Best Iron Man Covers

May 9, 2010  |  All Covers, Marvel

Iron Man is quite the popular fellow these days, at least at the movies. With this in mind I written our inaugural Best Comic Covers list featuring Ol’ Shellhead. These Iron Man covers all have something special. It may be a dynamic design, a creative layout, stunning art, history-changing news or a cover may have been just too cool to leave off of this list, in my humble opinion. With hundreds and hundreds to choose from, it was difficult to narrow this list to your typical ‘top 10 comic covers’ list so it expanded quite easily to the 20 Best Iron Man covers. This increase allowed me to look outside Iron Man’s personal comic(s) and inspect his appearances elsewhere such as Tales of Suspense, Captain America and limited series runs.



I gave my thoughts why each Iron Man cover was chosen by this committee of one and I encourage your to make your own (polite) thoughts known in the comments section below.

And if you wish to include images your own favorite Iron Man covers, we have added this functionality. Under the comment box you will see this text, “You can add images to your comment by clicking here.” Click the link and you can enter the web address of the image to display it.

And now, in no real particular order, here are my 20 Best Iron Man Covers.

Iron Man #131

iron-man-131-Face-to-face-Hulk

Okay, I must confess. I owned this issue and loved it. I had aspirations of being a comic artist and I drew this cover a few times. What drama? The Hulk coming in for the killing blow? Iron Man begging for mercy? Could it really be, I must know! The shadows are dynamic, the use of blacks are perfect and heighten the intense mood of the cover even more. This is one of my favorite covers of all time from any comic. Bob Layton as the artist was on a roll during these issues. Iron Man 131 is the start of the 3-part story in which Iron Man actually knocks the Hulk out. See the inside pages: Iron Man KOs Hulk.

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 3 #24

iron-man-vol-3-27

While this wasn’t the first issue to hint at Tony’s possible abuse of alcohol it was certainly done with a keen an eye to design and incredible use of white space. I’m a sucker for comic covers that use the masthead to interact with the main character. The alcohol trail from bottle to a suffering Iron Man is well done, and blocking his own masthead while struggling is a great design choice. Nice work by cover artist Joe Quesada.

Iron Man #133

iron-man-133-Hulk

Any time the Hulk is unconscious on the cover you have to be a little curious. What can knock out the Hulk? After all, he is the Hulk. And take a look at that smoking chest plate on Iron Man – not good. Throw in the Astonishing Ant-Man, who really isn’t than astonishing, but still an interesting guest star, and you have a crowd pleasing cover. Oh, Iron Man lives, just in case you were worried.

Iron Man #128

iron-man-128-demon-in-a-bottle

“Demon in a Bottle” tackles the issue of Tony Stark’s alcoholism and was one of the first comics to truly deal with the problems of substance abuse. We expect our heroes to be heroic, especially during the 80s, and when they are shown in their weakest moment we take notice. That made this cover one of the most recognized Iron Man covers ever. I especially love the fact that he has to look at himself in the mirror AND he has to face the helmet of Iron Man. Which is worse? Don’t you think the helmet looks a little worried?

Iron Man #118

iron-man-118-falling

When I first saw this cover my question was, “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good flying Shield Headquarters – without your armor already on?” And that was enough to pick up the issue and thumb through it. We have all had the dream of falling, so we can understand this waking nightmare and feel the terror Tony is experiencing. A great cover to get caught up in and I thought it was cool that everything fit so neatly in his briefcase. Kind of like Captain America’s shield under his clothing. Unrealistic storage capacity, but still cool.

Tales of Suspense #39

Tales-of-Suspense-39

This is where it all started with a simple question on the cover of Tales of Suspense 39, “Who? or What, is the newest, most breath-taking, most sensational super-hero of all…?” Iron Man, that’s who.

While in captivity the dying Tony meets famed Chinese Dr. Ho Yinsen, and the two begin working on an iron suit that will not only extend Tony’s life, but also perform amazing feats of power. Thus, Tony is reborn as the Iron Man, the near-invincible hero with one key weakness — his failing heart. – ComicVine.com

Of course the Tin Man did it first, but Iron Man did with explosive style. Forget the axe and add the Repulsor Rays! While the cover layout isn’t the most imaginative, three square boxes in an inset, this cover does introduce one of Marvel Comic’s most popular super-heroes. Nice touch on the rivets in the rendition of the word, Iron Man.

Iron Man #254

iron-man-254-ho-ho-Homocide

Not much needs to be said here. Santa Claus attacks Iron Man. WTF! The fact that the gun actually is doing some damage is hilarious. But not as funny as the wonderfully campy title, “HO-HO-Homocide!” This cover screams, “Pick me up!” I guess Iron Man was on the naughty list that year. I’m guessing he got coal in his iron stocking after Civil War too.

Iron Man #144

iron-man-144-Trial-Tragedy

Mark Eblom says it better than I can. You can read his entire remarks on this cover here.

Here are a few snippets: Iron-Man’s eye-catching, iconic superhero pose.  Nobody in real life ever stands with their legs spread far apart with arms bent at 90º angles and clenched fists….but that’s why I love old-school comics so much…it was the sight of his original gray armor that closed the deal.  For whatever reason, I’m just crazy about that clunky old suit and every time it would show up on an issue’s cover, I’d buy it… As much as I love origin stories , the prospect of learning “never before revealed” origin details involuntarily sends me reaching for my wallet…Outer space, machine guns, explosions and a helicopter.  Like flame to a moth for a teenage boy.

Tales of Suspense #85

Tales-of-Suspense 85 Jaws-Death

When looking at Tales of Suspense, I always thought the masthead was too big and tried to cram too much into the oddly shaped colored box. But that is what makes this cover so amazing. It works in spite of that terrible masthead with too many words and too many colors and too many type styles. The wonderful sense or perspective is something an art professor would love and the way the cover jumps at you is delightful. You barely notice that Tony is without his helmet and takes a Mandarin ring blast right square in the puss. Now that is going to leave a mark. A Gene Colan & Jack Kirby classic cover. Read more about this classic issue.

Iron Man #54

Gil Kane is one of my favorite artists and the world of comics lost an innovator when he died. Lucky for us we have hundreds of wonderful comics to admire his exceptional art and style. This cover yells, “Action!” and backs it up inside. A Clash of Titans may be overused but what else can you say when two of Marvels strongest super-heroes throw down.

Namor surging up from the depths to deliver a powerful blow, cable-like muscles hammer at Iron Man…whew, great cover! Yes, I realize this isn’t Iron Man’s finest moment, but the cover rocks!

Iron Man #54 gives us Kane’s view of a fight with the Sub-Mariner.  Namor always works best on a cover when he’s launching out of the water to attack his opponent. – GiantSizeMarvel.com

Avengers: The Origin #2

You have to laugh when you see this cover. I know, I know, seeing Iron Man get his block knocked off isn’t exactly a shining moment for the Golden Avenger, but it’s a cover that will make you look twice. I mean, look at it! Hulk is totally wrecking that suit. Iron Man’s chest plate is smoking, his armor on his arm has been knocked off and his helmet is literally being smashed to the point that Tony’s head won’t fit in it. That is some world-class punishment the Hulk is dealing out. My favorite part? The almost hidden grimace of pain you can see under the helmet. Tony is not having a good day.

Civil War: Casualties of War

After a few covers of Iron Man getting his head handed to him, it’s nice to see Iron Man dealing out the punishment…until you see who is feeling the pain – long time friend, Captain America. Civil War was a huge event for Marvel, maybe the biggest cross-over of all time and Iron Man was at the center of it. This cover conveys everything you need to know. Friend vs. friend with no quarter asked or given (so cliche, but I love it). You want to see Tony’s face so bad. Is he feeling guilty, resolute, justified, arrogant, horrified or what?]

Iron Man #126

This cover has two things going for it. Number 1: This is an homage to the Tales of Suspense #39 comic where Iron Man first appears (see above). Number 2: This was THE classic Iron Man pose for years and for some of us, it remains so. As with so many Iron Man covers at the time, Layton delivers an iconic cover that stands the test of time. You gotta love all those glints, he sure is shiny.

iron-man-126-the-hammer

Iron Man #150

Okay, Marvel has more than one man in a metal suit and while Iron Man is the more famous, I would say Doctor Doom is the more dangerous and more powerful. He did beat the Beyonder, you know. In any case, this cover was a must-buy for me. Subtly written at the bottom, they are also fighting in King Arthur’s realm, a nice touch for two knights in armor. The two warriors practically come off the page as Doom’s left fist pushes out of the cover, right into our world. This cover makes me wonder why these two didn’t have more battles, seems like a match made in Marvel heaven.

Iron Man #421

I love the masthead which focuses on the circuitry of the armor rather than the old riveted metal plates from the 80s. But even more, you can really appreciate the extra dimension that digital coloring can give any cover. The soft shadows, the rich colors, the glowing bluish-white power can all be seen and felt so intensely. In fact, the cover is so beautiful, you barely notice that the left arm is a bit too small, even when considering the use of perspective. ;-)

Iron Man #232

Sometimes the artist and not the character is the sole reason for the great cover. This is one such time. Barry Windsor Smith’s style is easy to spot and easy to love. Look at the size of armor plates for those shoulders. That is fantastic! Iron Man’s legs are practically dissolving into the page and the scene is reminiscent of a wild west lynching. You want to know how Iron Man comes to this sad state? Where is his helmet? Who strung him up? The masthead is placed behind the character, using it to add depth. Nice. Someone else liked the original art when it sold for $12,000.

Iron Man #303

iron-man-303

Iron Man hefts his own masthead logo. I like it when this happens on occasion. Sometimes, I feel the artist may have been lazy or the cover artist didn’t know the story, but as long as it isn’t a regular occurrence, I appreciate the gimmick. This is/was my least favorite Iron Man masthead so that makes this less enjoyable, but the idea is still novel in this instance.

Tales of Suspense #58

Possibly the first battle with Captain America, at least on a cover. Who knew this would foreshadow the climatic battle that would be Civil War. With barely more than half the cover to work with, the art does a sound job getting all the necessary elements, plus a great Kirby background you might miss if you blink. Good to know Cap’s shield can absorb any impact, he’s going to need it. This cover might not have made this list without the  story from Civil War, but history repeating itself seems to be news.

Captain America Annual #9

What again? You know, maybe Iron Man and Captain America fighting on different sides during Civil Ware shouldn’t have surprised anyone. They sure seem to have had their differences in the past. Heck, Iron Man visits Cap’s own book to give him a taste of his iron fists. Again, not a classic cover, but more meaningful with Civil War consequences. And this looks a bit more brutal with Captain America’s head taken the blast. Why all the anger, Tony?

Iron Man: Extremis

Has Iron Man ever looked better? The digital coloring technique was tailor-made for Iron Man. I don’t think any other character has been so beautifully rendered with caring brushes of Photoshop. Iron Man truly soars when done correctly digitally. This pose has him coming at you and the glow in his palm foreshadows a trademark repulsor ray getting ready to make your acquaintance.

 

7 Comments


  1. This may not be one of the best Iron Man covers, but I sure thought it was amusing. All that high-tech armor and he is being beaten by some robot that looks like a Iron Man 1.0 suit of armor.

    2-2.jpg

  2. This movie will be amazing! I collected Iron Man comic books when I was a child so the movies bring back nice memories.

  3. Another great Sub-mariner and Iron Man cover. This is their own team-up comic. Once in a Lifetime Issue, don’t you know.

    imsm1.jpg

  4. Fun fact: Adi Granov works in pencils and watercolor and then just does a color overlay in Photoshop and uses blending modes to retain the pencil values. At least, that’s how he used to do it. I’m pretty sure the method he uses now is similar in nature at least.

    For the # 1 cover, I’m pretty sure all those sweet tones were actually done in pencil. Yeah, he’s that good.

  5. I don’t know much about comics, but I do love when I get to check out old comic covers like above. Very cool.

  6. For some reason, I like this cover:
    IMVEGAS001.jpg

  7. Ummm…yeah, that cover works too.

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