When I first saw Iron Man in 2008, I left the theater enraptured and amazed by the film I’d just seen. I imagine most audiences felt similar enthusiasm; after all, for more than ten years, Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark served as the foundation upon which the Marvel Cinematic Universe—the most lucrative film franchise in history—was built. In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, as we had to say goodbye to this character, it truly felt like the end of an era.
After seeing Endgame, I wanted to create a brick-built homage to Iron Man. However, rather than opting to build the nano-tech suit that comprised the hero’s final iteration, I chose to recreate the form in which this character captured the imagination of the world eleven years ago. I’ve assembled Iron Man in his first and—I’d argue—most iconic form: Tony’s Mark III Armor, the first suit to sport his signature gold and “hot-rod red” color scheme.
Read on to learn more about the design of this 10” (25cm) figurine, or click the button below to get its comprehensive building guide!
An Exercise in Redesign
I hold my brick art to extremely high standards. Since I’ve been at this LEGO-building thing for a while, I can usually accomplish what I want on the first go-round, and know when to abandon projects that just aren’t working. But there are times when creations of mine get past this phase, get almost all the way to publication, before I decide to discard them.
The Iron Man I’ve shared here is the product of a much longer-than-usual design process, and actually constitutes “V2” of my take on the character. Here’s what happened: over the course of maybe 2 weeks, I got fully through designing, building, parts ordering, digital inputting, instructions-making—and, yes—even photography for “V1”… only to look at my final, ready-to-post images and think to myself “I can do better than this.”
The list of problems I had was simply too long to ignore. Here are the things that bugged me about my Iron Man V1:
The figurine was too skinny. The shape of the body didn’t have that burly, armored silhouette I was looking for, or that the character called for. The torso, arms, and lower legs didn’t feel substantial enough.
The shoulders were the wrong shape, and hinged in the wrong place. On the Mark III, the shoulder armor attaches basically like a shell around the shoulder socket. On my V1, it attached midway down the upper arm and was too rounded.
The head didn’t look right. The neck attachment meant that it sat too far forward, and had limited poseability. Beyond this, I wasn’t happy with how the side detailing looked.
The hands had black fingers. They were detrimental to the impression of a fully-armored Iron Man.
The legs weren’t shaped well. Aside from the fact that they tapered too rapidly (an impression exacerbated by V1’s proportionally too-wide hips), I also hadn’t nailed the Mark III’s “bell bottom” ankles.
The figurine couldn’t assume Iron Man’s signature 3-point landing pose. That was something I wanted to fix!
I think I was able to solve (or, at least, mitigate) these problems in V2. While it was initially frustrating and a little discouraging to pull myself back from the brink of putting a new creation out into the world, I knew that if I didn’t take the time to get this character right, I’d regret it. Nine weeks after I started V1, I’m glad I followed my gut and designed a better figurine. I’m much, much happier with how V2 looks, feels, and functions.
Iron Man’s Mark III suit has an explicitly two-color scheme: dark red and gold. However, since LEGO does not produce all its parts in every color, I knew I’d eventually have to use other hues on this build, especially in functional areas like joints.
I chose to stay away, whenever possible, from using light grey. While dark grey and black are more easily “absorbed” in a color scheme (the eye tends to pass them over when it takes in more vibrant colors), light grey sticks out a bit more. Some elements only come in that color, unfortunately, so I had to try to mask them as well as I could.
As much as possible, I tried to avoid leaving anti-studs—the hollow undersides of parts—exposed on the rear of this figurine. I’m especially proud of how I managed to avoid these on the backs of the thighs, calves, and back.
Obviously, I didn’t succeed in covering every surface. Sometimes, the anti-studs were required for providing the model with stability, and adding parts to mask them would have made the model too burly.
I wanted to create a sleek yet segmented look on this armor, to reinforce the fact of it being armor, rather than just the shape of a body. This was a case when my choice of the Mark III—one of Iron Man’s more “primitive” and bulky suits—over, say, the Mark LXXXV, which is much more skintight and seamless, really paid off.
Nevertheless, I used a ton of curved slopes on this build— really, curved parts as much as possible. They helped to smooth out the character’s silhouette and make it look more humanoid.
I’m quite pleased with the upper chest, especially the recess where the ARC reactor fits into it. The reactor itself is made of two parts stacked on one another: a 1x1 round plate in white, and a 1x1 round tile in transparent clear. The trans-clear finish gives the reactor a sense of depth and inner glow.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have “room” to add a similar effect to the repulsors on Iron Man’s hands, and had to go with pure white for compactness’ sake
The Mark III’s stabilizer flaps, seen here folded against its back, were a terrifically fun addition and “play feature” I managed to include. They can hinge up and out for flight, replicating the suit’s action in Iron Man.
Actually, it was a happy accident on the calves’ design that inspired the addition of stabilizer flaps, period. In my quest to mask some of the anti-studded surfaces on the lower legs, I used brackets to build around to the back of the thighs. When I replaced the 2x2 plates holding the brackets together with folded 1x4 hinge plates, they transformed the masking into perfectly compact and brilliantly subtle flight flaps.
The thighs, which were a major impetus for my redesign, are one of my favorite parts of V2. They’re multi-dimensional, well-shaped, and adhere almost perfectly to the actual color distribution on the Mark III suit. Plus, the way the knee armor nestles into the quad armor makes me very, very happy.
The last part of the build I designed was the inner calf armor, which make use of a new-ish bracket to attach 2x2 boat studs to the insides of the legs. These in turn add a compact, anatomically-adhering bump where otherwise I would have had to use something rectangular.
Here are some before editing and finalized images of V2 side by side. Hope you enjoy seeing the changes I’ve made!
Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or comments about this model, feel free to leave them in the comments below.