By Ben Morse
East against West; old world against new world; magic against science—all these things and more make up the rich tapestry of hatred between Iron Man and his greatest foe, the Mandarin.
In the years since he donned his first suit of armor, no enemy has plagued Tony Stark like the man with the ten rings of power. No matter how many times Iron Man has thought the Mandarin defeated or even dead, the supposed descendant of Genghis Khan has risen anew, reinventing himself time and again.
Over the past several months in the pages of IRON MAN, writers Daniel and Charles Knauf have once more returned the Mandarin from the seeming grave and had him working behind the scenes to systematically take apart Tony's life. This scenario sets up a climactic showdown with Iron Man in issue #25, shipping January 16.
To prepare for this latest chapter in the ongoing Iron Man-Mandarin war—and rumors about the devious villain's appearance in next year's "Iron Man" film—Marvel.com takes a look back at the pivotal encounters between these two implacable opponents over the years.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #50 (1964)
Hate at first
In the Mandarin's first appearance, he makes his initial bid for world domination by turning countries' military technology against them. Granted going one country at a time seems a tedious way to accomplish this goal, but hey, he's the moustache twirling bad guy (literally). Anyhow, when it comes time to stick it to America, Mandy makes the mistake of sabotaging airplanes and missiles designed by Stark Industries, drawing their chairman to investigate the chicanery by flying to China as Iron Man and giving his foe the first of many armored beat downs. You can find a partial re-telling of this classic tale in the IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN mini-series currently on sale.
AVENGERS ANNUAL #1 (1967)
Like a schoolyard kid spoiling for a brawl after kickball, Mandarin gathered several former members of the Masters of Evil in one of his more ambitious schemes, but Tony countered by assembling the Avengers. Pimping out that classic standby of all criminal masterminds, the orbiting satellite, Mandarin has his buddies run interference while acquiring the technology to bathe the Earth in "hate rays," bringing out aggression across the planet and ripening it for takeover. Unfortunately for the bling-wearing baddie, Iron Man catches wind of the scheme and leads Captain America, Thor and the rest of Earth's Mightiest Heroes in a thorough routing of Mandarin and his evil allies.
IRON MAN v1 #9-11 (1969)
To spice things up, the combatants got their ladies involved in their ongoing dispute—in Tony's case, then girlfriend Janice Cord, and for the Mandarin, Mei Ling, the girl betrothed to him since her childhood. Mandarin unleashes a robot duplicate of the Hulk on an unsuspecting Cord, prompting Stark into action as Iron Man and unwittingly tipping off Mei Ling and her man that he might actually be the Armored Avenger. Subsequently, Mandarin kidnaps Cord himself, threatening to kill her before her lover's eyes, but Mei Ling sympathizes with the bond between Tony and Janice at the last second, prompting her to sacrifice her own life to save her rival's.
IRON MAN v1 #68-71 (1974)
Iron Man finds himself caught between a rock and his greatest enemy as Shellhead lands smack in the middle of a Chinese turf war pitting the Mandarin—at the time inhabiting the body of another Iron Man foe, the Unicorn—against the Yellow Claw. Forced to go through Mandarin's unwilling pawn, the Japanese mutant Sunfire, Tony eventually destroys his foe's base of operations, allowing the Claw to briefly capitalize. Launching an all-out attack on Yellow Claw, who has taken over his own castle lair, Mandarin nearly causes his own demise, but at the last second jumps consciousness from Unicorn, to one of Claw's flunkies, and ultimately to clone version of his own body.
IRON MAN v1 #270-275 (1991)
Mandarin decides to embrace his more spiritual side, and on the advice of his new advisor the elderly wizard Chen Tsu tracks down the ancient dragon Fin Fang Foom, bending the beast to his will and overrunning China. Iron Man gets enlisted by the Chinese government to save the day, but arriving on the scenes finds Mandarin confronted by eight other dragons, in fact aliens who created his rings and don't care for a human wearing them. Tony manages to pull his enemy's fat out of the fire and destroy the dragons, but not before they burn his hands to a crisp, sending the rings to all ends of the earth.
"HANDS OF THE MANDARIN" (1994)
The tables turn on
In an epic six-part crossover running through IRON MAN, WAR MACHINE and FORCE WORKS, Mandarin, complete with reacquired rings and new dragon skin hands, taps into the mystical Heart of Darkness, returning China to a feudal state of technology and drawing Iron Man and his allies into conflict. In the end, despite losing use of his armor for a lengthy period, Shellhead manages to punk out the Mandarin as per usual, but not before the Khan wannabe finally confirms his long-held suspicion that Tony Stark and Iron Man are one and the same.
IRON MAN v3 #9-10 (1998)
The final showdown...
In perhaps his grandest gambit, Mandarin uses his massive Dragon of Heaven flagship and an army of mercenaries to invade Russia and bait the Avengers and Winter Guard into battle, all in an attempt to justify to himself his various defeats at Iron Man's hands by proving Stark remains a worthy foe. Unfortunately, Iron Man more than justified his old nemesis' faith in him when he not only routed his army, but destroyed the Dragon of Heaven and accidentally sent Mandarin plummeting to his supposed death.
Catch the next level of Iron Man vs the Mandarin on January 16 when writers Daniel and Charles Knauf and artist Roberto De La Torre bring you IRON MAN #25, but before that get caught up on their past battles and other classic Iron Man tales with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.