Agent of S.T.Y.L.E.: IRON MAN's Power Suits, Part 2
This continues our look at the evolution of Iron Man’s standard suits of armor. In Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. – Iron Man Part 1, we saw how Tony Stark made the original Mark 0 armor to act as an emergency defense and weapons system in order to free himself from captors and keep his heart stable. Years later, when his heart had healed, experimental surgery freed Tony from having to rely on a magnetic repulsor generator being attached to his chest. Despite this, he continued operating as Iron Man, now believing he had a responsibility to safeguard the world with his intelligence and resources.
We ended Part 1 with the 1996 Heroes Reborn armor. Now, we begin this segment with…
THE RENAISSANCE ARMOR
After the events of Heroes Reborn, Tony, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four all returned to their native Earth to resume their lives. Tony is a superhero, yes, but he’s a technologist first, so he wasn’t back home for long before he figured out a way to update his armor yet again, bringing forward a new look that called back to the proto-classic armor we saw in Part 1. And like his early suits, this one was able to break down and fit into a specially equipped briefcase.
After seeing the Heroes Reborn suit of many cables, this definitely emphasizes a simplified, back-to-basics approach. The horned faceplate is back, but the mouth no longer gives the impression of teeth and the horns now don’t rise so dramatically past Tony’s head. It gives a friendlier impression, though we are in danger of implying a widow’s peak.
The gauntlets and shoulder pads are a bit too bulky in comparison to the rest of the armor. The different plates making up the pads look like they inhibit movement, in fact. The cables on Iron Man’s chest plate give a similar implication.
In this reality, Tony Stark was still a man of wealth and importance, a familiar role that meant he had a tougher time than some of the others in realizing things were amiss. In Morgan’s reality, Tony was given a mystical helmet. Once he locked the helmet into place, he was magically suited up with red and gold armor, becoming the Iron Knight. This was similar to the renaissance armor and was a creative reinterpretation. I also find it kind of hilarious that the symbol for “man” (the circle with the arrow) was incorporated into the chest piece.
Whether you like the angled faceplate is a matter of personal preference at this point. I personally have no objection to this version of it and actually liked the way it could slide upward when Tony wanted to show his face or grab a soda, as opposed to most of the previous helmets where the gold faceplate had to be detached when Iron Man unmasked.
So anyway, Tony’s armor became alive. It could talk and developed a personality. And then it went evil, as robots and computers that develop sentience tend to do (unless you’re reading an Isaac Asimov story, since his 3 Laws of Robotics prevented that trope). Tony had to fight the living armor, leading to a battle where he suffered a massive chest wound. The armor realized it was evil and then decided to save Tony’s life by sacrificing it’s own. It ripped out vital circuitry and attached it to Tony, building him a new mechanical heart that needed to be repeatedly recharged and would shut down if Tony had alcohol.
Like I said, weird.
Tony wore his classic armor for a while after that. And then, in 2001, he tried on a new suit of armor made from a material that had been developed by a partnership between Askew and Stark technologies. The liquid metal that could be programmed to achieve different feats was called Synth-Kinetic Interfacing Nano-fluid or S.K.I.N. The S.K.I.N. armor went through a few different looks as it continually reformed and was upgraded.
And none of these looks really work. It goes from being too makeshift to too bulky. The way the shoulder pads are built, it looks as if Tony can’t touch his toes or lift his arms if he’s wearing this. Fortunately, the S.K.I.N. armor didn’t last long and Tony got himself a new suit. Since he had recently gotten his mechanical heart, folks have referred to this new suit as…
THE TIN MAN ARMOR
The spiky design and many angled/segmented plates on the torso give an insect-like, almost alien, impression that doesn’t seem quite right for Iron Man. Again, not bad at all, but it definitely feels to me that there could be a little streamlining here.
By the way, this armor was once again able to fit into a briefcase. Miniature anti-grav/repulsor units allowed the individual pieces to actually fly over Tony and connect around him when he activated the suit. Tony made sure this feature applied to the next suit of armor.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
When he was on his way to assuming this position with the government, Iron Man sported this slightly altered look. I like it better than the spikiness of the previous armor. With fewer plates connecting down the front and the cables being replaced, this suit seems sleeker and less busy than the previous one. The shoulder pads are now more closely fitted and seem a part of the armor again rather than just serving as decoration.
But I have to criticize the helmet. This design makes Tony seem like he has fangs. Or, at the very least, a nasty metal overbite. It reminds me a bit of the evil Arno Stark, the Iron Man of a possible future. And Tony shouldn’t look like the villain in his own comic. He’s not a sinister, dark avenger of the night. He’s the shining knight of tomorrow’s technology.
This suit is, in many ways, a simplified version of Tony’s Secretary of Defense armor. The torso is large plates smoothly connected alongside each other rather than layered pieces, making Iron Man seem slimmer and lighter. Some accessories, such as the belt design and connection screws on the shoulder pads, have been eliminated. And the helmet has not only lost its fanged appearance, but it is sleeker and softer, giving a more human impression again by utilizing curves rather than harsh angles. A very nice design.
This armor was made out of memory metals, an updated version of the old collapsible suit that had to be polarized. When the armor was de-activated, the elements could compress to about 90% of their working volume. This was still not as compact as Tony’s old suits, so he built a much larger metal briefcase to accommodate this armor. When activated, an electric charge snapped the armor pieces into place and the molecular structure of the metal would collimate into super-hard planes.
Since he couldn’t miniaturize the control systems, Tony compensated by using his new Extremis abilities to store the under armor in the hollow of his bones. When he wished, he could will the under armor to form over his body and then send out a mental signal to the outer armor, causing it to fly out of its briefcase and attach itself around him.
BLEEDING EDGE ARMOR
With Extremis, Tony had moved beyond being a man in armor and had become a cyborg, a mixture of biology and technology. This has been taken a step further in his latest comics, where the entire Iron Man suit now miniaturizes and hides itself inside his body, coming forth when he mentally wills it into being. Writer Matt Fraction developed this idea because he wanted to emphasize that Tony Stark WAS Iron Man. Even if you gave someone else one of Tony’s old suits, they wouldn’t be nearly as powerful and efficient. The armor and Tony were now linked more than they had ever been even when Tony was first forced to create it to save his own life.
And that about wraps us up, readers. We’ll continue looking at the evolution of certain Avengers as we count down to the movie. And in the next couple of weeks, look out for my annotations on Iron Man 2. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off![Alan "Sizzler" Kistler is an actor and author living in New York City. He is the author of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook, The Unofficial Batman Trivia Challenge and The Unofficial Spider-Man Trivia Challenge. He is a creator and host of the weekly podcast Crazy Sexy Geeks, available on iTunes. Alan has been recognized as a comic book historian and a Doctor Who historian by various publishers and media outlets. He thinks Isaac Asimov should be required reading in all schools. He can be found on Twitter: @SizzlerKistler] Other Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. movie Avengers profiles: FACEBOOK and TWITTER!