I am a huge Heinlein fan and loved his novel “Starship Troopers” (the movie was fair). While reading an issue of “Iron Man” I noticed, not for the first time, the resemblance between the Mobile Infantry’s powersuits and Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor. This time, I wondered who first had the idea.
I did a search and found out that while Stan Lee’s Iron Man was first published in 1963, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers came out in 1959. Lee may have been influenced by “Troopers”, but I can’t confirm this.
So my question - is there a previous example in literature of powered armor - that is, a wearable, strength amplifying mobile weapons system?
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I think you’re talking about exoskeletons, that’s the conventional term for body-augumenting external suits. These go way WAY back in science fiction.
I’m not aware of any prior uses of powered armor in literature. Heinlein is generally regarded as the initiator of the idea, from what I can tell. Anyone who can show otherwise, I’d be interested.
As for uses of powered armor, here are some other stories.
Armor by John Steakley - a brilliant take on the subject. Powered armor used in a war against giant bugs, sure, but from the absurdity of war category. Intriguing dual storyline.
Body Armor 2000 - a collection of short stories and novellas dealing with the topic with a variety of approaches. Although at least one seems to deal more with environmental suits than necessarily powered armor. (Been a while since I read it.)
The Honor Harrington series by David Webber - there is some use of powered armor by the marines in a couple stories, notably On Basilisk Station. Though to be fair, not a lot of effort is put into the powered armor part, it’s more of a passing filler material to add depth to the universe.
And don’t forget “The Forever War,” by Haldeman. He goes into a lot more engineering details that Heinlein left out.
I believe that E.E. “Doc” Smith had something very close to powered armor in the thirties. In one of the lensman books I definitely recall bullet-proof space-suits. Not exactly what you are interested in, but close.
For a more realistic take, check out Haldeman’s “Forever Peace.” Instead of powered armor, you “jack-in” to a kind of mini-tank, more of a super RPV. (After all, why put delicate biologics in a nasty place where they can get hurt, when a high-bandwidth RF link can let you run it miles away from a bunker.)