Iron Man #97 (April 1977) opens with Iron Man (Tony Stark) returning from a battle with the deadly giant robot Ultimo, his energy levels seriously depleted and with cracks showing all over his armour, to find the main plant of Stark Industries on fire. The site is under attack from someone wearing another suit of high-powered armour designed by Stark. This armour is green and its wearer goes by the name of the Guardsman. It had previously been worn by an employee of Stark’s called Kevin O’Brien. However, the armour has a fault. It drives its wearer insane. A maddened Kevin had died after Iron Man fought him in order to protect the lives of innocent people. The new Guardsman is Kevin’s brother, Michael, who is attacking the plant because he blames Tony Stark for his brother’s death. Without stopping to recharge his armour, Iron Man confronts the Guardsman but collapses when his heart can’t take the strain. Stark had thought he was immune from such attacks since his damaged heart had been replaced by a synthetic organ. It turns out he is wrong. Iron Man only has time to recharge his armour a little before taking on the Guardsman again. His energy levels low, Iron Man has to use cunning to win the battle. He manages to confuse O’Brien’s already unstable mind until at last he collapses.
In issue 98, Sunfire, a Japanese superhero with fire powers, attacks the Stark plant to protest against what he regards as the corrupt manner in which Stark has obtained economic influence in Japan. Meanwhile, Krissy Longfellow, Tony Stark’s female assistant, has a feeling that she has met Shield agent Jasper Sitwell somewhere before and this suspicion fills her with fear. (Sitwell is currently investigating possible sabotage of Stark’s defence systems.) Also, someone has been in to Tony’s secret closet in his private work-room and stolen his spare suits of armour.
Since the new armour he is preparing is not charged, Stark has to don the Guardsman armour in order to confront Sunfire. Doesn’t the Guardsman armour drive its wearer insane? ‘No,’ says Tony to himself, ‘because there is nothing wrong with my mind.’ This seems dodgy. It indicates that there had to be something already wrong with the minds of the O’Brien brothers. In other words, they were Irish and prone to acts of terrorism, unlike American millionaire arms magnate Tony Stark! (Couldn’t Stark simply have assumed that by wearing the armour for only a short period, his mind might not be affected?) Anyway, Tony Stark, wearing the Guardsman armour, fails to defeat Sunfire and so a repentant Michael O’Brien dons an old suit of Iron Man armour to confront the Japanese super-being.