It's all about Iron Man right now. Thanks to Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau and the whole gang at Marvel Studios, the Armored Avenger has a higher profile than ever before. Tony Stark is a very relatable character, despite being a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, because he's still just a guy. A guy with a pacemaker. He just also happens to have cool suits of armor that let him fly around.
Throughout the years of navigating through the Marvel universe, Stark has never stuck with one look for all that long. He's always tweaking his armor in various ways, adding functionality to deal with specific threats, or developing entire versions of his suit to fight one particular guy. The super-hero world is awash with classic, iconic looks that fans lose their minds if you change at all (i.e. all attempts to give Wonder Woman pants instead of a star-spangled swimsuit), but the most that remains static about Iron Man is simply his red and gold color scheme - and even that's not a hard and fast rule. Check out these cool iterations of Iron Man's armor.
1. THE MARK I. THE O.G. THE SABBATH SONG.
In his very his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 back in 1963, The Iron Man was this badass hulking suit of gunmetal grey, easily mistaken for a robot running amok. We all know this very well now, though, because of the respectable homage paid to it from the first Iron Man film.
That whole ominous encroaching mechanoid thing plays well when scaring the bad guys, but not so much when trying to earn the trust of good guys and the general public. So, by the time Avengers #1 rolled around, Tony had tried to put a happier face on the armor by painting it a lovely, shiny gold.
You may recall that proper respects were paid to that one in the first film, too. Observe.
The solid color thing didn't last very long, though. We can all agree that it was probably for the best.
2. A LITTLE HOT ROD RED MAKES FOR THE CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS
Tales of Suspense #48 gave us the original red-and-gold look that has been the standard throughout most permutations of the Iron Man armor. Is it "hot rod" red, "candy apple" red? That's left up to the colorsmiths... which I assume are things that exist. What matters is the imposing yet cumbersome bulk of the Mark I and Mark II armors have been left behind in exchange for sleek hyper-functionality.
And there was much rejoicing.
That basic template has undergone a lot of tweaking over the years, and it settled into what is generally deemed "the classic" look by the mid-70s.
3. THE NOSE
We... try not to talk about the nose.
4. STEALTH ARMOR. OR GOTH ARMOR. BLACK SABBATH ARMOR?
Any superhero worth their salt knows the importance of being sneaky from time to time - even a guy as irrepressibly public as Tony Stark. Sometimes, you just don't want the bad guys to know you're coming. So in 1981, we got the Mark 7, or the Stealth Armor Mark 1. Sleek and black - or just really dark blue, which was generally how comics tend to do black.
Of course, even the Stealth Armor has undergone some revisions. Eventually, just blending into shadows wouldn't be enough in a world that features The Invisible Woman and Shadowcat. So there have been different looks and levels of functionality as far as pure invisibility, phasing and the like go. For example, sometimes you have to go up against a brilliant, enigmatic genius who doesn't have to see you because he can sense you, like the Black Panther. In that case, silver with purple bits is fine, because it ain't made for lookin' at - it's made for SURPRISE ZAPS.
5. THE SILVER CENTURION
In celebration of Iron Man #200 in 1985, a major shift happened for a while - we kept the red but lost the gold in favor of some silver - not quite the dull grey of the O.G. suit, but a shinier look that was really darn cool. They called this the Silver Centurion armor, and it fit right in with the general '80s fashion sense sporting those huge shoulder pads.
This one got a nod in Iron Man 2 as well, also sporting the classic "briefcase armor" schtick.
Now you may have thought the black Stealth Armor should have become the norm, because everyone thinks black is cool all the time, but keep in mind that this was an era where even Captain America had gone nightshade. Ain't no way Tony Stark is taking fashion tips from Steve Rogers.