General James Ironwood is the Headmaster of Atlas Academy, as well as a general in the Atlesian Military and a holder of two seats on the Atlesian Council. His weapons of choice are a pair of revolvers.
For currently unknown reasons, the entire right section of his body has been replaced with a robotic prosthesis.
Original (Volumes 2–3)
Ironwood is shown to be well dressed and clean, much like Ozpin. He wears a white overcoat, with a gray undercoat, black sweater, a red necktie and a white glove on his right hand. His suit pants share the same color as his overcoat and are tucked into silver boots accented in gray.
His hair is black, with some gray areas, while his eyebrows are solid black. He has a strip of silver metal above his right eyebrow, a neurotransmitter that helps him operate the robotic parts of his body.
In both concept art and the Volume 3 Opening, Ironwood is shown wearing battle armor on his shoulder, with straps forming an 'x' over his overcoat. He is also showed wearing two large belts over his coat. Interestingly, this design was never used in the show.
Post-Timeskip (Volume 4)
After the Fall of Beacon, Ironwood's appearance is slightly less pristine. He has grown stubble and his hair is slightly messier. He wears a white, double-breasted tailcoat with dark blue and black accents, most notable at the cuffs and shoulder pieces. The coat is belted at the waist. Underneath, Ironwood has a black collared shirt and a red tie. He also now wears two white gloves, in contrast to wearing only one on his right hand. His pants are no longer tucked inside military boots but instead hang over black boots.
Current Outfit (Volume 7-Current)
Ironwood's appearance once again became less pristine in his figure. His stubble has fully grown into a beard, and his hair is more disheveled. Ironwood wears a dark-blue collared shirt and red tie, along with a white coat with blue and red accents. He wears a white vest over the collared shirt, with two dark-blue belts, one across his chest, the other around his waist. Lastly, he now sports blue pants and boots.
Following his battle with Arthur Watts, the entirety of Ironwood's left arm is burned by Watts' Rings, damaged to the point where Watts hints that it may need to be amputated and replaced with cybernetics. Once Ironwood arrives back in Atlas Academy, he bandages it and wears a sling over the arm.
Ironwood is courteous to his allies, as shown by his first onscreen interaction with Ozpin and Glynda Goodwitch. He is also far-thinking and tactical, wondering about the future, as seen when he speaks to Ozpin about Qrow's message. He also has a jovial, friendly, humorous and proud public persona, which he uses as a spokesman for the weapon manufacturers of Atlas.
However, as courteous Ironwood may appear, he can also be incredibly blunt and arrogant, and generally prefers the direct approach. When he feels necessary, Ironwood is not afraid to bring the full might of his military command to bear, which can spark disagreements with both Glynda and Ozpin. Nevertheless, Ironwood is extremely loyal to his comrades, and however questionable his methods may be, he seems to have genuinely good intentions behind them.
Ironwood consistently believes his ideas are justified and the best course of action whether Ozpin or Jacques Schnee opposes him. According to Jacques, Ironwood does not trust anybody but himself, something the general does not deny; instead, he believes that his methods are justified. This leads Ironwood to a more proactive yet headstrong approach to problems, attempting more preemptive measures, as opposed to Ozpin's more subtle, reactive and analytical methods.
Ironwood is known to respect courage, selflessness, and duty above all in people and displays a generous personality. This is evident in his compensating Yang Xiao Long with an Atlas-tech prosthesis before her father, Taiyang Xiao Long, came to ask him for one. Consistent with this is his disdain for people who are apathetic to the problems and safety of the world's populace. He holds contempt for a socialite at a Schnee fundraising event when he comments Weiss is the only person making sense there.
Ironwood's military status results in his oversight of all scientific and research-based endeavors under his jurisdiction. He is culpable for unethical Aura experiments by the Atlesian Military in Aura transference and life supports used to prevent the Fall Maiden's powers from being assimilated by Cinder Fall. James is aware of the ethical gray areas he treads, bitterly swallowing any of his possible discomfort and criticism from others for the sake of global safety and his loyalty to Ozpin's group.
Though a courageous if a somewhat bullheaded man, Ironwood is rather sympathetic toward those who abstain from combat in dire circumstances, as is shown when he gives the students at Amity Colosseum the choice to fight or flee to safety during the Fall of Beacon. This shows that while he values the dutiful and strong of will, he remains mindful that not everyone is suited to a life on the front lines of war.
Due to the events of the Fall of Beacon where he was completely and utterly out maneuvered by Salem and Cinder despite his best efforts to stop them, Ironwood now appears to suffer from a degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and an increased sense of severe paranoia. This, now coupled with his typical bullheadedness, arrogance and bluntness has made him make several decisions that have lead to many of his own people from Atlas to outright despise him due to the countermeasures he had implemented and the severe secrecy has begun exhibiting to even his fellow Councilmen. Even those in high positions or highly influential within the Kingdom have begun seeing him in a bad light, as seen with Jacques, Robyn Hill, Pietro Polendina and Councilmen Sleet and Camilla have begun doubting his state of mind and the honesty of his intentions.
However, Ironwood is well aware of his bad reputation, instead choosing to sacrifice what it takes if it means both protecting his Kingdom and stopping Salem. He also chooses to trust Ruby's Group with his secrets, claiming that in order to defeat Salem they need to trust one another. Upon learning the truth about Salem and Ozpin, he is shocked at being lied to. However, he is willing to focus on saving Mantle and at first seems to have taken the truth well after advice from Oscar Pine. He is also willing to finally tell the truth about Salem and work with Robyn Hill despite ordering her arrest.
As of "Gravity", once he learns Cinder Fall is on Atlas, and taking into account the lies from Ruby's Group and that Salem was coming, Ironwood caves into his paranoia. Now more distrustful than ever before, he believes the entirety of Ruby's Group is betraying him, leading him to commit many unethical acts in order to prevent Salem from winning. He was willing to abandon Mantle despite the people not being fully evacuated and use the Relic of Creation to raise Atlas into the sky instead of Amity Tower, deciding he'd abandon his original plan to solely save his city instead. He was even willing to have Fria killed just so Winter Schnee will be the next Winter Maiden. His paranoia had reached a level where he now plans on using his immense influence as both General to the Atlas Military and Headmaster to the Academy to now put the entire kingdom of Atlas in a state of martial law without the kingdom's council's consent or approval due to now no longer knowing who to trust as seen where he ordered the arrest of Ruby's Group when they refused to go along with his extreme plan of self preservation. He was even willing to go so far as to shoot Oscar Pine without any hesitation or remorse afterwards so he could proceed with his plan.
Powers and Abilities
Ironwood is an impressive marksman, as he effortlessly dispatched multiple Atlesian Knight-200s within the space of several seconds, the heads of the first two cleanly removed by his shots.
In close quarters, Ironwood is shown to be a formidable fighter who makes great use of grappling his opponents, effortlessly throwing Arthur Watts with his offhand. Ironwood makes use of a fighting style which resembles boxing, utilizing punches and kicks.
As a general, Ironwood normally doesn't associate himself with the front lines of combat and usually orders his forces using his tactical know-how and military knowledge. However, when pressed, he is very adept in combat.
In "Remembrance", he has two seats on the Atlesian Council, assuming both seats symbolize as Headmaster of Atlas Academy and General of the Atlas Military, giving him a even greater amount of authority and influence over the Atlesian Council and the Kingdom of Atlas, allowing him to make unilateral decisions such as initiating a Dust Embargo, closing off the Borders of the Kingdom from the rest of the world and even initiate and enforce Martial Law should he deem it necessary.
- Main article: Ironwood's Guns
Ironwood's weapon of choice is a pair of guns, one of which is known as Due Process, which he used to fight off Grimm who were attacking the Amity Arena. He shoots using his organic arm; in close combat, he also uses his revolver to pistol-whip opponents, usually switching to his cybernetic arm for added power. He possesses formidable physical strength in close combat, as his cybernetic arm was able to completely stop a fully-armored Beowolf's attack and throw the beast around with little effort.
In "Taking Control", he slams his robotic fist on Jacques' desk with enough force to severely damage the surface.
Later, in RWBY: Amity Arena, it was revealed that Ironwood possesses a second gun, one that is almost identical to Due Process, only instead of white the gun is shown to be black with silver floral details. It fires Gravity Dust bullets, as shown in "Gravity", where Ironwood uses it to propel himself in the air during his battle with Watts. In the fight, Watts shoots the black revolver away from James, causing him to drop it in the Amity Colosseum. Ironwood does not recover the weapon, and instead only uses Due Process from that point.
- Ironwood alludes to the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. For more information on this allusion, as well as other choices the creators made for this character, see James Ironwood/Behind the Scenes.
- "Ironwood" is a common name applied to a number of types of wood known for their hardness. Alternatively, Ironwood (Járnviðr) is also the name of a location in Norse mythology.
- The name James means 'supplanter.' This could reference military supplanting, bringing to mind greens and grays.