I have something to confess. I wasn’t that much into Iron Man before watching the 2008 movie. Years of years reading comics can give you a broad perspective, but it’s impossible not to have favorites. Iron Man just wasn’t one of mine. I was much more engulfed by the X-men when it came to Marvel comics, which I thought were much more captivating and diverse than the Avengers. I still think the same.
However, the MCU was at an all-time high during my teens. Plus, I had an intense passion for the two Ultimate Avengers animated movies. So I thought, “why not give these guys a chance?” So I did. But I didn’t start at just any place; I went straight to Civil War and read all of it. That was all it took me to become a fan of Iron Man.
Yes, I disagreed with his stance on the regulation of superheroes and with how he manipulated Peter Parker. But I saw a man desperate to do what’s right and take accountability for his mistakes, even if it cost him a lot. Soon, I started delving into other aspects of Tony’s character, like his genius mind and constant need for improvement.
The latter is why we’ve seen so many iterations of Iron Man’s armor throughout comic books, at least in the story. In the outside world, however, Stan Lee was never satisfied with the design. One way or the other, I find that analyzing Iron Man’s suits is fascinating for me.
That’s why I was so excited to write this Iron Man Mark 1 guide and explore the very first iron armor that Tony Stark created.
My Bottom Line Up Front
Even though the Mark 1 lacks the refinement of later versions, it is iconic and miles ahead of the golden Mark 2. However, for me, it looks less like a superhero costume and more like some sort of monster. All I could think of when I read the early Iron Man stories was that Tony looked like a tin man. Thankfully, the movie takes advantage of the original design while making it look cool.
Iron Man’s Origin
Iron Man debuted in Tales of Suspense, number 39. This title was one among many that told stories focused on sci-fi and the supernatural. However, sometimes a superhero would appear. The ones that became popular with the public later gained their titles, as was the case with Iron Man.
In this title, the narrator characterizes Tony Stark as a genius inventor but also a rich bachelor living the dream life. I got the impression this narration is probably the precursor of the famous Avengers quote. Anyone else thinks the same?
Well, the billionaire owns Stark Industries, a weapon manufacturer. As a genius, Tony is behind the company’s most important inventions. With that premise alone, I would probably think Tony is a villain if I knew nothing about Iron Man. The description makes it seem like he is selfish. But later on, that was one of the things that made me appreciate the character more.
When I’m reading a Batman comic, I feel like he is only pretending to like being a wealthy bachelor. But when I read an Iron Man comic, I just know Tony enjoys being a billionaire bachelor. It’s not contrary to his life as a superhero. These two things make him who he is.
But, returning to the story, Tony is invited to go to Vietnam after presenting a new powerful weapon to the U.S military. God only knows why. He may be a genius, but that doesn’t mean he should be walking around in Vietnam’s jungle with an army. So, of course, that goes terribly, and Tony’s caught by an explosion.
Wong-Chu, the chief of the Vietnamese guerrilla, captures him. The surgeons do their best to take the shrapnel from Tony’s heart, but there’s nothing to do. They discover Tony’s identity, and the chief tries to trick Stark into believing the Vietnamese will free him and fix his heart if he makes weapons for them.
Tony knows Wong-Chu is lying, so he decides to do a trick of his own. He agrees to build weapons for the Vietnamese. However, he is only binding his time. To help Tony work faster, the chief throws a man called Yinsen into the billionaire’s cell.
They work incessantly, while Tony’s heart becomes weaker by the day. Still, they finish building the Iron armor, which serves not only as a means to escape but as a way to keep Tony’s heart intact. As long as Stark wears the suit, he’ll stay alive.
Here comes Iron Man!
It’s a fantastic invention, but things aren’t easy. Walking around with a heavy iron suit is challenging, so Tony has trouble with it and even falls. However, after a few minutes, he learns how to walk with the suit because he is a genius.
I’m serious! That is the explanation the comic gives. I wish I was a genius. Maybe all of my problems would also be solved in a few minutes.
Eventually, Tony defeats Wong-Chu and his men and gets out alive. Something I found exciting about the ending is it hints Tony won’t be able to leave the suit without dying. That idea is more in line with the opening pages that deem Tony a tragic hero. I also got the impression this concept fits more with the style of Tales of Suspense.
There’s no official statement about that, but to my understanding, it seems the editors wanted to make him into a tragic monster like The Thing. However, if that was the case, they dropped it away. It was an exciting thought, but I’m glad the writers threw it away. I prefer the dashing Tony with a face and attitude that can make the ladies dizzy.
A hateful character
I was watching some interviews with Stan Lee about Iron Man the other day, and a few things got my attention. The first was that when Stan Lee created Iron Man, he wasn’t trying to make a popular product; he was trying to be bold. The other is that Stan Lee understood the importance of creating weaknesses in your character.
The first point relates to the geopolitical climate when Iron man was created. Tony Stark is a product of his time. While the 2008 movie occurs in Afghanistan, the comic setting is Vietnam. At the time of publication, the Cold War was the most important subject on the planet, and Vietnam was under attack. So Stan Lee decided to comment on that.
But he didn’t make a profound political commentary. Instead, he stated that everyone hated the Vietnam War at the time, and rightfully so. But in his words, he was feeling cocky. So he decided to make a superhero out of a weapon manufacturer, something everyone hated, and make people like him. As unbelievable as Lee’s idea sounds, he was right. People loved Iron Man.
I have to say this comment sure took a few laughs out of me. It also impressed me because it shows how Stan had a vision for his creations and followed it. No matter the consequences. In this sense, I think he put a little bit of his personality when creating Tony Stark.
Then there’s the second point. Lee added that he wanted to give Tony a weakness. He thought of giving him a weak heart because no hero had that at the time. Thus he created the story with the shrapnel on his heart and the arc reactor.
I was even more surprised at this because I thought the whole situation with the shrapnel in his heart was just an origin story with nothing behind it. But Stan Lee knew better. Giving Tony a weakness in his body created genuine suspense in the story and raised the stakes.
I am a fan of Superman, but I think we can all agree his weakness is dull. Someone appears with a magic rock and puff… he’s done. In contrast, there’s a grit to Tony’s case. If he can’t charge his heart or someone takes his arc reactor from him, that creates a well-written conflict. Something which the first movie, I must add, did perfectly.
Stan Lee’s account of the creation of Iron Man made me like both Lee and Stark much more. I love that he decided to create such an imperfect character because that is where Tony’s charm resides. If anything, Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the character proves that.
Another thing that attracts me to the character is the technological aspect. While DC comics leaned more into fantasy, which I also like, Marvel tried to give their ideas scientific explanations. The fantastic 4, another favorite of mine, is an excellent example.
Of course, the writers are not scientists. You can see how silly these things sound if you understand what they’re talking about. However, I don’t mind the technobabble as I’m much more interested in the effort behind making something sound scientific.
That’s one of the things that make Iron Man stand out. While previously I may have thought he was just Batman in an Iron suit, I see how wrong I was. Tony Stark is not just a genius the way Bruce Wayne is. Tony is an inventor. Which is essential to make all the cool technologies and unique armors we see in the comics.
Mark 1 Characteristics
The Mark 1 is made of waste, so it looks pretty rough. Still, it has some extraordinary feats. It enhances the wearer’s strength and has jet boots that allow flight. It also has jet-powered rollerskates for transportation. The suit’s resistance is also impressive, as it can deflect bullets and withstand great forces. However, it is not resistant to sea rust.
Stark’s first suit also has an arsenal of tools capable of making Inspector Gadget jealous. These include miniature versions of a saw, a flamethrower, a drill, detachable suction cups, jet blowers, an electronic reverse energy beam, digging tools, tear gas bombs, and many more. Some of these tools come from the armor’s belt, while others, like the saw, come from its fingers.
The idea of various gadgets in a belt reminds me of the Batman tv show. It’s a very sixties thing, and I’m glad they got rid of it. It sounds implausible and silly to have so many things hidden in your belt. However, the movies kept my favorite item from this arsenal, the flamethrower!
What happened to Mark 1?
In Tales of Suspense number 40, Tony realizes during a rescue that his armor is too scary to people and that needs to change. What does Iron Man do? He makes a golden one! I wonder why he thought this would solve the problem. The armor looks precisely the same but golden. So he didn’t solve the situation at all. Besides, I think the golden version is hideous!
The MCU version of the Mark 1 rocks! After comparing the comic suit with the movie one, I was impressed to see how they kept the original idea but made it look realistic and cool. When I saw the comic suit, I thought it looked like a robot from a 60s sci-fi. Maybe it was the idea they were going for, but it was hard for me to see Tony as a superhero with such a clunky and ugly suit.
In the movies, all is done better. I loved how the design shows that the suit was made from scraps. It has all these disjointed parts and some open spaces that could be seen as a design failure, adding character to the suit. Seeing how it looks, I could believe it was made by a man desperate to escape with few resources.
Furthermore, the writers upgraded the only gadget from the comics that I think is cool —the flamethrower. Instead of a miniature one, they have a bigger one in the right arm. Other than that, the feats of force, resistance, and flight are the same ones from the comics.
However, it is essential to note that Mark 1 cannot sustain flight in any of the two versions. In the movie, we see Tony crash in the desert after taking flight for a few seconds to escape. Stark would improve flight capabilities on subsequent Marks.
Adam Savage build
I am fascinated by people who build things. Maybe that is because I’m too much in my head and don’t have crafting abilities. Or perhaps my studying background in architecture influences me to be happy seeing stuff getting built. I don’t know.
The fact is, when I saw Adam Savage upgrading an Iron Man Mark 1 model, I was fascinated. A one-hour-long video flew by as if I was in another time dimension. Adam is a special effects designer and fabricator. His work has been featured in big movies such as Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and The Matrix Reloaded.
Nowadays, he uploads videos of his builds on Youtube. There’s a playlist where he upgrades a model of the Mark 1 he bought online to make it look closer to the film version. If you like learning about building and crafting, this is an enriching experience.
The best part is Adam explains every little thing he does. So if you want to learn how to make a bright new costume to hop on the next comic con, you’ll get real value from this content. I mostly watch it for fun. Though I have a newfound appreciation for the Mark 1 model due to Adam’s playlist.
Question: What is Iron Man Mark 1 made of?
Answer: In the comics, Tony Stark made the Mark 1 using iron scraps from the Vietnamese warlord Wong-Chu. In the movie, he used scraps from the weapons he had taken to Afghanistan to make the armor. It is important to note that though the comic version is made of iron, the movie one is made out of a titanium alloy.
Question: Can Iron Man Mark 1 fly?
Answer: Yes, the Mark 1 can fly in the comics and movies. However, it cannot sustain flight as Tony perfected this feature on the following versions of the suit.
Question: What happened to Iron Man Mark 1?
Answer: In the comics, Tony Stark changes his suit after realizing people thought it was too scary. So he started wearing Mark 2, which is a golden version of Mark 1. However, in the comics, Mark 1 was destroyed on a crash landing when Tony escaped his captors.
Mark 1 showcases Tony Stark’s incredible capabilities, even with few resources. The comic’s clunky and dated design gave way to a beautiful and well-crafted machine-like armor in the movie version. Though Tony would later create more advanced and threatening technology, the Mark 1 takes a special spot in my heart. After all, it was the beginning of everything!
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