Top 10 Times Iron Man was Brainwashed

A superhero having a weakness is nothing new. Whether it’s Superman’s vulnerability to kryptonite or Spiderman’s overwhelming sense of responsibility hanging over his head, a weakness that their nemeses can exploit just comes with the territory. For a certain armored Avenger, complications with technology pose a danger. These complications usually involve being controlled, causing him to do unspeakable crimes and each of them results in different amounts of damage to Iron Man’s character, body, and reputation.

"Kill all Humans!"
“Kill all Humans!”

10. Evil A.I. that Tony Made (Iron Man: Rapture #1-4)

What Happened: After a heart attack, Tony creates an artificial intelligence to replace him if he goes off-line permanently. Wouldn’t you know it, the A.I. turns out become evil and declares “Death to all humans!” It is only through the efforts of War Machine, Pepper Potts, and Tony wrestling for control that the Virus is destroyed. Only problem is that Tony has to sacrifice himself to destroy it permanently. That’s right. Tony is dead after the first entry.

Damage: Low believe it or not. The entire Iron Man: Rapture story line was just a self-contained side story that has no connection to the Marvel universe. So, basically a “What-If” story with a terrible ending.

"Tis but a flesh wound."
“Tis but a flesh wound.”

9. Ultimatum (Ultimatum #5)

What Happened: Finally confronting Magneto, who was responsible for flooding the earth and killing millions, the Ulimates and the Ultimate X-men face down Magneto. Hoping to turn the odds in his favor, Magneto takes control of Cyclops’ visor and Iron Man’s armor and turn both on Wolverine, extensively damaging him. Before Wolverine has time for the healing factor to allow him to recover, Magneto uses the opportunity to rip the adamantium from his bones. This along with Magneto’s base exploding results in the absolute death of Ultimate Wolverine.

Damage: Low. Compared to all the other countless deaths that take place in the five issue mini-series, Ultimate Wolverine death is a drop in the bucket.

That space armor looked so cool.
That space armor looked so cool.

8. Bad Blood (Iron Man: Bad Blood #1-4)

What happened: Tony starts to act weird. By weird, I mean he suggests making disposable armor available for consumer use and firing Happy Hogan. Turned out that Justin Hammer was controlling him through nanomachines in his blood. All for him to make really bad business decisions.

Damage: Low. The entire story is wrapped up in the course of the mini-series. Tony rehires Happy Hogan and everyone forgives him for being a jerk. The real downside to the entire thing is that the incredible impressive space armor that Iron Man uses has yet to be used again.

Hulk Buster. Online!
Hulk Buster. Online!

7. Executive Program (The Invincible Iron Man #7-12)

What Happened: In the first story line after Tony achieves the cybernetic system the Extremis, he finds a major side effect. The side effect: a villain can now hack into his cyborg brain and use him as an assassin to kill a few government officials. The perpetrator behind this atrocity: Yinsen’s (the man who helped Tony develop the armor) son. Sadly the kid gets a bullet to the brain, ending any further brain hijacking.

Damage: Medium. Iron Man is immediately absolved of all his crimes because of the fact he was under mind control and basically everything goes back to normal. The story line does set up Tony’s reason for choosing the pro-registration side in Civil War.

Stay with me bro!
“Stay with me bro!”

6. Armor Wars II (Iron Man #258-266)

What Happened: Kearson DeWitt, another evil industrialist (just call him “Not” Justin Hammer) hacks the chip in Iron Man’s nervous system, allowing him to take control of him. This leads to him getting a beatdown from Living Laser and results in him being saved by B list Avenger Wonder Man. After regaining control of his body, he has a showdown with DeWitt who meets his end when a building falls on him.

Damage: Medium. The hacking of Iron Man’s nervous system led to another health related decline. It would take him more than 2 years of issues dealing with the problem which eventually was only solved by him faking his death to be able to repair the extensive damage.

"Alas poor Iron Man. I knew him well."
“Alas poor Iron Man. I knew him well.”

5. The Armor is alive (Iron Man Vol. 3: #26-30)

What Happened: After a battle with Whiplash where Iron Man gets struck by a bolt of lightning, Tony finds that his armor has a mind of its own, literally. After his armor becomes sentient, he tries to work with the possessed armor but soon finds that relationship is not going to work out. Especially when on the first time out the armor takes control and kills Whiplash. Tony tries to fight the sentient armor in one of his old suits but instead gets stranded on an island and has to fight with very barbaric weaponry. Kind of like Schwarzenegger at the end of “Predator.”

Damage: Medium: A major villain in Iron Man’s past bites the dust and Tony walks away from it with a new robotic heart. Maybe if Iron Man was charged with the death of Whiplash the saga may have had more of an epic point. Instead Tony gets away and no one accuses him of murder. Not in this story line, at least.

Body swapping never ends well for either party.
Body swapping never ends well for either party.

4. Cyberspace Hijacking (Iron Man #307-309)

What Happened: Tony explores cyberspace but discovers a cyber being called Vor/Tex. As he is defeated by Vor/Tex, the mysterious being downloads himself into Tony’s body. Hilarity ensues.

Damage: Medium. Vor/Tex in Tony’s body falls off the wagon and goes on a drunken rampage that causes his Tony’s girlfriend to break with him. By the time Tony gets back in his body, he realizes the damage and snaps at Rhodey when he calls for help. The only good thing to come out of this is that Rhodey and Tony eventually heal the rift that had been keeping them apart for more than two years.

Tony! We told you not to start international incidents!
“Tony! We told you not to start international incidents!”

3. Drunk on Chaos Magic (Avengers #500)

What Happened: While under the influence of the Scarlet Witch’s Chaos Magic (which was revealed to be the source of the trouble behind the entire Avengers: Disassembled story line) Iron Man becomes infuriated at the sight of the Latverian Representative in the audience at the United Nations. Calling the man “a rat fink” and “a piece of garbage,” Tony raises his hand and gets ready to blast the representative. Even with T’challa (The black panther) stepping forward Tony barely stops from firing. Though a shot isn’t fired the damage has already been done.

Damage: Medium to High. Tony’s actions lead to him being dismissed as the Secretary of Defense (a title he had held for more than half a year) and wasn’t even the worst part of his Avengers: Disassembled tie-in (his long time girlfriend Rumiko Fujiwara would be killed in his own issues). Considering the other results of the Avengers Disassembled story line (Spiderman received the organic webshooters and the Invisible Woman and Human Torch traded powers) Tony got off easy. Let’s be honest. Rumiko, who was a party girl was never good for Tony, a recovering alcoholic. In a later entry, you’ll see why it’s best that Iron Man just not go to the U.N. at all.

"He's fine! I'm sure he's...nope he's dead."
“He’s fine! I’m sure he’s…nope he’s dead.”

2. Demon in a bottle (Iron Man #120-128)

What Happened: Justin Hammer finds a way to remotely take control of the Iron Man armor. Activating Iron Man’s repulsor blasts results in him murdering an ambassador at the footsteps of the United Nations. This is obviously does not put him on anyone’s “Favorite Hero of all time” list and even after tracking down Justin Hammer and defeating him the damage has been done. The poor publicity and public ridicule that Tony faced would cause him to seek comfort in a bottle.

Damage: High. The Demon in a bottle story line would address for the first time that Tony had a problem when it came to alcohol. He would go so far off the deep end with his behavior in this story line that it would actually cause Jarvis the Butler to turn in his resignation (he didn’t even do that when he received a beating from the Masters of Evil). After the hijackings, Tony’s frequent battle would be against the temptation of the bottle. Some of the worst moments in his history come when he loses that fight.

Tony's scream is the scream of frustration that all the fans felt after reading this monstrosity.
Tony’s scream is the scream of frustration that all the fans felt after reading this monstrosity.

1. The Crossing (Avengers #390-395, War Machine #20-23, Iron Man #320-325, Force Works #16-20)

What Happened: In a plot that makes absolutely no sense, Iron Man is revealed to be under Kang’s control since day one. As the Avengers work to fight against both Kang and the now evil Iron Man, they decide the best course of action is to rip a teenage Tony Start from the past to fight against his evil future self. The story line ends with the older Tony Stark sacrificing himself to save everyone. Sadly, the harm has already been done.

Damage: EXTENSIVE! This story line is the Iron Man equivalent of the Spiderman Clone saga. Iron Man is dragged through the mud in every way possible. The teenage Tony takes over as Iron Man but only for a few months before they have to reset everything with Onslaught and the Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return stories. To this day, The Crossing is the story line that the majority of Iron Man fans prefer to forget ever happened.

Though people are quick to make jokes about Tony’s Alcoholism being his greatest weakness, after reading this list more fans should be worried about using him like a windup toy for their nefarious purposes. Luckily Tony tries his best to learn from each of these incidents so the same method can’t be used twice. Still, enemies are always looking for a way to bend the Iron Man to their will.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. YonNayolor

    Iron Man is great.

  2. Iron Man has been the worst comic out of Marvel’s Big 9 (Avengers, X-Men, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and Spider-Man).

    • maargart

      I totally disagree that Thor is a better comic than Iron Man, over both their respective main title runs. I would literally fistfight you over that.

  3. This article makes me kind of miss buying superhero comics every wednesday!

  4. scole

    I’m such a HUGE fan of tony stark/iron man, I consider them to be the same person. sometimes the person in the suit isn’t the same person outside of the suit, but that’s another story. I just love tony stark’s banter and his personality and how great he is as a character. he’s on my top three. I don’t own any singular iron man comics, but I own a bunch of avengers and spin-offs! I love this though, marvel characters always being brainwashed haha

  5. Enjoyed reading this. What’s always interested me about Tony Stark is that he makes mistakes, he’s human, and he’s constantly trying to account for his mistakes and work to be better. I think it’s pretty unfortunate that such a great hero is used so consistently for nefarious purposes like you stated.

  6. Goodson

    Great post. Iron man is my favorite superhero character. I consider myself privileged to have picked up comics during that late 90’s period after Heroes Return and Busiek was killing it on Iron Man and he and Perez were sewing the seeds for what would become the Avengers Juggernaut. He and Perez don’t get the credit they deserve, their run was amazing.

  7. Provost

    It really is a shame that there are not even close to 11 great Iron Man stories.

  8. Fantastic article!

  9. I guess I like Iron Man better than some other superheroes mostly because out of all the superhero origin premises, his seems the most reasonable and easy to believe. No cosmic rays, magic powers, psychic powers, freak accidents in chemistry labs or unbelievable mutations.

  10. SomeOtherAmazon

    Great post! It’s interesting how writers sometimes stick to a certain thing happening over and over to a certain character. Iron Man gets brainwashed, Batman experiences personal loss, and tough guy Wolverine is forever getting mixed up with helping innocent kids.

  11. I want to start by saying that I haven’t read The Crossing arc, but I think that the Demon in a Bottle arc is one of the best of Tony out there. It’s tough to not see it on the top of this list *because* it’s one of the more interesting arcs… and if The Crossing is as bad as you make it sound, I wonder if it should be at number one. Overall, I feel like this is a great summary!

  12. Stockto

    As someone who has never read an Iron Man comic in his entire life (I enjoyed the cartoon as a kid, though that may be another damning reveal I should have kept to myself), I now have a few reads to add to my list.

  13. Arthur Padgett

    Some aspects of Iron Man could be real for all of us at some point.

  14. Iron Man was such a great movie. Stark had to suffer to earn his suit through courage and intelligence in the Afghan cave. It was great seeing all the versions develop, and the original one is still my favourite.

    Iron Man 2 and 3 on the other hand are some the worst movies ever.

  15. Allie Anton

    Fascinating how many times a ruthless baddie has been able to take over Iron Man’s armor. One would think he would have developed someone sort of contingency plan or fail safe or something by this point.
    (Good piece, by the way: highly entertaining)

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