Ivan Vanko first appears at his home near an alleyway in Moscow where his father, Anton Vanko, is coughing and dying. After his father dies, Ivan Vanko begins overlooking blueprints for the Arc Reactor created by his father and Howard Stark, the father of Tony Stark (Iron Man). Vanko begins creating his own Arc Reactor based off of the blueprints, in revenge against Tony Stark. As the montages of Vanko creating the Arc Reactor go by, there is a short scene where Vanko is seen giving his pet Sulphur-crested cockatoo vodka. Vanko eventually completes the Arc Reactor and stares into its light with an evil smile and a sinister, low, laugh.
Six months later, Vanko is seen creating his electrified plasma whips and harness to hold his Arc Reactor. Vanko even whips a television broadcasting Tony Stark in half with a plasma whip. An agent of the Ten Rings is later seen slipping Vanko a passport to the United States in an alleyway. Along with the passport, the agent also gave Vanko a postcard for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Vanko infiltrates the Monaco Grand Prix using a boiler suit as a disguise. Vanko begins wandering the track, astounding the audience of the race, and eventually reveals his Whiplash harness and his plasma whips before he splices a race car in half. Vanko attacks Stark (who is racing in the Monaco Grand Prix) and slices Stark's car in half. Stark survives and Vanko attempts to attack him while he is weak. Stark's bodyguard Happy Hogan arrives and rams Vanko with his car, allowing time for Stark to apply a portable Iron Man suit (Mark V). Vanko confronts Stark again, with Stark now armed with the Mark V armor. Vanko whips Stark and wraps the whips around his torso and neck, which begin to burn through Stark's armor. Stark grabs Vanko's whips and throws him to the ground. Stark then removes the Arc Reactor from Vanko's harness, making him powerless. Vanko is then arrested by the Monaco authorities.
Stark visits Vanko in prison, curious to know why Vanko did not sell his technology for money and where he obtained the design for the Arc Reactor. Vanko explains that he did not want to kill Iron Man, but ruin his public image by demonstrating that Iron Man could be defeated. Vanko also explains that he obtained the blueprints from his father Anton Vanko, who worked with Tony's father Howard Stark. Before Stark leaves, Vanko utters "Palladium in the chest, painful way to die." deliberately to taunt Stark while ensuring that Vanko is aware of Stark's condition of his Arc Reactor core poisoning him.
Vanko later escapes from prison with the help of Stark's rival Justin Hammer, who places a clay bomb in the disguise of a potato in Vanko's prison lunch. One of Hammer's men, disguised as a cell guard, escorts another prisoner with Vanko's same incarceration number on his prison unifrom into the cell. Vanko kills the other prisoner and the same cell guard slips Vanko the keys. Vanko escapes and an actual cell guard begins harassing Vanko for not being in his cell. Vanko snaps the guard's neck and escapes before the bomb explodes. More of Hammer's men disguised as prison guards slip a bag over Vanko's head and transport him to an aircraft facility, where Vanko meets Justin Hammer himself for the first time. Hammer offers to help Vanko take revenge on Stark in return for designing suits for Hammer Industries. Vanko agrees on the condition that Hammer brings him his pet Sulphur-crested cockatoo he left back in Russia.
Hammer brings Vanko to his facility in Queens, New York, where Vanko is introduced to Hammer's prototype suits. After Hammer explains that he wants to use the suits to replace Iron Man and ruin Tony Stark's image at the Stark Expo, Vanko confirms that he will help Hammer with no problem. Later, Hammer brings Vanko the cockatoo he wanted, although Vanko claims that the bird is not his cockatoo. This immediately effects Vanko's relationship with Hammer, who advises Vanko to not become attached to sentimental values such as his bird. Hammer then realizes that Vanko has replaced a Hammer suit's helmet with a drone head. Hammer, at first appalled by Vanko's change in plan, asks why Vanko has replaced the suit's helmet with a drone head. Vanko responds that people create problems and that the drone is better. Vanko also retorts back "Don't get too attached to things. Learn to let go.", deliberately taunting Hammer by rephrasing Hammer's same quote.
When Vanko informs Hammer that he cannot give a weapons demonstration of the drones for Senator Stern and the Stark Expo, Hammer takes the bird he brought Vanko, Vanko's pillows, and his shoes from him as punishment for not delivering what was promised in their deal. In addition, Vanko is locked up in the facility until Hammer is finished with his presentation at the expo. However, a few seconds after Hammer leaves the room, Vanko kills Hammer's guards and takes back his belongings. Vanko then calls Tony Stark from a home-made telephone (created using leftover resources from Hammer's facility), informing Stark that he has escaped from prison and that will take revenge on him at the Stark Expo. As Vanko is speaking to Stark, Stark traces Vanko's call to the Hammer Industries facility in Queens.
At the Stark Expo, where Hammer is presenting the drones, Vanko takes remote control of the drones and the War Machine armor worn by James Rhodes from Hammer's facility, making the drones attack the expo and sending the War Machine armor after Tony Stark. However, S.H.E.I.L.D agent Natasha Romanoff and Happy Hogan arrive at the facility to fight off Hammer's guards. Taking advantage of the time, Vanko escapes from the facility.
Rhodes gains control of his armor once more and the Hammer drones are eventually defeated by Rhodes and Stark. Vanko arrives in his Whiplash Mark II suit, fashioned from Hammer technology with a new Arc Reactor and set of plasma whips with double cycles, rather than one cycle as Stark pointed out during his conversation with Vanko in Monaco prison. Rhodes fires a missile at Vanko (dubbed by Hammer Industries employees as the "X-Wife"), only to find that the missile has no affect on Vanko's new armor. Vanko attacks and whips Stark and Rhodes, tying the whips around their necks. As Vanko has his whips wrapped firmly around their necks, Stark and Rhodes fire their repulsor moun beams at Vanko, causing a massive explosion. Vanko, now wounded in the remains of his suit, reveals that he installed self-destruct devices in his armor and the Hammer drones. The explosion from his suit kills Vanko, and his dying words to Tony Stark are "You lose".
A version of the unnamed female Whiplash appears in appears in this series. As the Breakout occured, she was among the prisoners getting their weapons and suits back in the Vault's armory when the Living Laser ripped the door open for them.
Then she was with the other villians bent on taking revenge on Iron Man for locking them up in the Vault. As Blizzard was about to kill him with his freeze ray, they were stopped by Hawkeye.
After being saved by Hawkeye, Iron Man then set the Vault in self-destruct and escaped. Whiplash escaped before the Vault exploded.
When the Avengers fought her, she had Black Panther tied up with her lashes. Hawkeye freed Panther and Whiplash destoryed all the lights. She tried to attack Hawkeye from behind but Panther warned him and Hawkeye fired an arrow at her, freezing her. Whiplash was then imprisoned.
In Iron Man 2 Whiplash is a mixture of the comic incarnation along with another enemy of Iron Man named Crimson Dynamo.
The Whiplash in Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers is visually based on the one seen in the Iron Man: Armored Adventures series, who in turn is seemingly based on Mark Scariotti, the Whiplash/Blacklash from the comics.