Iron Man has had a number of different looks since the character was first introduced in Tales of Suspense #39 back in 1963. Tony Stark’s original bulkier, grey armor was totally different than the bright red and gold super-suit he wears today. However, Iron Man’s armor went through a noticeable change in the mid-’70s that might have been his most bizarre look to date.
In The Invincible Iron Man #68, Tony designs himself a new mask. He upgrades his helmet so he can translate his brain waves into usable electricity, adds increased strength with plexiglass in his eyes and mouth to “withstand the deepest oceans” and hilariously, adds a nose to his mask so it will allow more expression to “increase the fearsome aspects” of his character to those who oppose him.
Ultimately, the mask doesn’t make Tony look more menacing. Even if the artists did their best to work with what Lee gave them…
So, what was behind the change? Famed comic book writer Kurt Busiek explained the decision to make Iron Man’s mask look more like a face was inspired by Stan Lee not being happy with the work of a new artist at Marvel.
Lee was reportedly worried about the proportions of Iron Man’s face. He opined his eyes were too close to the surface of his mask. Lee asked the question, “where’s his nose?”
While Lee wasn’t directly asking for Iron Man’s mask to have a nose, the criticism was received as such. Editors made sure Iron Man’s new mask had a nose, eyes that were more emotive, and was more form-fitting than bulky.
The nose wasn’t received well by audiences. In The Invincible Iron Man #85, Stark got a new suit that activated from his chest. Iron Man monologues that sacrifices had to be made in order to make the armor thin enough to originate from his chest-plate. Stark hilariously admits that in order for the mask “to retain its symmetry, the nose had to go.” Iron Man jokes that he won’t miss it.
Iron Man’s nose on his mask might have ultimately had a short life span, but it’s a memorable inclusion that – for better or worse – is a part of the character’s history. It was a happy accident created out of taking feedback a little to literally. It’s doubtful Iron Man will ever sport the look again, but it was a part of developing the character into the beloved version today, so it was a necessary evil. However, nobody is clamoring for its return.