10 Times Iron Man Was Essentially A Villain in Marvel Comics

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Tony Stark, the man behind Iron Man, is a genius, a billionaire playboy, a futurist, and above all else, a superhero. However, on more than one occasion, Tony’s actions haven’t come off as particularly heroic. In fact, sometimes, they’re downright villainous.

Let’s be clear, here. I’m not saying his actions fell into some moral gray area, or that he bent the rules and acted more like a vigilante than a hero. What I’m saying is there have been times when Iron Man has acted like a full-on, despicable piece of human garbage.

Am I being a little too harsh? Perhaps you should decide. To help, here are 10 times Iron Man was essentially a villain: 

  1. He Created A Prison For His Fellow Superheroes

    During the events of Civil War, those who were in favor of the controversial Superhero Registration Act wanted to find a way to make the world a better, safer place. Naturally, super geniuses like Reed Richards, Hank Pym, and Tony Stark, himself, were at the forefront of this crusade, brainstorming a list of one hundred ideas to accomplish the task at hand.

    The only idea that ever came to light from this list was number 42 – a massive prison built in the Negative Zone for the sole purpose of housing super-powered people. Notice that I didn’t say super-villains? That’s because Iron Man and is fellow pro-registration cohorts would use the prison to detain unregistered superheroes in addition to the villains that were captured.

    Hardly the act of someone you would consider a hero.

  2. He Exploited The Addictive Extremis App

    Due to the events of AXIS, Tony Stark was plagued with an inverted personality, bringing out the darker, more sinister elements of his persona. To put it bluntly, Iron Man became an absolute dick!

    Don’t believe me? Well, let me elaborate.

    In Superior Iron Man, Tony Stark moves to San Francisco, CA, and subsequently, makes his new and improved Extremis technology available to the public, free of charge, via a mobile device app. The technology then allows the user to change their body however they want, granting all of San Francisco with instant beauty.

    However, once everyone’s gotten a taste and essentially become addicted to Extremis, Stark announces that the “trial period” is over and that if they wish to continue using it, they will need to pay a modest fee of $99.99… per day!

  3. He Gave Daredevil The Gift Of Sight, Then Took It Away

    Once again, the aforementioned Superior Iron Man would see Tony Stark commit one of the more heinous acts of his tenure as the Armored Avenger. This time, however, it was at the expense of Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil. Using a specially tailored strain of the Extremis virus, Tony is able to give Daredevil the very thing he was robbed of as a child – his sight.

    But wait… that doesn’t sound very villainous, does it?

    On the surface, it doesn’t.

    Unfortunately, Tony’s reason for giving this gift is to merely try and buy the Man without Fear’s loyalty. When Tony realizes Daredevil isn’t willing to play ball, he simply allows the Extremis effects to wear off, once again blinding the hero from Hell’s Kitchen.

  4. He Was An Irresponsible Drunk

    To be fair, having a drinking problem doesn’t make you a bad person. Plus, in Tony Stark’s defense, he did seek help and spent the majority of his comic book career in sobriety. Still, Tony did some downright despicable things before he jumped on the wagon.

    While he was on his benders, it wasn’t uncommon for Tony to operate his suits of armor under the influence, and he once nearly killed an innocent bystander while doing so. In addition to this, his armored OUIs would often result in serious high-dollar property damage.

    Not surprisingly, Tony’s drinking also resulted in major strains in his relationships. The most notable instance would be when a drunken Stark verbally abused his loyal butler, Edwin Jarvis, causing him to resign. Tony would later apologize and renew his working relationship with Jarvis, but there’s no doubt the situation left some serious scars.

  5. He Co-Founded The Illuminati

    The Illuminati was a group of Marvel superheroes that joined forces, working behind the scenes to secretly shape the status of the superhuman world. The group’s ranks have changed from time to time, but generally, the roster consisted of Namor, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Professor X, and of course, Iron Man, who came up with the idea in the first place.

    Although the group’s actions were often shaped by good intentions, it’s the dubious nature in which they operated that was the real cause for concern. When Black Panther was approached and asked to join the team, he refused, stating, “You just decided all by yourselves that you are the Earth’s protectors. And that you, and only you, not your teammates or family, are trustworthy enough to include in the process.”

  6. He Sent The Hulk Into Space

    If the idea of Iron Man founding the Illuminati doesn’t do it for you, perhaps this one will.

    After the Hulk destroyed Las Vegas, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill approached Iron Man to see if he could present a solution to their big, green problem. Iron Man would subsequently turn to the Illuminati, proposing they shoot the Hulk into space, towards an uninhabited planet.

    Despite Namor’s objections, the remaining team members agreed to Stark’s proposal, and the Green Goliath was quickly sent on a one-way trip to a galaxy far, far away (see Planet Hulk). However, as Namor predicted, the Hulk would eventually return to seek vengeance during the events of World War Hulk.

  7. He Faked His Own Death

    What’s a billionaire-genius superhero to do when his battle armor’s cybernetic interface causes near-irreversible damage to his nervous system? Why, fake his own death, of course!

    After several failed attempts to reverse extensive nerve damage, Tony decides to fake his own death, unbeknownst to his closest allies, and place himself in suspended animation to allow time for his body to heal. During this time, James “Rhodey” Rhodes would take over both the running of Stark Enterprises and the mantle of Iron Man (although he would wear the War Machine armor, instead).

    Tony would soon make a full recovery by using a chip to reprogram himself (obviously) and resume his role as Iron Man. However, when Rhodey learns that he and other friends were manipulated into believing Tony had died, he and Iron Man part ways (temporarily), with Rhodey continuing to fight crime as War Machine. 

  8. He Mind-Wiped Captain America

    In the events leading up to Secret Wars, the Marvel Universe was dealing with the threat of incursions – a collision between two parallel Earths that results in the destruction of both planets.

    To counter this threat, Captain America (now part of the Illuminati) uses the Infinity Gauntlet to “push” one of the Earths back and prevent an incursion. Although the plan succeeds, the Infinity Gauntlet is destroyed in the process, leading to the rest of the Illuminati considering more lethal options for future incursions.

    Cap, being the man that he is, argues that the Illuminati are wrong to consider destroying another world to save their own. However, Iron Man, being the man that he is, anticipated his fellow Avenger would respond in such a manner. Ever the futurist, Stark was prepared, and once he gives the signal, Doctor Strange uses a spell to scrub Captain America’s mind completely clean of any memories of the Illuminati meeting.

  9. He Created A Murderous Clone Of Thor

    Just how much of a futurist is Tony Stark? Considering he took a strand of hair from Thor when the Avengers first assembled, just in case he needed it, I’d say he’s pretty forward-thinking.

    At the height of Civil War, with the real Thor nowhere to be found, Tony, along with Reed Richards and Hank Pym, would fuse the Asgardian DNA he confiscated with Stark technology to create a cyborg clone of the God of Thunder. Iron Man’s hope was that this would help turn the tables in favor of those fighting for the enforcement of the superhero registration act.

    Unfortunately, the clone was a bit too overzealous. After laying waste to much of the anti-registration heroes, the clone would blast clear through the chest of Goliath, killing him instantly and leaving both sides of the battle in complete shock.

    Great idea, Tony.

  10. He Convinced Spider-Man To Unmask

    Convincing Spider-Man to publicly unmask wasn’t an inherently evil thing for Iron Man to do. After all, what better way to get the public on your side during the Civil War than to have the superhero whose secret identity means the most to him show his face to the world?

    Unfortunately, this single act created a butterfly effect that resulted in a series of misfortunes that would plague the web-head almost irreparably. With his secret identity no longer a secret, Peter’s family instantly become targets for Spider-Man’s enemies, and Aunt May is eventually shot by a sniper hired by the Kingpin.

    Willing to do anything to save his aunt, Spidey makes a deal with the devil, himself (Mephisto), who agrees to save her life if Spider-Man “gives him his marriage.” Spider-Man agrees, and history is rewritten so that, effectively, Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage never took place.

    And to think, all of this started because Iron Man asked Spidey to take off his mask. 

Related: Iron Man Actor Robert Downey Jr. Shocks Fans with Wild New Look

What do you think about these Iron Man moments? Feel free to discuss at the Marvel Universe Rocks My World group on Facebook.

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