Iron Man vs Thanos is a conversation that has had a more tumultuous journey than you may expect. Unless you’ve been reading comics since 1968. That year is important because it is when Thanos made his first appearance.
Did I mention, it was in an issue of Iron Man?
That’s right, although they rarely ever cross paths in comic canon, Iron Man was the first hero from Earth that Thanos ever met. The first hero to ever thwart him.
Thanos and Iron Man would not meet again, or at the least rarely cross paths due to stories of others, for decades. A gap slowly emerged in the writing of each character.
I grew to love Iron Man for his ingenuity in the comics. He was constantly dealing with the fact his body was not invulnerable, no fight left him unscathed. His intelligence seemed only to grow with the times and he often made realistic, flawed choices. Many of his arcs are him trying to atone for his own errors.
Thanos had a more intense rise. He went from a random villain to one of the most dangerous characters in all of Marvel. To further put that into context, he was once used as a throwaway villain borrowed by a writer for a Spider-Man tale. In it, he flew a helicopter with his name on it and ended up getting arrested! Now, he is a Universal threat who has beaten everyone at least once.
Iron Man and Thanos have never had a fair fight. It’s always been a team VS Thanos deal. Usually, it is also Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. I’m going to tackle the subject of Armor VS Titan, Thanos VS Ironman, decisively.
Bottom Line Up Front
This article will present each character’s comic history with one another and on the silver screen. It will list out their strengths, fighting tactics and ultimately draw up a hypothetical battle to decide a winner if they ever faced off in fair combat.
Main Differences: Tale of the Tape
Iron Man is only a man. His durability comes mostly from his suit which can repair itself from minor damages, defib him should his heart stop and withstand several strikes from The Hulk. Thanos, however, has survived being thrown in lava without the help of an Infinity Gem and goes toe-to-toe with The Hulk on an off day.
Edge goes to: Thanos
I’m going to specifically talk about what Iron Man’s suit is capable of, and that is, at full power, a punch strong enough to make a mini-crater. He can also lift several tons at full power. Thanos’s average punches make holes in the very Earth. He doesn’t tire from throwing them either and can arm wrestle The Thing while lifting a tank.
Edge goes to: Thanos
Tony, given time, has built armor, weapons, and medicine for almost all issues that arise in the Marvel Universe. Thanos is no slouch, though. He first rebelled against his home world by crafting weapons from their technology when no weapons existed there. While often overlooked, he is a genius, but Iron Man advanced quite far with a shorter lifespan…
Edge goes to: Iron Man
This is an unusual moment. Iron Man’s onboard computer, as documented, is great at reading attacks. With enough data, it can have him go against the best fighters in Marvel. Thanos, with no gauntlet, has defeated the best fighters from countless worlds. He’s won without even having prior knowledge of their skills. I usually find two points for each, but in the areas where a fight would matter; Iron Man only has one advantage.
Edge goes to: Thanos
A Brief History of the Mad Titan
Thanos’s history became more fleshed out as the character grew in popularity. Yet, its roots remain relatively the same. He is a Titan, a race of people that ruled and governed a peaceful world, but he is also a mutant.
Thanos was clearly the black sheep of the family. In his quest for power, he killed his mother at the age of twelve. He loved his mother.
Thanos would eventually be the destruction of his own world. He would take the technology and increase his strength. Moving on to conquer other worlds. He wanted an empire run how he thought was best and no other.
He mastered combat, strategy, and even magic to rule as not some figure behind a chair, but as a warlord. He led his armies and crushed his enemies…but found little reward internally. It was not until he met Lady Death that true motivation found him. She would not accept his hand until he was worthy, or so he convinced himself.
Thanos’s obsession and his love drove him to the Infinity Gems. Where, at the pique of his power, Death would still refuse him.
Once he had the Infinity Gauntlet complete, he was unbeatable. Even to the most powerful of things outside existence, he was omniscient. Sadly for the Titan; it meant nothing. He was empty still. In a moment of distraction, Thanos would allow the daughter he abused, Nebula, to grab up the gauntlet. In the end, he was killed, and Adam Warlock claimed the gems.
In the same comic, it would be revealed that he had faked his own death. He had given up on triumph and conquest, to farm. To find a new purpose. This, to me, is Thanos’s greatest arc.
The character was revived for other interesting arcs later on, but this arc is what made him a legend to fans like myself.
The main takeaway here is the only thing that ultimately stands between him and complete victory, in the end, is himself.
Is Thanos overpowered? Yes. Luckily, unlike other overpowered characters, he isn’t overused.
The Evolution of the Iron Man Suit
Iron Man isn’t really going to match up to the Mad Titan as just a human. It’s really the evolution of Tony’s suit that will give him a chance in this contest.
While I will touch on the movie encounters in the MCU quite a bit later, I will mention here those were his best fights against Thanos.
It’s not just because of how beloved Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man was, either. It’s because he got to use one of his best suits in those fights. Nanotech, self-repairing, rapid projectile, arc reactor Mark L style armor.
Iron Man’s original suit started off as nothing more than exactly what it’s named; Iron. Simple, heavy armor with little weaponry and the ability to use the arc reactor to keep his heart safe.
As he realized what he was capable of, he built a better suit as quickly as he could. One that could fly and get more use out of the arc reactor he had developed. After each suit was finished, Tony wasted little time. He would always be working on an upgrade.
Tony has made a suit out of pure virtual projection. He bonded a suit with the aliens known as symbiotes. You may be most familiar with these through two of their clan: Venom and Carnage.
He’s crafted suits meant to take on The Hulk, survive hyperspace and keep his heart going should it stop from damage. He fights some heavy hitters, both with energy blasts and fists.
The durability of his best suit is of legend. So, while I will have him face the best of Thanos without the Infinity Gems or the Cosmic Cube, Tony will bring what I believe to be his best all-around armor; The Mark 70.
He will not use his God-Killer armor, as it was crafted purely from his imagination by some ridiculous happenstance and is generally as overpowered as the Infinity Gauntlet.
I’m getting excited thinking about this fight, but I won’t get ahead of myself. First, let’s go over all the times they’ve fought before to get an idea of how this would likely go down.
In their first encounter, Iron Man was captured and had the help of Drax the Destroyer to escape. The two took down Thanos, only to learn he was a robot.
Thanos’s first appearance was a bait and switch, though technically, it can count as a win for Iron Man. Who, as soon as the option was open, blasted his opponent with everything he had.
Hidden Trivia: This was also the first appearance of Drax, whose origin here is shown as being created solely for the purpose of Thanos’s death.
Comic Book: Iron Man #39 (1968)
The Infinity Gauntlet
In Thanos’s original Infinity Gauntlet arc, he managed to snap his fingers and kill half of all life in the Universe, this one detail remains the same in films.
Like in the movies, one of those survivors was Iron Man. He, along with a handful of other heroes left alive joins Adam Warlock to make a futile attempt at Thanos.
With the Infinity Gems, it is over before it starts. Thanos merely freezes them all in place, but a sneak Mephisto talks the Titan out of killing them. “Maybe Lady Death will be appeased by the fight.”
Thanos, still not able to win over his love, agrees to the madness. He cuts himself off from certain powers of the stone to give the heroes a 0.5% chance of winning. So that he can show he is brave, isn’t that grand.
Anyways, thanks to a clever move by Cyclops, Thanos trips up and takes a full blast from Iron Man to the chest. It barely bothers him. His self-created lover, Terraxia, tackles Iron Man, beats him to the ground, and rips his head off.
Thanos took this win without even lifting a finger.
Comic Book: Infinity Gauntlet #4 1991
In the cinematic Universe, Iron Man and Thanos fought on two occasions.
The first fight actually allowed us to see what Iron Man was capable of in his suit. His strategy was pretty sound, when the planned team attack went south, he kept the pressure on.
He was relentless, every breath was towards an attack. Thanos used the power of his stones carelessly, almost toying with his enemy, not quite impressed. In the end, all Iron Man could do was scratch the Titan.
All the power, all the technology, and his suit could barely hurt Thanos. It was a valiant effort, but a losing one.
Film: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The second fight was an all-out war. This time, Thanos started out with no stones and proved why he was still a threat with his might and skill alone.
While the conqueror fought Thanos and Captain America alone, eventually all hell would break loose. Thanos and Iron Man would come face to face again, and once again, Iron Man would get nearly broken.
His armor busted, his body beaten, loss inevitable. Only, he had learned a few tricks and made some upgrades. His suit hijacked the stones from Thanos’s Gauntlet onto itself during the fight.
With that, one snap, and this time Tony set Thanos to dust. If you haven’t seen it, the fight alone is worth a watch.
Film: Avengers: End Game (2019)
Avengers VS Thanos
In a comic book that took place while the movies were being released, Thanos and Iron Man had quite a conflict.
First, using a robot named Arsenal to absorb the powers of the stones, Iron Man then had it self-destruct on Thanos. It seemed to work, at the time. Thanos came back though, unharmed and annoyed.
Nearly crushing the Avengers again, Tony tricks Thanos into making Arsenal even stronger, with the same tactic as before, and Arsenal blasts Thanos into seeming oblivion.
Thanos somehow comes back, bigger and better than before. It’s here I realized these comics were not really canon and just filler for fans of the film, but they did reiterate a theme.
Thanos, gigantic from power overload, and Iron Man in a giant suit had a real monster battle. When Tony tried to use the suit to drain Thanos(his master plan), the Mad Titan’s power overloaded the armor and Thanos destroyed it.
At last, using all the energy in the world concentrated into one Satelite, Tony Stark sets Thanos up to be, possibly, obliterated again.
Probably not though, if the other times are any sign of what being obliterated means in these random comics. Still, we see Thanos out-power and outfight Iron Man only to be out-thought in each instance.
Comic Book: Avengers VS Thanos TPB (2018)
Thanos is Inevitable
In the 2018 run of Thanos, a story arc came out that is very dear to me. In it, Frank Castle becomes Ghost Rider, then Cosmic Ghost Rider, and then the Right Hand of Thanos.
It’s a wild read. Thanos sends his right hand back in time to pull his younger self into the future to fight a blackened badass version of the Silver Surfer wielding Mylonjir and ultimately…I could go on.
Anyways, we’re here to talk about the fight between him and Iron Man in this comic. Well, as you see in the picture above, it’s a short fight. Iron Man is ripped in half.
To be fair, in this timeline, millions of years in the future, Thanos has literally killed everyone except The Hulk(who he keeps a pet!), Ghost Rider, and whatever animals he uses as food.
It is called Thanos Wins, after all.
Thanos’s brute force, sheer skill, and ability to utilize pretty much anything that comes into his hands as a weapon has served him well. Iron Man, on the other hand, needed serious planning and lots of backup to overcome the Titan.
Not to mention, the lack of damage itself that Iron Man has been able to inflict on Thanos even with no Infinity Gems is disconcerting. It’s time for me to sit back and consider all these things before I render my final verdict.
The grandstanding of a stage. An entire moon for them to battle. No island could contain where this fight would have to go, and where it would lead, which is destruction.
Iron Man would let out every trick he was capable of, he would summon armors from his base, an arsenal to lay waste to the Titan. This is an enemy that Tony would fight to kill.
His tactics would each be met with a counter. Landing several blows, several blasts, his Mark 70, perhaps the best suit he’ll ever build, would recover itself again and again from Thanos’s blows.
Pieces of ground would be torn up, and Thanos would constantly catch Iron Man with a fist. Sometimes catch him completely and attempt to crush him.
Any suit that came to help would provide a great distraction. Each blast would begin to wear on the Mad Titan. Thanos would start to bruise, to bleed. He’d take more damage than he did in Infinity War for certain.
Tony would be in worse condition. Hemorrhaging, his suit would be telling him that he has nothing left, to escape.
A hail mary of energy would go into one great arc blast, meant to destroy. Thanos would stand from it, truly injured. He’d be naked, singed, but still a monster of an enemy. Impressed, he would say, with Tony.
A worthy adversary, and yet, Iron Man isn’t done.
He’d channel most of his remaining power into one crater-making blow with his go-to KO punch. Thanos would grab the arm out of the sky and rip the arc reactor from Iron Man’s chest.
Tony would begin to suffocate from the lack of oxygen. Thanos won’t let a great foe die like that, nor would Iron Man stop fighting.
One last-ditch effort by Tony! He uses the defibrillator in his suit to boost energy into the armor so he can jam the sharp edges of the broken armor into Thanos’s throat would be met with a quick snap.
The armor cuts the Titan’s skin, but Iron Man’s neck is broken. The fight, under these conditions, without the stones, is still terribly in Thanos’s favor. Its grandeur is a reminder men can do great things, but are still just insects to Gods.
Winner: Thanos, nine out of ten times.
Thank you for reading, it was tough to tackle a versus article that was so one-sided, but Thanos is the kind of enemy made for teams to beat. For heroes to band together against. The one out of nine is because I think with the right amount of distraction Iron Man could get tiny blasts into the retina of Thanos and burn his brain.
Perhaps not killing him, but leaving him useless. I like Tony Stark a lot, so I wanted to think of at least one win in his favor without help. Somewhere out there, you did it Stark, you slayed an Evil God.
Farewell, True Believers.
Question: Did Thanos kill Iron Man?
Answer: Yes, he ripped him in half in Thanos #16.
Question: Is Thanos stronger than the Hulk?
Answer: Technically, yes. Though The Hulk can get stronger the madder he gets, Thanos’s ability to withstand a hit is far greater than The Hulk’s, who at least can regenerate. World War Hulk is arguably an example of the Jade Giant that could take on the Mad Titan.
Question: Can Iron Man beat Thanos?
Answer: Not without help.
Question: Did Iron Man kill Thanos?
Answer: In the MCU, Iron Man essentially erased young Thanos from their timeline, not killing him. He didn’t want to reset time because it could cause his child to never be born. So, technically, it was/always is, Thor who killed Thanos there.