Marvel’s Iron Man is known for his high-powered suits and his larger-than-life ego, but in one instance, the latter actually influenced the former to such a degree that the Armored Avenger began attacking his allies. Tony Stark’s self-image has always proved problematic, especially when he is in the midst of a major discovery (or a major struggle with his own alcohol abuse issues). But one of his most unique armors tapped into Stark’s ego in a very real way – and made him feel as if he were an absolute perfect being.
Stark is constantly battling his own inner demons, even if he doesn’t appear to be. The infamous Demon in a Bottle story arc saw Tony confront his alcohol addiction head-on and nearly lose everything before putting the bottle away for good. The latest Iron Man run by Christopher Cantwell sees Tony Stark sell a major stake in his company, fight a supervillain that leads him stranded on a remote planet, suffer a broken neck that requires him to wear his helmet (and manage the pain through morphine to which he inevitably becomes addicted), and eventually go through rehab all over agian.
Stark’s suits, rather than help him, actually exacerbate the problem. In Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects #5, written by Greg Pak with art by Renato Ariem, an alien cybernetic serum has infected Storm, Wolverine, Iron Man and the other heroes, making them feel superior. According to Storm, “It made us feel…perfect. You have no idea.” The serum eventually infects Iron Man, turning his suit a sickly green color – and manipulates him into blasting Wolverine across a clearing. Logan’s healing factor allows him to survive, but the blast would most likely have killed anyone else.
Storm, working in conjunction with a remote Reed Richards, manages to short-circuit Iron Man’s systems, bringing him back to normal. The alien virus, aside from forcing allies to attack one another, makes the infected believe they are perfect and beyond mistakes – but deep down, Iron Man knows this is a lie. He is a deeply flawed character, perhaps one of the most flawed superheroes in the Marvel Universe – and it is perhaps this realization that allowed him to fend off the virus in the first place (albeit with help from Storm and Mr. Fantastic).
Iron Man knows that he has hurt many people – even if his own ego will never permit him to openly acknowledge it – and it is this self-awareness that allows the character to grow and change. While characters like Spider-Man commit the same mistakes again and again, Iron Man does not; he refuses drinks ever since Demon in a Bottle, and is even seen on his private yacht in 2022’s Iron Cat #2 with Black Cat allowing drinks to be served, but foregoing taking one for himself. This is why the virus couldn’t corrupt Iron Man fully: despite his ego working against him, his subconscious fights against it.
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