Guardsman (comics)

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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 squad of agents who wear suits of power armor while working security at the Vault.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Kevin O'Brien[edit]

Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceIron Man #31 (November 1970)
Created byAllyn Brodsky (writer)
Don Heck (artist)
In-story information
Alter egoKevin O'Brien
Team affiliationsStark Industries
AbilitiesPowered armor grants:
Superhuman stamina and physical resistance
Repulsor rays

Kevin O'Brien was 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 the 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 the supposed bodyguard Iron Man, notably against the Spymaster and the assistants the Espionage Elite, saving Stark's life on more than one occasion. Stark then decided to reveal to O'Brien being 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 girlfriend Marianne Rogers were taken captive by the superhuman madman Mikas the Soulfather. Putting on the armor before being 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 Marianne 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 Stark as principal stockholder. 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 Stark with Marianne caused him to once again become unbalanced, and he went outside to vent his rage on the growing crowd of protestors. Stark donned the 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's repulsor rays were trained on the vehicle and accidentally hit its fuel supply. The tank exploded, killing O'Brien.[1]

Michael O'Brien[edit]

Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceIron Man #82 (January 1976)
(as Guardsman) Iron Man #97
Created byLen Wein (writer)
Herb Trimpe (artist)
In-story information
Alter egoMichael O'Brien
Team affiliationsAvengers
Iron Legion
Project: Pegasus
The Vault
AbilitiesPowered armor grants:
Superhuman strength and physical resistance,
Repulsor rays

Michael 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 Tony Stark, interrogated several employees, and declared his intention of proving Stark responsible for his brother's death.[2]

O'Brien finally hired Harry Key, 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's brain 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.[3]

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.[4] 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 Stark, O'Brien got the job.[5] Sometime later, while guarding the Project, O'Brien's Guardsman armor was damaged in a battle with the subhuman Lava Men.[5] 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]

Later, he was the security chief at Avengers Island.[6] He also participated in the Iron Legion against Ultimo, wearing a re-creation of the Silver Centurion armor.[7]

Other known Guardsmen[edit]

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

Powers and abilities[edit]

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 the 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[edit]


  • 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 do not use the technology.[citation needed]
  • Michael O'Brien appears in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Brian Drummond.[20] He is Stark International's security chief (i.e. the Guardsman's most mundane namesake) under Obadiah Stane's personal command when he became the new head of Stark International. Most of his appearances he does not wear a powered armor suit of his own, however, he gets to pilot the Crimson Dynamo armor,[21] 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.[22] 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"),[23] David Kaye (in "Prison Break"),[24] and Fred Tatasciore (in "Vibranium Curtain" [Pt. 2]).[25] They first appear in Avengers: Ultron Revolution as Truman Marsh's enforcers based on Iron Man's 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. The Guardsmen also appear in Avengers: Secret Wars and Avengers: Black Panther's Quest as the Vault's 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 were quickly defeated, however, the prison break gets stopped by the Wasp and Captain Marvel. In the episode "Vibranium Curtain" [Pt. 2], T'Challa has encounters with the Guardsmen in order to escape with Ulysses Klaue.


  • 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.


  1. ^ Iron Man #43, 45–46
  2. ^ Iron Man #82
  3. ^ Iron Man #96–100
  4. ^ Iron Man #108
  5. ^ a b Avengers #236
  6. ^ Avengers #301
  7. ^ Iron Man #300
  8. ^ a b Iron Man #228
  9. ^ a b c d Avengers: Deathtrap - The Vault #1
  10. ^ a b c d e f Cage #9
  11. ^ a b Avengers Spotlight #26
  12. ^ a b Darkhawk #5
  13. ^ Deathlok vol. 2 #8
  14. ^ Captain America #354
  15. ^ a b Web of Spider-Man #109
  16. ^ Venom: Lethal Protector #2
  17. ^ Thunderbolts #60–61
  18. ^ The New Warriors #21
  19. ^ Venom: Along Came a Spider #1
  20. ^ Behind the Voice Cast: Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
  21. ^ Iron Man: Armored Adventures, episode "Seeing Red"
  22. ^ Iron Man: Armored Adventures, episode "Enter: The Iron Monger!"
  23. ^ "Civil War, Part 3: The Drums of War". Avengers: Ultron Revolution. Season 3. Episode 25. January 28, 2017. Disney XD.
  24. ^ "Prison Break". Avengers: Secret Wars. Season 4. Episode 4. August 27, 2017. Disney XD.
  25. ^ "Vibraniun Curtain Pt. 2". Avengers: Black Panther's Quest. Season 5. Episode 15. January 6, 2019. Disney XD.

External links[edit]