Iron Man: Invincible Upgrade Winners!

Editor’s Note: The following entries are the winners and finalists from the Iron Man: Invincible Upgrade contest announced earlier this month, with prizes provided by Westfield Comics of Middleton, Wisconsin. We received an nearly 80 entries. To determine the winners, the P:R team, Joshua Crawley of Westfield Comics, and our special guest judges rated and reviewed each submission.

Our special guests this week are writer Matt Fraction (Casanova, The Immortal Iron Fist) and artist Adi Granov (Iron Man, Necrowar). Matt is the writer of Marvel’s new ongoing series, Invincible Iron Man, and Adi’s fan-favorite redesign of the Iron Man armor led to his helping design the new film‘s version of the character. – Dean Trippe


Daniel Krall (Larger Version w/ Extras!)
Composite Score: 76.5 out of a possible 80 points.

Dean: 10. This is my only perfect rating, so let me ramble on about it for a minute. What Daniel’s done here is not simply show off a neat alternate version of the character. With this one illustration, he’s rebuilt him, including character traits and building a story that informs the design. This Iron Man is the Howard Hughes-inspired Tony Stark. He’s proud of his work. He’s bringing us into the future. The actual design goes far beyond the fun of this magazine ad illo, though. It looks functional. It’s stainless steel and rivets. When I was a kid, I grew up playing in my grandfather’s garage, while he built an RV-4 plane. The serious grounding in a brains, metal, and hard work world really sells this one for me. The red and gold racing stripes feel more Tony Stark to me than I would’ve expected. I like that it looks aerodynamic and tough, but also that there are possible weak points that could be exploited by an opponent in a fight. I think that’d just look awesome. And that Stark Technologies logo is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. (And don’t miss the infinity symbol / “i” in on the chest.) I absolutely want to read this Iron Man’s adventures.

Joel: 10. Man, you said it, Dean. Who will take my subscription check? I want to read this Iron Man’s adventures! Looking at this and Daniel’s great Nick Fury and Black Widow designs, I think we can all agree that Daniel should be assigned an ongoing book set in Marvel’s early Cold War era. While this is definitely not an Earth-616 solution, Daniel really goes the extra mile with his period detail. The suit itself looks oddly Byzantine at first glance, with its elaborately overlapping plates, but it also looks like the product of an Atomic Age aviator’s imagination, combining both plane and pilot’s high-altitude suit.

Chris: 10. Wow. From design to presentation and even the storytelling aspect. If Marvel were to ever do a similar project to Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier, this would be the kind of thing that would go great with that.

Vito: 9.5. Doggone that Daniel Krall. Seriously. I guarantee you that fine print is hysterical. But this piece hearkens back to his Black Widow/Nick Fury piece from a few months back. This is Tony Stark as Howard Hughes and it fits with what Daniel has done before. In that review, I said that the highest compliment I could ever pay an artist on a piece of artwork is that it inspires many stories, and Daniel does that again. What really clinches it for me is the use of a flat colored iron with just simple red and yellow detailing. If he’d use that “refrigerator suit” gray, I might have added the extra .5 point.

Josh: 10. The best hybrid of traditional and ultimate Iron Man armors. I love the rivets. This has no effect on my rating, but I fear for anyone who’d have to draw that too many times. And any chance I can get a giant copy of this for my wall?

Rachel: 9. I struggled over whether to give into peer pressure and make this a ten, but I just can’t do it. I love the look, I love the concept, and I love the art. But the design is just too busy for me. It’s detailed to a point that detracts from its iconicness (is that even a word?), and it’s not something I could see working within the constraints of an actual comic.

Adi: 9. Hard not to be in love with this one… The amount of thought and work that seems to have gone into this is very impressive. Stan Lee said that he was inspired by Howard Hughes when he created Iron Man and this is a superb development of that line of thinking, as if this Tony Stark was a contemporary, maybe even a friend or rival, of Rocketeer. I love that Stark logo too! I was going to give this a 10 but the chest and rib area look a bit unresolved and busy. But overall just a superb concept and execution.

Matt: 9. Awesome. And not just that it considers both the Iron and the Man, or that it gives Stark technologies a makeover, but as a considered document and piece of design, I love the whole vision.


Sam Bosma
Composite Score: 69.5

Dean: 9. This design is just golden. Heh. I dig the godlike feel here. It’s angelic, it’s futuristic, and it’s solid. The lit circuit lines on the chest and arms are nice, and the overall form is slick and simplified, but still very Iron Man. I totally dig it.

Joel: 9. With the placid-expression on the face plate, the paler color scheme, and the pose of a descending angel, this looks like an armor redesign Tony worked on while vacationing in Nirvana. Repulsor-blast our karmic chains, Enlightned Iron Man!

Rachel: 9. This is an Iron Man who wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of New Frontier. The face caught me–it’s simultaneously simpler and more expressive than most of the designs I’ve seen–and the armor has just the right amount of detail and texture.

Chris: 9. This is surprisingly haunting, especially for a usually cold piece of armor. It makes me think music for some reason. This is something I’d love to see more of.

Vito: 9.5. Wow. Words fail me (for once). I’ve never seen Sam’s art cross the P:RT desks before now, and I think we’ve all been missing out. This is a great piece! There’s elements of Tron here, and really, how can you go wrong with Tron? I also like the inversion of the red and gold.

Josh: 9. The pose, the extra circles, the inversion of colors; all great. Similar to the entry I tagged for a runner-up vote, this reminds me of something I’ve never seen, and may not have been intended: what if Iron Man visited Jack Kirby’s Fourth World?

Matt: 8. Why don’t I love this? I should. I feel like I should. I’m disconnecting from it and I’m not sure why. I think, like Joe’s, I don’t believe there’s a man inside…

Adi: 7. Beautifully executed image. One thing which removes emotion and life from this design is the lack of any expression in the face. Makes me think that it’s an actual robot as opposed to a man in a robotic suit. But it’s a lovely design, well balanced and consistent. And the overall feel is great with him descending like some kind of mechanical angel.

Ming Doyle
Composite Score: 63

Dean: 8. Ming explained her design as being the Asia-aimed export of the Stark Industries Iron Man persona. So in America, we’ve got Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, but in Asian markets, we’d have Iron Man, celebrity spokesperson! I actually think this is pretty in line with Tony’s built-for-business, multiple market mindset. The actual Iron Man design here is also delightfully retro, and has an especially cool faceplate. I dig this whole concept. It’d be an interesting storyline to pursue, having the Iron Man character be popular with teens and tweens, while older folks might recognize the problems in elevating an icon of American military might to Hello Kitty-like fandom.

Joel: 9. A real strength which Ming brings to her designs is the breadth of visual influence. Although her geek cred is unimpeachable, it often looks to me as though she’s constructing perfect superheroes without ever having actually seen one before—she makes none of the material and aesthetic assumptions that so many of us seem mired in, even when we’re trying to bust out of them. The banded armor-sections are a nice contrast to the more solid-looking plates. And that jet-assembly(?) on the lower legs is amazing! I’m not sure I get what’s going on with the yellow circles on the inner elbows, and the shoulders seem a bit unresolved. But, all in all, this is a wonderful drawing, and wonderful concept, and a wonderful redesign.

Chris: 8. With some designs it’s hard to put aside the obvious storytelling going on and just focus on the designs. This is one of them. Can’t… concentrate…. Iron… man… as.. Japanese… toy… to much… to resist…. KAWAI!!

Vito: 9. I think the thing I like/love about this design so much is that it presents Iron Man as a cultural icon, something that even we, as geeks who grew up with Iron Man, can’t imagine. Iron Man, to many, is a Black Sabbath song about a guy who was turned to steel in a magnetic field. So, what Ming does is more than just redesigns a costume; she reimagined a world where Iron Man is Spider-Man. And in doing so, she realized that only in Japan, where Ultra-Man is as popular as Godzilla, would Iron Man BE a true social and cultural icon. Like I said, this piece is more than just a costume redesign.

Josh: 7. I’m a fan of the stream-lined design while also adding the giant boots, but what really catches me is the potential for a theme song: “New New Iron Man” to the music of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger theme.

Rachel: 8. I love it when artists like Ming and Daniel Krall create a larger context around their drawings. The break from traditional superhero design fascinates me as well–as Joel commented, this is the kind of superhero you’d design if you’d read about them but never actually seen one, which is a perfect reflection of the aesthetic Ming set out to capture here.

Matt: 7. I dig the contextual stuff– the bowtie clips are great– it pulls up bigger design issues to me… font choices, layout, etc. I wish the suit itself was more alien, somehow… I sort of tune out around the legs. I love it up to the waist, I love the– whatyacallit– the slats and stuff.

Adi: 7. I’d give this a higher rating because I am in love with the drawing and the concept. It’s really hard not to be won over by the sheer fun of this image, and as such it’s a fantastic representation. The suit design itself seems underdeveloped and relies on the style to do the “talking.” I love the helmet/shape of the face plate, and I really like the material the upper arms and his sides are made of. Lovely image overall.


Joel Carroll
Composite Score: 62

Dean: 9. As usual, Joel’s got a serious handle on amping up this character’s design without losing any recognizability. The way the blue circle lights are inset into the armor is so cool. I prefer Iron Man designs that include a little blue, by the way. It rounds out the primary color scheme and keeps the red and gold from being too boring. The red detailing on the gold of the torso and arms is also super slick. This Iron Man is ready for his own animated series ASAP.

Joel: 8. An impressive-looking figure, this design has the weight and solidity of the best Iron Man designs. There’s just enough of the brawler’s stance and proportions mixed in with the high-tech. I love the rhythm of the gold and red lines, especially through the torso. I think it stumbles a bit on practical issues, however. Or, at least, my understanding of them. Parts of the armor are unhinged: the crotch and wrists, for instance. Others are elaborately hinged, like the ankles and elbows. So, is this metal flexible or not? The admittedly cool-looking blue circles tend to show up in what might be jointed areas, but don’t appear to serve as articulation. What is their purpose? They don’t seem appropriately placed to be either attitude jets or repulsors.

Rachel: 9. Those blue circles seem to be a running theme in a lot of these designs–think our contestants were working together? I don’t think they’re joints here, though–if they were, the placement of the ones on the legs and hands wouldn’t make any sense, since they’re below the knees and wrists. The lack of consistent articulation is definitely the biggest con here: the design looks gorgeous and extremely visually cohesive at first glance, but it loses credibility at the level of details, when the reverse should be the case. I think that actually brings up an issue that may come up more in these designs than in previous P:R reviews, which is feasibility. Iron Man’s suit a) is built around a person, and b) has to serve some specific functions, and as such, it has to have a stronger basis in real-world engineering and anatomy than do most costumes. There’s also the working assumption that unless it’s otherwise obvious, the working assumption is that any element of Iron Man’s costume is rigid: where you put seams on Nightwing’s outfit will affect how it hangs, but where you put them on Iron Man’s will determine whether or not he can bend his wrists.

Chris: 8. Joel turned in a really great piece, and what I enjoy most about it is the play between the hard-shell elements (the helmet, the boots and the gauntlets) over the seemingly more pliable exosuit. I’m all for Iron Man being the “armored hero”, but in this modern times with all the crazy tech Stark has, having the hardest stuff for the heads, feet and head with more movable everything else just works out great from a realistic standpoint. And me, I dig the blue circles — it hearkens back to the original designs, and also provides an exhaust and intake ports.

Dean: Yeah, that sort of stuff doesn’t really bother me any more than any previous Iron Man costume. Here’s what Mr. Carroll had to say about the materials in his Iron Man design. “Eliot R. Brown had an incredible idea about the suit’s individual skin tiles being electromagnetically hardened and softened per millisecond, depending on the internal movements of the pilot….explaining why some IM suits seem like cloth, but still hard as steel. I’m applying the “Brown” tile effect as an overall starting point for the smooth exterior.”

Josh: 7. A solid harkening back to the 1990’s modular suit with enough to make it new… but not enough for it to stand out. It also looks like the most likely to actually show up in the comic. Don’t get me wrong, though, it isn’t bad; it just seems a little vanilla. My only realm qualm is the design of the waist joint, which doesn’t have the same contour as the torso and leg plates. I do really like the inset chest circle, as well as the back vents(?).

Vito: 9. I had to step back a second and really digest this design. It’s easy to say that Joel’s designs are winners; hands down, he’s one of the strongest artists we’ve seen. This is as close to my own personal vision of what Iron Man is…my mind’s eye view of Iron Man. It really is the pinnacle of what Iron Man is; a high-tech knight of the round table. So, if I’m so high on it, why not a perfect score? Because in my mind’s eye, I see this helmet/mask combo. That, right there is all that keeps Joel’s design here from being the quintessential Iron Man costume.

Josh: The pointy helmet rules all others!

Adi: 6. I like the style and the drawing quite a bit and based on that my rating would be higher, but the design itself doesn’t say Iron Man as much as it should. I could see the simplicity fitting well in an animated series in the vein of Teen Titans. I think addition of some hardware and details on the torso would add more interest and make it seem a bit more mechanical and less as if made of fabric.

Matt: 6. I’m with Adi and Josh here– there’s some really great technique and style to the drawing, but the design strikes me as somewhat backwards-looking in comparison with the character’s design history… it seems like a step back. I don’t mind retro, necessarily, but this feels like a suit that would have a prefix like “cyber-” attached to it…

Jemma Salume
Composite Score: 58.5

Dean: 8. As usual, Jemma brings some serious fun to her design. It looks more Iron Lad Revisited (which would be GREAT) than Iron Man to me, but I totally dig the thin, slightly bug-like feel. The large size of the palm-mounted repulsors make me think they might serve new or at least additional functions. And I especially like the faceplate here.

Joel: 8. With the tipped-up toes, slender proportions, pastel color scheme, and snow-boarding stance, this elfen design may look a bit young for Tony, but would make a great Iron Lad! The orange and yellow elements interact in a graceful, dynamic way that I think would look good from most angles, and, as Dean mentioned in another review, a little light blue can really pull an Iron Man design together. I like the look of the extra-large palm-repulsors, although they’d make it hard to close one’s hands. Perhaps they slide down onto the forearms when fine manipulation is called for? Bonus-points for giving Iron Man a nose!

Rachel: 7.5. This is another Iron Man that I think belongs in cyberspace. He’s exaggerated and streamlined at the same time–an Iron Man fan avatar, perhaps?

Chris: 8. Wow. I’m sold. Shades of Neon Genesis Evangelion design work by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, but wholly original and striking.

Vito: 6.5. Chris, you might have something there, but what it really brings to mind for me is a computer animated short I saw a couple of years ago displaying the animation of the Transformers that would be used for the Michael Bay movie. I can see Jemma’s IM busting a move. As always, Jemma has a little bit of funk in her designs and this Tony Stark is dancing back up for George Clinton.

Josh: 7. Evangelion Iron Lad? I’m there, even if I preferred RahXephon. I think what I like most about this design is the extra bit of yellow on the face-plate, shoulders, and boots most Iron Man designs don’t seem to have. I think it balances well with the added red to the legs.

Matt: 7. This is fun. I like the pokey bits and the expressive lines in the design. I wish the body-form took its cues from the design, and it was less rigid and… well, human? I get an almost insect-vibe off of the design and wished the forms followed that function somehow…

Adi: 6.5. A fun idea. A more organic, less threatening and overall more fantastical take on Iron Man. The mobility looks restricted because of a lack of practical joins, or alternatively it looks as if made of a flexible material. Overall it reminds me of a costume more than a mechanical suit.

Darren Calvert
Composite Score: 58.5

Rachel: 8.5. Okay, can we stop for a moment and just admire the curlicues on this one? I’m not normally much for ornamentation, and I don’t think it really fits the character, but this is just a gorgeous design. The details remind me of Noh masks or old teak carvings, and it has that same untouchable grace.

Joel: 6. It’s frilly, alright, but is it frilly enough? I like the notion of a Baroque-inspired Iron Man, but I think it should be pushed so much further than this. After all, what’s the point of being moderate about excess?

Rachel: This can’t end anywhere good. We’ll have Iron Man dripping with lace, playing a harpsichord, and no one wants that. Harpsichords are so tinny!

Dean: 8. Oh you guys, you’re totally missing the concept here! This is Iron Man(darin)! Tony looks like he’s taken over the Mandarin‘s evil empire and has incorporated some of his longtime foe’s design elements into his armor to signify the corporate takeover. I’d like to imagine this being part of a storyline where Iron Man has convinced the Mandarin’s henchfolks that he’s really the Mandarin who has killed Iron Man and appropriated Stark’s armour, while at the same time telling Pepper and Rhodey that he’s still Tony inside, just running Mandarin’s empire to help tilt the balance towards good. The reader might not even know which is true! Anyway, solid design. Darren’s really got a handly on making costuming feel three-dimensional, which is especially important in armor design like this. I’d totally like to see this Iron Man in action, though I might’ve included Mandarin’s rings (maybe incorporated into the armour around the heart?) to push the concept a bit further.

Joel: Ah, good point. I should have noticed the Chinese logograms in the background. I like your “Who’s behind the mask?” storyline. This design could still be taken further. Definitely needs the rings, perhaps another color or two, and some other decorative elements than the curlicues. And, you know, a transistorized harpsichord.

Chris: 7. Yes, villainous is the right word. That slender chin… those swirls. I can imagine Stark twirling his mustache under there somehow.

Josh: 8. I think everyone else has already said the stuff needing to be said about this. One thing I would have liked to seen is a little more yellow in the boots and gloves, similar to yellow added in the chest plate and the red added to the legs. My only other thought, and I’m not adjusting my rating for this (nor the coloring comment posed earlier): who could draw, or even color, this on a monthly schedule?

Vito: 8. If not for Dean’s Iron Mandarin explanation, I might have gone lower, but I do appreciate the effort in design here. This works as a What If…? or as a villain. Either way, I’m in.

Matt: 6. Rachel’s right– mad props to the curlicues. My biggest problem is that all those bits feel like surface to me– you’ve got these really great details on a pretty standard suit of armor, almost. Very much like the first piece to me– design flourishes aside, it feels like Iron Man circa 2002.

Adi: 7. I like the overall look and feel of it a lot. The surface treatment is especially nice; smooth curved areas meeting sharp edges and chamfered plains… very nice. I think it needs to be taken further and refined. As it is some areas seem underdeveloped, such as knees, and could use the same attention the helmet or the calves got. It’s a really fun concept, a Mandarin Iron Man.


Dean Trippe
Composite Score: Ineligible!

Dean: My main idea was to aim for sleek robotic simplicity. I feel like the tightly-jointed panels might have expandable parts with various concealed capabilities. I also wanted to make sure Iron Man looks impervious, but non-threatening, so that he doesn’t scare kids when he’s rescuing them!

Rachel: 7.5. I REALLY want this Iron Man to be made of candy. I also really like Dean’s use of curves instead of angles for the armor joints–it really changes the feel of the costume without straying too far from the original design. This is an Iron Man I could see fighting in VR (which, come to think of it, would be a really cool extension of the character and fit well with Stark’s obsession with staying on the cutting edge of technology).

Joel: 9. Tony Stark: Director of PEZ. My comment when I first saw this design was “Geez, Dean, even your armor looks young and hopeful!” This is a really nice design. While so many of the best designs seem to be thematic variations on Iron Man, this is one of the few that I could see showing up in continuity. It’s a completely different approach to the shapes used in Iron Man’s designs, and yet it fits solidly in the character’s visual identity. I love the two-toned fingers, and am completely enamored of the modular-plate notion. I’m not sure about the “bolts” on the temples. They look good in this picture, but I think would look oddly clunky and Frankensteiny in other views. And I wish the arms had wrist-articulation.

Chris: 8. This is classy. It almost reminds me of a suit he’d wear for official gatherings or some such. Like the Olympics.

Rachel: I think both the bolts and the modular plates contributed to my idea of this as a VR Iron Man, because they visually evoke electrodes or temple plugs and digital vectors.

Vito: 8. Know what this could be? His new exo-suit that he wears under his armor. Is that the Extremis? Well, if he was actually able to use the Extremis epidermis as armour, this is what it would look like. I think the one thing you’re missing in this, Dean, is the absurdity of what makes Iron Man’s classic armor classic and that is the short pants. Why would he even need short pants/trunks? It’s dopey, but it’s one of the things I love the most about Iron Man’s classic look and this, my friend, is a classic looking IM, regardless of what my rating is.

Josh: 8. I like the addition of blue and greyish, but I feel like a touch too much yellow got lost. Dean, do some of those expanding bits have lots of yellow? The plates radiating and following the curve of the neck is a really nice touch.

Adi: 7. Fun and playful, it immediately put a smile on my face. I feel that it needs a few more Iron Man cues to make it entirely successful; the chest light being lit up as that’s an important part of the Iron Man mythos (with his heart the the whole repulsor technology). The bolts on his wrists and sides of his head seem to clash with the overall sleek look. I really like the treatment of, what I assume are, separate panels on his torso, the horizontal curves especially draw very elegant and powerful shapes.

Matt: 8. Chris said it– classy. Great stuff. The sleekness of the design, the thoughtfulness of the design… just terrific. I love the blend of contemporary sleekness and the classic Iron man suit. If this was a show, I’d watch the hell out of it.

Joel Priddy
Composite Score: Ineligible!

Dean: 9. Joel’s nanoliquid armour idea is the direction I’ve most often pondered about for the character. The twist Joel’s got going here is that the physical features of the Iron Man form are a bit childlike, despite housing an aging Tony Stark. As usual, I’m smitten with designs that imply story elements, so this one’s getting a solid rating from me. I also really love the holographic controls.

Rachel: 8. There’s been at least one hero who goes from child to adult when he suits up, but I’m intrigued (and a little creeped out) by the idea of an adult who looks like a kid in costume. And it’s more than just the face–the proportions of the body are definitely more a child’s than an adult man’s.

Chris: 6. The main design doesn’t really work for me, but the floating head on the bottom left seems intoned with alot of personality and a different suit of armor… which I’d love to see more of. Going back to the main armor shown, it reminds me a hell of a lot of Vision more-so that Iron Man.

Vito: 7.5. There’s something…otherworldly about this. Almost ethereal. Like it could be either, as someone said earlier, a VR avatar of Tony, or, and this might be more radical, the New God version of Iron Man. I can totally see this as Tony’s self-image, but it doesn’t look like battle armor to me.

At this point I have to ask the panel…anyone else having trouble writing “armor?” Because I keep spelling “armour,” and I can’t front like I’m from Canada or the UK. Not with a name like Vito.

Joel: Wait, this isn’t Vito Thistlewaithe, of the Shropshire Thistlewaithes? Well, then who have I making snarky comments to all these months?

Josh: 8. I keep typing “armour,” too, when I’m not typing “colour.” I won’t claim to be from Canada (nor the UK), but I won’t deny it. Also, as I’ve been working my way up from the bottom, I find the New Gods reference interesting, since I hadn’t seen this before writing that. I definitely see it here, though I didn’t at first glance. A discrepancy in age and proportion between the two images I can write off, unless there’s something we aren’t being told about the design. Back on track, what I really dig here are the toes! And being a fan of the “retro” face-plate with the points, I really like the design here of the face. The more I look at it, the more I’m liking it, but the more I’d also really like to see this armor reflect Tony’s age as he is in the mask cutaway view (which is rad in and of itself).

Joel: I drew this right after reading Michael Chabon‘s New Yorker article about superhero costumes. Thinking of Iron Man’s armor as Tony’s “True Skin” seems distinctly creepy. What does it say about a person that they’d wear a machine as flesh? It can’t be a sign of a healthy self-image. I like to imagine middle-aged Tony Stark not understanding why the other superheroes are uncomfortable with his new youthful-machine-flesh-suit.

Adi: 7. I am kind of torn about this one. As an idea it’s fantastic. I like the idea of the youthful, or even ageless, alien design and the implications of “issues” someone wearing it would have. The execution is very simple but conveys the design perfectly. The reason i am torn is that I am not sure it fits the character of Tony Stark as he is in the comics. He is a playboy and an occasional alcoholic, and I am sure he has some image issues, but he seems rather comfortable in his own skin and the Iron Man suit is more of a sports car to him, a mean looking hot-rod, rather than a mask behind which to hide and/or project a different personality.

Matt: 7. I think this is a tremendous design– for a different character. I look at the armor and I think of youth, of innocence and optimism, hope and pioneerism… all the great, wide-eyed science fiction stuff that a character like Iron Man brushes against from time to time… and then I see old soul-patched Tony and it feels like an old man dressing up like a teenager. Is that weird? I dunno, all this stuff is so subjective…

Runners Up after the jump! – Dean


Paul Maybury
Composite Score: 57.5

Dean: 8. Holy smack! It’s like a fourth-dimensional, multi-phasing, Iron Man organism! Amazing. Just amazing. I don’t even know what to say, but this thing is crazy awesome.

Rachel: 8. I like the emphasis on anatomy in this design–it plays up the original purpose of the costume as a life-support suit, something that I think gets lost too frequently. This is an Iron Man who looks both more fragile and more complex than most, and it’s very evident that there’s supposed to be a person in there–another aspect of the character that slips past a little too often.

Joel: 7. Yeah, given Iron Man’s origin as the world’s ass-kickingest pacemaker, I’m intrigued by the organic forms incorporate into this suit, especially around the heart. The effect is distinctly creepy, as though it’s not clear whether Tony is piloting the armor, or the other way around.

Chris: 5. I see the reason why the heart was focused on here, but my obvious question would be: “Why would Stark choose to wear his heart on his sleeve?” har har. Nice thought, but I don’t see the character wanting to wear this.

Vito: 7. I am both scared and attracted to this design. It reminds me of (and this might be a stretch for most) the origin of Ultimate Venom…how the symbiote was supposed to be used to cure disease. This is Iron Man, MD! And man, is he miffed!

Josh: 7. I was trying to remember what this reminded of that was intriguing me so much, and then it hit me: Akira. While not an Akira fan, it actually leaves me with a better impression and makes me want to see more of this design.

Joel: “While not an Akira fan…” You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen those words in that arrangement, before.

Josh: I’ll consider it an honor I could be the first to show it to you!

Matt: 9. Man, I love this one. It’s so weird! It looks like some kind of nightmare Micronaut… like slim goodbody underwrote Stark or something. I love the exotic, otherworldly symbiotic thing going on here… is that meat? It might be meat. My sole issues are technical ones– why tint it all out like that?– but damn, what a crazy-ass idea.

Adi: 6.5. This one freaks me out! I’m not sure what I’m looking at, but it definitely is recognizable as Iron Man. It’s kind of hard to critique as I feel I really need to know the context of the story to understand the design. Why are his arms broken up but no other parts are? What’s with the heart, is it painted on, or is the suit see through, but what does that mean then? Is there a whole man inside, or is it just organs? Too many questions! It’s a very striking image to look at.

Thom Chiaramonte
Composite Score: 50

Dean: 6. Thom’s gone way away from the current Iron Man iconography, but I could totally see Tony designing this based on his earlier, bulkier suits. So it feels like an alternate universe late 60’s Iron Man to me. For superheroing, it’s a little too impersonal, but I like it anyway.

Rachel: 6. I feel bad giving this such a low rating, because I LOVE the design–I’m a sucker for that clanky steampunk aesthetic, and if I saw this picture on the cover of a comic or cartoon, I’d buy it in a second. But I can’t buy it as Iron Man: it’s just too bulky and awkward, and it has none of the sleekness I associate with the suit.

Joel: 5. It’s steampunk, alright, but is it steampunk enough? Take away the exhaust pipe and splash it with a new coat of pant, and it could be any contemporary robot suit. I’d like to see more fun being had with Victorian-era technology in this one.

Chris: 6. While this deviates extremely from the classic Iron Man armor, Iron Man is one of those heroes that could still wear this in the standard continuity. Stark afterall has a variety of armor for different applications — in the Marvel Adventures Iron Man for example, Iron Man does have a steam-powered armor… but not as sweet as this. Saying that, it doesn’t say “Iron Man” enough for me. The only thing even hinting that is the centerpiece circle. No Iron Man paint or other identifiyable elements carried over. But still, I like it.

Vito: 7. I went a little higher because while I can’t see this as Tony Stark’s design, I can see it as his Japanese counterpart’s design (Does he have one?). It doesn’t look as steampunk to me as it does samurai, and that’s why I like it…it’s like mecha meets kaiju.

Josh: 7. I didn’t see the “samurai” until Vito mentioned it, but now I can’t get it out of my head. Those six insectiod eyes just keep drilling it into my head. What if… Cassie Lang had stolen an old Iron Man suit, Ant-Man’s helmet, and had a mash-up party? I’d really like a few more exhaust pipes, or none at all, because the one looks just a little too thin for the rest of the designs bulk.

Adi: 7. I really like it. Even though it’s drawn in the simplified animation style, it conveys a real sense of weight and the materials used. And although the instantly recognizable Iron Man elements are few, I can imagine this being a steampunk development of the initial clunky Shellhead armour. The only thing that jars is the chimney/exhaust on his back. It seems tacked on and could be integrated better into the overall design.

Matt: 6. I love love love the design– the confidence in throwing away the current look, the deliberate challenge it takes, and, honestly, the guts it takes to put a suit-shape like this out there. I love the mask, the hand units, the bug face, the whole shebang– even the exhaust pipe thing!– but, man, why just slap it with a coat of primer and be done with it? Blur your eyes and it looks like a chocolate yeti and that just kills me. I really want to love this one.

Felipe Sobreiro
Composite Score: 50

Dean’s Rating: 6
I dig this as an alternate suit, and it’s very fun looking, but I don’t really see it as a main Iron Man armor design. Still, pretty cool.

Joel: 7. This is good fun! That puffy, stocky body combined with the “bald” helmet, those perfectly round eyes, and the marionette mouth gives this burly tank of an Iron Man an all-ages note of levity. I don’t quite get what’s going on with the tops of the boots and I’d like to see some ankle-articulation, but, other than that, I’m a fan. Change the color scheme and it’d make a fine Titanium Man, as well.

Rachel: 6. Does this remind anyone else of S.T.R.I.P.E.? It’s a nice, general-purpose robot design, maybe more of a mech than a power suit, since it looks like it would be pretty bulky to move in. I don’t think it’s visually distinctive enough, though–as Joel mentions, the color scheme is really the only thing that evokes Iron Man.

Chris: 6. This looks more like an automaton than a suit of armor. If Tony Stark were a villain (and some people might say he is now after Civil War), this would be one of his legions. And why does his chestplace thing look like a big robot nipple?

Vito: 6. Not touching that last comment, Chris! I think this could work well as a Marvel Adventures Hulk-Buster armor. I have to agree with Rachel that it is reminiscent of S.T.R.I.P.E., but only in that giant robot sense. He reminds me more of an old wind up toy.

Josh: 7. As Vito said, MA Hulk Buster. Though my first thought when looking through these before Vito commented, was Skaar Buster, since there has already been Hulk Buster, Thor Buster, and Marvel Adventures hadn’t occurred to me. And Rachel, I’m guessing part of the S.T.R.I.P.E. similarity comes from the shape of the helmet, compared to how Iron Man helms are usually shaped these days. Actually, it reminds me a bit of the original Iron Man helmet.

Adi: 5. Overall a nice and fun image but , aside from the colour scheme, it doesn’t say Iron Man to me. I like the helmet/face and the chunky proportions. The details need more development to give it more practicality especially for movement. The boots in particular seem like they would prevent bending at the knees.

Matt: 7. Aww, I love Dumpy Iron Man! Iron Grimace! It’s got the whimsy thing covered, which is always a plus, and I love how confidently it goes away from the status quo.

Marcus Parcus
Composite Score: 48

Dean: 6. I like a lot of what I’m seeing here, but it just doesn’t have that “Here to save the day” superhero vibe. Great drawing, though.

Joel: 8. While historical armor references may seem like a tempting place to go when redesigning Iron Man, it’s surprisingly hard to pull off and still make Tony’s ride feel like the cutting-edge action-machine it’s supposed to be. Marcus makes it work by choosing unconventional references, and using them sparingly. I love this helmet, and the radiating seams on the chest plate. The legs and arms may be a bit too built up; we’d need to see the armor from a few other angles to know.

Rachel: 7. This design reminds me a lot–maybe a little too much–of Samus Aran (of the Metroid games). The boots in particular have very similar angles and curves and incorporate the same fusion of historical armor and more modern mech-style design.

Vito: 6. Good call, Rachel! The helmet is unique enough and there are Iron Man elements (the yellow and the paneled armor in spots) but I think I have to agree that it is very Metroid-y.

Chris: 5. This is a really solid character design, but I can’t really see it working as a design for Iron Man. I’d love to se this for some new villain, but for Iron Man it doesn’t work.

Josh: 5. This is an instance where I don’t think the red overpowering the yellow works. Also, there’s a lot of bulk except in the hands. While I understand needing unencumbered hands to do things is important, this doesn’t look like a fine detail armor. Maybe if there were some gauntlets that could be detached to reveal these gauntlets. They’d match up pretty well where the forearm armor ends.

Matt: 6. I really dig the weight here– it feels like it weighs ten tons. And the design is sort of forwardy, sort of old school Heavy Metal, sort of Gary Oldman in Dracula, all of which I dig. The thing I get hung up on is the color choices, as it all kind of muds out to me again…

Adi: 5. Even with the colour scheme this doesn’t say Iron Man to me as much as futuristic samurai. But that’s no bad thing if it makes sense in the context. I really like the legs bellow the knee and I wish more of that kind of look was carried on throughout the rest of the body, for instance, where the thigh meets the hip… I also think that the area which makes him look the most like a medieval warrior rather than a powered suit is the chest armour. I think it would benefit from a bit more sculpting, more layering and overlapping, like on the calves, to make it more mechanical.

Jon McNally
Composite Score: 47

Dean: 6. This is unbelievably fun! It looks like Jon’s chosen a much larger, mecha-style, Iron Man suit here. It’s really fun and happy, but I feel like we’re missing out on Iron Man’s face, and I’m not sure how he’d attend Avengers meetings (assuming, of course, the Iron Man armor itself isn’t now their mobile base of operations).

Rachel: 6. Oh, my God. Bonus point for including Fin Fang Foom, even without his little purple pants. To me, this couldn’t be Tony Stark’s design–it’s too cute and too silly–but I could see it as a spin-off for kids. It’s also really easy to picture this design in action, because it’s assembled in extremely physically intuitive ways.

Joel: 5. Playing off Ming’s idea of Iron Man-as-exported-marketing-property, I like this design as an unlicensed Japanese kiddie-cartoon character in the 616 universe. Tony’s attempts to claim damages could be an ongoing annoyance during an arc (and then, somehow, the existence of this cartoon proves key to defeating the arc’s menace). Also, I really want to see the entire battle against Fin Fang Foom.

Chris: 4. Points for originality, but it falls far and away from the Iron Man thing. But as Joel says, this could work if Iron Man’s armor got worked up as an off-brand sold out of dollar stores.

Rachel: YES! This is the unlicensed spinoff toy with the not-quite-right translation that you find in the dollar store. IRON ROBOT FELLOW! With laser beam grips!

Vito: 5. Reminds me of that rolling typewriter on The Electric Company (or was that Sesame Street?). Those boots look really uncomfortable, but man, he sure can sock it to FFF!

Josh: 7. Tricycle feet! I, too, like this in the all ages category in the vein of Ming’s Asian-marketing theme. But I want to know what he’s hiding behind the “collar.” The Kirby-squiggles are rad, too.

Adi: 8. Technically this is the perfect interpretation of Iron Man! And although one of the trademark features of the character, the helmet face, is lost, I feel that the compromise was worth it as it adds a lot of character to, well, the character. I would buy a toy of this, especially if it was made of tin and came with a wind-up key!

Matt: 6. This would’ve been a solid 7 were it not for the criminal omission of Fin Fang Foom’s purple underpants. I can’t reconcile the rollerskates and the flying, in my head– I want to see a drawing that reveals more of the functionality of the thing. Man, this is just so ridiculous it’s hard not love. Or at least like a whole hell of a lot.

Joe Meyer
Composite Score: 40.5

Dean: 7. I totally dig the alien/robot vibe Joe’s going for here, but it’s more What If… than main title. I see this as a team of synthetic Iron Men built by Tony to handle extraterrestrial and temporal threats!

Rachel: 5.5. The burns from the jetpack are a nice touch. Otherwise, though, I’m not a huge fan of this one–the construction-helmet yellow just doesn’t do it for me.

Joel: 7. Something about this design is freaking me out! In, you know, a good way. I don’t think Tony Stark would ever choose that weird cicada-head helmet—it’s just not the sort of aesthetic choice someone who sported a Clark Gable moustache would make. But I can see a younger technological wizard, someone who has adopted more of a post-human sense of identity, choosing this. I think the rest of the design could move further away from the human form. I’d like to see the red and yellow on the body reversed. This color scheme makes this suit look like Kid Flash to Tony’s Flash. And, yeah, bonus points for jet burns!

Chris’ Rating: 4
Wow. Iron Man as a Cyberman from Doctor Who.

Dean: No, THIS is Iron Man as a Cyberman from Doctor Who. Other than the circle eyes, I don’t really see the resemblance. (Other than being made of metal and shaped like a dude.)

Vito: 4. I hate to rate anything this low, because I appreciate the talent and effort it takes to make these submissions. But other than being J’onn J’onzz in an Iron Man suit, I don’t see this as Tony’s. It would be cool if Joe went 100% alien and see where he’d go then.

Josh: 4. Similar to the Cap-inspired armor further down, the color scheme is all I get for Iron Man, but it isn’t in “traditional” balance. Add some of those small red lights on the hips and slightly tweak the helmet, and I’d give this a solid 6, for sure. Like Vito, I’d like to see it even more alien, especially in limb proportions. More like J’onn J’onzz in his Martian form. And that Cyberman could be a woman, too; just ask Ianto.

Adi: 4. I quite like this as a design, just not for Iron Man. I think it has a very appealing otherworldly quality and I would love to see this style in a comic book or a movie. But as an Iron Man redesign it misses too many of the elements which make him what he is to be considered successful. I am not saying that liberties shouldn’t be taken, but there are certain elements which make a character what he is and omitting them loses the identity.

Matt: 5. I don’t watch Doctor Who, but what I thought of was C3P0. I like it as a piece of robot design, but there’s nothing about it that says suit to me… it says robot. There’s something hypnotic about the back of the head, like, I want to see more of that, but at no point do I buy that there’s someone in here, anywhere…

Editor’s Note: Honorable Mentions will run later this week! – Dean

26 comments to “Iron Man: Invincible Upgrade Winners!”
  1. Great entries. I feel so ashamed I decided to do more work rather than make a contribution myself. But on another note, great designs ladies and gentleman. A few honorable mentions go to Danial, Jemma and the Joels

    Danial: Im joining the chorus here. Marvel should get you onto a “New Frontier” type project. Ive even made a suggestion at the Marvel boards!
    That being said I love the Howard Hughes influence. It really blows my mind!

    Jemma: I am so in love…with your work! It took me a while to see the Evangelion influence but they are beautiful and as you can see subtle. Nice to see someone else thought of a face plate.

    Joel Carrol: When I first saw this I thought. Wow. 90’s retro. I loved that cartoon! And while, like the others, I don’t really approve of the practically seamless torso, I do see the practicality of the “blue spots” These aren’t meant for articulation people! there meant to assist in aerial maneuverability!

    Joel Priddy: Its ineligable but I love it. You know seeing this suit I think along the lines of an event like Earth X. Was it in your mind when you came up with it? I also dig the floating platforms on Tony’s feet. An interesting take on his ability to fly.

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  3. Vote #1 Dean Trippe’s picture for T-shirt.
    That shit is hot.
    Completely agree with the first/second place decisions. Those are some of the more mind-blowing artworks I’ve seen on this site.

  4. Thanks for the comments on my Iron Man redesign, gang. My objective was to redesign his first armor, but instead of being a hodge-podge scratch-build, just as an earlier technology, advanced for it’s period, but primitive by contemporary standards. The brown was influenced by the various drab early 20th century military color schemes. The exhaust pipe was actually intentionally detatched from the rest of the armor in this instance: I was inspired by heavy commercial trucks with the tall pipe stack behind the cab, just for kicks.
    Thanks for the comments! These designs are AWESOME!
    Third Rail Design Lab

  5. Adam,

    Thanks! I’m glad you liked my design! I don’t remember what Iron Man was like in Earth X, but that doesn’t mean its influence wasn’t somewhere in the back of my head. There’s all kinds of stuff back there.

  6. I really love Chairamonte and Sobreiro’s submissions. Dean Trippe’s is really good, too. Of the two former, though, I’d really like to read a comic featuring them. I’d also love to read a comic featuring McNally’s More heroes should have skates.

  7. Hey, thanks a lot for the comments on my entry, I’m really flattered that I was featured among all those great designs… I love them all, specially the one with the organs and the grand-prize winner, kudos to all!

  8. I’m actually a huge Iron Man fan, but kind of couldn’t think of a good idea to switch his 80’s look up. I already loved Iron Man’s costumes.. I wish I had put more time and thought into mine, but the NY Comic Con was hanging over my head. I might just do a new one for the hell of it down the road. I love all of the designs I’ve seen though, and I’m an official fan of Ming now.

  9. I love that winning entry, and I think you guys far and away made the right decision, but….

    …Can Tony Stark touch his toes without bending over or what?

  10. WOW, Sam Bosama’s design is epic. I get that Silver Surfer and IronMan mini series feel. He looks like a aged and experienced space fairing SciFi character. Who’s just returned home from saving the world in that deep cosmic way only the Surfer’s power could give him access. Very Nice.

    Though, all of them have there own charm other favs beside the winner and second place: Purcus’s dark fighter, Chiaramonte’s Steampunk design give me that Tony vs. Morgan Le Fay feel.

  11. Just to agree with the comment relating to Jemma’s awesome design of an insect-like vibe, the joint structures bear a strong resemblance to those of many insects and crustaceans. They’ve been honed to a very complete protection for the less armored bendy parts, and as such are a good source from a practical perspective, but I’d give it another ten years for bio-inspired mechanical design to gain more mainstream traction (referring to engineering design, not artistic).

    I’ve always thought of Iron Man as remarkably conventional, at least considering how technologically superior the suit is. Some of the details may be interesting and newly applied, but nothing about the suit is truly revolutionary. It is the pinnacle of existing technology, secret or otherwise, and designed with expertise and flair, but it is a reflection of the times.

    Basically, Iron Man is the robo-suit equivalent of a really good concept car. The retro-future designs hit that nail on the head for their respective eras.

  12. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Daniel Krall’s work, and I don’t regularly drink, but is that a red straw in his alcoholic beverage?

  13. Don’t panic. It’s a swizzle stick. Which implies it’s a mixed drink of some sort. My vote is that it’s scotch mixed with scotch. I also think that when there’s nobody around he just pours eight to ten random kinds of hootch into a barrel and stirs it with his arms and legs. Also, it’s high time I said thanks for the votes and comments. You guys are the swellest.

  14. You know, these suits don’t have to have lasted very long. I can fully imagine Stark making the one by Marcus Parkus, going out on a mission in it, and then retiring it upon learning that it makes small children cry. I, personally, just thought up a design with flared arms (to fit large repulsors under the hands), flared legs (larger jets), and one or two spheres elevated above his body and covered by repulsors to act as a TROPHY sysem. He would soon discover that he had become a joke called Iron Disco.

  15. I like Jon McNally’s Iron Man, It’s wierdly resembles life action japanese TV series B-Robo Kabutack* (*try to google it), although it looks kinda silly, but it could really nail it for kids entertainment. well, I dont know if it really works in the US, maybe it goes on Asia.

  16. In response to the Matt’s comment on the final submission (Joe’s), I think it highly amusing that you credit its similarity to C3PO as a drawback in that it makes it too robot-looking and not enough with the person-in-armor idea, when the C3PO design is, in reality, the only modern example we have of a real person inside a metal suit (okay, plastic or whatever)!

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