Whether or not we ever get to see Iron Man 4 (it’s unlikely), one thing is pretty certain. Audiences love Tony Stark, and if Marvel has its way, fans will thrill to the cinematic exploits of the Armored Avenger for a long time to come, whether it’s serving as a mentor for a young hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming, or leading the charge in Avengers: Infinity War, we can’t get enough of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.
We’ve already seen drastically different versions of Iron Man villains like Whiplash and the Mandarin on the screen, so how might Marvel studios handle future adversaries?
We’ve got some fun ideas…
Real Name: Bram Velsing (wait, really?)
The Marvel brain trust might have a hard time reimagining this guy. Velsing was a scientist in the employ of Dr. Doom who was disgusted by his master. Learning of Velsing’s treachery, Doom fused a metallic helmet to Velsing’s head and exiled him from Latveria. Velsing was nursed back to life by Victoria Frankenstein (!) and after finding a cache of high tech medival weapons became the Dreadknight…until he was defeated by Iron Man and Frankenstein’s monster.
Umm, yeah, that might go over like a lead balloon on screen. Even the most talented filmmaker might have a hard time amalgamating Frankenstein into Stark’s world. Maybe the cinematic Dreadknight can be a Renfairer gone wrong?
Well, the character looks pretty awesome, and I’m sure Downey would find lots of comedic potential in the words “rocket lance.”
Real Name: Gary Gilbert
This early Iron Man badass has pretty cool looking armor…and flamethrowers! Flamethrowers always work on the big screen.
He also has a connection to Justin Hammer, a baddie that is ripe for a big screen reappearance. Early Marvel writers didn’t get loads of backstory into Firebrand’s few brief appearances, but it was revealed that Firebrand murdered his own father. Perhaps Marvel can play off Stark’s own turbulent relationship with his father as he must combat a villain who gleefully committed patricide?
First appearance: Iron Man #114 (1978)
Speaking of Tony’s father. This little known robotic menace would actually be perfect for film exploration. In the waning days of World War II, a team of scientists led by Howard Stark created Arsenal to aid the allies. At war’s end, Arsenal was packed away while the Avengers were taking on the Unicorn (more on him later). Arsenal took on the Avengers and teamed with another villain named Mistress who was deluded into believing that the Allies lost the war.
Arsenal would provide a connection between Tony Stark and his past, a mine field of anxiety for the character. Tony proving his worth against his father’s inventiveness would be an awesome story to center a movie around.
20. The Blood Brothers
First appearance: Iron Man #55
The Blood Brothers might be forgotten footnotes if not for one thing…they appeared in the same comic that first introduced Thanos. Unless you’ve been living in the Negative Zone, you know that Thanos will be prominently featured in Marvel films for years to come. Why not connect Iron Man with Thanos through the Blood Brothers, just like the comics once did?
The Brothers are certainly impressive visually, and they have pretty unique powers. They have super-human strength as long as they stand next to each other. And they drink blood. With Marvel’s alien worlds established in Guardians of the Galaxy, introducing an alien menace might be a unique place for Stark’s next adventure to go.
19. Living Laser
Real Name: Arthur Parks
The Living Laser combines a unique power, a classic look, and a borderline sociopath to create a deadly threat for Stark and company. In the comic, Parks was a scientist who was transformed into living energy and fought the Avengers. He soon became obsessed with the Wasp which adds a level of ick to the already dangerous villain. The Laser can create holograms as well which would bring a layer of subterfuge to any big screen battle.
18. Wong Chu
First Appearance: tales of Suspense #39 (1963)
The first foe Iron Man ever faced, Wong Chu was the villain who kidnapped Stark and placed him in the cave. Of course, in the films it was the members of the Ten Rings that did this, but perhaps Wong Chu can be introduced in another way, or he can be a path to the “real” Mandarin.
And while it was implied who the true leader of the Ten Rings was in Iron Man 3, it is never implicitly stated. Could Wong Chu have been the man responsible for Stark’s greatest foes all along? Being Iron Man’s first comic baddie has to carry some weight, right?
17. The Mauler
Real name: Aaron Soames, Turk Barrett, and Brendan Doyle
It would be pretty cool to see another Frank Miller creation on the big screen, huh? Three men have worn the Mauler armor. Soames was an elderly worker deprived of his pension through a computer error and donned the armor for vengeance. Imagine a villain whose life was ruined by corporate greed going after Stark, the symbol of corporate success? You can even have Soames’ armor stolen by someone, and have Stark deal with multiple Maulers (what a cool band name) with different motivations.
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #76 (1966)
What’s cooler than a giant robot? What would be cooler than Downey’s Iron Man fighting a giant robot? Ultimo was the creation of the Mandarin, and while it would be hard to imagine that audiences would buy Ultimo as Aldrich Killain’s side project, there is a way to use Ultimo in a future film.
Stark has fought other armored foes, but he has never gone against something so mind numbingly huge. Ultimo can be seen as technology gone wrong, and what a visual this clash would make!
15. The Unicorn
Real Name: Milos Masaryk
This villain makes a denim jacket that much cooler. Really, despite his, ahem, oh so tough code name, The Unicorn (stop laughing) has posed a serious threat to Iron Man in the past.
The Unicorn’s power lies in his super helmet, the conical shaped tip sending out deadly blast of energy. Ok, fine, he sucks…but there is something about his past as a Russian defector that makes him a pretty unique threat. Oh, wait they did that with Ivan Vanko? C’mon, he’s a dude in a green helmet named the Unicorn; Kevin Feige has to have something for him.
Hello? Is this thing on?
Real Name: David Cannon
Starting his career as the Human Top (don’t hold it against him), David Cannon was first an enemy of Giant–Man. Whirlwind’s power to spin at unbelievable speed and move super quick was soon made that much more menacing by attaching saw blades to his wrists. This would be a pretty badass visual in the film and Whirlwind’s motivations make him super creepy.
Whirlwind was once a pretty generic villain, but soon, like the Living Laser, he became obsessed with Janet Van Dyne aka the Wasp. He even served as her chauffeur for a time before revealing his identity and obsession. Whirlwind soon ran afoul of Iron Man and became one of Stark’s persistent adversaries. In a film, just change Wasp to Potts, use the same chauffeur plot twist and dangerous stalkerish tendencies and you have instant conflict.
First appearance: Iron Man #1 (2005)
In the legendary “Extremis” story arc, it was Mallen, not Killian, who was enhanced by the Extremis process and went up against Stark. Mallen is a heartless white supremacist anarchist who served as a warning about what can happen if someone truly horrible got his hands on advanced technology.
Mallen was the anti-Stark, a man using future tech to drag the world back to a place of fear and hatred. Imagine a film where a man like Mallen used the now familiar Extremis tech to become Iron Man’s most hate filled cinematic foe. Characters like Mallen seem more at home in a Christopher Nolan flick, but Marvel can really amp up the stakes and the social relevancy by using such an ugly antagonist.
12. The Controller
Real Name: Basil Sandhurst
Firstly, villains named Basil? Always awesome.
The Controller might look like a slightly archaic Silver Age baddie, but a deep look into the character reveals some untapped potential. Ol’ Basil was a control freak; his OCD need to control drove him into fits of rage. His brother tries to calm him one day and triggers a lab explosion. Guilt ridden, Basil’s brother builds him an exo-skeleton which grants him super-strength.
The Controller also used slave discs to control others, an extension of his need to control people and reality. Basil is clearly obsessive compulsive borderline personality case, which would make him a pretty unique modern villain. Stark, who suffers from anxiety and acute narcissism, can relate to mental illness, which would make the Controller a pretty effective foil for Stark.
11. The Crimson Dynamo
Real Name: Anton Vanko
Well who woulda thunk it? Vanko, who became Whiplash in the second film, was originally the Crimson Dynamo? So this villain was kinda already done, but the name and the look of the character is way too cool to pass up.
Yes, the “red menace” stuff is passé, but how about a relative of Vanko seeking vengeance on Stark and becoming the Crimson Dynamo? Or just flip flop identities and have Mark Scarlotti aka the comic book Whiplash become the movie Crimson Dynamo. Why not? If not Vanko, then how about one of the other three thousand different characters that became the Dynamo over the years?
10. The Blizzard
Real Name: Gregor Shapanka
Think of the potential partnership with Dairy Queen. Originally known as Jack Frost, this villain has been around since Stark’s early days. It would be cool to see an ice villain in a movie not played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Blizzard would be another high tech villain to give Stark the cold shoulder. Sigh, now I’m doing it. Moving on…
9. The Ghost
First Appearance: Iron Man #219 (Jun 1987)
Warren Ellis brought us the modern Tony Stark that eventually found his way to the movies. Using Ellis’ version of the Ghost as seen in Thunderbolts turns this once c-lister into a major threat. His creepy appearance and corporate origins would make him a perfect foe for Stark.
The Ghost would be a very different type of villain after the beat sticks that were Iron Monger, Vanko, and Killian. His stealthy approach to deviltry and his stunningly visual power set would make the Ghost a tremendous cinematic villain. Imagine a villain that can literally be anywhere and anytime, a ghost in the machine to go one on one with the master of machines!
8. Count Nefaria
Real Name: Luchino Nefaria
The super powered crime lord. The first villain the new X-Men faced. The badass Mafioso would be a very different challenge for Tony Stark. Instead of fighting a technological villain, Stark can face a murdered driven by power and greed. Plus, he has facial hair to match Stark’s signature goatee.
His daughter, Whitney Frost, was the big baddie on Agent Carter Season 2, so they might have to play with the chronology a little bit, but who cares?
7. The Melter
Real Name: Bruno Horgan
We saw one villain with melting powers in Iron Man 3, but it is a great visual, so why not again? Horgan was driven to evil when he was ruined by using faulty materials in his manufacturing. A careless industrialist seems to fit in with a foe Stark would despise.
6. Titanium Man
Real Name: I: Boris Bulski II: Kondrati Topolov aka the Gremlin
I would go with the Gremlin version of the character. See, you take the awesome looking Titanium Man armor, with its contrasting green hue to Stark’s red and gold, you back up a Brinks truck to Peter Dinklage’s house, and you have yourself a movie. Yes, Tyrion Lannister vs. another man named Stark. It’s just a license to print money.
This has officially been the first time Titanium Man has been mentioned without mentioning the Wings song “Magneto & Titanium Man” written by Paul Mcartney and Wings! What? DAMMIT!
First appearance: Iron Man (volume 3) #53 (2002)
How would they pull this off? Oh, the nerd rage. Temugin is a pretty cool character in his own right. How about there was a Mandarin in the Marvel Movie Universe, and Killian and Stark have now disgraced that name. Enter Temugin to avenge his father’s name.
4. The Scarecrow
Real name: Ebenezer Laughton
How about a horror themed villain for Tony Stark? How would a serial killing contortionist fit into Stark’s high tech world? It might be stepping on DC’s toes, but Iron Man’s Scarecrow has been menacing the Marvel Universe for decades and he would provide a unique test for Stark, forcing the Avenger to face real evil not motivated by greed or power…just chaos.
3. Fin Fang Foom
First Appearance: Strange Tales #89 (1961)
He’s a freakin’ dragon. No one, and I mean no one will keep their ticket money in their wallet with the prospects of Iron Man vs. a dragon. Thor has opened the Marvel Universe to myths and monsters, so why not one of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s earliest creations?
Forget Smaug, this is the dragon filmgoers want.
Real Name: George Tarleton
The Mechanical Organism Designed Only for Killing needs to appear somewhere in the Marvel Movie Universe. A.I.M. has already been established, and without Killian, they need a leader. Why not ol’ big head?
M.O.D.O.K. is total Marvel, equal parts scary and fun. And oh, the material that Downey can work with here. Pure comedy gold…is the world ready for a giant evil head?
1. The Mandarin
First appearance: Tales of Suspense #50 (1964)
We never really got him, did we? Imagine Loki coming down from Asgard, finding Ben Kingsley’s half-in-the-bag actor, and magically charging his rings while mind altering Kingsley into believing he IS the Mandarin. It could work, and fans will finally get the Mandarin/Stark duel they want. And more Loki. Fans always want more Loki.
This article first appeared in 2013. It has been lightly updated.