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Iron Man's armor is a powered exoskeleton worn by the
fictional comic book character Tony Stark when he assumes the superhero
identity of Iron Man. The first armor (which in the story, was created
by Stark and Ho Yinsen), was designed by artists Don Heck and Jack
Kirby, and first appeared, along with Tony Stark, in Tales of Suspense
#39 (March 1963).
The appearance of Stark's armor in the comics has radically changed over
the years, either as a result of modifications made by Stark or
specialized armors created for specific situations. In real life, it
changed as different artists took over the series and decided to change
it to what they wanted.
Though Stark's wide array of armors have many
different abilities, they are alike in that they are made of incredibly
strong fictional materials bolstered by a force field. Every suit has a
self-contained environment, assorted onboard weapons systems, enhanced
strength, flight, and various communications arrays and sensors (such as
radar and radio). Furthermore, they typically have multiple power
sources including a secondary solar energy collection function in the
event that conventional recharging methods are unavailable. Older
versions of the armor could also fold virtually flat, allowing Stark to
store them in his bullet-proof briefcase.
The defining abilities of Stark's armor are the jets situated in the
boots and the repulsors situated in the gauntlets. The repulsors
originated as a hand attachment, but have since become the armor's most
important standard armament. They have been referred to as being
magnetic, a blast of charged particles, and as a force
beam. In the 2008 movie, the repulsors are a form of propulsion and (as
hand units) steering jet, though they can be used offensively. A later
variation on this is the Pulse Bolts, bolts of concussive energy that
actually gain energy the further they have to travel, up to a limit of
roughly three football fields (about 329 meters).
Another defining trait is the chest-mounted "uni-beam", also known as
the variobeam, and tri-beam (in the 2008 film, Stark commands
J.A.R.V.I.S. to divert power to his "chest RT," or chest repulsor
transmitter). Originally a spotlight and "proton beam," it has grown to
accommodate a number of other weapons, primarily light and force-based.
Contrary to its appearance, most of Stark's armors
are not rigid metal suits, like a medieval knight's. His standard armor
suit consists of approximately two million grain-of-sand-sized discrete
units, which are shaped to have as large a surface as possible to
optimize their effectiveness. The basis of the suit's structural
integrity is the powerful force field which permeates the armor's
"cells," as well as the whole configuration when active. Each of the
"cells" is a tiny unit in its own right, contributing energy and
computing power to the entire armor; this is also why the suit can
remain functional even after having sustained considerable damage. The
basic principle of the suit is holistic; each part contains the whole,
as it were. When inactive, the entire suit can collapse on the
microscopic level, the cells "folding" in on themselves to take up a
smaller volume, like a three-dimensional accordion pleat.
While Stark designs every aspect of the armor, the complexity of the
design requires that production be entirely automated. Each cell is
constructed by using specialized bacteria — the bacteria consume minute
amounts of specific metals, arrange themselves on pre-tagged areas on
the "chip wafer", then die, leaving a very small amount of iron, or
gold, or gallium-arsenide. This method allows great precision in
determining the thickness of circuitry.
All the details of the armor's construction listed above are laid out in
the Iron Manual. However, some armor which appeared after publication of
the Iron Manual may well use entirely different methods of construction.
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