Comic Closet: The Mandarin

Yes, its been quite awhile, but we’ve finally returned with a new Comic Closet!  After such a long hiatus, we really wanted to come back with one of our favorite villains, someone he has been a thorn in Iron Man’s side over the years.  We present you with the Mandarin.  He first appeared in Tales of Suspense #50, all the way back in 1964. Like all good foes he has changed costumes from time to time with his over 50 years in existence.  Some have been bad changes, some good, some very welcome.  At his best, the Mandarin is almost always colorful, certainly a distinguishable and unique villain.  His rings always stay, but lets take a look at what he’s worn best, followed by his not one, but two dishonorable mentions.  Let us know what you think of our picks in the comments below!


5.  Original / AKA Green and Ugly

He has a big giant “M” in the middle of his chest. Why would anyone put a giant “M” on their chest?  As a logo, its pretty weak.  He’s not Superman, he just can’t pull it off.  The green is a poor choice of color and extremely ugly. The purple mask and boots are also not a good combination with the uniform. The Mandarin actually had several variations of the suit, but we’re happy it went away


4. Native

Is that a freaking tattoo coming up his happy trail? Mandarin has some INK!  Old Mandy stuck with the cloak and it’s a good move, but where the heck is the rest of it? Tell that guy he is wearing some baby booties!  It’s not very regal at all. You know Iron Man was laughing in his armor at his appearance. Keep in mind the ten power rings are no less deadly regardless of what the Mandarin looks like. The costume does give the impression that the Mandarin is a bad ass in the martial arts, which he is, but no one wants to see those Chun-Li thunder thighs.


3. Blue Samurai

Mega Man is in trouble this time!  Wait, that’s the Mandarin still.  Or Shredder.  The Mandarin showed up with his own suit of armor. The Blue Samurai was designed to stand up to Iron Man’s own armor. It’s a nice sleek design that actually stands out. We thank Mr. Bob Layton for the design. The sharp edges do make it look somewhat precarious and dangerous to use. The costume didn’t last long.


2.  Red / Yellow

The Mandarin is never one to stick with just the same color scheme for very long and soon popped into this little number.  There is just something about it that just screams villainy. I think as a comic artist the robe would be easy to render and come off extremely regal. The yellow chest design seems a little overworked and would be difficult to draw every single panel.  Still, it looks menacing, but as though The Mandarin is unwilling to get his hands dirty.  His got people for that.


1. Regal Dragon

John Romita JR designed this costume and it’s stunning. The green returns with a vengeance and works well with the yellow within the robe. This costume also had a head-dress that made him look bad ass. In this outfit the Mandarin did not get his hands dirty;  or rings for that matter. He relied on underlings to do his bidding against Iron Man. Fing Fang Foom was one of his pawns in this story line. This is why the dragon is in the middle of the chest. One of the definitions of Mandarin in the dictionary is:  a member of an elite group, especially a person having influence or high status in intellectual or cultural circles. The costume pushes his strengths in all those areas for his ultimate look.

Dishonorable Mention 1


Animated Series:  90’s showed the release of the Iron Man/Avengers animated series. They took his fondness for green a little to far.  The Mandarin is actually green. Like he came from Mars.  He has armor that is better suited for the Green Ranger. It is a terrible design and an even worse use of the character.  Bad marks all around.

Dishonorable Mention 2


Iron Man 3:  We’re not picking on Sir Ben Kingsley, his performance in Iron Man 3 is fantastic. The studio just decided to demote the Mandarin to an actor and make him a fool for that matter. If the character was use correctly it would have been a great costume but instead they wasted him and it.  Sadly, the costume hits the mark here, but the character design fails it.

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