Western Animation: Iron Man
The '90s Animated Adaptation
based on the Marvel Universe Superhero
and his alter ego, Tony Stark. (An earlier Iron Man animated series was shown as part of the The Marvel Super Heroes
lineup that ran in 1966.)
This series ran for two seasons from 1994 to 1996 alongside Fantastic Four
as part of the syndicated Marvel Action Hour
. Like Fantastic Four
, it had a bland first season and a significantly improved second.
The first season dealt with Iron Man and his team of fellow superheroes, Force Works — consisting of War Machine
(Julia Carpenter), Hawkeye
, Scarlet Witch
, and Century — battling the forces of the evil Mandarin, such as Whirlwind and Grey Gargoyle. The episodes in this season were mostly one-part stories. Common points of contention for many during this season were the shoddy animation, and that other than the "Origin of Iron Man" two-parter, which modernized his origins, there were no attempts to adapt stories from the comic mythos.
The second season featured much better animation
(Due in part by switching to a different animation studio
) and stories more similar to the comic. It was more Arc
based, and the Superhero
team aspect was downplayed with all the teammates besides Spider-Woman and War Machine resigning after Tony faked his death
without letting them in on the plan. Mandarin was also downplayed, having small cameos in some episodes as he reclaims his powerful Ten Rings, which were scattered during a confrontation with Iron Man in the season premiere.
Tropes present in this series:
- Abridged Series: Some Marvel Mash-Up segments feature this show.
- Adapted Out: The show's version of Force Works replaces U.S. Agent with Hawkeye.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese dub uses a different opening theme song.
- And I Must Scream: "And The Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead."
- Anime Theme Song: When broadcast in Japan.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Tony literally says "What Have I Done" after pointlessly fighting the hero Stingray, War Machine tells him, "Well, let's see: near as I can figure, you've trespassed on federal property, assaulted a naval officer, and taken a dip without waiting an hour after mealtime!"
- Ascended Extra: An odd example. Hypnotia is the first villain actually shown in the first episode, beyond the opening credits, and she's shown successfully completing her mission. She then disappears for the next few episodes and is briefly replaced by another villainess, Elastika, before Hypnotia reappears and starts getting bigger roles. This is only in the first season mind you, as she's mostly absent alongside the other villains for most of season two besides the opening and ending episodes.
- Avenging the Villain: Firebrand in "Fire and Rain".
- Back for the Finale: Scarlet Witch, Century and several of the Mandarin's minions
- Bad Boss: The Mandarin, in the very first episode, almost killed Blizzard as punishment for the villain accidentally ruining the Mandarin's begonias. Hypnotia seems to be the only one of his minions he treats with respect, but that's most likely because she's the only one who is consistently competent.
- Betty and Veronica: Spider-Woman and Scarlet Witch in the first season.
- Big Bad: Mandarin.
- Bragging Theme Tune: Distilled into four words - "I. AM. IRON MAN!"
- The Bus Came Back: Even before the finale, Blacklash and Blizzard appeared in the Armor Wars two-parter hijacking a plane. Also, Titanium Man, who only appeared in the first episode of season 1 until his return in the season 2 episode "Distant Boundaries".
- Canon Foreigner: Hypnotia, an Expy of Thor villainess Enchantress, and Dark Aegis, the main villain of the episode, "Distant Boundaries".
- Elastika is also one, and she only appears once in the first season.
- Clip Show: Both seasons had one - "The Wedding of Iron Man" and "Empowered," respectively.
- Commuting on a Bus: Hawkeye in Season 2. Unlike Scarlet Witch or Century, he appeared in two episodes in between the premiere and finale.
- Composite Character:
- Julia Carpenter (Spider-Woman) has a lot of traits of Pepper Potts. It's more evident in the second season. She's also somewhat of an Expy for Bethany Cabe, Stark's other red-haired associate at the time.
- Justin Hammer has some traits of Obadiah Stane. As revealed in "The Origin of Iron Man" 2-parter, he caused the attack on Stark Industries.
- Conspicuous CG: The first season featured a completely CG-rendered suit-up sequence whenever Tony donned his Iron Man armor. It looked very cheap (even for an animated series of its time; The fact that it was done in part with a college of all places doesn't help its case) and was replaced in season two with a much more fitting and better animated 2D sequence in the intro.
- Iron Man appears (alongside War Machine) in a few episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series (with a new design that mixes his season one and two designs with new elements).
- He appears too (by himself) in an episode of the then-latest The Incredible Hulk cartoon. The Hulk himself appears in an episode of this show as he teams up with Iron Man to stop The Leader from going back to the past to take Bruce Banner's place in the gamma bomb explosion that created the Hulk.
- He also made a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four as a member/leader of the Avengers (although the colors of his leg armor are swapped in these cameos).
- Curse Cut Short: "Ultimo! I thought I pulled the plug on that son of a -"
- Darker and Edgier: The second season had darker colors, a more mature tone, and spent time developing the more self-destructive aspects of Stark as a character.
- Ex-KGB who wants to basically bring back the Cold War and win it decides to launch a nuke at a Russian city and make America look responsible, and when stopped, decides to detonate it there, atomizing himself and anyone else in the immediate area, and causing numerous deaths from radiation poisoning. No, this isn't an episode of 24, it's an episode of a kids' cartoon. Crimson Dynamo's swan-song, setting off the animated version of the Armor Wars storyline... which is also one of those episodes that shows Stark's dark side.
- Deadpan Snarker: Hawkeye.
- Enemy Mine: In "The Beast Within," Iron Man and the Mandarin are forced to work together to defeat the dragons.
- In "Distant Boundaries," Titanium Man teams up with Iron Man and War Machine to take Dark Aegis down.
- Enhance Button: In "The Beast Within," Tony finds Fin Fang Foom's shadow in a satellite snapshot by enlarging, isolating, and enhancing it.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In "Distant Boundaries," Titanium Man is disgusted with Dark Aegis for destroying a planet simply For the Evulz.
"My hunger is different from that of Dark Aegis. I want power to control; to lead. He wants power to annihilate!"
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In "The Defection of Hawkeye", the Mandarin sets up evidence that Hawkeye is a traitor, and is completely shocked that Tony and the others trust him regardless.
- Exiled from Continuity: The 616 version of Force Works featured U.S. Agent, who presumably did not appear because of rights issues (as the character is tied to Captain America).
- Likewise, the producers could not use Cap himself in season two's Armor Wars adaptation.
- "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: "Iron Man, on the Inside," where Tony does this to fix Hawkeye's spinal injury. (This was adapted from a comic book story, but with Captain America as the patient instead.)
- Forging Scene: The second intro sequence has one of these.
- Grand Finale: Season two's "Hands of the Mandarin" two-parter, where Mandarin—having finally collected all of his Ten Rings—launches a scheme to make all of the planet's technology useless, which would make his arch-enemy Iron Man ineffective against him. As Mandarin reforms his team of super villains, Iron Man reforms his superhero team and develops new armor to negate Mandarin's anti-technology, and a final confrontation between the two ends in Mandarin's death.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Spider-Woman, Wanda (season one), and Veronica, Tony's physical therapist.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Titanium Man in "Distant Boundaries," taking Dark Aegis with him.
- Identity Impersonator: Tony pulls this one on the Mandarin in "The Wedding of Iron Man." Tony himself appears at the wedding in disguise (so he can change into Iron Man later), while a robot represents Tony Stark.
- The Igor: M.O.D.O.K..
- Irony: Discussed throughout "Cell of Iron," as Iron Man finds a given something ironic and H.O.M.E.R. tries to understand the concept. Played for Laughs, until the end.
Iron Man: Goodbye, Dearborn. It's ironic that your ultimate gift to mankind wasn't the Star-Well after all, but rather the life you sacrificed to destroy it.
H.O.M.E.R.: You say it is ironic, but I fail to detect the previous element of humor. Is irony not always funny?
Iron Man: No, H.O.M.E.R.. Sometimes, it isn't funny at all.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hawkeye
- Iron Man could count, too, given he does jackass things like faking his death and the "Armor Wars" stuff, but he did believe he trying to help people.
- Kick the Dog: The Mandarin almost kills Blizzard in the first episode for freezing his begonias.
- Killed Off for Real: Fing Fang Foom, Titanium Man (taking Dark Aegis with him), Crimson Dynamo.
- The Lancer: Hawkeye
- Last Minute Hookup: Tony and Julia
- Legion of Doom: The first season exclusively featured the Mandarin as the Big Bad with the other villains (Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle, Whirlwind, Hypnotia, Living Laser, M.O.D.O.K., Justin Hammer, and Fin Fang Foom) all working for him and rotating in and out as needed.
- Limited Animation: The first season.
- Love Triangle: Two examples:
- Spider-Woman and Scarlet Witch both want Iron Man in the first season.
- Blacklash and Dreadknight both want Hypnotia. Hypnotia, on her end, alternates between slight teasing and being totally fed up with them, and frequently mentions she wants Tony Stark. Though she briefly reciprocates Blacklash's affection when he saves her life.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: In "Hulk Buster," the Leader seeks to eliminate Bruce Banner in the past and claim the Hulk's power for himself.
"Our destiny is about to be uncrossed, Banner."
- Merchandise-Driven: Likely the reason why the first season featured Iron Man and Force Works vs. the Mandarin's Legion of Doom (it was a very similar setup to Transformers, Thundercats, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)), and definitely the reason that season 2 gave Iron Man the ability to switch armors on the fly to adapt to any situation. Marvel had looked at the success of the multi-colored Batman toys in the wake of Batman Returns and were trying to copy its success with Iron Man by giving him an armor for every occasion. It didn't take off as well as Marvel had hoped.
- Also led to Executive Meddling for comics at the time: West Coast Avengers was canceled in favor of the more Iron Man-centric Force Works in preparation for the hoped-for Iron Man fad.
- My God, What Have I Done?: During "Iron Man, on the Inside," Hawkeye suffers a paralyzing, most likely fatal injury while fighting Ultimo. Iron Man (possibly feeling guilty over their falling out) is particularly hard on himself, but Julia insists that it was an accident.
- Ninja Log: Iron Man pulls this of on Blacklash in "Silence My Companion, Death My Destination" when he disguises a high-voltage transformer using his hologram.
- Only Sane Man: Among the Mandarin's usual lackeys, Hypnotia consistently came across as the only one that wasn't an idiot. She also proved to be quite powerful with her hypnotic abilities in various occasions, from hypnotizing an entire village for 24 hours to using delayed-action hypnotism in a video recording.
- Off Model: The first season even fails in comparison to both X-Men or Fantastic Four's first season.
- Oh, Crap: Hulk in his crossover episode when he realizes the time travel has brought him to just before the gamma bomb test.
- Pet the Dog: Blacklash once saved Hypnotia's life in an act of genuine altruism.
- Power Trio: Iron Man, War Machine, and Spider-Woman in Season 2.
- Promoted to Love Interest: Spider-Woman, almost definitely because she was more Toyetic than any of Tony's canon love interests.
- The Scarlet Witch, too, though obviously unrequited.
- Rated M for Manly: The second US opening theme.
- Retcon: In Season 1, the accident that killed Tony's father was caused by Justin Hammer. In Season 2, it was caused by A.I.M.
- Reverse Polarity: Iron Man uses this to get away from Mandarin's traps.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: See Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking above.
- Ring of Power: The Mandarin. Ten of them!
- Say My Name: The season two premiere "The Beast Within" features Rhodey, in response to his best friend Tony supposedly getting blown sky high, belting out a tortured "TONYYYYYYYYYY!"
- Shout-Out: The villain Beetle talks like a member of a certain rock band.
- Screw This, We're Outta Here: Force Works in Season 2 effectively disbands when half the the team (Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Century) quits, having become disgusted with Tony faking his own death.
- Stock Footage: Season 1 featured the lengthy Conspicuous CG clip of Tony suiting up as Iron Man and dubbing in new dialogue for different episodes.
- "Hulk Buster" reuses the climatic explosion from "The Beast Within" and a Hulk transformation from Fantastic Four.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Walter Stark looks like Tony Stark with gray hair.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: H.O.M.E.R. replaces the female-voiced computer from Season 1.
- Swiss Army Hero: Iron Man in Season 2, with the power to switch to different armors for different challenges.
- Tempting Fate/Chekhov's Gun: In "Silence My Companion, Death My Destination", Rachel Carpenter wonders when she will ever need classical music and her mother later gives her a tape of a Van Cliburn performance. Apparently, the music can be used to recharge Iron Man.
- 10-Minute Retirement: Tony has one of these in "The Armor Wars."
- Tension-Cutting Laughter: While chewing Tony out for his actions in Armor Wars, Julia insists that he can't just ask her and Rhodey for forgiveness; their emotions aren't something he can switch on and off like a computer. H.O.M.E.R asks if he should be offended by that, and Tony, Julia and Rhodey all crack up. Tony isn't laughing for long, since he's in pretty bad shape.
- Title Drop: The big guy himself word-for-word in "Rejoice! I Am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer"... repeatedly.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Let's just say in Season 2, some of Tony's less admirable personality traits from the comics made their way onto the show.
- Toyless Toyline Character: For a show meant to shill toys, several:
- On the heroes' side, Scarlet Witch and Stingray.
- Amongst the bad guys, Hypnotia, Justin Hammer, Firebrand, Controller, Stilt-Man, Beetle, and Firepower.
- Beetle's case may be justifiable because he was released as part of the Spider-Man toyline, and Marvel toylines from the same time are similar enough to be put together as a same collection, so a Beetle on the Iron Man toyline would have been redundant. What is still strange, is that the Spidey toyline was series-based too, and Beetle didn't appear in the Spider-Man cartoon.
- Strangely subverted with US Agent, who was a member of Force Works in the comics but not the show, yet had a figure produced for this toy line, even though it was very rare.
- Actually, the US Agent figure was dropped because the number of slots available in the toyline were cutback (company-wide), and the figure was planned to become a figure of the Living Laser in series 5 of the Toy Biz line, but the line was cancelled. However, the figure, with LL's armor pieces, was retooled as the "Astral Armor Professor Xavier" figure in the "X-Men Mutant Armor" line (the other figures from that series were put into the "Spider-Man Techno Wars" and the aforementioned Mutant Armor lines).
- Justified for Stingray, Controller, Stilt-Man, and Firepower, as they were only in the Armor Wars two-parter, Justin Hammer was merely a civilian (albeit one secretly corrupt), while Firebrand was only in one episode.
- Transformation Sequence: The first season had out-of-place CGI Once an Episode. The second season had a much better one in the opening sequence.
- We Would Have Told You, But...: Force Works quits after Tony pulls this on them in the second season premiere.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Tony has these issues with his father, as seen in "Not Far from the Tree."
- Wham Episode: "The Beast Within" - Fing Fang Foom is written out, the Mandarin's rings are scattered across the world, his Legion of Doom gets arrested, and Iron Man's Jerkass scheming costs him half his team.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In "Distant Boundaries," Iron Man and War Machine head into space to save an alien civilization from Dark Aegis. By the time they arrive, Dark Aegis has already slaughtered them.
Iron Man: You're payin' big time for this crime, Dark Aegis! Bank on it!
Dark Aegis: Crimes? Against who? Humanity? The fools of this planet were grotesquely less than human.
Iron Man: Life is life, pal! Even yours—as twisted as it is—is born with value.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Tony's buddies are rather ticked after learning he faked his death without letting them know it was a ruse to stop Mandarin's scheme in "The Beast Within."
- The "Armor Wars" two-parter is pretty much this non-stop until Tony has a What Have I Done moment after defeating the heroic Stingray only to find that Stingray was not using his technology.
- The first season had an episode where Tony fooled the Mandarin into thinking that Tony Stark and Iron Man were separate people by having Julia (Spider-Woman) marry a robot duplicate with everyone being in on the charade except for Wanda, who was very upset at the deception. And even though she was in on it, Season 2 had Julia rightly point out how she was being jerked around.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rhodey gains a crippling fear of being submerged in water due to watching his friend drown as a young boy, and then getting stuck at the bottom of the ocean in the War Machine Armor.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The "Origin of Iron Man" two-parter.
- Wolverine Publicity: Netflix lists its streaming of The Marvel Action Hour under Iron Man's name.
- Women Are Wiser: Hypnotia compared to he Mandarin's mostly male villain entourage.
See also Comicbook.Iron Man
and Film.Iron Man
, other works with this title.