Guardsman was the name of a fictional supervillain/superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The name was later applied to a small squad of agents. They wear suits of power armor while working security at the Vault. The suits were designed by Tony Stark, better known as the superhero Iron Man.
Fictional character biography
Guardsman (Kevin O'Brien)
|First appearance||Iron Man #31 (Nov 1970)|
|Created by||Allyn Brodsky (writer)
Don Heck (artist)
|Alter ego||Kevin O'Brien|
|Team affiliations||Stark Industries|
|Abilities||Powered armor grants:
Superhuman stamina and physical resistance
The first Guardsman was Kevin O'Brien. Born in Chicago, he became an engineer and inventor working for the newly opened Lakani Island plant of Stark Industries who came to the attention of Tony Stark when he invented a stun-ray that managed to harmlessly disperse a crowd of violent protestors. Stark invited O'Brien to transfer to Stark's main plant on Long Island, and he accepted. Despite a careless streak that once caused the laboratory he was working in to explode, he became a close friend of Stark and was soon appointed head of Stark's research department.[volume & issue needed]
On several occasions, O'Brien assisted Stark and his supposed bodyguard Iron Man (really Stark himself), notably against the Spymaster and his assistants the Espionage Elite, saving Stark's life on more than one occasion. Stark then decided to reveal to O'Brien that he was secretly Iron Man, and to build for him a second suit of armor for use in the event of an emergency. That emergency would come a short time later, when Iron Man and his girlfriend Marianne Rogers were taken captive by the superhuman madman Mikas the Soulfather. Putting on the armor before it was fully tested, O'Brien fell prey to a malfunction in the cybernetic circuitry controlling the armor which apparently stimulated the regions of the brain where rage and jealousy originate.[volume & issue needed]
O'Brien found himself seized with sudden attraction for Stark's girlfriend Marianne Rogers, and became extremely jealous of Stark's power, looks and fortune. At the same time, Simon Gilbert, then Chairman of the Board of Stark Industries' stockholders, grew alarmed that Stark was moving out of munitions production and mapped strategies with the board to seize controlling interest in the firm from its principal stockholder, Stark himself. Clad in armor and calling himself the Guardsman, O'Brien offered to aid the board in their plot against Stark. As a show of support, he agreed to quell a protest rally outside the plant. The Guardsman aimed his repulsor rays at the crowd, injuring four protestors. Sickened by what he did, O'Brien turned on the renegade board members, physically assaulting them. However, seeing Tony Stark with Marianne Rogers caused him to once again become unbalanced, and he went outside to vent his rage on the growing crowd of protestors. Stark donned his Iron Man armor and engaged the Guardsman in battle to prevent him from doing more damage. Losing, the Guardsman sought refuge in an experimental tank. In an attempt to stop him without hurting him, Iron Man trained his repulsor rays on the vehicle and accidentally hit its fuel supply. The tank exploded, killing O'Brien.
Guardsman (Michael O'Brien)
|First appearance||Iron Man #82 (Jan 1976)
(as Guardsman) Iron Man #97
|Created by||Len Wein (writer)
Herb Trimpe (artist)
|Alter ego||Michael O'Brien|
|Abilities||Powered armor grants:
Superhuman strength and physical resistance,
Michael O'Brien, the brother of the original Guardsman Kevin O'Brien, was also born in Chicago, Illinois. Some months after Kevin's death, when the details of the incident came to public light, Michael, a sergeant in the New York City Police Department, decided that the official investigation exonerating Iron Man's actions was a cover-up. Reopening the investigation without official sanction, Detective O'Brien confronted Stark, interrogated several of his employees, and declared his intention of proving Stark responsible for his brother's death.
O'Brien finally hired an unscrupulous private investigator to get him inside the Long Island plant. There O'Brien located the Guardsman armor and put it on, determined to use it to bring Iron Man to justice. However, the malfunction in the cybernetic circuitry that affected his brother also affected Michael's brain, and he flew into a rage seeking to kill Iron Man. Iron Man confronted his attack and finally convinced him that the armor was causing him to act insanely. O'Brien collapsed on rebelling against his own urge to kill Iron Man. Stark took O'Brien into custody rather than press criminal charges, hoping to convince the man of his innocence in Kevin's death. While Stark worked on a new set of armor, the Japanese mutant Sunfire attacked the plant. Stark was unable to put on his new armor since it had not yet cooled, and unable to find any of his spare suits of armor since a saboteur had stolen them. Hence he was forced to put on the Guardsman armor to fight off Sunfire. O'Brien witnessed Stark's heroic attempts to save lives over a video monitor, aware that Stark was risking a major heart attack by the strenuous activity. Escaping confinement, O'Brien decided he was wrong about Stark and determined to help him by donning the now-cooled Iron Man armor. Thus clad, he was mistaken for the real Iron Man and kidnapped by the Mandarin. Stark discovered an old set of Iron Man armor that the saboteur had overlooked and went to China to rescue O'Brien. Upon rescuing him, Stark chose to reveal his true identity to O'Brien before he went off to battle the Mandarin. O'Brien flew back to New York where he took custody of the Guardsman armor once more.
After Iron Man defeated the Mandarin, Stark fixed the malfunction in the Guardsman armor's circuitry so it was safe to wear.[volume & issue needed] Michael O'Brien was determined to use the armor to vindicate both his brother's and his own senseless actions. When Stark International was taken over by the criminal Midas, the Guardsman joined with a number of Stark's other friends and allies to battle Midas' men. He was turned to gold by Midas' power, but was later restored to flesh. Having quit the police force, O'Brien interviewed for the position of security director at Project: Pegasus, the government energy research facility, after its previous director, Quasar, quit. With a high recommendation by Tony Stark, O'Brien got the job. Sometime later, while guarding the Project, O'Brien's Guardsman armor was damaged in a battle with the subhuman Lava Men. It was later repaired at the Project's expense. O'Brien, as the Guardsman, has been living and working full-time in the Project since his appointment and has performed his duties capably.[volume & issue needed]
Other known Guardsmen
- Harold "Harry" Bright - member of the Vault Retrieval Team
- James "Jim" Cunningham - tried not to panic during the mass breakout of the Vault
- Marc Danson
- Paul Danvers
- Charles "Charlie" DeMulder[volume & issue needed]
- Terence "Terry" Doocey[volume & issue needed]
- Frank Ensign (Guardsman Prime) - helped transport the Wizard to prison; later aided Iron Man (Anthony Stark).
- William "Billy" Fredricks - first appeared guarding a wounded Portal in hospital and later seen at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Book.
- Sam Hanson[volume & issue needed]
- Patrick Herbert - worked at the Vault, was tricked by Mainframe (Ian Wajler)
- Michael "Mike" Ivy - aided Guardsman Prime in the transportation of the Wizard.
- Emilio Layton - member of the Vault Retrieval Team
- Conrad Mahlstedt[volume & issue needed]
- Russ Mendoza[volume & issue needed]
- Fred Miller[volume & issue needed]
- Asher O'Brien[volume & issue needed]
- Howard Samuels - mentally attacked by Mentallo, but survived the breakout
- Jaxson Schirra[volume & issue needed]
- Gregory Smoot - was chosen to test U.S. Agent using the Iron Monger armor
- Tim Teller[volume & issue needed]
- Jerry Tinsley[volume & issue needed]
- Eliot Villagran - seen guarding a hospitalized Portal
- Marty Delarosa - while off-duty, he met and flirted with Calypso who convinced him to sneak her into the Vault; once in, she killed him.
- Larson Dzon[volume & issue needed] - deceased
- Curtis Elkins (Sentry) - member of the Jury and former friend of Hugh Taylor
- Chris Fallon - deceased
- Walt Hanna[volume & issue needed] - deceased
- Rick McLaurin - deceased
- Ravello Medina - deceased
- Corbin Rubinstein - deceased
- Chuck Scott[volume & issue needed] - deceased
- Danny Stephens - worked at the Vault and was the first Guardsman taken hostage and killed by Venom (Eddie Brock)
- Pascal Tyler - killed Cinder, framing Luke Cage and Rhino
- Ernie Vancata[volume & issue needed]
- Scott Washington (Hybrid) - also known as Guardsman 6, became known as Hybrid when the Riot, Phage, Lasher and Agony symbiotes merged with him after he was paralyzed in a gang shoot out
Powers and abilities
Both Guardsmen wore powered armor designed by Tony Stark and Stark Industries. The Guardsman armor contained a powered exoskeleton that gave the wearer superhuman strength allowing the operator to lift 40 tons under optimal conditions (for about 3 minutes). The armor's high-carbon steel alloy mesh and radiation shielding also offer protection from most ballistic and even energy weapons. The armor can fly via chemically powered boot jets at a maximum speed of 250 mph (400 km/h) for 3 hours, and contains 30 minutes air supply for submersion or high-altitude flight.
Each palm of the Guardsman armor's gauntlets contains a charged ion "repulsor ray" emitter capable of 45 seconds continuous discharge at a range of 40 feet (12 m) before irregularities in plasma cone diffuse the beam.
Kevin O'Brien had earned a PhD in engineering, with expertise in engineering and was a gifted inventor. He also used a "stun-ray" device as a weapon.
Michael O'Brien is a good hand-to-hand combatant and was coached by Captain America. As a policeman, he carried a police issue handgun, and as Avengers security chief he used "stun guns" and other advanced weaponry.
Both Kevin and Michael suffered from emotional instability that was exacerbated by the cybernetic circuitry in the original Guardsman battle-suit, causing both men to go insane. Michael O'Brien was able to wear the Guardsman armor safely after psychologically coming to terms with his trauma over his brother's death. The armor circuitry has since been modified by Anthony Stark to prevent its causing such adverse effects.
The Guardsman armor was replicated by Stane International for use at the Vault, and retained similar abilities to the original version. When the original armors were destroyed by Iron Man during the Armor Wars, Stane International attempted to re-create the Guardsman armor without Stark's designs; however, they proved inferior to the Stark-based models. Stark Enterprises replaced the second-generation Stane models with an improved design from Anthony Stark. Although superior to the Stane models, the new Stark Enterprises suits were limited to operation within the vicinity of the Vault, as a security measure to prevent misuse of their Iron Man-derived technology.
In other media
- The Guardsmen appeared in the Iron Man animated series. In the episode "Armor Wars" [Pt. 2], Iron Man invaded the Vault to disable the Guardsman armors. After slipping sleeping gas into the Vault's ventilation systems that puts all its inmates to sleep, Iron Man ended up in a fight with the Guardsmen and Hawkeye. Iron Man used the Negator Packs on them and discovered that they don't use the technology.
- Michael O'Brien appears in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Brian Drummond. He is Stark International's security chief (i.e. the Guardsman's most mundane namesake) under Obadiah Stane's personal command. Most of his appearances he does not wear a powered armor suit of his own, however, he gets to pilot the Crimson Dynamo armor, and later on the Iron Monger mech to tear down a derelict city block. But he refuses to finish Iron Man when the hero aids Dr. Abraham Zimmer (a resident of that area), and O'Brien is fired by Stane for his act of mercy. Meanwhile, the Guardsman is presented as the name for an armored duo of criminals (Force using repainted Space Armor and Shockwave using repainted Stealth Armor) appearing as public heroes and commercial mascots on Stane's behalf. While they seem to appear just in time to prevent disastrous incidents, Pepper Potts eventually shows Iron Man evidence revealing that the Guardsmen had in fact caused these incidents and that they are notorious criminals. At the Guardsmen Expo where Firepower (using repainted Hulkbuster armor) is unveiled as the latest member of the Guardsmen, Pepper forces the Guardsmen to reveal their identities upon hacking the Expo's television screen to show their mug shots as Maggia enforcers. After the Guardsmen are defeated by Iron Man and War Machine, Obadiah escapes suspicion by claiming on television that he had no knowledge of the criminal past of the Guardsmen members.
- The Guardsmen appear in Avengers Assemble animated series, voiced by Roger Craig Smith (in "Civil War, Part 3: The Drums of War"), and by David Kaye (in "Prison Break"). They first appear in Avengers: Ultron Revolution as Truman Marsh's armored enforcers based on Iron Man's armor designs. They first appear in "World War Hulk" where two accompany Truman into arresting Red Hulk following a gamma-poisoning incident, and in "Civil War, Part 1: The Fall of Attilan" where two accompany Marsh during Inferno's arrest following the Inhuman's brainwashing incident. In "Civil War, Part 3: The Drums of War", the Guardsmen are shown working in Marsh's prison where the Avengers are incarcerated. After Tony Stark gets free and receives help from Black Widow and the Inhumans Black Bolt and Medusa, the other Avengers fight the way past the Guardsmen in order to get to Steve Rogers's infirmary. There were also two variations of Guardsman armor: Mandroid and Hulkbusters. The Guardsmen also appear in Avengers: Secret Wars as the Vault's armored guards. In the episode "Avengers No More" [Pt. 1], they are seen in a transport plane carrying the Ghost. In the episode "Prison Break", the Guardsmen try to stop Zarda, Typhoid Mary and the Crimson Widow from escaping but we're quickly defeated, however, the prison break gets stopped by the Wasp and Captain Marvel.
- A "Vault Guardsman" figure was released in the Toy Biz Spider-Man line under the "Techno Wars" label. The figure was derived from an unreleased figure in the Iron Man line, with removable armor plates.
- A figure of Guardsman was released in wave 30 of the Marvel Minimates line.
- A figure of Guardsman was released in wave 2 of Hasbro's 3.75" Iron Man 2 movie tie-in line.
- Iron Man #43, 45–46
- Iron Man #82
- Iron Man #96–99
- Iron Man #108
- Avengers #236
- Avengers #301
- Iron Man #300
- Iron Man #228
- Avengers: Deathtrap - The Vault #1
- Cage #9
- Avengers Spotlight #26
- Darkhawk #5
- Deathlok vol. 2 #8
- Captain America #354
- Web of Spider-Man #109
- Venom: Lethal Protector #2
- Thunderbolts #60–61
- The New Warriors #21
- Venom: Along Came a Spider #1
- Behind the Voice Cast: Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures, episode "Seeing Red"
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures, episode "Enter: The Iron Monger!"
- "Civil War, Part 3: The Drums of War". Avengers: Ultron Revolution. Season 3. Episode 25. January 28, 2017. Disney XD.
- "Prison Break". Avengers: Secret Wars. Season 4. Episode 4. August 27, 2017. Disney XD.