life. Shrapnel from one of his own warheads got lodged into his heart and slowly began poising him as it moved closer and closer inward. Nearly ending Tony Stark forever.
He built the reactor core to keep himself alive and realized he had created something of substantial power.
Something that could do more than keep shrapnel from killing him, something that could power a potential suit and help him escape his dire predicament. The Mark 1 may be the weakest of the armors, but there is no Iron Man without it. If I had to be honest, it’s one of my favorites for how raw and still vulnerable it is, but more so, it makes Tony Stark special. He built this from scratch while dying; that’s amazing.
Versions of this suit appear both in the film Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. And in the origin of Iron Man in the comics.
After returning home and putting more work into it, Tony Stark began pushing out his Iron Man suits’ more traditional red and gold color styles. Each subsequently named Mark 2, 3, etc.
Often using Roman Numerals to dictate their numbers. Going as high as L(50) and even one suit labeled Mark LXXXV (85).
These upgrades to the original design first added flight, better blasts from the hands, and even the devastating blast that could be released from the chest. While sometimes cheesy, plenty of writers bring up the physical toll wearing the suits has on Tony. I have to say, knowing he is getting damaged behind his armor makes him a more relatable character.
Eventually, he was able to increase the durability of the armor and mitigate the damage he took from inside the suit and the amount of weight he could lift while using the armor. If he hadn’t, we’d have lost Tony Stark long ago.
The best computer upgrades made the biggest difference, if I’m being honest. Teaching the A.I. in his suit, commonly referred to as Jarvis or Friday, to analyze opponents during combat made him almost over-powered and hard to counter because he was steps ahead of everyone.
Here’s a quick photo bomb of many of the most famous Mark suits that weren’t specialized for specific enemies.
See also: Iron Man Characters Guide
First Red and Gold Armor. Capable of flights and arc blasts. Though technically the Mark III in comics, this version was revealed as the Mark II and completely silver in the cinematic release. Becoming the eventual prototype for War Machine. Eventually, getting outfitted with guns, missiles, and an armor upgrade. I feel this is the prototype for every artist who has taken on the suit since.
The upgraded suit (the official Mark 3) had a more rigid shell but otherwise not much new. This is the prototype for the MARK III in films regarding how they came about, so I had to include it, but I found nothing special about it.
This was the Mark IX but is shown as the Mark IV in the cinematic release. It has the best CPU upgrade and was one of the longer-running suits. This is the start of Iron Man becoming one of the strongest superheroes in the Marvel Universe.
Here is the official War Machine Armor(Mark XI) that Tony Stark made in the comics. Not the one the “U.S.” upgraded or whichever storyline has been passed around cinematically. This excellent design made War Machine more popular than originally expected.
In the comics, much like in the show, War Machine and Iron Man have a close relationship. Still, Stark was in this armor after having his previous armor destroyed in combat. He passed it onto Rhodes, going back to his original style. The missile-heavy, high-powered bullet spreading, tank-shell-taking armor would be permanently passed to his friend Rhodes.
These were the follow-ups to the War Machine armor; they reverted back to the arc powers. Most essential to point out that there is no Tony inside these suits. They were run remotely. However, the Mark XIII has accessories that can be called to upgrade it, including the first Hulkbuster Armor ever introduced. I would say these suits most inspired the animated versions of Tony Stark.
The Mark XV suit introduced a lot of new skills. The ability to heat up and even melt the weapon it grabs! No idea why that was a thing, kind of stupid. However, it also came with some mounted flying pieces that could be remote-controlled, fire pulsars, and even the ability to shoot acid! Which would come back to bite Tony in the tail. Remember the word acid.
The Mark XVI was short-lived but powerful. The short shelf-life was because its extra power came from a power source that also contaminated the user, causing illness that could prove fatal. I liked the “you can be a hero, but it will kill you” approach to storytelling myself.
These suits, from top to bottom, are Mark XIX, XX. Mark 19 had excellent blades and shields and is also known as the S.K.I.N. Armor. The unique S.K.I.N. is a metal that became the gold parts upon command(later, this effect is mimicked by nanobots in the films). Because Ultron had some control over S.K.I.N., this armor was soon abandoned for Mark 20. Mark 20 was the most energy-efficient design, and most after would be similar to it. It was destroyed by acid in battle.
See also: Iron Man vs Batman Guide
Mark XXIII mainly was designed for space and thus handled atmospheric problems better than previous models. It was made for dealing with an alien invasion. It even had diamond tip tools and containment capabilities for collecting alien samples. This design idea is used with other suits in science-fiction lore for harvesting, so the creator of this was quite the innovator.
This Mark XXIV Tony wore when he was the Secretary of Defense. It has some fantastic new upgrades, such as being able to piece itself back together on command and return to the where if magnetically removed. (I’m pretty sure Magneto had busted Tony up a few times at this point). It also can launch protective energy fields to keep bystanders safe from attacks. The Mark XXV shown below is just the upgraded 24 after; wait for it, it was destroyed by acid.
This fantastic suit(Mark 26) was designed by Bruce Banner(The Hulk) and Tony Stark together. It was meant to help decontaminate Gamma radiation and radiation in general, even detect it. It is an extremely strong suit. It sucks in radiation, gaining energy from it. That caused it to become dangerous upon use and forced The Hulk to help save Iron Man from his own suit, leaving this powerhouse of an Armor to go back into the garage. I love the design on this one!
Though only briefly used, it’s interesting to note this Mark XXVII armor was explicitly made for hyperspace travel. Keeping the blood from being gathered in the torso at insane speeds. The science-fiction nerd in me hates how reasonable this is and how hyperspace is just “okay” to travel nowadays when clever writers have things like this up their sleeve.
Mark XXVIII is one of the most unique armors and the beginning of the upgraded computer interface that learns from and integrates some of the user’s desires into its code. In case its user dies, the armor would literally complete its goal. After being injured, this armor became Iron Man 2.0 and even sacrificed itself to stop a nuclear explosion. Effectively, this armor is its own superhero.
Mark XXIX, The Extremis Armor. This is the craziest of stories. So, as usual, becoming injured during a whole comic arc, the Extremis Armor was created by being integrated with Tony’s freaking biology! With this new armor, he could use it by thought and even integrate with other technology while being inside it. Literally connected to his bones, it would lead to an infection that caused him to go into a coma. I will go on record saying without this armor; there is no modern Iron Man. Some of these ideas are linked to the latest Iron Man Armor design in the last Avengers: End Game, coming to his aid at an immediate threat to his body.
These five Mark Suits were never used by Tony Stark but built by him for different occasions. They were remotely activated when the son of Ho Yinsen was shot and killed, and Iron Man and other heroes had to work together to defeat them. I add them to remind you, Tony is often his own worst enemy.
Mark XXXVII, the Bleeding Edge Armor. This is the premier upgrade to The Extremis Armor, briefly integrated with Asgardian-type tech during a battle, becoming the darker, more powerful suit known as the Iron Destroyer Armor. It was downgraded after leaving Asgard. This armor was rebuilt with carbon parts instead of metals during Avengers VS X-Men, so Tony wouldn’t get easily handled by Magento as he’d done in the past. This suit is entirely kept inside Tony’s body. It can be called to his need at the site of immediate danger, such as the Extremis Armor before it. I think this was the best Iron Man, in my opinion.
Mark XXXVIII had one purpose, to deal with The Phoenix. It didn’t do the best job and split the Phoenix’s power into the five X-Men on the moon. If you haven’t read the fantastic compendium of the 2012’s X-Men VS Avengers, I highly suggest it.
The Mark XL(40) was built in secret while he was imprisoned by the Mandarin. Though built much like his original armor, it was far more powerful and helped Tony escape and lead him to victory. This armor could connect to something called The Swarm. It united a bunch of these tiny machines to emit a massive Pulse beam, much like his big attack in the popular Marvel VS Capcom video game series.
The Mark 42 armor was used mainly to test new technology. But its black and gold design is cool, so I threw it in for your viewing pleasure. I love when artists and writers try new things, even if they don’t always work out. Be bold, people, be bold.
This is the Mark 44, the Heavy Duty Armor. It was used to deal with a free-for-all battle against 13 super-powered villains at once. It had the highest array of armor and arsenal to date. It was brought back more than once until it faced the ultimate super-powered threat. An angry, vengeful Hulk wrecked this suit during the Original Sin comic book arc. I can’t recommend that arc enough.
So this Mark 48 model is meant to be worn over any other Iron Man suit and is probably the ONLY SUIT MADE OF ACTUAL IRON! I needed to put that in caps because come on! It was intended to fight Dark Elves. As iron is toxic to them, it was highly effective. Also, looked remarkable for being so short-lived.
This was actually a Hulkbuster Armor. However, this Mark 49 did not live up to its potential and was replaced by the Heavy Duty Armor upon being significantly damaged in battle with the Hulk. As we know from earlier, the Heavy Duty Armor also failed. As much as I enjoyed the Black and Gold Armor, it died with the end of the Original Sin Arc.
This is the Mark L. The Endo-Sym Armor. The third evolution of the Extremis, if you will. This is the insanely O.P. suit Tony made as a bad guy. It is a biological suit engineered with Symbiote-like building blocks. Psionicaly linked to Tony, it reacts faster and without the need for mechanics, even hardening in accordance with Starks own instincts. Arguably the fastest reacting suit he’d ever made. It’s pretty badass, but as it was bonded with a symbiote, eventually it had to get destroyed…probably by acid.
Mark 51, the Model-Prime Armor, was meant to be able to transform and take on the properties of all suits before it. This armor has been in over 200 comics since its creation. It is one of the most powerful ever made despite looking a bit cartoonish in design(I’m not a fan of this armor, I admit it).
It can convert into a Hulkbuster form, a stealth form, and a space form. Victor Von Doom once got a hold of it and used Dark Magic to enhance its tech even further and make it actually cool for a time. It also uses Friday as the onboard computer. You’ll know Friday from the movies onboard computer in the later Avenger films.
Mark 54 was made specifically to deal with Carol Danvers during the second Superhuman Civil War, but it failed. In an epic battle, the electronics in the suit buckled to Captain Marvel’s power, and she wrecked the suit sending Tony into another Coma.
Mark 55 had a limited life in comics but is most notable for having a freaking motorbike form! He rode it as a motorbike which then transformed into his suit of armor. This is the most anime thing ever, I wish they kept it around longer.
Mark 56 is actually a backup. It’s a relatively standard Iron Man suit used after fighting in the Fing Fang Foombuster armor mentioned later. I put it on this list because Tony would have died without it. Or at least gone into a coma again.
This is the Mark 59. Another standard Iron Man suit, only connected to the Motherboard A.I. being its sole difference from the previous Mark 56. This color scheme is the same in the Iron Man films as Mark XLVII(47), so I felt I had to add it. Also, remember the Motherboard A.I. part for later.
The Vespa Armor. Mark LX is the usual Iron Man armor but with a few perks. Instead of the abandoned motorbike model, this one transforms from a Vespa, a scooter, if you will. Which I guess is more Tony Stark-like in some ways.
Otherwise, it possesses all the standard Iron Man features. Except for one of the Vespa’s handlebars turns into an Energy Sword!
Mark 62 is actually an underwater armor. I left it here because it is generally a normal Iron Man Armor in every other way except he is underwater when using it. He can clearly still use it above water, and no noticeable fundamental differences are added or taken away. I call this the laziest designed armor. Shh! Let’s just dip it in some acid and move on, maybe?
Though a short-lived suit, Mark 69 is the armor Tony first wore in 2020 after reclaiming his life. The pose, the fact it represented him getting his life back, and the number means I couldn’t let myself leave this one off the list.
Mark 70 is the penultimate Iron Man Armor. It is so durable it can be pit against Vibranium and Adamantium on occasion and even has a freaking defibrillator in it if Tony needs to revive himself during heavy combat. However, this suit must be manually suited up and uses an A.I. named B.O.S.S. instead of the usual friendly Friday. Eventually, it got fused with a symbiote making it far more accessible and dangerous. It can switch colors to all white or black and enter stealth because of this. It also can launch tendrils like the Venom and Carnage symbiotes now. I could not imagine a need to ever upgrade, but I’m sure Tony will.
The Specialized Suits
The Original Iron Man “Space Armor” was the Mark V(left) model. Built to make sure he didn’t suffocate or freeze at the cost of some mobility and power. The more prominent “Space Armor” is the Mark XLV(right) model, which Tony wore as his primary suit during his time with The Guardians of the Galaxy.
The first “Hydro Armor,” the Mark VI(above), was used whenever Iron Man originally went underwater, such as dealing with Namor or for similar threats or exploration. What’s unique about Hydro Armor is that it can withstand severe pressure from deep-sea levels. That means it has more safety features than even the space armor and is essentially a hefty armor piece. The second Iron Man underwater armor, the Mark 35(below), was actually stolen by Wolverine and used so he could take care of some business. That’s its main claim to fame, stolen by Logan. I love that.
From top to bottom, the first Stealth Armor was the Mark VII. While it was effective at stealth, it lacked much of the usual Iron Man Armor’s defensive and offensive capabilities. I love the design, but I think it is stepping on Black Panther’s toes a bit.
The next version(Mark XXI) was a short-lived, excellent design modeled specifically for battling T’Challa, the Black Panther. It’s unique because it’s not made of metal but a ceramic-type alloy. It’s also one of the earliest examples of the computer analyzing an opponent’s combat habits and predicting movement for counter-combat. It’s the only reason Tony could fight T’Challa.
The Mark XLIII is probably the best of the Stealth Suits. It can handle more damage, has (weaker versions) of the repulsor blasts, and can make Illusions of itself when cornered. It can even conceal itself to make it appear as if the wearer is in regular clothes and not wearing protective armor. I don’t know about you, but I want this armor for myself.
So, I know these are some of our favorite Iron Man Armor variations. Some are add-ons to suits, and others are suits in themselves. Mark 13, 36, 52, and 71 are all Hulkbuster suits from top to bottom. What they have in common is that they all lost. These are some of the most physically dominant suits Iron Man has ever put out, going toe to toe with “The strongest there is.”
The third one, Mark XLII, is the design chosen for the Hulkbuster suit in Avengers: Age of Ultron film. That Hulkbuster Armor gives Tony Stark his first Hulkbuster suit win. It is also the most successful of the Hulkbuster Armors in the comics. Even being able to transform into a car, which Tony can drive before converting into a suit around him. He ends ups using it to fight all the biggest of the bads for a while, including trying to go one-on-one with The Sentry.
The first massive armor, the Mark 57, is known as The Fing Fang Foombuster Armor. It was made to battle the Godzilla-like monster Fing Fang Foom when it went mad. The armor eventually fell. I like the Gundam-esque design of it.
The second is the Godkiller Armor Mark II (Mark 61 of the original Armor). It was crafted with blueprints of some ancient, original God Killer Armor. Tony clearly added some Iron Man flare to it. He used it to battle literal Celestials, almost killing one after losing an arm but was overrun by something known as the Horde, and the suit was destroyed.
The Ultron Buster
Mark LXV, made to defeat that long thorn in the side of Tony Stark, Ultron. It had been in development by him for some time, and when it was ultimately used, it ended up getting fused to Tony’s body! He had to constantly adjust it and fight through the pain and fusion, eventually using the Nano Armor to get free of the pain. I feel this really solidified him again as a hero even without the suit, overcoming the pain of fusion to stop his foe through sheer willpower.
The Nano Armor
Mark 58, the Nano Armor, saved Tony’s life multiple times. It isn’t actually worn by him but controlled, being small enough to get into the bloodstream, as it were. This shrinking-size armor comes in multiples and can act in unison on Tony’s behalf to help purge bodies of foreign control. This is the armor that cured Fing Fang Foom after the anima-like suit got trashed.
The Mark LXIII was actually made right from Stark’s imagination. Upon escaping The Motherboard(remember from earlier?) Tony, still connected to Motherboard, was able to manifest this armor into reality. It’s all the things he wanted and felt he needed to kill the essential God of the A.I. world. Though it had a short-lived life because Tony actually decided this suit was TOO POWERFUL to exist and sentenced it to self-destruct. It is one hell of a look and technically counts as. Yes, this can be considered the most powerful of the armors.
Mark XXII was a sad armor. Made when Tony was manipulated into going against Thor in fear of an Asgardian invasion. It was also made using an Asgardian crystal, originally a gift from Thor to Stark to help his studies. Upset that his friend used a gift as a weapon, Thor wrecked the armor and destroyed its reactor.
Silver Centurion Armor
This armor is special. While it was initially designed for Tony’s friend Rhodes, Stark used it himself due to circumstances becoming dire. While not terribly different than his other armors, what makes it unique is what happens when it is destroyed. He uses the destruction to make others believe it to be the death of Iron Man.
The Ice Age Man Armor
This Mark LXVI armor was made in 10,000,000 B.C. when Tony Stark was sent back in time using parts remaining from the Extremis Armor and some Vibranium Batteries. It was eventually destroyed in a battle with Mephisto but managed to blast the Time Stone, getting Tony back to his time. I love this design. Very raw, very metal. Almost a Wolverine meets Iron Man.
The Virtual Armor
Mark LXVIII is not actually for the virtual world but comprised of solid holograms. Tony once praised it as his greatest armor ever(I disagree). He ended up having to use this as a prison for Arno Stark. It allowed Tony to stop Arno without killing a member of his family.
- There are other armors in different timelines, but they are not very different in their combat capabilities.
- Tony Stark has been a villain without being manipulated. Usually, it is due to his pride or miscommunication.
- Iron Man’s first appearance was: Tales of Suspense#39, 1962
- Iron Man is one of the few heroes to defeat Thanos, albeit he did so in the cinematic film Avengers: End Game and using the Infinity Stones.
- In Iron Man 3, you can see a live-action army of over 20 different Iron Man suits, all inspired by the Iron Man Armor listed above.
- We learn Iron Man’s weaknesses from reviewing the history in this list seem to be Acid, a Coma, and The Hulk.
Question: Is Iron Man’s armor made of Adamantium?
Answer: No, it is not. Though the Godbuster armor may have been capable of handling Adamantium since it was designed from his imagination.
Question: Which Iron Man suit is the strongest?
Answer: The Godbuster, though the Endo-Sym Armor is pretty powerful. The Mark 70 is the best of the primary armor and arguably the most well-rounded of all the Iron Man Suits. If I had to pick, I think I would say the Mark 70.
Question: Does Tony’s Armor keep him alive?
Answer: It did originally. I believe Tony’s heart issues have been fixed since. (These events are also done in the cinematic version).
That concludes our Iron Man Armor guide. I’m sure more versions will be made, and there were a few left off this list for redundancy even with how extensive this list is. I love when new writers and artists take a stab at creating these suits and hope we see more unique variables emerge for specific occasions.
Tony Stark is one of the greatest minds in comicdom. His ability to invent on the fly and respond/adapt/learn to and from new technology makes him a threat in any timeline. Luckily, the armor is almost always used for good. Almost always.
Take care, true believers.