This page is copyright 2006, 2009 by Tim Rassbach.

Iron Man and all associated characters are the property of Marvel Comics.

Red and Gold Renaissance

Iron Man is dead.  Long live Iron Man!

Although relieved and ready to move on after the death of Iron Man—and his Silver Centurion Armor—at the hands of Firepower, Tony Stark was forced by his enemies to build another state-of-the-art armor and—ultimately—to remain Iron Man in #231. Enter the Oversize Red and Gold Armor, Model XIV, Mark I (sometimes called the Bulky Red and Gold or the Coffee Can Armor).

Before the loss of his Silver Centurion Armor, Tony had already been toying with a new, slimmer armor, but, still, when the time came, he spent weeks at his drafting table designing on an Auto-cad system, augmenting his proven components with all-new ones. The result: an all-new, stunning suit of armor that’s at once ultra-modern and traditional.

Returning to the traditional red and gold color scheme and round lines, and chock full of the kind of cutting-edge technology only Tony Stark could build, Model XIV was big, bulky, and ready to rumble. An oversized Iron Man ready for any challenge. From the larger helmet and mask to the powerful horse collar (for neck protection) and broad shoulders down to the large coffee can jet boots, it was a striking replacement to the Silver Centurion suit.

Except of a few specific parts, the armor is made of layered flex-metal, which can condense itself like a 3-D accordion pleat. It’s a 3-D tessellated “chain mail,” fabricated at the microscopic level. This allows for easy armoring-up, not to mention fast packing/unpacking of the armor into/from a case. (And the suit knows where it’s supposed to go. Thanks to magnetic memory fields, as Stark dons the armor, all he needed to do was place the parts close to their destination and click! they snapped into place automatically.)

The armor’s surface is made up of 2 million tiles weaved together into a highly refined, self-powered fabric that moves to follow Iron Man’s motions. The armor itself is constructed of fifteen layers of this fabric, a metal mesh that is as soft as silk until polarized to iron toughness. A thermal control layer in the armored fabric uses electronic cooling to regulate Stark’s skin temperature and transpire moisture, which is osmoticaly pumped away.

Improvements in the internal mechanics of this suit made it more maneuverable than previous suits. Plus the movement was more natural.

Interestingly, while the suit may have sprung from the mind of Tony Stark, his hands didn’t physically build it. Model XIV has the distinction of being the first suit built without the touch of any human hands. Built in the huge manufacturing lab hidden beneath his home Retreat, this armor was assembled by a specially-bred bacteria in a revolutionary nano-tech process, made necessary by the leaps in Stark’s design complexity. In fact, Stark doesn’t even know what the armor’s composition actually is. Suit construction was fully automated, supervised by Tony’s super computer HOMER.

The armor was powered by a Beta particle generator (based on Stark’s recent breakthroughs at Accutech), which provided a nearly unlimited power supply. Integrated within the suit, it made the armor a big energy-absorbing sponge. This suit boasted the first 100 percent solar conversion system (although it does have a thermocouple backup). This power system made Model XIV the strongest IM armor ever. (It was so strong, Iron Man was able to lift an entire nuclear reactor, fly it into the air, and then take it deep into the ocean, slamming it into a deep trench.)

The helmet of the Oversize Red and Gold Armor was remarkably advanced. It was so much more than a protective helmet or concealing mask. The headpiece represented a major leap in Tony Stark’s cybernetic control system. Within the dome of the helmet assembly, made of specialized flex-metal with built-in psi-wave sensors, laid the cybernetic antenna. This is what picked up Tony’s thoughts and allowed him to control the armor mentally. Combined with an advanced optical system, a next-generation Heads-Up Display (HUD), hardwired to the sensor array, Shellhead had access to a river of streaming date unlike anything before. Sensors can feed him virtually any data—flight path, artificial horizon, altitude, airspeed, direction/compass, threat alerts, and more. In fact, Iron Man didn’t actually look at anything with his eyes anymore (except for the HUD, of course). All his “vision” comes from optical sensor data.

Defensive systems: energy shield in left gauntlet to absorb incoming blasts (actually based on one of Cord’s Raiders’ weapons); on-board arrays capable of jamming missile locks. Armor could defeat sonic weapons by analyzing the frequencies and transmitting counter sonics to negate whatever’s coming at Shellhead.

Armaments: The Oversize Red and Gold Armor had refined repulsors. (A repulsor is a neutron beam. But since neutrons don’t travel far in the atmosphere, a millimeter-wide kilowatt laser blasts a shaft of ionized air, on which the neutrons travel. (Trivia note: Each of Iron Man’s gloves cost $1.8 Million [1988 adjusted dollars].)

Other Armaments: redesigned pulse bolts (keep pulsating, gaining strength the further they go with devastating effect); can fire ultra-sonics, which can smash objects to bits; unibeam: a searchlight, a projector; and capable of firing high heat blasts, ultraviolet spreads, infrared beams, and an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP; but it drained his power leaving him only mobility and life support for six minutes, making the suit more like mobility scooters than fantastic armor during that time); finger nozzle to fire a variety of liquid and gas weapons, including acid; finger laser, could be used to weld; suit also had magnetic powers in gloves to draw objects to him.

Special feature on this suit: Stark built clip-on modules to supplement the armor’s capabilities. These so-called action-modules clipped onto forearm receptacles. Once attached, they worked through the gauntlets’ emission system to project substances, most notably tech-foam—a chemical laced with metal threads that hardens in seconds to titanium strength. The modules ejected automatically when empty.

Oversize Red and Gold Schematic

Made from the same chain mail as the rest of the armor, the micro-thin structure of the faceplate allows Stark’s facial expressions to slightly distort the mask surface, making Iron Man look more human. Like with previous models, this helmet pulls on and is secured to the neck jointing via auto-connects in the suit-torso attach points. The mask swivels open/lifts up as well.

The internal parts of the helmet—like those throughout the whole suit—are fabricated from the same micro-architectured flex-metal with many components imbedded into the micro mesh. Padding to absorb blows wrapped around the ear pierces. This rubberized metal bladder incorporated very small electronic air pumps to keep it inflated (after the helmet is donned).

A key achievement of the Model XIV armor was the inclusion of a new rapid-fire sequencing combat computer with an (at the time) experimental attack and defense modes. The new system took the guess-work out of defending himself in barrages or when striking out at multiple opponents—could target, fire, and destroy eight incoming rockets in just three seconds.

So why does Iron Man’s mask still have eyes? Because the mask’s eye slots provide him a psychological dimension, an advantage worth exploiting—steely eyes (no pun intended) scare people. (Also, actual physical slots act as an emergency backup.) A voice synthesizer adds to the fear factor, disguising Tony’s voice, making Iron Man seem more robotic, authoritative.

Other computer upgrades included an action/decision subroutine that recommended courses of action at a moment’s notice, a maintenance subroutine to monitor all aspects of the suit’s systems, improved targeting software that allowed his repulsors to pick out a single gnat in a swarm, and tracking circuits that allowed IM to fire as fast as he can think.

Model XIV featured a full sensor scan network integrated to sister systems (like the combat computer). Audio sensors could easily pick up speech through thick walls. Secondary audio pickups are located in the helmet’s ear pieces. Other known sensors: radiation and sonic scan.

The communication system was anchored by a third-generation miniaturized phased-array antenna, which allowed for full-spectrum communications. The suit also contained an early cellular phone. The right gauntlet featured a cyber probe attachment to allow Iron Man to interface with other computer systems. A fingertip probe aided in computer networking.

The improved boot propulsion system provided more maneuverability and increased speed (2,000 pounds of thrust per boot or 100 yards per second; air is injected and mixed with ignited liquid oxygen [the fuel is concentrated for compact storage]). This kind of thrust produces a lot of heat and is a real threat to bystanders. Fortunately, Tony added a cool-air venting system into the soles of his boots to wash the exhaust with cold air. Additionally, each boot contained seven jets with automated restart, because the baby turbines—even with the filtration screens—were susceptible to foreign object damage or flame out. (Magnetic plates in the boot soles allowed Iron Man to walk on ceilings and so on.)

The Oversize Armor is a space-worthy. Deep-space attachments plug into the suit, including a jet pack/rocket booster, searchlight, fuel, and oxygen. Model XIV also functioned underwater, it was equipped with sealing mouth and eye slots as well as an internal oxygen supply.

Special security feature: As a direct result of Stark’s Armor War to take out his pirated technology, he built Model XIV to be theft proof. Stark constructed a special security chip and integrated it into every phase of development. If the security chip detected unauthorized circuit duplication, it would trigger a self-destruct pulse, ensuring that Stark’s Iron Man technology could not be used by others.

There’s much more: read about the Model XIV, Mark II; Model XIV, Mark III-A; and Model XIV, Mark III-B. Click here to go to page 2 of the Oversize Red and Gold Armor specs.