The introduction of Tony Stark’s character, also known as Iron Man, to the mass media significantly influenced the vast public’s perception of a leader. Through the course of multiple movies, with some of them being the most expensive films in the history of filmmaking, the character’s decisions and worldview were discussed by people all over the world. Although the films the character was featured in were in the superhero movie genre, the character was only separated from the ordinary people by the iron suit, it seemed. In fact, it was his personality and leadership qualities that made the character a superhero. To further discuss Stark’s leadership and leader qualities, this essay will analyze the character’s behavior through the six key leadership traits.
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The Development of the Character
To ensure a full understanding of the character’s motives, one should start the analysis from the creation of the character and for which purposes the character was designed. The original character of Tony Stark was introduced by Marvel in a comic book in 1963. According to Sanderson and Roach (2021), the character was based on the personality of Howard Hughes. Hughes was a famous American engineer, pilot and philanthropist, and the founder of Hughes Aircraft Company. Hughes was perceived by the public as a “dashing young tycoon” and one of the most successful individuals in the world, so there is no wonder why the creators of Iron Man used him as a reference (Barber, 2016). However, despite the success in the early years, Hughes’ further life story was dark and tragic due to the decline of his physical and mental condition.
Although the movie character is based on the image of a modern high-tech billionaire, particularly Elon Musk, the original character of Iron Man, featured in the comic books, was designed to possess flaws. The character’s flaws were necessary to show morale to the reader through the hero’s story. It could be that creators tried to balance the character’s flaw with additional amounts of confidence and charisma. Despite the other characters in Avengers rarely show their flaws, Iron Man’s character frequently makes mistakes and acts in his own interests. The character’s continuous fight with his inner flaws makes up a significant part of the movies and shows the character’s development in the role of leader.
The first key leadership trait that should be discussed in the analysis is Iron Man’s intelligence. The character identifies himself as a genius, and although most of the time his abilities are connected to the iron suit, in fact, Stark’s most superhuman quality is his intelligence. The character’s intelligence has let him escape from captivity in the first Iron Man film, with the use of a giant iron suit (Favreau, 2008). Further in the development of the movies, Stark continuously developed the technology behind his suit. Moreover, he developed several AI systems to act as his assistants and advisors and delegated some of his work to them. As a leader of the Avengers team, he always used his intelligence to determine and address any of the potential risks for the team. In cases where he was not able to use his suit, he used his intelligence and engineering skills to solve the situation.
A part of why the Iron Man movie series were successful comes from the character’s confidence, which captured people’s attention. Stark is not afraid of making bold statements and has no fear of being in the spotlight. Through the course of the movies, Stark held several press conferences and showed his disregard for strategic speeches prepared for him in advance by other people. The character balances being overly confident with holding himself accountable for his mistakes. Accountability also has a lot to do with the character being confident enough to reveal his public figure as a superhero at the end of the first Iron Man film (Favreau, 2008). At some point, he takes responsibility and negative feedback for the whole team as the only member that does not cover his identity. There also is a negative side to the character’s confidence as fear of sudden danger and helplessness almost drove the character insane.
As it was previously mentioned, Stark has no fear of being in the spotlight. The viewer could think that it comes naturally from his personality, but the case possibly has more to do with the character’s experience as a prominent company leader. As Stark’s parents tragically passed away, he inherited the parents’ company at a young age. The sudden death of the character’s parents, depicted in the Captain America: Civil war, and the weight of responsibility for the family’s legacy might have altered his outlook (Russo, A. & Russo, J, 2016). Although the trauma of losing his parents made the character more passive-aggressive in his reactions, his quick wit is one of the reasons why he effortlessly captures the public’s attention.
The overall story of the Avengers team could be viewed as a journey of finding a lifetime goal and becoming determined to the goal. In the beginning, Tony Stark’s character’s sense of egoism becomes an obstacle on the way to determination. Further in the story, Stark sets the protection of the planet as his personal goal. To ensure the achievement of his goal, Stark agrees to become a part of the Avengers team in the first Avengers film (Whedon, 2012). After learning benefits from teamwork, Stark takes the financial weight of accommodating the team and its members with a headquarter in Avengers: Age of Ultron (Whedon, 2015). Further in the movie series, he agrees to work with the original team members despite their personal disagreements in the past and shows trust, cooperation, and mentorship to several additional new characters. In the end, he overcomes his sense of egoism and sacrifices himself for the goal of protecting the planet.
Perhaps the only leadership trait in which Iron Man lacks compared to the other team members is the sociability trait. From the beginning of his story and the first Iron Man film Stark only shows respect to the people he can trust, including two of his assistants (Favreau, 2008). Stark rarely shows respect to the member of his team because he only acknowledges intelligent people as his associates and disregards brute force. Due to Stark’s passive-aggressive attitude, the viewer could say that the character holds himself higher than regular people and frequently overlooked directions from governmental organizations.
The analysis in this paper started with the character’s origins or the original intent behind the development of the Iron Man character. The character was initially designed with several flaws and was supposed to overcome those flaws through the story. The process could be described as the character’s journey to achieve integrity. Although he did not eventually overcome all the obstacles on the way to integrity, through the course of movies, he showed some traits that people associate with integrity. Stark gave a second chance to his team members after their disagreement in Avengers: Infinity War; he was true to himself to the point of revealing his public identity and acknowledged his mistakes (Russo, A. & Russo, J., 2018). This example shows that it is not necessary to always show integrity to be a good leader, but it is required to show at least some of the integrity traits.
In conclusion, the essay explored and analyzed the character of Tony Stark and his behavior and notions through the lens of six key leadership traits: intelligence, confidence, charisma, determination, sociability, and integrity. The paper provided the story of the character’s development and determined that Iron Man possesses most leadership traits but lacks in the sociability and integrity aspects. The character’s story is a journey of overcoming obstacles on the way to integrity.
Barber, N. (2016). Was this billionaire recluse truly mad? BBC Culture. Web.
Favreau, J. (2008). Iron Man [Film]. Marvel Studios.
Russo, A. & Russo, J. (2018). Avengers: Infinity War [Film]. Marvel Studios.
Russo, A. & Russo, J. (2016). Captain America: Civil War [Film]. Marvel Studios.
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Sanderson, P. & Roach, D. (2021). Iron Man. In Comic Strips & Superheroes. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.
Whedon, J. (2012). The Avengers [Film]. Marvel Studios.
Whedon, J. (2015). Avengers: Age of Ultron [Film]. Marvel Studios.