It should be noted up front that when I say Tony Stark is the best Avenger I am only referring to the cinematic universe. When it comes to the comic book world of the Avengers franchise, my knowledge is limited (ok, I haven’t read one single issue of any Marvel comic). But I fell in love with Iron Man from the moment Stark defied the wishes of his publicist and announced his “secret” identity to a crowd full of reporters. And when it comes to his position in the big-screen team of superheroes known as the Avengers, he smashes the Hulk, squashes Black Widow, shield-butts Captain America, hammers Marvel’s Thor and swats Hawkeye out of the sky. Why is that? I could come up with many reasons, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick with the four that he gives himself during a particularly heated argument with the Cap. Even without his armor, Stark is a Genius, Billionaire, Playboy and a Philanthropist.
Best Avenger Genius
Let’s not mince words here. Stark is the kind of smart that runs circles around Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. Trapped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but weapons parts and an old battery, he successfully made himself a miniature arc reactor that not only powered a primitive version of his Iron Man suit, but kept shrapnel from entering his own heart. Ostensibly, this man performed heart surgery on himself. His lab is its own holodeck 400 years before such things were installed into Starfleet ships. He is the leading name (indeed, the only official name) in clean energy. His engineering prowess allowed him to create Iron Man suits that both fit in suitcases and fly out to rescue him as he dives off his own tower. He can easily talk shop with the only other genius on the Avengers team, Bruce Banner, and became an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics overnight.
All the other Avengers struggle to keep up with Tony Stark’s brain. Even Banner seems slightly mystified by the incredible hacking job that Tony does on the S.H.I.E.L.D. computers. Bruce is certainly a genius in his own field, but Tony is a genius in his field, Bruce’s field, Steve Rogers’ field, Natasha’s and Clint’s fields; heck, given a chance he could probably learn everything about Thor’s field. Do you know why Tony Stark has a drinking problem? Not because he’s a typical drunk who just keeps chasing the feeling. Alcohol is the cooling system for his brain’s processing power.
This is where Tony’s brains are put to work. Sure, most of his fortune was inherited, but the brains ran in the family. The Stark Empire was built on genius. And with this money, he is able to do something about which most superheroes only look back and feel guilty. Fix things. Loki’s first appearance on Earth destroyed an entire small town. And what could Thor do about it, but scratch his head? The Hulk has destroyed more than his fair share of city blocks, and what does Bruce do? Runs away to a third world country. Whatever happened in Budapest, I’m sure Clint and Natasha had little to do with the clean-up. And all of Captain Rogers’ collateral damage was probably included in the whole cost of World War II, but no doubt he would be feeling anguish over the cost of Loki’s army if Tony wasn’t around to lend a few billion dollars to repairs.
Let’s not focus here on the amount of women Tony has had swooning over him. Rather, let’s think about the kind of personality it takes to get to that point. Tony Stark is a swaggering, handsome, charismatic man with as much power as he has money. He may not have the musculature of Thor, or the kindheartedness of Steve, but he has what it takes. On screen, a woman might prefer one of the other men to Tony, but put her in a room with the three of them and watch Tony swoop in like a hawk and close the deal before anyone else knew a deal was being made.
Speaking of hawks, there are two other male team members left: the quiet nerd with a mean streak and the aloof weirdo creeping on you from above. They don’t stand a chance. With Natasha, you might think you’re getting lucky, but she only ever wants something from you, and once she gets it, she’s done with you. No, Tony is the true player in this game. His charisma points are through the roof, and if he “doesn’t play well with others”, it’s only because the others aren’t attractive women.
Best Avenger Philanthropist
So far I’ve described Tony Stark in terms of his most upfront and highlighted characteristics. But this is where it all counts. Sure, Tony has an ego taller than Stark Tower, and with the aforementioned characteristics, it’s easy to see how an ego of such size might come into being. But ever since his incarceration at the hands of terrorists, Tony has been working hard to make sure he earns every last penny of his fortune. Peter Parker learned that with great power comes great responsibility, but this is a mantra we don’t often see a lot of rich and powerful men repeating.
When Tony realized the damage that the weapons industry was doing to the world, he stopped weapons production and focused solely on clean energy through his arc reactor. When he was faced with the destruction of the world, he tried in his own unique way to get to the very bottom of it and fix it. He was even willing to sacrifice his own life to get rid of the immediate threat of a nuclear warhead beaming toward Manhattan. His brains, his fortune, his charisma all work together for this singular effort: the betterment of humanity. I can’t compare this trait to the other Avengers, because, let’s face it, you can’t be an Avenger without being a little bit of a philanthropist. But with the size of Tony’s ego, he is a philanthropist despite himself. And I think that counts for a little more than any other Avenger could speak toward.
Sound off, nerds! You’ve heard my argument for Iron Man, now tell me who your favorite is and why. And I even fully admitted that I have no idea what the Avengers are like in the comic books. You no doubt have an arsenal of knowledge I can’t even dream of tapping into. Is Ant Man your favorite? The Wasp? Black Panther? Ms. Marvel? Assemble all your thoughts and feelings in the comment section.