Top Ten Iron Man Graphic Novels
"I AM Iron Man... What now?"
Iron Man as a character should never really have worked. Created in 1963, at a time of civil rights marches, anti-Vietnam War protests, and general dislike of the establishment,Tony Stark was a wealthy businessman who made his fortune selling weapons. Stan Lee himself admitted he created him almost as a dare to himself, to see if he could make such a man , who the average reader could not identify with,likeable.
Amazingly, it worked. Modelling him on Howard Hughes, Lee found the perfect hook for the book - ' We know the Iron Man armor can function without Stark, but can Stark function without the armor?'. He was , incidentally, the character that got the most fan mail from women. I'm guessing it was the vulnerability thing...Iron Man on the outside, broken heart inside. Clever Stan.
I have a huge collection of comics in general, many featuring Iron Man himself, and plan to write quite a few comics related lenses down the line. i am humbly presenting here Ten of the Best, the books that I feel every Iron Man fan , or prospective fan,should read. No particular order, although my No.1 IS my No.1 I'll even throw in a storyline to avoid (!) as a public service.
If you liked this, check out my Armor Tours hub page, kind of a companion piece to this.
Hope you enjoy the ride, boot jets on....
. Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
10. Iron Man: The Beginning of the End
Writer: Archie Goodwin, Artist: George Tuska
Slightly cheated here, as not a graphic novel per se, but the storyline can be found in 2 collections (featured in Iron Man Vol. 1 #17-23). Hey, my lens, my rules!
Early Iron Man is very hit and miss, though mainly miss. Often writers struggled to give Tony Stark a decent spotlight, and this 7 issue arc, by Archie Goodwin, showed how to do it
Tony Stark finds himself hitting rock bottom when an LMD (Life Model Decoy) robot impersonates him, stealing his company Stark Industries, his personal fortune, and , most importantly,his status as a superhero. Stark fights a desperate battle against this imposter, Madame Masque (who went on to be one of his great recurring enemies) and Midas, and even death itself in order to regain what is rightfully his. The moral of the story is that being a hero does not come naturally to all, and money and power are sometimes not enough . The story 'humanised' Tony Stark.
Goodwins script is excellent, probably the best work on Iron Man up to that date. Tuska's art is ok. Not a great Tuska fan to be honest, but that's more a personal choice, and he certainly does nothing wrong.
If you want to see the storyline that put the meat on the bones of Tony Stark's character, this is for you.
Essential Iron Man, Volume 3 (black and white softcover)
Marvel Masterworks:Iron Man, Volume 6 (color hardback)
Check 'em out on the links below
9. Iron Man: Doomquest
Writer: David Michelinie and Bob Layton Artist: John Romita Jr
Collects together Iron Man Vol 1 issues 149-150 and issues 249-250, with extras bits.
To fans in the know, Michelinie, Layton and Romita are the Iron Man Dream Team. Virtually everything they did with him was outstanding. In this collection, they did something that , surprisingly, no-one had done before - put Iron Man up against the premier Marvel armored villain, Dr Doom. Other writers have since kept this rivalry going.
The story is great fun. Tony Stark refuses to give Dr Doom some of his Iron Man tech, so Doom decides to take the tech by force which leads to Iron Man taking on Doom. During their fight they are thrown back through time thanks to Doom's time machine and land back in the days of Camelot, where Iron Man teams with King Arthur himself while Doom teams up with Morgan Le Fay. We get the glorious sight of Doom leading an army of undead warriors against the Knights of the Table Round...great stuff!
Story 2 is not quite as fun or as good, but entertaining nonetheless, from Michelinie and Layton's second run. Iron Man and Dr Doom are taken into the far future to defend the reborn King Arthur, at Merlin's behest. The central plot sees Iron Man fighting against an evil future descendant and Doom against a cyborg future version of himself. Fun bits include Iron Man equipping himself for battle with tech acquired at a futuristic electronics store, both Tony and Doom trying to wield the legendary Excalibur and Doom's dismissal of a future version of himself that he finds to be extremely substandard....
As a little footnote of sorts, the 'Camelot Trilogy' was concluded by Michelinie, Layton (and Ron Lim) in Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #1-4. Worth checking out.
Iron Man:Legacy of Doom
scroll down for links.
Iron Man, Dr Doom. Camelot.... - ....'nuff said.
8. Iron Man Volume 5: Haunted
Writer: Charles Knauf and Daniel Knauf Artist: Roberto De La Torre
This collects together the 'Haunted' story arc in issues 21-26 of Iron Man:Director of S.H.I.E.L.D,plus Iron Man:DOS Annual 1. by the hugely talented Knaufs.
Fans of the Robert Downey 'modern' version Tony Stark will enjoy this run, and as it was the Knaufs final storyline on the book they pulled out all the stops.
Haunted is the best Mandarin centered story out there, for my money. The Knaufs were able to breathe new life to a villain who's menace had long given way to semi-ridicule, and showed exactly why Mandarin is the most dangerous of Iron Man's villains.
Even though Tony wins out in the end, the Mandarin took him to his absolute limit. For everything that was going on in Tony's life at that time when he was Director of SHIELD it was the Haunted storyline were we saw the cracks start to appear that led to Tony's eventual downfall in Secret Invasion. It's a great character piece.
Well written, well drawn, this is one of the best 'modern' takes on Tony Stark, the focus being on Tony NOT the armor. P.S the Silver Centurion armor makes an appearance too.
I would also suggest picking up Iron Man Volume 4, as the begiinings of the 'Haunted' storyline can be found there. Damn fine read in its own right anyway as well.
Iron Man Volume 4
Iron Man Volume 5: Haunted
Tony enjoys his books shaken.... - ...not stirred.
The Suggested Books for 10-8.
7. Iron Man: Armor Wars
Writers: David Michelinie, Bob Layton Artists: Mark Bright, Barry Windsor-Smith
One of my personal favourite storylines, this ran in Iron Man, Volume 1, issues 225-232, and was by Iron Man legends Michelinie/ Layton, plus fantastic art from Mark Bright and Windsor-Smith.
This storyline has movie written all over it, and the film Iron Man 2 did pinch aspects of it. The repercussions of the events in Armor Wars rumbled on for years in the Marvel Universe.
In this story, Tony goes rogue after he discovers that people in the military, villains, even some heroes, have illegally taken his Iron Man tech and used his specific designs to make their own armor: he decides enough is enough. Iron Man then proceeds to take down most of his Rogues Gallery but also comes to blows with his best friend, Captain America,(waaaaaaaaaaay before Civil War) and teammates the West Coast Avengers.
It a full on, take no prisoners quest for revenge that also changes the status quo, as Tony fakes the Silver Centurion's Iron Man version's death and comes back with a new Iron Man armor. Its a little morality tale too. Tony has the right to take back his tech, but was the price too high?
Read this, you WON'T be disappointed.
Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue
Iron Man: Armor Wars
Iron Man: Armor Wars II
Ultimate Comics Iron Man: Armor Wars
Iron Man & The Armor Wars (nice all-ages take on the story)
Iron Man variant cover..... - ...look closely, its made up of artwork from the many artists down the years!
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6. Iron Man:Extremis
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Adi Granov
This ran as the first story arc of the relaunched Iron Man, Vol 4 issues 1-6.(2005)
For fans of the Iron Man films coming into comics, this may be the best starting point. The armor designed for this series ,by Granov, is the armor that is being used in the Iron Man movies with the Iron Man 2 MK V armor being the exact duplicate of the Extremis armor here. Granov has a very realistic art style that is also very newbie friendly.
Warren Ellis was a great shot in the arm for Iron Man. He updates Tony's origin to the modern era, and gave him the extremis techno-organic virus, which takes Tony from being a man in a fallible tech suit to one of the most powerful men alive, full stop (the virus is techno-organic, enhances the users abilities). Tony can now 'speak' to information networks, satellites etc, and can operate his suit through thought alone.
I love the tech symbolism -upgrade, or die. (both Tony, in the story, and the character Iron Man himself)
No storyline has influenced the movies more than this, and that is a good thing. Near faultless storytelling from Ellis and Granov.
Iron Man: Extremis [Hardcover]
Iron Man Vol. 1: Extremis [Paperback]
J.A.R.V.I.S computes a purchase... - ...is recommended.
See the Iron Man Extremis Motion Comic Trailer... - ...its cool!
5. Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, Vol. 1
writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Salvador Larocca
This one is a bit of a monster, collecting Invincible Iron Man #1-19. It does include 2 storylines, so I could have divided it, but Fraction's work is so great it would be a shame to break it up. I'll put a link for the individual books too.
One of the great storylines in the Iron Man mythos was Tony Stark vs Obadiah Stane (will be on my list too), and Fraction returns to that well to give us his son Ezekiel Stane, out for revenge. Issues 1-7. Stane jr is a homicidal sociopath who can barely be considered human after all the changes he's made to his body. His plans hinge around suicide bombs based off of Stark technology, and Matt Fraction has Tony fearing that he is becoming outdated and that his technology is once again becoming more common.(again, Armor Wars rears its head!)
Part 2, issues 8-19, sees Tony going on the run from Norman Osborn, now the man in charge after Tony's misfortunes? Osborne has everything he needs to impose his will and take over, minus the most important ingredient, the superpowers registration database, which is stored in the only place Stark could guarantee its safe keeping - inside his Extremis-enhanced brain. Its a race against time as Tony goes on the run, trying to delete the database before Osborne catches up..
Superior writing and art elevate this collection.
Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, Vol. 1 [Hardcover]
Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: The Five Nightmares
Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 2 :World's Most Wanted
Invincible Iron Man #500 Trailer
4. Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)
Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Don Heck, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
The daddy of them all. No Top 10 could be complete without the one that started it all...this collects Tales of Suspense #39-50, the origin and early days of Iron Man. With his military origin, its no surprise that a lot of the early tales involve the Chinese and communists , but issue 50 sees the first appearance of The Mandarin, which elevates the collection. Crimson Dynamo is also a cult favourite, and we meet Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan
We see the classic grey armor, then golden armor, then the famous red and gold.
True Marvel history.
Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)
Essential Iron Man Volume 1 TPB
Bless my Jet Boots... - ...I'll buy me some stuff.
Iron Man Vs War Machine
There can be only one...
Iron Man and War Machine face off over,er,something or other...who wins?
3. Iron Man: Iron Monger (Marvel Premiere Classic)
Writer: Denny O'Neil Artist: several different one
To get the full storyline here, you would need to read Denny O'Neil's entire run, Iron Man issues 160-208, but theis collection details the final days of the Stark vs Stane rivalry, issues 193-200.
During O’Neil’s extensive run he detailed Tony Stark’s downward spiral as he lost everything ,from his wealth ,to his company, to his life in general. Things got so bad for Tony that he turned to drink again, and could no longer be Iron Man . Because of that, James Rhodes took on the role of Iron Man for Tony during this period
With this collection, we see Tony having got back on his feet, and having to recreate his entire life, his suit, his company, from the ground up. As Tony starts to rise, Stane begins to fall into madness and irrationality, ending in the final battle in issue 200.
Obviously, the Iron Man movie took elements of this storyline as well.
Iron Man: Iron Monger (Marvel Premiere Classic)
Tony's best friends... - great art by Skottie Young
2. The Many Armors of Iron Man
Various writers and artists
I had to throw in a collection edition, with a nice range of stories.This collects Iron Man (Vol 1) #47, #142-144, #152-153, #200 and #218.
The theme is to look at the different armors that Tony has used through time, the Space Armor, the Hulkbuster Armor, the Stealth Armor, the Deep Sea Armor, the upgraded armors etc. Always make for interesting tales, and showcase the uniqueness of the character.
Nice introduction to the character, covering different eras.
The Many Armors of Iron Man
1. Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
Writer: David Michelinie Artist: Bob Layton, John Romita jr
Under this title it should say 'definitive', as this is the preeminent storyline in the Iron Man mythos. Its effect is still felt today, its Iron Man's Dark Knight Returns' if you will. It ran In Iron Man issues 120-128
Of its day? yep. dated in parts? yep. classic storytelling? YES.
I love the concept - what if an alcoholic was not only a superhero, but had a powerful, destructive armor at his disposal.Demon in a Bottle was the first to provide the character with true depth and human failings. Gone was the rich, happy go lucky playboy of the 1960s. In his place was a man who gave in to his selfish desires and let his company suffer for it. And while damaged/ drug- addicted, alcoholic comic book characters are nothing new today, in the '70s it was a topic almost unheard of.
There is some traditional superhero fare thrown in as well, as Justin Hammer, his industrialist rival, forms a supervillain team to take him down, and Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D look to take away Tony's company. Plus Ant-Man and Namor appear
If you want to see the single defining story of Iron Man, read this book.
Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
Iron Man Premiere HC Demon In A Bottle
The man has history....
Iron Man movie trailer
Iron Man Merchandise I like.... - .....and so will you!
Not sure about my picks?
Click on the Amazon links, and see what other people say about my choices. There's a lot more good Iron Man stuff there too!
Epilogue: Story to Avoid.....'The Crossing'
writer: Terry Kavanagh
In a nutshell, this abomination of a storyline tells us that Tony Stark, for his entire career, was a sleeper agent for the Avengers time-travelling enemy, Kang. A villain!
The solution. Go back in time to an alternate timeline, get a teenage Tony Stark to come back and defeat his evil, older self. 'Our' Iron Man dies, the teenage one dons armor, takes over 'his' company and becomes the new Iron Man
The whole mess was later mercifully erased from continuity, in part by the Heroes Reborn run. Now let us never speak of this again.