stark industries is the fictional company created by Howard Stark in the mcu. Stark Industries plays an important role in the entirety of the MCU, but is most important in the Iron Man franchise. Obviously, that’s because the company is a big part of Tony Stark’s story and therefore Iron Man’s story. Iron Man wouldn’t exist without Stark Industries and vice versa; Stark Industries wouldn’t be what it is without Iron Man. The two are deeply connected and so are their actions.
Let’s face it, no multinational tech conglomerate is a particularly “good” company. Most big corporations like Stark Industries don’t exactly have the best track record of making decisions in everyone’s interest (or, by the standards of capitalism, anyone’s interest other than their own profits). But it’s hard to say objectively if Stark Industries is exactly an evil company. If you think Stark Industries is evil, does that mean Tony Stark must be evil then? Take, for example, Elon Musk. If it’s probably bad, is Tesla too? Does an evil corporation require evil CEOs and board members? Who really knows, is someone really good or bad?
What is Stark Industries?
Stark Industries is the multinational industrial and technology conglomerate founded by Howard Stark in 1939. As you might have guessed, Howard Stark is the father of Tony Stark. When Howard died, he handed over control of the company to Tony, but since Tony was just 21, an interim CEO was appointed. Said interim CEO was Obadiah Stane, who lost his position to Tony when questionable dealings were uncovered.
Stark Industries’ role has changed over the years. When Howard Stark was in charge, the company worked hand-in-hand with the US military, especially to help the government develop Project Rebirth. Under Stane’s leadership, the company was involved in illegal under-the-table arms deals that were uncovered by Tony Stark himself. Once Stark removed Stane as CEO, the company once again flourished, now focusing more on technology and removing most of its weapon space. A few years later, Tony appointed Pepper Potts as CEO of the company, a position she still holds (in the MCU timeline).
Did Stark Industries do anything particularly wrong?
Well, yes, they did. Let us remember that Stark Industries is a mass arms company. While not everyone finds this particularly perverse, their actions as a weapons company are most certainly negative. The company supplies weapons to nations that violate human rights. As happened before the first Iron Man film, there is not much to say about it.
However, when Tony is nearly killed by his own guns, he takes a second look at who is supporting his business. Once Tony realizes that his company is selling to terrorist organizations around the world, he removes the snake from Stark Industries. Tony also made the decision that the company would cease producing weapons as a whole. As weapons production is considered an “evil” industry, this change helped to push Stark Industries away from this side of the tech space and more into mainstream technology.
It’s not really in-depth in the rest of the movies, so it’s hard to tell if that’s changed. We know Stark Industries, but not to the level it was involved in the previous movies. However, we do know that the villainous Vulture used Stark Industries technology and weaponry to create a massive criminal empire, so even in its later years it’s hard to exactly call the company “good” Tony Stark, too. noble as its intentions are, is a cog in the wheel of a destructive global enterprise, a corporate nightmare. Nonetheless, at this time in the Marvel Universe, Pepper Potts is the head of Stark Industries and running the company like Tony did, so hopefully she uses Tony’s best years as a model.
Is Stark Industries responsible for its actions?
Well…yes and no. Is an AR-15 manufacturer responsible for the tragic and senseless school shootings that have swept America? Are McKesson and Johnson & Johnson responsible for an opioid epidemic that exists because of the pills they were selling? Is BP responsible for the catastrophic effects of climate change? (Okay, that one is a definite yes) Stark Industries is tangentially tied to a lot of horrible things, and Tony Stark is directly tied to (and endlessly profiting from) the company.
It’s hard not to watch the movies in the Iron Man candor and fail to see all the mistakes Tony Stark made, as he and his company are likely responsible for making life a terrifying nightmare for members of the MCU; as a Fortress of Solitude article is frankly titled, “Tony Stark is responsible for creating most of the MCU’s villains.” Look, the man is not perfect. The mistakes made by Tony Stark are identical to the mistakes made by Stark Industries. The two are so interconnected that all actions can be attributed to one or the other. If you were to dig deep into the MCU and examine how many villains and large-scale problems can be attributed to Tony or Stark Industries, the number would be quite large.
However, the aforementioned issue of former CEO Obadiah Stane selling weapons to terrorist organizations cannot be attributed to Tony Stark. At this time, Tony was not yet in charge of the company, nor responsible for Obadiah and his actions. Since the transactions were also off the books, Obadiah was able to hide the transactions from Tony on an even deeper level. Although Tony Stark and Stark Industries have a closely related responsibility, no one other than Obadiah Stane is responsible for selling weapons to terrorists. Stark Industries obviously isn’t a “good” company (what the company is) and has some major issues, but at least they’re doing some really cool stuff! (Just like Apple, which knowingly used child labor in filthy conditions for three years to make its iPhones and other products). Luckily, it’s only a movie, isn’t it?