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Every time Iron Man died in the comics

We don't want to sound depressing here or anything, but the sad fact of life is that even superheroes die. Of course, unlike the rest of us, they always come back to life, and occasionally do the whole death-and-resurrection thing two or three more times.

Iron Man is no exception, but while a lot of superheroes have pretty straightforward deaths — like, say, Superman being beaten to death by a bone monster or Batman being disintegrated with eye-lasers that sent him back to caveman days — Tony Stark's trips to the hereafter are downright weird. From faking his death on at least two occasions to the utter insanity of The Crossing, here's every time Tony Stark has died in the comics.

Keeping up his corporate image

1987's "Armor Wars" is one of the all-time classic Iron Man stories, and for good reason. The idea of Tony Stark finding out that villains were using his designs to power their own armored costumes and then doing everything he could to take that technology back played into everything that makes the character great, from the dark side of his futurist ideals to his enduring guilt over designing weapons. It also featured the first time that Iron Man "died," at least as far as the general public was concerned. The thing is, the armored Avenger didn't go down swinging while battling to save the world or stop a bad guy. He mainly did it because it was a good PR move.

See, while it might seem like a good idea to take his inventions back from bad guys like Doctor Doom or Stilt-Man — a crew that really covered the full spectrum of supervillain success — Tony decided to stop everyone from using his technology. That meant taking on S.H.I.E.L.D. to destroy their Stark-designed Mandroids, and beating the living crap out of Stingray, a third-string Avenger who turned out to not have any of Tony's technology in his suit after all. Even worse, after duking it out with a fellow hero and a government agency, Tony took a trip to Russia, where he caused an international incident and accidentally killed the Titanium Man.

As the public decided that it might not be a great idea to allow a guy who was willing to kill someone over a couple of circuit boards to keep running around in an outfit that could blow up tanks, Tony realized that there was only one thing left to do in order to keep both his personal reputation and his company's from being completely destroyed. With that in mind, he made a full confession, owning up to his crimes and explaining that he was working for the greater good. 

Nah, just kidding! Instead he created a false identity named "Randall Pierce," claimed that he'd been the one wearing the armor all this time, then faked Randall's death by allowing a government agent to blow up his old red-and-silver armor. The next month, there was a brand new Iron Man in all-new armor who just happened to sound like, act like, and know all the same things as the dearly departed Mr. Pierce.

The cold shoulder

Apparently faking the death of one identity wasn't enough, so in 1989, Iron Man decided it was time to fake Tony Stark's death for good measure. Believe it or not, this one's even more complicated.

It started with Tony being shot by an ex-girlfriend, which caused spinal damage that left him unable to walk unless he was wearing his armor. Since using technology to deal with injuries had worked so well back when he had shrapnel near his heart, Tony decided to implant some microchips in his back to fix himself right up. It worked, sort of, but the downside was neurological degradation that was going to kill him. Oops. 

Meanwhile, in another plot, rival industrialist Justin Hammer had been causing some trouble after buying one of Tony's old companies, so Tony teamed up with a group of modern-day techno-samurai called the Masters of Silence in order to threaten him with murder until he sold Stark International back to Tony for a dollar. That's not really tied into the whole faking-your-death thing, but it does bear mentioning as one of the shadiest things that Tony Stark has ever done.

Anyway, after getting back from his heroic bout of extortion, Tony contacted his lawyer, made his final arrangements, and died… or at least, that's how it appeared. In reality, he went into cryogenic stasis until another scientist could sort out his spinal software problems. He definitely let everyone believe he was dead, including his best friend Jim Rhodes, and he even used his video will to browbeat Rhodey into covering for him as Iron Man after he'd sworn to never wear the armor again. It's kind of amazing that Rhodey didn't kill him for real once he found all this out a few months later.

The Crossing

Oh buddy, here we go. Remember a while back, when Secret Empire came out and it was "revealed" that Steve Rogers been a sleeper agent of Hydra, and was secretly an evil supervillain all this time? 1995's "The Crossing" is the Iron Man version of that, except for the part where it turned out the bad guy wasn't the real Captain America. This time, it was 100% the real, official, Earth-616 Iron Man who was betraying your favorite heroes and doing all the killing.

It wasn't entirely his fault, though. It turned out that for the entire history of the Marvel Universe, Tony had been manipulated by Immortus, a time-traveling supervillain who is literally three other time-traveling supervillains who hate each other. Thanks to that villainous influence, Tony had been mind-controlled into a series of murders, including killing a fellow Avenger called Yellowjacket on the actual doorstep of Avengers Mansion. When it was all revealed, Tony completely lost it, and wound up fighting the Avengers and a younger version of himself (more on that in a second) before finally sacrificing his life to stop the plot he'd been an unwilling part of.

With that, Tony Stark was dead, going out in one of the most ignoble deaths a superhero has ever experienced. The good news, though, is that all of this happened when (and because) very few people were actually reading Iron Man, so nobody really cared.

Teen Tony!

Right, so that younger version mentioned above. When Tony Stark was revealed to have gone bad like a carton of year-old milk, the Avengers had to take action. Keep in mind that this is a team that included Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Wasp, Giant-Man, Quicksilver, and Hercules, with Beast from the X-Men hanging out for good measure. With that much muscle on their side, the team decided that what they really need to do was… go to another dimension and get that Tony Stark, who was a teenager at the time, and bring him back to make him fight his own murderous adult self.

It might surprise you to find out that this plan of action did not work out very well, While the Avengers' reasoning was that they needed a Tony with whom Immortus had yet to start meddling, pitting a hashtag-teen against a grown man with years of experience piloting a suit that was basically a wearable tank was a pretty bad idea. Elder Tony, having gone full-on villain at this point, saw his younger self, vowed that the horrors and tragedies of his life would not repeat themselves, and then punched Teen Tony's heart out.

Fortunately (for someone), keeping a damaged heart beating is the first thing the Iron Man armor was designed to do. With his dying breath, Old and Busted Tony gave the Avengers access to a prototype armor, and New Hotness Tony survived. For… about ten months.

On-slaughtered

Looking back from a time when they're responsible for the biggest movies in cinematic history, it's hard to believe that there was a time when the Avengers were one of Marvel's least popular teams. How unpopular were they? Well, not only did Marvel reboot the entire Avengers line (along with Fantastic Four, which was also faltering at the time), they did it in the pages of an X-Men crossover to make sure that people would actually read it.

The result was Onslaught, a crossover in which a mingling of minds between Professor X and Magneto produced an all-powerful third entity called… c'mon, you can guess that one. Onslaught initially appeared as a hulking, armored figure that looked like someone had tried to make Magneto entirely out of knives, but when the heroes of the Marvel Universe teamed up to stop him, they discovered that this wasn't even his final form. Instead, he evolved into a being of pure intangible psionic energy that manifested as a sort of psychic tornado. Unless they could contain Onslaught in some kind of physical vessel, they'd never be able to destroy him.

The catch was that Onslaught fed on "mutant energy," so if any of the X-Men tried to finish what their boss started, Onslaught would only get stronger. The end result of all this is that the X-Men stood around chatting while the Avengers and FF (and Doctor Doom, for some reason) jumped into Onslaught's brain-tornado body and broke him to manageable bite-size chunks that all the mutants could zap into dust. With that, Teen Tony had heroically sacrificed himself to save the world… only to be reborn as an adult Tony on an imaginary Earth created by Reed Richards' son, and then reborn back on regular Marvel Earth once again a year later. 1995 was a hell of a year for Iron Man fans.

Safe cracked

Is Iron Man the person inside the armor, or is it the armor itself? It's an interesting question to ponder, but if it's the latter, then the next in the series of increasingly complicated deaths of Iron Man came in July of 2000. Once Tony had returned to Earth (and adulthood), he decided that it was better to err on the side of caution, and created a new suit that he nicknamed the "Safe Armor." True to its name, it was a little more defensive than some of the other suits, with extra shielding and even an advanced artificial intelligence that was designed to keep its occupant from being harmed.

Needless to say, that advanced AI did what every advanced AI in comics does: it became sentient and immediately went evil, something that no one could've predicted when Tony used bits of code created by Ultron in order to create it. You know, Ultron? The genocidal robot that once murdered an entire country? Yeah, nobody could've possibly seen this coming. Anyway, in addition to killing the villain Whiplash, the sentient armor tried to force Tony to merge with it to create a superior being.

The story played out with the armor acting like an obsessive ex-lover, a bit of subtext that was only made less subtle once the armor went full Fifty Shades of Red and Gold and tied Tony Stark to a St. Andrew's cross while shouting things like — actual quote — "Get inside me, Tony." The whole time, however, it was creating an advanced nervous system that would allow it to feel the full range of human emotion, and while it had apparently saved things like "sympathy" and "not murdering" for last, they showed up just in time. When Tony had a heart attack while they were fighting, the armor tore its own "heart" out and used it to save his life. Tony buried the armor on a slightly radioactive tropical paradise, complete with a grave marker that read "Here lies Iron Man: Avenger."

Brain drain

In 2009, Marvel had a pretty interesting problem with regards to Tony Stark. After the movie was released, he was suddenly one of the most popular superheroes in the world for the first time since… ever. Unfortunately, he was also the person who had been the bad guy of Civil War and indirectly responsible for the events that led to Captain America's death, which is kind of a sticking point when you want everyone to like this guy. The solution? Just get rid of the Tony that had done all the bad stuff, and keep the guy that everyone already liked. Thus: "World's Most Wanted," a storyline in which they managed to kill off the Tony Stark who had been around for Civil War without actually killing anyone.

Surprisingly, this one's not quite as complicated as it sounds. Tony had been the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while, but after Norman Osborn managed to pull off a very famous act of "heroism" during an alien invasion, he replaced both Tony and S.H.I.E.L.D. as the director of a new organization called H.A.M.M.E.R., an acronym which did not actually stand for anything. Realizing that it was a bad idea to give Spider-Man's arch-nemesis access to the files that were collected as part of the Superhuman Registration Act, including the secret identities and weaknesses of most of Marvel's heroes, Tony decided to delete those files from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s computers and store them in the most secure hard drive he had: his own brain.

Of course, that just meant that Osborn wanted Tony's brain, so Tony pulled another drastic move and started to delete his own mind, piece by piece, until the files were gone. After steadily losing his intelligence for a few issues, Tony wound up brain dead, but that was just part one of his plan. Part two involved "reformatting" himself with a backup of his own brain that he'd made for just such an occasion. It worked, but the backup had been created before the events of Civil War. Not only did Tony came out of a coma pretty surprised to find out that he'd been the bad guy of a major company crossover, but it's easy to argue that the Tony Stark who was around for all that stuff was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Carol corpse

Tony Stark's most recent "death" wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be, but c'mon. When you're using the imagery of Michelangelo's Pietà, we all know what you're going for.

It happened in Civil War II, a comic where, once again, Iron Man found himself on the opposite side of a moral and philosophical debate form one of the Marvel Universe's Captains. This time, it was Carol Danvers, better known these days as Captain Marvel, and the issue was over whether it was right to use the precognitive powers of an Inhuman named Ulysses to stop super-crimes before they happened. Iron Man took the position that Ulysses was only seeing possible futures, and that was put to the test when he had a vision of Miles Morales killing Captain America on the steps of the Capitol Building.

Miles went there to prove the vision wrong, and Carol showed up because, well, when you're expecting someone to kill Captain America and they wind up standing at the scene of the future-crime, you're going to be a little cautious. Tony showed up in a truly massive War Machine armor to stop her from arresting Miles, and in the ensuing fight, Captain Marvel blasted him so hard that he wound up in yet another coma, in a condition that the Beast described as being beyond medical science. Technically, he wasn't dead, but he was close enough that a young woman named Riri Williams stepped into the role of Iron Man (and later Ironheart), aided by a holographic AI of Tony Stark that was operating on the assumption that the genuine article wouldn't be returning anytime soon. Tony did, in fact, come back, but only after his body "rebooted" itself, which means that his body was just like your computer: sometimes you have to kill it for a little bit to fix a problem.