Fans are wary of threequels for the obvious reasons, but the most blatant is that it sets up the filmmakers for failure either because they’ve run out of genuine enemies (and are left with cartoon ones) or because they have a major villain left to tackle (and handling that villain is tough work).

Either that, or we’re all still gunshy from Spider-Man 3.

I have no idea if there will even be an Iron Man 3 because I don’t have a crystal ball or keen insight into what Marvel’s thinking. They have Avengers coming up, are planning some smaller films after that, Jon Favreau has been rumored to be done after this film, and all of it still lives in the world of the distant, unknowable future.

Still, if there is a third film, I’d like to combat the current idea that Tony Stark is out of cool enemies. He has plenty. Here are 9 of ‘em.

9. Firepower

The Pitch: This villain doesn’t stray too far from the suiter-armor villain that seems popular throughout the universe of the movies so far. Plus, it gives the opportunity to fake Iron Man’s death. Firepower is piloted by Jack Taggart, and it’s essentially an anti-riot suit designed by Stark rival Edwin Cord (based on a lot of Stark Industry tech).

It also provides an even match for at least two hellacious battle sequences between two heavily armored, heavily armed men.

If not used as the main villain in the film, it could definitely be used as a great opening sequence, especially if they stick to the original story where Iron Man uses a bit of deception when it comes to holding Taggart’s life in his hands.

The Problem: It may be too similar to the face-off between Iron Man and Iron Monger in the first film. The villain certainly follows the themes of the films, but it might just come too close for comfort. But wouldn’t you love to see a melee between Iron Man, War Machine and this nuke-carrying scrap metal heap?

8. Living Laser

The Pitch: You can forget about the idea of Arthur Parks becoming a being of pure energy (although a death scene that evoked that idea would be fantastic), but the idea of metal suit that projects laser blasts is never a bad thing. Toss in his one-sided love affair with Wasp, and you have your Avengers tie-in. Plus, he can be a minor villain with the means to bring Mandarin to the forefront.

It all stays in the science and technology world without getting too supernatural or other-worldly. Don’t let the picture I’ve chosen fool you, there’s a simple story there of a man who plays around with laser technology and creates a suit that blasts face-melting light out of it.

The Problem: Without the conceit of him turning into living light, he does become a fairly standard Suit With Powers villain like a few others on this list. If the filmmakers wanted to get ballsy and make Iron Man, you know, more comic-book-like, creating a man of living light runs the risk of it coming off a lot like the Gremlin who turns into lightning and gets stuck in the phone system in Gremlins 2.

7. Super-Skrull

The Pitch: What isn’t based in science and technology without getting too supernatural or other-worldly is the idea of having Tony Stark face off against Super-Skrull. After Thor and Avengers, the Stark universe is going to look very different. They usually do after introducing Gods into the mix, and it might just lay the groundwork to invite Tony into the space race.

It may seem impossible at this point, and the thought of an alien in the very real world of Iron Man might evoke too much Venom – but if it was the focus of the movie instead of just black goo falling backstory-lessly to earth, it could make for a hell of an escalation in the story.

The Problem: Iron Man has enjoyed success because it’s based in more reality than most superhero films. Ignore the poorly explained, futuristic science that everyone seems to blindly go along with, and you have a weapons manufacturer using weapons. Skrulls would create a wildly different feeling film from the first two.

6. Crimson Cowl

The Pitch: They’ve introduced Justin Hammer with Iron Man 2, and there’s nothing that says they can’t introduce Justine in the next film. Crimson Cowl would need some updating since her cowl doesn’t exactly have a scientific explanation, and she couldn’t be the main villain of the film, but she could definitely add some flair and possibly bring HYDRA into the mix as a bigger threat to Stark.

There’s a story there of her either turning on her father or attacking Tony Stark because of her father. To me, hers is the most natural entry into the universe with Sam Rockwell already playing her pop in Iron Man 2.

The Problem: As I mentioned earlier, her superpower is essentially a cowl that can transform into things. She’s excellent at hand-to-hand combat, but I’m guessing the Marvel team would need to come up with a more scientifically friendly version of her outfit if she’s going to fit into the universe. Adding aliens is a bold move, but adding someone with magical clothing is just strange.

5. Hulk

The Pitch: Here’s another wildcard, not because he wouldn’t make a fantastic foe against Iron Man, but because it’s unclear how he’s going to work in future films. He may very well be the villain of Avengers or he may be an ally. Or both.

If he’s the villain, then he can’t be used again, but if he’s an ally, all it takes is for some great falling out to happen, and Iron Man has a jolly green menace threatening to smash him. And that attempted smashing would make one hell of a fight scene.

The Problem: As awesome as this character would be as a villain, there are a ton of issues standing in the way. The first is what role he plays in Avengers, and the other is the availability of getting Ed Norton to reprise the role for another film. If he doesn’t do it, do you scrap the idea of the character or do you get someone else to play the role?

I think with the continuity Marvel seems obsessed with that Norton would be the deciding factor on this one. Probably for the best, but even if they used him as a minor fight, it would still be epic.

4. Spymaster

The Pitch: Where can you get a good freelance industrial spy who will also kill for a higher price these days? Spymaster has a terrible name, but he is an incredible character. Simple and deadly. Bonus points if the film decides to stick to one of the comic storylines and have a backstabbing SHIELD member hire him against Stark. On a basic level, he’s a character that doesn’t require an elongated backstory, or any really.

Set him loose like a tornado in the Stark world and drag Stark Industries to a halt until Iron Man does some hunting. Pair him with or against Ghost, and you’ve got chaos.

The Problem: The character as he stands is a gun for hire, and that leaves a vacancy in the Main Villain category. The option there is to either beef up the character a bit, pair him with a corporate master, or to ignore my idea and stick to a story where Ghost is both the corporate saboteur and the corporate CEO who is hiring himself to go destroy Tony Stark. I suppose you could do something similar with Spymaster, but all 5 Iron Man purists would be furious.

3. Sunset Bain

The Pitch: Beneath the armor, Iron Man has one weakness. Alcoholism. Alright, two weaknesses, alcoholism and the temptation of a beautiful woman. If they augmented Sunset Bain into a far more superior bad ass than she is in the comics, stripped her of her moronic villain name that sounds like Butters came up with it (Madame Menace), and kept the storyline of her seducing access codes out of Starks pants, she’d make a diabolical foe.

She doesn’t normally use her own brilliant inventions, but give her something to fight with, and even against Iron Man she could be deadly. Plus, it would be fantastic to have a female supervillain given the chance to shine on screen – something that seems severely lacking in the comic book film world.

The Problem: There really isn’t much of one as far as I can see. Her persona in the comics is more as an evil genius who sells her wares instead of a warrior, but she’s been in her fair share of scrapes and emerged from gunshot wounds to fight again. So the main problem is only a seeming resistance to female bad asses on screen.

2. Arsenal

The Pitch: What a devastating piece of art. Not only would the emergence of Arsenal bring back some of Tony’s daddy issues, it would blow up the psychiatrist’s office he went to go talk them out at. Howard Stark developed this weapon as a last resort in case zee Germans won WWII, and it lives beneath the Avengers Mansion waiting to mindlessly kill everything in its path.

If you’re a competitor wanting to crush Stark Industries and the world as a bonus, hiring someone to go in and activate this bad boy would be a wise move. A film version could make it as invincible as it needed to be in order to destroy as much of Tony’s life (and the cityscape) as possible before a final showdown.

The Problem: He doesn’t make for a great ultimate villain. While he would cause millions of dollars in damage, someone else would have to be pulling the strings or pressing the On Button, or whatever you do with sentient robots.

1. Mandarin

The Pitch: After introducing The Ten Rings in the first film, how can you not pit Iron Man against their fearless leader? I realize that his supernatural rings of power are a turn off, but there’s so much that can be done to modernize him as a vicious, global gang leader who is bent on world domination and killing Iron Man. Plus, his inclusion would agree with the rule of threequels regarding sending our hero to Asia.

Use him as a brutal business man. Have him infiltrate the US government. Hell, start the movie off with an homage to the first in which Rhodes gets kidnapped by The Ten Rings and tortured by Mandarin forcing Iron Man’s hand. The possibilities are many, the character is strong, and it would appease fans of Iron Man to see his greatest foe on the big screen with a real-world makeover.

The Problem: He’d have to drop the mysticism of his ten rings, but who’s to say they can’t replace those powers with some sort of metal rings with Stark Arc Reactor technology or something else scientifically feasible. This choice is an all-out, crowd-pleasing winner.

Which villain in the Marvel universe do you think Iron Man should face?


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