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Comic Book / Armor Wars

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Original armor, do not steal.

What do you do when you find that your secret armor technology has been stolen? You track down each piece and destroy it, of course.

Armor Wars (originally referred to as "Stark Wars") is a seven-issue Iron Man story arc story arc from the comic book series Iron Man (1968), published from issues #225 to #232 (December 1987 to July 1988) by Marvel Comics. Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton with art by Mark D. Bright and Barry Windsor-Smith, the story details the exploits of the Golden Avenger in trying to rescue his technology.

Tony Stark, analyzing Force's own armor, realizes that it is based off his own Iron Man technology, which had been kept secret. Compiling a list of possible suspects, he draws up a list comprising of Beetle, Shockwave, Doctor Doom, Stilt-Man, the Crimson Dynamo, Controller, Mauler, Professor Power, Titanium Man, the Raiders, and many more. Now all he has to do is to find out just how many villains have been using Stark technology, and get it back by force if necessary.

A later storyline followed called "Armor Wars II", but it was In Name Only as it didn't have much, if anything to do with the first Armor War.

The arc was adapted into a two-parter in the second season of Iron Man: The Animated Series and a loose arc in the second season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures, with various changes made. A live-action Disney+ series based on this storyline was announced for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in December 2020, with Don Cheadle set to reprise his role as War Machine, taking Tony's place as the main character. In September 2022, it was revealed that Marvel were redeveloping the planned series into a feature film.

Armor Wars contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Tony ends up killing the Gremlin in his attempts to neutralise the Titanium Man armor.
  • Batman Gambit: Tony lures out the Beetle by donating a Priceless Ming Vase that he thinks looks ugly to an auction, so the villain will try to steal it. During the scuffle, the vase is “accidentally” destroyed.
  • Blackmail: In Captain America's tie-in to The Fall of the Mutants, Tony approaches Steve and gives him an adamantium shield to replace having lost his iconic Mighty Shield upon surrendering the Captain America name and costume. Tony hopes its enough to keep Steve out of his problems, but it doesn't work and Steve gives the shield back afterwards.
  • Charlie Brown from Outta Town: Inverted. To cover his ass from the legal problems his actions are causing, Tony, as part of his Secret Identity at the time, lies about "firing" the old Iron Man and hiring the new one. He even pushes this lie to rejoin the West Coast Avengers after they kick him out for his behavior in this story arc.
  • Commie Land: Iron Man goes to Siberia to fight Gremlin and the Crimson Dynamo.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In Iron Man #229: Tony designs a stealth armor, similar to what he had way back in Iron Man #152.
    • From the same issue: The Gremlin’s old base that was destroyed by the Hulk in Incredible Hulk #188 is the first place Iron Man visits to find clues as to where he is.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Justin Hammer. He buys Stark technology from Spymaster and puts it in various armored goons in his employ.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When SHIELD come to ask for Stark's help arresting the apparently rogue Iron Man, Stark is able to provide them with a complete dossier on "Randall Pierce", a fake identity he created when he started his current campaign, including false birth and tax records. And when S.H.I.E.L.D starts to think it suspicious that “Pierce” has insider information, Tony drops a functional Incredibly Obvious Bug out of his pocket, claiming it was stuck to the computer.
  • Create Your Own Villain: In the wake of Iron Man's rogue actions, the Pentagon commissioned Cord to create Firepower to destroy the renegade Avenger. However, once this was done, Cord refused to turn his new toy over to the Feds (threatening to blackmail them with a press release about Firepower - a heavily-armored suit with a tactical nuke - being designed for riot control), and turned Firepower loose on Stark Enterprises' assets instead. Stark, who'd been willing to leave Iron Man "dead", created a "new" Iron Man that promptly tore Firepower apart.
  • Cross Through: A minor example: Iron Man #229 segues into Captain America #341, and Iron Man #228 into Captain America #340.
  • Friend of Masked Self:
    • Tony Stark claims to Nick Fury that he knows who the supposedly rogue Iron Man is, and even divulges ‘his’ identity.
    • Inverted, as Tony Stark tells Fury that ‘Randall Pierce’ has gone rogue and that he is not at all a friend of this obviously evil Randall Pierce.
  • Good Versus Good: Iron Man and the Captain. Iron Man wants to destroy the S.H.I.E.L.D Mandroids using Stark technology, not trusting anyone, including the government-backed Guardsmen with his super-technology. While Cap does sympathize with this view, he finds Tony’s methods reckless, and this sours their relationship.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Iron Man’s fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D, he’s kicked out of the West Coast Avengers, he nearly causes an international incident in the U.S.S.R and gets into a fight with the Captain (as Steve Rogers was calling himself at the time).
  • High-Speed Hijack: The Raiders do this on an Air Force plane in Iron Man #226. Justified in that they have been enhanced with Stark technology.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: Nick Fury thinks that Iron Man has gone rogue. And who does he ask to help take him down? Well, Tony Stark himself. Tony uses this to the fullest extent.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Tony's mantra through the whole storyline.
  • It's Personal: The reason Tony Stark gives when the West Coast Avengers offer to help him take down the villains using Stark technology.
  • Know When to Fold Them: One of the first villains Iron Man goes after is the Mauler. When Tony demands the armor, he gives it up without a fight, saying that he only gets paid to fight and muses later he can just go steal another.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The KGB decides to let Iron Man and the Gremlin fight so that the weakened survivor can be destroyed by the Crimson Dynamo in Iron Man #229.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Iron Man #228: “Part Four: Who Guards the Guardsmen?” is a reference to the Satires from the Roman poet Juvenal, which also happens to be Alan Moore’s inspiration for the name of Watchmen. Watchmen came out in 1986, and Iron Man #228 came out in 1988.
  • Military Superhero:
    • Firepower is one, being created by the US military and Edwin Cord to finally destroy Iron Man once and for all. The first one, appearing in Iron Man #230 is Jack Taggert, a test pilot. The second one, however, was a soldier who attempted to keep a lid on the US government's nuclear waste disposal (or lack thereof) until War Machine kicked his metal ass in Iron Man #288.
    • The Mandroids of S.H.I.E.L.D that use Stark technology are a downplayed example - while they’re not superheroes as such, they use Stark armor technology.
  • The Mole:
    • Tony Stark, to S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • In a way, the Crimson Dynamo to the Gremlin, for the KGB.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tony starts to realize that his little rampage is going off the rails when he realizes the hero Stingray doesn't have Stark tech.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • The Captain gives this to Iron Man on finding out his plan to destroy the Guardsmen owned by the US government.
    • Tony's fight with the Cap also causes a breakout at the Vault, which Steve and his allies have to contain over in Captain America.
  • Nuclear Option:
    • Firepower launches a freaking nuclear missile at Iron Man during their fight in Iron Man #230.
    • When a rogue Firepower attacks Iron Man at Stark Enterprises in Iron Man #231, he attempts to detonate said nuke again. Edwin Cord is really obsessed with killing Iron Man. (To be fair, Iron Man caused the defeat of Cord Colgomerate way back in Iron Man #145, so there is some precedent.)
  • Plot Technology: The story concerns criminals getting their hands on the technology behind Iron Man, and Tony’s attempt to destroy all other sources of the technology.
  • Power Nullifier: Tony Stark’s ‘negator pack’ can destroy Stark circuitry, and he uses it on the super-villains using his technology, starting with Stilt-Man in Iron Man #225.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Gremlin in Iron Man #229. He’s convinced that the KGB is out to get him and get his armor. He’s right. They’ve been bugging his Secret Lair. He still dies in the end, though.
  • Retcon: This story has Nick Fury easily falling for Tony's claims a nonexistent figure named "Randall Pierce" is Iron Man and agreeing to give the armor back once "Pierce" is in custody. The later Nick Fury vs S.H.I.E.L.D. mini-series has a on-the-run Fury meeting Stark and when Tony mentions this, Fury claims to have no idea what he's talking about ("ya saw someone, just wasn't me"). He also makes it clear he knows Tony's secret and has no problem telling the world if Tony doesn't help him.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant:
    • Doctor Doom is one of the villains Tony suspects might have used his stolen technology. Averted in this case as it’s not true.
    • ZigZagged with Gremlin. Gremlin uses the name and the armor of the Titanium Man, an Iron Man foe who goes way back, but Gremlin himself is primarily a Hulk villain, first appearing in Incredible Hulk #163.
    • Stilt-Man, appearing in Iron Man #225, is a straighter example, starting out as a Daredevil villain (his first appearance in Daredevil #8), and having fought Spider-Man before this.
  • Second Super-Identity: Inverted. Tony Stark makes a fake civilian identity for Iron Man as ‘Randall Pierce’ to protect his own identity. After Randall Pierce is supposedly ‘killed’ following the events of Iron Man #230 by Firepower, Iron Man gets another civilian identity.
  • Skewed Priorities: Bordering on being outright Too Dumb to Live. A Guardsman refuses to take off his armor's helmet even though it's been disabled, making him unable to breathe. The Captain has to tear off the helmet to save him.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Scott Lang only appears in the first part, but he steals the information that Tony needs for the rest of the storyline to happen.
  • Superhero Paradox: You could make the argument that supervillains wouldn’t be augmenting themselves with Iron Man technology if Iron Man didn’t actually exist.
  • Title Confusion: This story is actually called "Stark Wars" inside the comics. (It was intended as a Star Wars pun.) However, Marvel promoted it as the "Armor War" (singular) in their splash ad for the first issue of the arc, and the trade paperback was released as "Armor Wars", even though the individual chapters retained the original "Stark Wars" name in their titles. In any case, by the time "Armor Wars II" appeared in the comic, the "Armor Wars" name had stuck. According to the writers, they went with this because “Armor Wars” sounded cooler.
  • Trojan Prisoner: James Rhodes pretends to be the supervillain Electro to be arrested by the Guardsmen and get imprisoned in the Vault. It’s so that Tony can destroy the Guardsmen, not trusting his technology in the hands of anyone.
  • Turn in Your Badge: After Iron Man’s actions cause one too many international incidents, Hawkeye revokes Tony’s membership in the West Coast Avengers.
  • What If?: An issue of What If? showed “What If… Iron Man Lost the Armor Wars?”, caused by Ant-Man being knocked out and captured by Hammer before he can retrieve the data, with Hammer using the chance to learn Iron Man’s Secret Identity and hacking his armour to make him a Hero with Bad Publicity.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: S.H.I.E.L.D., the West Coast Avengers, and the Captain all take issue with how Tony behaves in this story with S.H.I.E.L.D. hiring Tony to hunt his alter ego, the West Coast Avengers giving Tony the boot, and his relationship with Steve is ruined (Steve even returns a shield Tony gave him, coming to realize it'd been a bribe).
  • The World Is Not Ready: The reason Tony is so insistent in tracking down and destroying every remnant of his technology, even the ones owned by the government. This starts a conflict with the Captain.