- Best Iron Man Mask Guide - March 28, 2023
- Best Iron Man of All Time: Top Versions and Variations - March 13, 2023
Growing up as a young child in the ’90s, Iron Man wasn’t really on my radar. I got suckered into the Spider-Man craze from the new cartoon show and bought every toy imaginable. Next up was X-Men, who also had their own TV show to promote their brand.
It wasn’t until I started reading comics regularly that I dove headfirst into the character of Iron Man. I always thought he was a guy who flew around in a suit.
That could have been anybody, so I didn’t see what made him so special. But the stories involving him showcased Tony Stark as a character and revealed what makes him unique.
Unlike the X-Men or Spider-Man, characters with powers that drove their identity, Tony Stark didn’t just create the Iron Man armor.
He also created Iron Man as its own entity from the ground up. While characters usually remain stagnant with their powers, Tony constantly tinkers with Iron Man to improve and adapt the armor in new and exciting ways. Sometimes these applications are practical for a specific reason.
Other times it’s merely Tony exploring his creativity and engineering by trying to upgrade his capabilities. This constant need to evolve is what drew me to Iron Man comics.
I always enjoyed how he positioned himself as a leader within the Marvel Universe because he strives towards the future and models this in the various armors he wears.
Not every armor gets a new mask to go with the suit, but when he employs some new design to adjust Iron Man’s face, he can be one of the most fabulous characters in Marvel Comics.
Join us on a journey through the top Iron Man masks with our Best Iron Man Mask Guide. Start exploring now!
Although it’s hard to differentiate mask from armor as they typically work seamlessly together, I focused mainly on Iron Man’s masks as I comprised a list of some of the best. Here are some of the qualifications I took into account while making it:
- Tradition: Iron Man’s mask is an iconic symbol in Marvel Comics, so it only makes sense that great versions of it kept up with that look and style.
- Diversity: Even though tradition is essential, it’s not everything. So being able to create something new and unique for Iron Man to wear should also be applauded.
- Lore: Designs are cool, but they are meaningless without history. The lore behind how the mask (and armor) came about is equally important.
Silver Centurion/Mark V
- First Appearance: Iron Man #200/ Iron Man 2
- Date: August 1985/May 2010
- Creators: Dennis O’Neil, Mark Bright/Jon Favreau
Technically, these are two completely different armors, but I will include them in the same entry as one heavily influenced the other. The Silver Centurion armor was devised as a shift in Iron Man’s color scheme from classic gold to silver.
It was even heavily featured in the popular Iron Man event Armor Wars. Other than that, though, there weren’t many upgrades to the armor system that warranted it being a major improvement. I enjoy the gold in the armor more, but I appreciated the change of pace.
Although the Mark V from Iron Man 2 is a completely different armor, it’s clear to see that the Silver Centurion played a role in its design. When Iron Man first debuted and comics were a lot goofier, it was devised that Tony Stark could keep the Iron Man armor mobile by keeping it in a suitcase.
This idea became more ridiculous as time went on, but it was awesome that the film brought it back. The effect of Tony Stark putting it on was amazing and probably the highlight of a mostly lackluster film, even though the armor itself didn’t have a lot of the capabilities previous versions had.
This look was mostly lost in more recent MCU films as Iron Man adopted nanotechnology that allowed him to put a suit on pretty much at any moment.
As for its design, the film’s CGI technology gave it a sleeker look than what the Silver Centurion had. It’s so sleek that I wouldn’t mind if it returned in modern Iron Man comics.
- First Appearance: Iron Man (Vol. 5) #5
- Date: January 2013
- Creators: Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven
Fans only familiar with Iron Man from the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be surprised to learn that the character briefly joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ever the scientist Tony Stark wanted to expand his knowledge about alien life and their views of Earth.
After all, how could he best protect his home planet from extraterrestrial threats unless he understood where those threats were coming from? In order to accomplish this, he had a brand new type of armor dubbed the Deep Space armor.
Probably my favorite feature of the armor is that it was equipped with a warp speed function, which allowed Iron Man to perform interstellar travel without the aid of a ship.
From a design standpoint, it’s a completely different and unique look for the character. And not just in the helmet, either. His entire armor is redesigned, and he is almost unrecognizable as Iron Man. Only his iconic hot rod red and yellow color scheme remained.
It’s no surprise that after decades of stories, writers would want to mix things up by having Iron Man join a team that he hasn’t really been a part of, but I found the stories to be a little bit lacking.
Even so, I loved this new look Iron Man took on for a series of brand-new adventures in a setting he’s not normally used to. His role in the team shouldn’t be revisited, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him, or even others, don this armor again.
- First Appearance: Invincible Iron Man (2008) #509
- Date: October 2011
- Creators: Matt Fraction
The Fear Itself crossover was a fairly weird event for Marvel. The publisher had been on a hot streak with a lot of blockbuster events up until this point, so fans thought this would continue that trend. I was one of them and was hopeful about the premise.
The general idea is that the legendary Serpent from Norse mythology, also the god of fear, came to Earth with enchanted hammers. Whoever picked up those hammers, whether it be a villain or hero, became an agent of the Serpent. This is an event geared toward Thor and not Iron Man.
But knowing Tony Stark, he would obviously get involved. Unfortunately, Norse mythology is a bit out of his wheelhouse.
But this is my favorite part about Tony Stark. He takes his strengths, namely technology, and finds a way to use them to his advantage, depending on whatever environment he’s in. With Odin’s blessing, he took the legendary metal Uru, which also comprises Thor’s hammer, and bonded it with his armor.
The result is a very cool-looking suit called the Iron Destroyer. From just a raw perspective, it might be one of my favorite-looking Iron Man suits as any semblance of scientific technology is gone, replaced by an Iron Man straight out of Norse mythology.
Also, strangely is that Tony gave up the metal when the Serpent was defeated. Knowing him, that was probably a tall task as he is never one to part with a powerful weapon lightly.
- First Appearance: Invincible Iron Man #517
- Date: May 2012
- Creators: Matt Fraction
The Model 39 armor is different in story and design from many armors that came before it. It was developed by Tony Stark during a fairly low point in his life. He was beaten both on the corporate and political level, causing him to take a leave of absence from the Avengers and quit being Iron Man.
He even pushed aside those closest to him, but he wouldn’t let that stop him from at least trying to do some good with Iron Man. He developed this armor and gave it to Jim Rhodes to continue his vigilante activities in a manner that wasn’t as high profile as Rhodes’s typical War Machine armor.
As for the armor itself, it’s a lot sleeker, stealthier, and it doesn’t have nearly as much firepower as either Iron Man or War Machine. This armor was made for subtlety, which is definitely apparent from its look.
I’m never really a fan of the big Iron Man suits capable of taking on gigantic monsters and celestial foes, so I truly appreciate the low-key look.
The color scheme is also way different, providing a fresh perspective that I always feel Iron Man needs occasionally. Yet perhaps my favorite part about the whole armor is that its mask still has enough Iron Man features to be completely recognizable as the character.
- First Appearance: The Ultimates #1
- Date: March 2002
- Creators: Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch
The general idea behind the Ultimate Universe was to reboot the origins of some of Marvel’s favorite characters for a newer and more modern generation.
Granted, I was coming of age at this time and just starting to read comics, so I was the perfect target demographic for this brand and got sucked right into it. After Spider-Man and X-Men had their turns, the Avengers were next.
Characters like Captain America and Thor were much easier to create newer versions of their personalities. It was much harder for Tony Stark, who was pretty much the same Tony Stark I knew from the regular Marvel Universe. His armor, however, was a completely different story.
Because it’s a lot easier to transform the Iron Man armor than Tony Stark himself, his suit is what got the brunt of the redesign. The first Iron Man is undoubtedly American in design, as that was what was prevalent at the time of his creation.
Though by the early 2000s, Japanese anime and manga were on the rise. Even I couldn’t resist getting sucked in by things like Dragon Ball and Gundam Wing, the latter of which was an inspiration as Ultimate Iron Man was heavily influenced by Japanese animation.
His mask pretty much gives it away, as he looks like he stepped right out of an anime. His design changed over the years, but even after the Ultimate Universe was eventually shut down in Secret Wars, this look still stands out as something unique that Ultimate Universe fans like myself will always be fond of.
- First Appearance: Infamous Iron Man #1
- Date: October 2016
- Creators: Brian Michael Bendis
This version of Iron Man is the only one on the list not designed by Tony Stark, and it’s not just my love for Dr. Doom that drove me to include him.
This period of Iron Man was unique and important for a number of reasons. Tony Stark died at the end of Civil War 2 (which is probably nobody’s favorite crossover).
His death left a void for someone to step up and become the new Iron Man in the Marvel Universe. An obvious choice was Iron Heart, also known as Riri Williams. I’m not a huge fan of hers, though, so I was happy when Victor von Doom decided to step in and try to claim the title as his own.
Dr. Doom is an immensely interesting character. On the surface, he might be perceived as an egomaniacal dictator who craves power at all costs.
And I have no problem admitting that he might be, but he’s also way more complicated than that. Stories featuring Doom as a complex character highlight a very prideful man with a tragic family history.
He strives to do right and only comes across as a villain because he has a twisted sense of morality of what “right” means. This drive even led him to become a god in Secret Wars.
But where does someone go after becoming a god and failing to achieve perfection? Doom somehow humbled himself into trying to be different and evolve. I saw the parallels between his evolution and Tony Stark’s, so it’s no surprise that Doom created an Iron Man armor to try and honor Tony’s legacy.
His mask lacks the color that Iron Man typically has, as Doom is not nearly as flashy as Tony. And yet, the look and feel of Doom’s mask perfectly combine Iron Man and Doom’s classic metal design.
After all, Doom’s mask is one of the most iconic in Marvel history. So it makes sense to implement that style when giving him the wheel of Iron Man.
- First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39
- Date: March 1963
- Creators: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
This was the mask that started it all for Tony Stark and Iron Man. On a power level, this suit doesn’t hold a candle to some of Tony’s most powerful and even middle-of-the-road armors.
After all, I love the line Obadiah Stane says in the first Iron Man movie when he describes how Tony Stark built it “in a cave with a box of scraps.”
It was mainly created out of necessity and practicality. Tony needed it to escape. It wasn’t like he had a whole bunch of time in a lab to tinker with the look and design.
Still, it’s cool that Tony had the foresight to actually create a helmet and mask for the armor. He could have just worn the suit and left his face unencumbered.
But by creating a mask to go with it, he inadvertently kind of fell into a superhero identity with a distinct look that would help inspire the character’s overarching theme for decades to come. I’ll be first to admit that in my youth, I wasn’t too fond of this first Iron Man armor.
After all, the character would go on to become a powerhouse in the Marvel Universe. Why should I care about the very first armor he made just to escape captivity? But as I get older (and wiser), I’ve come to feel a bit of nostalgia and respect for Iron Man’s origin.
He truly toiled in creating this mask, and it is representative of far more than just Iron Man’s beginnings. It’s a symbol of the Marvel Universe, and I think every true Marvel fan, young and old alike, has come to appreciate it.
- First Appearance: Free Comic Book Day 2015 (Avengers) #1
- Date: May 2015
- Creators: Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez
A lot of times, creative teams will utilize a new jumping-on point for the character to alter his design. That happens a lot with Iron Man since his character is pretty much prone to constantly evolving and upgrading his suit.
The Model-Prime armor was an example of this, as there was seemingly no practical reason for Tony Stark to change his suit in response to a problem. However, the Model-Prime suit might be considered the culmination of everything Iron Man had been before it.
This suit contains plenty of the specific features that he wore in the past, such as stealth mode and even being able to transform seamlessly into Hulkbuster armor.
Also, the fact that he could activate the suit through bracelets is a leap forward in technology from this hero’s humble origins from being designed in a cave.
From a purely design standpoint, the Iron Man mask also was heavily modified. There is still some similarities between the classic Iron Man fans are used to and this new look. It’s enough of a similarity for even non-comic fans to be able to recognize him as Iron Man.
However, it’s also probably the most closely anime-inspired design since Iron Man from the Ultimate Universe. I think the look is great, as it has just enough of the old mixed with the new to draw me in.
Although I’m a huge Marvel fan, I hadn’t read much of Iron Man before this suit debuted, but I jumped right into this run and several after it.
- First Appearance: Iron Man #85
- Date: January 1976
- Creators: Len Wein, Roger Slifer, Herb Trimpe
For younger fans like myself, the most iconic Iron Man is probably the Mark 3 armor from the first Iron Man film (see below).
But I have no problem admitting that a more classic Iron Man look should definitely be respected. This armor is distinguished as being the longest-lasting armor Tony Stark used as the character. For a certain generation of fans, this is Iron Man.
From a design standpoint, It’s hard not to be impressed with how good it looks. It gives off the impression that Iron Man is a man made out of iron. It also has a distinctly old-school feel, which is great as comic fans love nostalgia.
Unlike versions of the armor from today, the mask retains the same feel as the Mark 1 armor, which started it all. It also doesn’t have the infamous nose piece that fans criticized heavily In previous versions. While it’s rare, new stories featuring this armor do pop up on comic shelves from time to time.
While I hope Marvel doesn’t make a habit of it, I love going back in time and seeing Tony Stark where this mask from an era when comics were much simpler.
- First Appearance: Iron Man
- Date: May 2008
- Creators: Adi Granov
As a comic reader, it pains me to say this, but Iron Man’s mask doesn’t get more iconic than his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Mark 3 armor is important for many reasons. First, it was the culmination of Tony Stark’s story in the first Iron Man film.
More than that, it also propelled the character into the public consciousness when he lagged behind some of Marvel’s more popular characters. When this film premiered, that armor and its mask were everywhere.
Yet the only shining light for a comic fan like myself was that it was heavily influenced by Adi Granov’s design for the character during the legendary Extremis storyline.
There have been many different Iron Man armors before and since then, but thanks to the first Iron Man film, this has become a definitive look for the character. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when somebody says Iron Man, this is the first image that pops into my mind.
Question: What’s the Strongest Iron Man Armor?
Answer: Tony developed something he called the “Godbuster Armor.” It was so powerful it scared him, and he destroyed it after using it for what it was designed for.
Question: Do Iron Man’s villains wear masks?
Answer: Sure. Tons do, as many of them have suits of their own, but my favorite is probably Madame Masque, who is considered a former love interest of Tony Stark’s.
Question: Did Tony make the first Iron Man suit alone?
Answer: He did not. A fellow captive named Yinsen helped Tony build the Mark 1 armor. He died during the escape.
Tony Stark’s commitment to evolution is inspiring. As an alcoholic, Tony understands the constant need for personal transformation and growth. This extends to his armor, as he is always tweaking and changing various aspects of his armor to improve its performance.
His mask is an extension of these changes. The importance of faces in regard to human recognition has been well documented in science.
A mask is no different. This is the “face” superheroes project onto the world. It’s what I love about the genre. And I admire Tony’s dedication to adapting that face along with himself.