Iron Man of the '80s: The Silver Centurion
A look back at one of the most unique Iron Man armors ever worn by Tony Stark!
Since his debut in TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 in 1963, Tony Stark has been consistently tinkering with his Iron Man armor and constantly upgrading it. Stark usually favors the red and gold designs, which have become Iron Man’s iconic colors. But in the ‘80s, Stark created the Iron Man Armor Model #8, or as it’s more commonly known, the Silver Centurion armor.
The Silver Centurion was a marked departure for Iron Man, and it was easily the most advanced armor for its time. It has even appeared in Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” and it’s become the signature symbol of ol’ Shell-Head’s ‘80s adventures. The Silver Centurion debuted in 1985 at a time when Tony Stark hadn’t been wearing the armor since IRON MAN #169 in 1983. Stark had fallen off the wagon of sobriety, and he was no longer able or willing to be Iron Man. In his place, James Rhodes took on the mantle of Iron Man. Rhodes was so entrenched in the role that he even traveled to Battleworld for 1985’s SECRET WARS and joined the West Coast Avengers as a founding member. But eventually, it was time for Stark to reclaim what was his in the landmark IRON MAN #200.
That particular issue also heavily influenced the first Iron Man movie by featuring Stark’s adversary, Obadiah Stane, wearing his own Iron Monger armor for a final showdown. For two years, Stark stayed away from being Iron Man to preserve his physical and mental well-being. In his mind, he had truly given up on being a Super Hero. It’s easy to forget that the Silver Centurion armor was actually created by Stark with Rhodes in mind.
However, Stane’s constant attacks left Rhodes injured, Stark’s friends kidnapped, and his company shattered. In response, Stark finished the Silver Centurion armor and demanded a confrontation with Stane before he was ready for it. Within issue #200, Iron Man showed off the stealth capabilities of his new armor. Using the Chameleon Effect, Stark was briefly able to make the armor almost invisible to the naked eye. That later turned out to have some negative side effects on his nervous system, but it gave him a definite edge in the early days.
The armor was also designed to absorb any form of energy, including heat. Stark also installed a force field, which was a big power drain and lasted only a few seconds. Between its Pulse Bolts, heat lance, improved flight capability, and the upgraded Repulsors and uni-beam, the Silver Centurion was a breathtaking achievement for Stark. The silver in the design was also quite striking, although those shoulder pads were pure ‘80s-awesome. Inside that armor, Stark must have truly felt like a new man.
Iron Man’s new look lasted almost three years, which is an eternity in comics. It truly had staying power, and it was the armor that Stark wore into one of his biggest stories to date. IRON MAN #225 kicked off the “Armor Wars” arc, where Stark discovered that some of his technology had been stolen and disseminated to the criminal underworld. Stark’s own designs were being used by several villains and even a few heroes.
At the time, Stark still had a secret identity. So he was able to play it off as Iron Man’s rogue vendetta as opposed to implicating himself. But the Avengers knew the truth, and Stark alienated Steve Rogers (who was then known as the Captain) in IRON MAN #228 when he put his quest for vengeance against all other considerations.
Much to his surprise, Stark met his match in IRON MAN #230. The Firepower armor proved to be even more advanced than the Silver Centurion armor. For the first time in years, Stark was completely outmatched in battle. It was all he could do to make it back to Rhodes in time to get out of the armor and fake his death when the Silver Centurion was destroyed.
Naturally, Stark got brand new armor in IRON MAN #231. That’s the nature of the beast – there’s always another Iron Man armor around the corner. But for three years, the Silver Centurion armor captured our collective imaginations.
For more information about Marvel’s 80th Anniversary, visit marvel.com/marvel80!
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