Iron Man: Inside the Mind of Tony Stark
A master of technological engineering, successful businessman, and billionaire American playboy, Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark is the genius behind the suit that defines the superhero Iron Man from the Marvel comics.
Born in Long Island, New York to parents Howard Anthony Stark, founder and former CEO of the industrial tech organization Stark Industries, and Maria Collins Carbonell, a philanthropist and sociology expert, Tony Stark completed an advanced degree in electrical engineering at a young age.
Now an executive officer of multiple corporations; including CEO of Stark Industries, Stark Enterprises, Stark International, Stark Solutions, and Circuits Maximus, Tony suffers from (and has suffered through) a great deal of both mental and physical stress in his life.
Forced to attend boarding school at the extremely young age of 7 in Long Island, Tony Stark struggled to relate to and understand his peers. As the majority of his life at that point was spent secluded from his family or any potential friends, Tony found an escape inside the world of machines; developing an obsession that would set him on a path that would lead into his adult life.
His obsession proved to be quite advantageous; as he rapidly advanced through high school and enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) college at the early age of 15. Just a remarkable four years later, he successfully graduated with double master's degrees in both electrical engineering and physics.
Although preferring not to work for his family’s business, he went on to inherit his father’s successful company Stark Industries at 21 years of age upon his parent's death in a car accident. Stark Industries at the time of their death researched, manufactured, and developed weapons for the United States’ military-industrial complex; products that a curious young Tony would utilize to discover how his mother and father died.
Believing his new role as a business magnate to be too much of a mental burden, he placed the majority of his tasks as CEO on his secretary, Virginia “Pepper” Potts.
Genius and Billions Are Not All There Is
Despite the fact he was born with a statistically perfect life, he lived as a lost soul despite possessing everything. Never truly developing listening and communication skills as a direct result of spending most of his youth away from others, he failed to learn the typical ways of talking and reacting in social situations.
Making matters worse was the fact that he did (and still currently does) possess an extended level of fame and attention from the press and citizens alike due to his privileged heritage. Over time, Tony developed a massive ego complete with excessive pride and confidence due to the fact he knew many were jealous of him.
In the early years of his full adulthood, he personally attended a military hardware field test at one of his company’s international plants; “however, soon after his arrival, Stark’s party was attacked by a gang of terrorists led by the Sin-Cong revolutionary Wong Chu”.
While the skirmish was taking place, one person accidentally triggered a land mine set by Tony as a trap to protect his machines in case of emergency. In the aftermath of the explosion, a significant piece of shrapnel was lodged dangerously close into the heart of Tony.
Construction of the Suit
Taken as a prisoner back to the terrorist leader’s encampment, he shared cells with a world-renowned physicist named Professor Ho Yinsen. Wong-Chu demanded the two genius engineers design advanced military weaponry for his army. With the shrapnel edged so dangerously close to his body’s heart, Tony and Yinsen agreed to devote their technological expertise to complete a blueprint for one of the battle suits that Stark had previously been working on in his spare time.
The suit’s design was followed as planned and was designed to be “equipped with a magnetic field generator to prevent the shrapnel from reaching his heart”. This armor was completed and went on to be known forever as the very first true Iron Man suit.
As Yinsen ultimately sacrificed himself with a clever diversion and with the suit’s magnetic weaponry defense mechanisms, Tony leveled the encampment and successfully returned to the United States with the help of James Rhodes, an American marine.
The genius behind the psychology of Tony Stark lay within his paternal genetic heritage. His father Howard grew up in Richford, New York alongside future gang leader Joseph Manfredi. Learning the ways of the world in the ‘street smarts’ depiction, he would come to comprehend the notion that “society puts limits to success based on ones’ economical status or gender, so he became good at lying to get what he needed”.
Over time, his natural intellect combined with his childhood ‘street smarts’ allowed him to become “an industrial genius, multi-millionaire, inventor, and businessman, attending multiple international conferences”. Like his son would follow well into his passing, Howard Stark grew interested in the concept of utilizing science and technology to serve the greater good; joining the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) circa 1940.
In addition to participating in rescue operations, his newly founded company Stark Industries would go on to create technological marvels that made significant impacts on history; including designing American warplanes for retaliation after the battle of Pearl Harbor, working on the Manhattan Project, and most significantly, Project Rebirth; “the project of the SSR that Steve Rogers underwent in order to become the United States Army’s first super-soldier” known as Captain America.
To accomplish such a feat, “Stark built a machine that used up half of the power in Brooklyn to douse Rogers with Vita Radiation after receiving Super Soldier Serum”; a process which successfully transformed and augmented his body into his new super-powered form.
“Everything is Achievable Through Technology”
A machine evangelist, Stark preached to the world after creating his planet-wide science fair known as the Stark Expo that “everything is achievable through technology — better living, robust health and for the first time in history, the possibility of world peace”.
Leaving traces of his research in a piece of film for his son to discover in his youth after Stark’s passing, Howard believed that despite all of his brilliant technological creations and business success he found through his life, his greatest creation was his son Tony.
Initially, the constraints of the chest plate proved incredibly stressful for Tony; as the magnetic chest plate was required to be worn on a constant basis in addition to the frequent necessity of the plate to be charged. It was in this dark time that Tony developed severe depression; becoming an excessive suicidal alcoholic.
As a natural behavioral pattern resulting from his sheltered childhood, he kept the armor and his alter ego identity a secret from the world; confessing himself only to Joanna Nivena, his fiancée at the time. Despite providing positive encouragement to utilize the armor for good and become a superhero, she decided to cancel their marital engagement as she quickly discovered he would not turn out to be the family man she wanted for a husband.
Now in total seclusion once again, Tony focused all of his time and effort on perfecting the design of the suit; claiming that the armor was his ego’s bodyguard to protect his identity and disguise it. While the suit proved to be an exceptionally powerful tool against crime, Tony’s personal life continued to face problems as a result of his secret superhero lifestyle.
Ignoring his role as CEO of his company proved devastating, as a large number of corporations began to compete and subsequently overtake the military weapons manufacturing industry; reaching rock bottom when his rival and chief competitor Stane defeated his company and made Tony bankrupt. Over time, his addiction to alcohol deepened, gradually developing into an unhealthy dependence.
Soon, his longtime friend James Rhodes took over the role of wearing the suit while Tony recovered from his addictions and focused on rebuilding his company that was in shambles. Unable to live without the suit, Tony created a new, improved model to allow himself to continue to be a superhero.
While simultaneously focusing on resurrecting Stark Industries from ashes, Stane bombed the company’s buildings to the ground, with Rhodes getting too injured defending the blast with the suit to fight. After curbing his drinking habits for some time, Tony inevitably relapsed; unable to let go of his crutch despite not wanting to rely on it for help either.
Seeing as how he never had anyone around to provide physical or mental help for him in times of need, Tony would always fulfill the role of support; becoming his own personal doctor and therapist.
Recurring drinking problems aside, the design of the magnetic reactor core in his chest that protected his heart from the deadly embedded shrapnel required a strong weighted element to maintain its function.
Finding palladium to be the immediate solution, Tony would discover the fatal flaw associated with it; the continuous erosion of palladium by the bombardment of neutrons released a constant stream of deadly toxins into his bloodstream.
With no alternative to the temporary benefits of palladium despite its horrific flaw, Tony believed his demise inevitable; leading to an excessive and unapologetically destructive party lifestyle, relinquishing of nearly all his precious possessions including the designation of Pepper to be CEO of his entire business and allowing James Rhodes to take the Iron Man Mk. II suit back to the United States military.
Fortunately, Tony’s health issues were temporarily relieved via intervention from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.) a counter-terrorism agency and cyber-intelligence organization (Marvel Movies Wikia, n.d.). This allowed Tony to research his brilliant father’s work that detailed unfinished designs for a new heavy element that would allow for the replacement of palladium to one that would not erode by neutron bombardment.
After tirelessly crafting a small but efficient particle accelerator in his garage, he was able to invent a new, more powerful heavy element that would successfully meet his body’s needs. Upon modifying the magnetic core to work with a brand new augmented suit, Tony became stronger than ever before.
As a token of gratitude for allowing him the time to save his life and give him a renewed sense of purpose, Tony happily agreed to join S.H.I.E.L.D’s crime-fighting organization sector specifically for superheroes known as the Avengers.
Utilizing Erik Erikson’s theory of life’s stages as a continuous progression of behavior inherited from the early parts, Tony grew to be a generally unhappy individual despite his gifts.
Without any outside encouragement or emotional support due to the fact that he was away from his family beginning at a young age and then permanently after their deaths, most of his time was spent secluded from the world.
Finding it impossible to relate to anyone around him, he did not possess any number of friends. Growing up with immense wealth and family prestige at his side made him fail to care at all for work or his life for that matter.
The lack of parental support and guidance in addition to the burden of the incredibly important responsibilities associated with being CEO of multinational corporations that he did not want to have made him possess a carefree outlook on life.
From the more famously known perspective of the late Sigmund Freud, whose strategies applied to an individual’s given conscious thoughts in addition to their hidden, unconscious thoughts lurking beneath the surface that is never expressed or shown, Tony currently possesses a number of desires not expressed or acted upon in his youth.
Due to the fact that he never truly had the opportunity to live a normal childhood life given his inheritance of wealth and seclusion from his peers, he developed the playboy billionaire complex; achieving an insatiable appetite towards women and courting a substantial number of them throughout his life.
These women were one of the critical elements that made up his crutch, in addition to the aforementioned alcoholism and suicidal party behavior. Despite the fact that no one but himself was able to fulfill the role of caretaker, guidance, teacher, and emotional support, Tony utilized sex as a mental crutch.
This particular crutch also served to fuel his endless skyrocketing ego as a way of proving to himself and the world that he was a powerful and strong man that truly was the life of the party (the one everyone wanted to interact with and be around).
While most of his mental and physical struggles in his life were primarily overcome by his own genius intuition and perseverance, he continues to struggle with his sense of pride despite his naturally introverted psychological profile.