There have been a lot of announcements coming at us lately about Disney’s plan for the ever-unfolding Marvel Cinematic Universe. By the time this new phase wraps up, fans will have new shows streaming on Disney+ and a series of movies set to culminate with the “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” event-film. Many of the recent releases and upcoming announcements have failed to grab the somewhat universal support that Marvel fans had previously given the MCU, which began with Iron Man back in 2008. But one of the more exciting announcements for Phase 4 has been Iron Man spinoff show, “Armor Wars” which will begin filming in 2023.
MCU Armor Wars Disney+ Updates
The series has been on everyone’s minds for some time now – originally announced back in December 2020 at the Disney Investors Day meetings. Kevin Feige was recently reported as confirming that the series will unfold over 6 episodes, rumored to take place immediately after the upcoming “Secret Invasion” show starring Nick Fury and a bunch of Skrulls. Disney’s online placeholder page for the Armor Wars show describes the series as how "Don Cheadle as James Rhodes aka War Machine must face what happens when Tony Stark’s tech falls into the wrong hands.” Cheadle spoke with Entertainment Tonight in February of 2021 stating that “there’s a lot of real estate that we’re going to dig into” when it comes to exploring more about Rhodey’s character. The MCU Armor Wars has been on the slate for some time now, although there is still a bit of a wait for it to arrive as it is not slated to begin filming until 2023. In the meantime, fans may want to start looking into the relevant comics, although many may not be familiar with Iron Man's “Armor Wars” in print.
Iron Man’s Armor Wars Explained
For those who looking for the path of least resistance regarding “what this is”, the short of it is that this is the story about what happens when Tony Stark’s armor and weapons technology is stolen, and the lengths that Iron Man will go to keep things secure and safe. Note that I did not say “the lengths that Iron Man will go to make things right”; as there is significant gray area and nuance in the story that discerning readers will find compliments the “good guy versus bad guy” action therein. The Armor Wars is the definitive Iron Man story by the greater fan perception – a torch carried, rightfully so for several decades now. I even cited the story as one of the top five most important moments for Iron Man back in 2008!
Armor Wars creator Bob Layton has gone on record saying that the storyline was intended from the start to serve as a transition piece, moving Tony from the Silver Centurion armor into a new red and gold “Neo Classic” armor. In the Iron Man Retrospective book “Iron Man Beneath The Armor”, Bob also explained that the story was intended to show Tony as adaptable - able to change with a variety of circumstances thrown at him. The underlying character motivation was complex, meant to address Tony’s obsessive-compulsive personality by highlighting his compulsion to do what he believes is right, even if it puts everything he has built in danger (2008). The Armor Wars story certainly had stakes.
By the time the story wraps up, Tony has challenged both the Soviet and U.S. governments, confronted his friend Captain America, left his Avengers team and faked Iron Man’s death. He is forced to adapt to the circumstances at hand by creating a new armor and re-positioning a new Iron Man in the public eye as a Stark employee replacing the old Golden Avenger. The story was a true character’s journey and left Iron Man as a force to be reckoned with on his own merits in ways that hadn't been done before.
How To Read The Marvel Comics That The Disney+ Armor Wars Show Is Based
Marvel Comics' has used the "Armor Wars" title repeatedly over the last 30 or so years - a confirmation of the story's popularity with fans. But this can make it confusing for new readers looking to dive into the original books. For example, books using the "Armor Wars" banner have ranged from the volume one follow-up story “Armor Wars II”, to “The Ultimate Armor Wars” and even an obscure mini-series called “Marvel Comics Armor Wars”. And to add to the confusion, the original story wasn’t even titled “Armor Wars” when it was published – it was called “The Stark Wars” instead!
Iron Man’s Armor Wars began as an 8-issue “event” in Iron Man volume 1 that was the culminating story to a year of intense build-up in the title. This run was masterfully helmed by Iron Man creative superteam, David Michelinie, Bob Layton and super-talented, fan-favorite penciller Mark Bright. The arc is punctuated by an amazing introspective epilogue issue drawn by master comic book artist, Barry Windsor-Smith with issue #232. The story itself actually unfolds over more comics than just the 8 issues found in the core Iron Man title of the time. The infographic below outlines each of the issues you will want to track down to add this great run to your collection.
In fan circles, I have contended for some time that the Armor Wars run is due for a small omnibus. This is viable if all of the comics above are included, maybe along with some bonus material from the creative team. An even more fleshed out Omnibus could be made if the prologue books that lead up to the arc are installed as well. And so, fans might also be interested in Iron Man volume 1, issues 215 – 224 which also contains the 1st appearance of The Ghost, a character adapted for the MCU in Ant-Man and who will be featured again in the recently announced Thunderbolts movie.
But for anyone who wants to read the story in a more compact fashion, Iron Man’s Armor Wars has been collected in trade paperback several times and is widely available. And although none of those collections includes the crossover material outlined above, some of the trades have been released in fairly low numbers, making a couple of them special finds on the aftermarket today.
Collectors will most likely be interested in the April, 1990 1st printing, as well as the more recent 2018 edition which was under-ordered with only 583 copies reportedly shipped to stores.
Iron Man Armor Wars Across Media
The Armor Wars received some marketing push for the event around the time of it’s release, and has been featured in other media and apocrypha from time-to-time as well.
One such piece was this great 11x17 poster, shipped folded to comic book stores at the time.
This 1986 promotional piece featured some amazing, large Mark Bright artwork, depicting an all-business Iron Man facing off against the specter of his rogues gallery as he attempts to reclaim his technology.Impel's 1990 Marvel Universe set also acknowledged the story with an Armor Wars "Famous Battles" card as well.
The Armor Wars was also adapted for Season 2 of the 1995 “Marvel Action Hour: Iron Man" series. The episode unfolds relatively closely to the source material, but swaps Hawkeye in for Iron Man's confrontation with Cap. Of note, the Armor Wars episode also featured the series' only appearance of The Ghost, the character created by Layton and Michelinie during the prelude to their story in Iron Man vol 1 #219.
Later, "Armor Wars" was very loosely adapted again in animation, but this time for the somewhat bizarre Nicktoons Iron Man series featuring Tony Stark as a teenager. Season 2, Episode 5 features Iron Man characters Force, Shockwave and Firepower in a story leading into the Nicktoon's version of the Iron Monger armor at a later date.
It was neat seeing versions of the story unfold in animation, although I have to admit I’ve always hoped for an animated feature film adapting this story more akin to what was done with "Planet Hulk" on direct-to-video.
The series hasn’t been lost on the aftermarket either – CGC lists a competitive “Armor Wars” set in their registry, keeping the now 35-year-old comics alive and well in collector circles everywhere.
Fans should definitely give these books a read before the MCU Armor Wars show drops on Disney+ as the story features a true transition point for Tony Stark, some great action with a variety of characters and some amazing Mark Bright artwork (swirling repulsors were the best!). Leave us a comment below on your thoughts about this definitive Iron Man story!