Top 15 Iron Man Villains
- Published on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 10:10
- Written by Rokk
- Hits: 50422
It is Iron Man week here at The Revolution in honor of Iron Man 2 that is debuting this Friday, May 7. Kevin and I are both die-hard Iron Man fans and have several Iron Man themes articles that we will be rolling out this week. I thought a good place to start would be with a Top 15 list of the best Iron Man villains. After all, a hero is only as interesting as his villains make him. Without a doubt, Iron Man has some great villains who test him on a regular basis.
The Mandarin first appeared in Tales of Suspense #50 in 1964. The Mandarin was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. When it comes to Iron Man villains, the Mandarin must stand alone at the top. No villain has plagued Iron Man for a longer period of time than the Mandarin. And very few have had as much success against Iron Man as the Mandarin has enjoyed.
The list of stories involving the Mandarin and Iron Man is far too voluminous to recount. However, what makes the Mandarin so special is that he appears in just about every single Iron Man era. The Mandarin was just as compelling of a villain in the early Lee penned stories as he was in his most recent appearance during the Knouts’ spectacular run on Iron Man.
As a matter of fact, it was the Knaufs’ story that displayed just how relevant the Mandarin still is. The Knaufs made the Mandarin hands down one of the most imposing, frightening and daunting villains for Tony Stark to handle. It is a testament to what a wonderful villain the Mandarin is that he can stand the test of time so impressively and be just as compelling to modern day readers as he was when he first appeared in 1964.
I adore the ego, the haughty attitude and the regal aura of the Mandarin. This character simply exudes evil from every pore. The Mandarin is a character that the reader simply loves to hate. In the end, if there is one villain that defines Iron Man the most it is the Mandarin. The Mandarin is truly the Lex Luthor to Iron Man’s Superman.
2. Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger
Obadiah Stane first appeared in Iron Man #163 in 1982. Stane was created by Dennis O’Neil. Stane appeared as Iron Monger in only one time and that was in Iron Man #200.
Stane is certainly one of the best Iron Man villains of all time. Stane pushed Tony Starker harder and farther than any villain ever has. Stane attacked Tony from every possible front. Stane successfully complete a hostile takeover and took control of Stark Industries from Tony. Stane also has his super powered thugs assault James Rhodes. Stane also sets up Indris Moomji to seduce Tony and to gain his trust and confidence as his lover. The all out assault on Tony’s personal life, professional life and his friends causes Tony to collapse back into alcoholism. Tony stopped being Iron Man and became a homeless man living on the streets and feeding his alcohol addiction.
There has never been a villain more successful at destroying Tony Stark like Obadiah Stane was. This story that ran from Iron Man #163-#200 entails some of the best Iron Man issues that you will ever read. Seriously, that span of Iron Man issues was pure gold and incredibly well written. Of course, Stane kills himself in Iron Man #200. Therefore, we will probably never get to see this incredible Iron Man villain ever return to haunt Tony Stark again. And, sorry, the pale imitation of Ezekiel Stane does not count. That was such a shallow and uninteresting regurgitation of the sheer incredibleness that Dennis O’Neil gave us with Obadiah Stane.
Stane rightfully received the honor of being the villain in the first Iron Man movie. Even though I went with Mandarin for the number one spot on this list, the fact is that Stane presented the most imposing mental threat to Tony Stark that we have ever seen from any villain.
3. Justin Hammer
Justin Hammer first appeared in Iron Man #120 in 1979. Hammer was created by David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita, Jr. Hammer was an industrialist who headed up Hammer Industries. I always liked Hammer because he was such a cool villain. Hammer was not what I would classify as a typical comic book villain. Instead, Hammer had the look, feel and personality of a classic James Bond villain. And that worked perfectly with that era of Iron Man where Tony Stark had that distinctively James Bond flavor during the 1970’s and 80’s.
Hammer also holds the distinction of being the only villain to play a role in all of the biggest Iron Man story arcs of all time. Hammer appeared on the title during the Demon in a Bottle story arc. Hammer played a huge role in the Armor War. Hammer even obtained Stane International after Obadiah Stane’s death.
Hammer eventually contracted an incurable illness. During Hammer’s last revenge attack on Tony before the illness was to take his life, Hammer was accidently frozen in a block of ice and lost in space. So, that always leaves the door open for the return of one of the greatest Iron Man villains ever.
4. Madame Masque
Madame Masque first appeared as Whitney Frost in Tales of Suspense #98 in 1968. Whitney Frost was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Frost first appeared as Madame Masque in Iron Man #17 in 1969. What is the best way to describe the relationship of Frost and Tony Stark that has had them as lovers and enemies? I would say that Frost is the Catwoman to Tony Stark’s Batman.
The relationship between Tony and Frost is a complex and interesting one. Whenever these two characters get together there is that sexual tension in the air. Each still care for each other. From Frost’s standpoint it is more of a case of unrequited love. From Tony’s standpoint it is more one of guilt and sympathy. However, there is no denying that Madame Masque is the only Iron Man villain who is capable of playing with Tony’s heart.
Madame Masque also enjoys the status of being a classic 1960’s Iron Man villain that is still extremely relevant and interesting in the modern era of comic books. Often villains created in the 1960’s have trouble transitioning different eras and maintaining their relevancy to a modern reader. That is not the case for Madame Masque. I like her character just as much now as I did when I was a little kid.
5. Titanium Man
The Titanium Man first appeared in Tales of Suspense #69 in 1965. Titanium Man was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. There have been three versions of the Titanium Man. The original and classic version of Titanium Man is Boris Bullski. Titanium Man’s armor was not as sophisticated as Iron Man’s armor, but Titanium Man’s armor was stronger in terms of raw strength. I have always loved the exaggerated look of the Titanium Man. His over-sized armor makes Titanium Man a cool and seriously imposing looking villain.
The Titanium Man versus Iron Man stories that Marvel gave us were obvious products of the Cold War era in which the Titanium Man was conceived. Titanium Man was Russian. Each time Iron Man and Titanium Man locked horns it was a matter of national pride. Titanium Man was always trying to prove how superior the Russian technology was. On the other hand, each victory of Iron Man over Titanium Man served to show America’s superiority over Russian technology. The political tones of these two rivals made their clashes instant classics.
Doctor Doom first appeared in Fantastic Four #5 in 1962. Doom was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Now, I know what many of you are thinking. What in the world is a classic Fantastic Four villain doing in a list about classic Iron Man villains? Well, the reason for that is because Doom has also served as a wonderful rival for fellow brilliant armor clad character in Tony Stark. Some of the best Iron Man stories, including Doomquest, have involved Doctor Doom.
Doom and Iron Man have locked horns many times in the past. Each time the reader is treated with an entertaining tale. Sometimes the contest between Doom and Iron Man is one of pure firepower, other times it is a battle of intellect, often it is a combination of both. Clearly, both men view their inventions to be superior. Both men view their battles with each other as asserting not just whose armor is superior but whose intellect is greater.
7. Fin Fang Foom
Fin Fang Foom first appeared in Strange Tales #89 in 1961. Fin Fang Foom was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Why is this a great Iron Man villain? Well, first, Fin Fang Foom gets major points for his classic Kirby design. It is nearly impossible not to love the look of this character. Second, I like Fin Fang Foom because of how he was originally an obscure character that was revived in the 1990’s as a threat for Iron Man. In 1961, Fin Fang Foom was simply another monster of many monsters that Marvel created before they began focusing solely on super hero comic books.
After Strange Tales #89 in 1961, Fin Fang Foom was not heard from again until Astonishing Tales #23-24 in 1974. Then Fin Fang Foom was not seen again until 1991 when he was installed as a major villain for Iron Man. Fin Fang Foom first appeared in Iron Man #261 and made numerous appearances in Iron Man through out the 1990’s. Fin Fang Foom was also a major player in the excellent Iron Man animated series that ran from 1994-96.
Fin Fang Foom remains one of my personal all-time favorite Iron Man villains. I love his look. He is a massive heavy hitter with an imposing power set. I mean, c’mon, Fin Fang Foom is a talking dragon! What is not to like about that? Also, Fin Fang Foom presents a refreshing change of pace from the usual rich industrialists and armored villains that dominate Iron Man’s Rogues’ Gallery. Therefore, the change of pace that Fin Fang Foom brings with him to any Iron Man story makes him a villain that is always appreciated. Hopefully, we will see the big bad dragon once again stalking the pages of Iron Man.
The Controller first appeared in Iron Man #12 in 1969. The Controller was created by Archie Goodwin and George Tusk. I always like the Controller because he, like Fin Fang Foom, was a departure from the usual type of villain that we got in Iron Man. Whenever Iron Man battled the Controller, the mind games were sure to follow. The Controller always presented a balanced threat, as he was a physical powerhouse as well as a cerebral opponent with plenty of cunning.
Spymaster first appeared in Iron Man #33 in 1971. Spymaster was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. There have been three different versions of the Spymaster. Now, the Spymaster has no super powers, but don’t let that fool you into discounting the Spymaster as a threat. Whenever anything has been stolen from Tony Stark, the Spymaster is usually the cause. Whenever any of Tony’s technology ends up on the black market and being sold to villains it is usually because of the Spymaster.
This villain has made his living by constantly breaking through whatever security system Tony can design in order to protect his armored creations. Spymaster more than deserves his spot on the Top 15 list for having sparked the classic Armor Wars story. Also, Spymaster is a big reason why Tony is as hyper-vigilant over his armors and designs as he currently is.
10. Crimson Dynamo
Crimson Dynamo first appeared in Tales of Suspense #46 in 1963. Crimson Dynamo was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. During the Cold War era, it was not simply enough to have one Russian villain. You needed to have several. Now, even though Crimson Dynamo predates Titanium Man, I never viewed Crimson Dynamo as the threat that Titanium Man was. Iron Man’s armor was always vastly superior to the Crimson Dynamo’s armor. And, more often than not, Iron Man made short work of Crimson Dynamo. Titanium Man always gave Iron Man more problems than Crimson Dynamo ever could.
Also, there have been about a billion men who have carried the mantle of Crimson Dynamo. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little. In fact, there have been 14 different men to carry the mantle of Crimson Dynamo. Basically, the Crimson Dynamo is a mantle given to Russian agents worthy of the honor. I will admit that some of the various versions of the Crimson Dynamo armor have been rather cool looking.
At any rate, Crimson Dynamo usually served the role of showing the reader how much cooler Iron Man’s armor was and, by extension, how much cooler and more advanced American technology was compared to Russian technology. Whenever Iron Man got to beat up Crimson Dynamo it was a victory for America over its Socialist rival. Most of the other villains on this list are here because they are incredibly powerful and have cause Tony Stark much misery. Crimson Dynamo is on this list because of the longevity of the gimmick. There has been a version of the Crimson Dynamo in every single version of Iron Man we have ever gotten. No matter the era and no matter the creative team, there has always been a Crimson Dynamo making an appearance.
The Melter first appeared in Tales of Suspense #47 in 1963. The Melter was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The Melter’s real identity was Bruno Horgan an industrialist who specialized in weapons. This placed Horgan’s company in direct competition with Stark’s company. Of course, Stark put Horgan out of business. Horgan became the Melter to exact revenge on Stark.
The Melter was also a member of the Masters of Evil. The Melter kept re-appearing to make life miserable for Iron Man all throughout the 1960’s, the 70’s and even into the 80’s. However, in 1986, the Melter met his end when he was assassinated in Avengers #263.
The Melter is a classic Iron Man villain. Bruno Horgan was an archetype Iron Man villain that created a formula of the evil industrialist rival that was re-used many times over in the form of Justin Hammer and Obadiah Stane. For that reason alone, the Melter deserves a spot on this list.
Ghost first appeared in Iron Man #219 in 1987. Ghost was created by David Michelinie and Bob Layton. Newer readers will recognize this character from the Thunderbolts. But, before he started working for the Thunderbolts, the Ghost was a long running irritant for Tony Stark.
Originally, Roxxon Oil hired the Ghost to destroy a company called Accutech, which was also a company that Tony Stark was interested in purchasing. The Ghost then crossed paths with Iron Man when Justin Hammer tricked Iron Man into working together to take down the Ghost. Instead, Iron Man was left to fend for himself and battle Hammer’s super powered thugs as well as battle the Ghost. The Ghost then tangled with Iron Man later when AIM was using the Ghost as an operative to eliminate their competition. The Ghost was later hired by the Spymaster to take out Tony Stark.
Each time the Ghost crossed paths with Iron Man he has proven to be an incredibly formidable foe. Iron Man was always pushed to his limit in dealing with this villain.
13. Count Nefaria
First appeared in Avengers #13 in 1965. Count Nefaria was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Nefaria was a thorn in the side of Iron Man during the early days of the Avengers. Iron Man and Nefaria battled many times and Nefaria was certainly a heavy hitter with an impressive power set.
However, what really kicked Nefaria up the list of Iron Man villains is that his daughter is Whitney Frost aka Madame Masque. During the battle Whitney was unable to choose between her father and Tony Stark (who was her lover at the time) and when Nefaria's life-support was damaged in the fight, she went insane with guilt and grief.
Temugin first appeared in Iron Man Vol. 3 #53 in 2002. Temugin was created by Mike Grell. Temugin is the son of the Mandarin. I rarely enjoy derivative characters. Getting the “son of” or “daughter of” type of character instead of the original almost never appeals to me. The rare exception to that rule is Temugin. Unlike the one-dimensional and uninteresting derivative character of Ezekiel Stane who was a mere carbon copy of the original character, Temugin was his own man. Temugin had rebelled against his father, the Mandarin. However, eventually a sense of honor and duty compelled Temugin to assume the mantle of the Mandarin after it has appeared that his father had died.
When Temugin battled Iron Man, guess who came out on top? Temugin. He more than proved himself to be a worthy adversary to the Golden Avenger. What was also cool was that after Temugin nearly killed Iron Man, he had a change of heart and forgave Iron Man for the death of his father and vowed to become a man of peace. Now, this vow has not stuck and Temugin is a character that walks a fine line between hero and villain. Still, the fact remains that Temugin had his own definable personality and his own ideals and desires that enabled him stand out as a fully developed and interesting character rather than some dull derivative character.
Ultimo first appeared in Tales of Suspense #76 in 1966. Ultimo was created by Stan Lee. Ultimo is an ancient giant robot that was discovered by the Mandarin. Naturally, the Mandarin used Ultimo to attack Iron Man. Ever since then Ultimo has been a reoccurring pain in Iron Man’s side. Ultimo has also been a villain for classic Iron Man supporting characters in the Iron Legion as well as War Machine. Ultimo has re-appeared multiple times and in multiple forms throughout the decades. I love giant robots so Ultimo is a natural fit for me.