Top 10 Villains More Ridiculous Than Mandarin and AIM (and Ready for Use in Iron Man 4)A column article, Top Ten by: Nick Hanover
At first glance, Iron Man 3's villains appear to be odd choices-- AIM and the Mandarin?! AIM, after all, has mostly been a bit of a joke throughout their history in comics, thanks to their bee suit-like uniforms and the surplus of tech-based organizations running rampant in the Marvel U. But they've recently been reinvented as a group of techno-anarchists who helped create the Red Hulk. Likewise, the Mandarin disappeared from comicdom for some time, probably because for a while he was essentially a walking ethnic slur, yet he too has been reinvented as a creepy compulsive liar who is secretly the patriarch of the Hammer clan. Which means it isn't so surprising that Shane Black would utilize them for Iron Man 3. So to help out Marvel Films, I've decided to put together a list of 10 other completely ridiculous villains for them to use in the next Iron Man film, with time to give them their proper reinvention in the comics.
Top 10 Villains More Ridiculous Than Mandarin and AIM
(and Ready for Use in Iron Man 4)
Why He's Ridiculous: Despite his totally awesome retro WWF name, The Crusher seems to only exist in comics in order to be killed off, with the first Crusher lasting a handful of issues while the second was killed off in the same issue he was introduced in. The fact that he walks around shirtless, in pants the Hulk would have rejected, doesn't help either.
How He Can Be Reinvented: The Crusher's powerset is pretty standard, as he's basically just super strong and durable. But his origins are pretty interesting as they mirror Stark's in some ways. Specifically, he was forced by a dictator to develop a backwater super soldier serum, which the dictator then forced him to test on himself. You can probably see where I'm going with this reinvention, but here we go anyway: wipe most of the Crusher's history clean, turn him into the villainous hero of a dictatorship that is threatening the US and connect it to the Captain America franchise in the process, with Stark facing off against a former scientist who has been drafted into a conflict he doesn't really want a part of. Stark then has to decide whether he's going to let the Crusher take the fall for the crimes he was essentially forced at gun point to commit or if he's going to help him escape and bring him over to Stark Industries.
Why He's Ridiculous: He's like Hologram Tupac, except nowhere near as cool and without the music. His powers are kind of nebulous, but basically he can manipulate light and make it dense as well as travel at light speed.
How He Can Be Reinvented: Rather than have the Living Laser be an actual human being with a grudge against Stark, why not make him an artificial intelligence designed by an Anonymous-like group intent on bringing down Stark Industries for being such a big part of the military-industrial complex? It would play into Stark's own guilt about the company he inherited and give him an enemy that can't just be force beamed to death. In this scenario, the Living Laser would be a program that attacks Stark by using his own security systems (including other Iron Man suits!) against him, which forces him to design an AI-less Iron Man armor and retake his own headquarters. It would also make for a more streamlined film, with the bulk of it set in Stark HQ, a la Die Hard.
Why He's Ridiculous: Gremlin is a super genius dwarf mutant who is the son of the Grey Gargoyle and at one point wore the Titanium Man armor, who basically just hates life and is notable for creating a whole fleet of Soviet super robots.
How He Can Be Reinvented: Step 1) Cast Peter Dinklage Step 2) Celebrate Step 3) Profit.
Seriously, though, there's actually a lot of potential in the Gremlin, as he's the polar opposite of Stark in a lot of ways. Where Stark's dad is a hero tycoon himself, the Gremlin's dad is a hideously disfigured villain. Where Stark is a billionaire playboy who is in the tabloids constantly for his amorous exploits, the Gremlin is called the Gremlin because he looks hideous. Yet he's also a genius, with even more of a need to strike back at society than Iron Man's capitalist villains. Expand on that hatred of society for fearing and mocking him, and have the Gremlin strike at Stark by trying to take away his looks, his name and the public's love for him through a plot to drag Stark through the mud using versions of his own tech, launching faux-Iron Mans to commit crimes and eventually capture Stark, where he is threatened with bodily mutilation.
Why He's Ridiculous: Mauler is actually the name of a weaponized armor suit, standing for the Mobile Armored Utility Laser-guided E-beam, Revised. But the first guy to take up the Mauler guise was a sad old man named Aaron Soames, who took it from the Cord Conglomerate as payback for them accidentally robbing him of his pension.
How He Can Be Reinvented: If placed within a larger storyline about yet another company taking on Stark, the Mauler could be a potentially sad plotline that culminates in further tragedy, as Soames' misguided attempt at vengeance results in the armor falling into the wrong hands. Within this context, it'd be interesting to have Stark forced to work with a rival in order to stop further tragedy, as a team of terrorists utilize the Mauler armor to build an army and the only way to stop them is through this unlikely pairing.
Why He's Ridiculous: Speaking of people angry about their job security, Endotherm is actually Tom Wilkins, former head of security for Tony Stark, who goes crazy because he thinks Stark is trying to rob him of everything he holds dear...so he turns himself into a villain using that Stark tech that literally everyone in the Marvel U seems to be able to get their hands on and goes after Stark in order to kill him and thus stop him from denying Wilkins that sweet pension money. Like his name suggests, he's able to manipulate thermal energy, specifically robbing things of their heat.
How He Can Be Reinvented: Iron Man 3 introduced a throwaway plotline where Happy Hogan is the new Stark chief of security, and he's a bit overzealous. It was a silly narrative thread because it went nowhere, but what if it had actual repercussions and someone that Happy fired for not observing security protocol lost his shit and made it his mission to go after Happy and Stark? Or took the staff hostage, forcing Stark to get creative in order to save his employees and save face, all while Happy, a hostage himself, tries to save the day on the inside? It would need to be paired with another plotline, probably, but there are plenty of options on that front.
Why He's Ridiculous: A political activist turned supervillain turned raging alcoholic, Firebrand is a bit of a mess, to say the least. His weird accomplishments include winning some kind of supervillain contest and becoming a villain broker for the underworld before the Scourge killed him.
How He Could Be Reinvented: Rather than worry about Firebrand's thermal abilities and political aspirations, focus on his brokering by making a storyline where someone is selling Stark Industries secrets to rivals and wannabes in an attempt to dismantle the corporation through espionage. Pair Firebrand up with someone like the Ghost, who is a legitimately scary Iron Man villain and has the power and skill to keep Iron Man at bay while Firebrand sells off the secrets and unites Stark's rivals.
Arsenal & Mistress
Why They're Ridiculous: Built by Tony Stark's own father and essentially kept in hibernation post-WWII, Arsenal is a tremendously powerful robot that just so happens to be controlled by another robot with an AI based on the brainwave patterns of...Tony's own mother.
How They Could Be Reinvented: Nix the brain pattern craziness and simply make it a couple robots that Stark's dad had designed using some of that crazy HYDRA-tech left over from Captain America, that had been locked away because it was too dangerous in its current stage. The threat isn't the robots themselves, but their instability and Iron Man must hurry to stop them from accidentally destroying a major metropolitan area, as they're powered by early arc reactors that could cause a full on nuclear explosion. They'd work best if paired with another threat, like say, Firebrand and Ghost, who had released them in order to distract Stark while they sell off his wares.
Why He's Ridiculous: Vibro is a guy who looks like some kind of subhuman cave dweller and basically makes earthquakes, but his powers are limited by his proximity to the San Andreas faultline. His powers come from him having a seismic apparatus grafted onto his body, so he's kind of like an uglier Doc Ock.
How He Could Be Reinvented: Too often, Iron Man's film villains have made isolated threats against Stark or Stark Industries or, in the case of Iron Man 3, important sections of the populace. Iron Man has yet to face off against a villain who threatens an entire area and Vibro could fill this void nicely, particularly if the film starts off with him causing an earthquake by accident, with someone at Stark Industries eventually figuring out that it wasn't an organic occurrence. They could then attempt to warn Stark, but in characteristic fashion he doesn't listen, until another villain picks up on the information, tracks the wounded, unstable Vibro down and manipulates him for their purposes. Playing up Vibro's instability and confusion would be key, with the third act climaxing with Stark realizing he simply has to convince Vibro he can help rather than outright defeating him.
Why He's Ridiculous: He's called the fucking Unicorn, for starters. As if that wasn't bad enough, he wears an outfit that features an image of a unicorn that is supposed to be intimidating, but really just looks like Dark Horse Comics' logo, except cuter. Somehow, there are three Unicorns running around in the Marvel U, but the first one is the best known, with ties to the Mandarin and experience battling the Avengers, though during one battle with them he slipped into a coma and had to be cured by Hank Pym. In typical Pym fashion, he fucked up and accidentally made the Unicorn go insane, leading to the Unicorn's apparent death after he tried to walk through the Atlantic ocean to get back to Russia.
How He Can Be Reinvented: Play up the insanity angle and make the Unicorn a Stark employee who was secretly experimenting with Stark armor after hours, only to wind up with an experimental helmet grafted to his skull, which enables him to create an energy shield and fire energy projections. Pair him with another villain who convinces the Unicorn that he can cure him and encourages his Stark hatred, only to betray him in the end, leading to a sad battle where the Unicorn tries to redeem himself by siding with Stark, dying in the process. Also, lose the fucking Unicorn uniform and instead have “the Unicorn” be a mocking name Stark calls him in passing during battle.
Why He's Ridiculous: Gargantus is a gigantic fucking neanderthal robot that aliens designed to take over the Earth, because they were operating on outdated data, thought Earth was still just cavemen, and felt all the other cavemen would just worship it as their leader because it was fucking huge. I am not making this up.
How He Can Be Reinvented: Reinvented? This guy is gold already. He is literally a gigantic neanderthal robot. GIGANTIC NEANDERTHAL ROBOT.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, where he reigns as the co-managing editor, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness and Pontypool.