At first a clunky and ‘walking Sherman tank’ affair, Iron Man was built for durability and not movement. Thrown together from army surplus metals that he was able to scrounge up while held prisoner, this first armor is more of a desperate design than anything else. After discovering that the dull gray coloring scared off the kids, he painted it gold… but it still provided very little mobility.
It wasn’t until comic book genius Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man) redesigned the Iron Man armor with the ‘collapsible’ armor. This was to be the first step in the wild and modern science fiction armor that we have today. The whole idea was the armor was made up of links of chain mail that looked like cloth, but were really hyper-resilient metal capable of stiffening under Stark’s control to a durability so intense that it could resist a head-on blow from the Hulk. After a number of altercations with the fellow-Avenger in torn pants, it’s no wonder that this became so important.
The armor was tweaked here and there over the years with a major development involving what is called the ‘Silver Centurion‘ armor in the late 1980′s. This red and white affair was decked out with so many technological advancements that it made the former armors look like stone age tech.
From that point onward, the armor itself became the key to the character in a big way, with the Armor Wars storylines chronicling Stark’s battles with Obediah Stane (played by Jeff Bridges in the film).
Currently, the armor and Stark are more or less joined on a molecular level. With nano-tech bonded to Stark’s blood cells, he is more machine than man these days.
It will be interesting to see what the top secret Mach 2 armor in the film is, as the production team has kept it a dark secret.