Looking across the Iron Man and Avengers films, the theme of Tony creating his own villains comes up quite often.

In Iron Man, Stane uses Stark's discarded technology to become Iron Monger. In Iron Man 2, Vanko is inspired by Iron Man and uses Stark tech to become Whiplash. In Iron Man 3, Killian becomes a villain directly due to how Stark treated him in the past. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony creates Ultron and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch work with Hydra and Ultron in order to get revenge on Stark for building the bombs that killed their parents.

He also arguably creates his own figurative villains in the form of hedonism and obsession.

Has anyone with Marvel ever stated if this was intentional or not? Or at least noted how often it comes up? I'm looking for answers from commentaries, interviews, etc.

  • 4
    Arguable in Iron Man the villain was already a villain, just enhanced by Tony's discards.
    – Xantec
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 21:36
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    That is an awesome question. I never noticed the trend myself, but now that you've pointed it out, it is pretty interesting to be aware of.
    – eidylon
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 22:00
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    “He also arguably creates his own figurative villains in the form of alcoholism and obsession.” — Nit-picking, I don’t think he’s been portrayed as alcoholic in the MCU yet. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 23:14
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    Vanko doesn't use Stark tech - Vanko uses tech originally developed by Vanko Sr and Stark Sr
    – HorusKol
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 2:14
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    Honestly, I suspect this isn't a "Tony Stark" theme so much as it is a "mad scientists in fiction" theme. Blame Victor Frankenstein for starting the trend. The main stchick of mad scientists is to unleash something that grows beyond their control. (To give some MCU examples: Hank Pym and Bruce Banner.)
    – user867
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 3:10

2 Answers 2


Tony Stark is a mad scientist. Danger, Will Robinson, TvTropes.

And he admits in in Age of Ultron.

Tony Stark: We’re out of my field here. You know bio-organics better than anyone.
Bruce Banner: And you just assume that Jarvis’s operational matrix can beat Ultron’s? Jarvis has been beating him from inside without knowing it. This is the opportunity, we can create Ultron’s perfect self, without the homicidal glitches he thinks are his winning personality. We have to.
Tony Stark: I believe it’s worth a go.
Bruce Banner: No, I’m in a loop. I’m caught in a time loop, this is exactly where it all went wrong.
Tony Stark: I know, I know. I know what everyone’s going to say, but they’re already saying it. We’re mad scientists. We’re monsters, buddy. You gotta own it. Make a stand.
[Banner shakes his head]
Tony Stark: It’s not a loop. It’s the end of the line.

As a mad scientist playing the hero, Stark is basically doomed to be his own worst enemy.

He says as much at the beginning of Iron-Man 3

We create our own demons.

So to answer your question. The fact that Tony Stark is aware of this and comments about it in his last two movies, suggests that it is intentional.


I endorse Jack B Nimble's answer. However, I think it's worth bringing up that this idea is not necessarily unique to Iron Man. There is some precedence for this or something like it in other superhero stories.

Batman (1989) from wikiquote:

Batman: Excuse me. You ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? [punches Joker and knocks him against a bell, before grabbing him] I'm going to kill you.

Joker: You... IDIOT!!! You made me, remember? You dropped me into that vat of chemicals. That wasn't easy to get over, and don't think that I didn't try!

Batman: [smirks] I know you did. [Batman punches Joker in the stomach and knocks him through a wall. He grabs him and helps him up only to punch him in the face again. Joker stands up, muttering and clutching his mouth until he spits out a chattering teeth toy. He retaliates by punching Batman in stomach, only to break his fingers on the body armor]

Batman: You killed my parents.

Joker: What? [spits blood on the floor] What are you talking about?

Batman: I made you; you made me first.

Also, in Frank Miller's Dark Knight graphic novel, there's a psychologist that is shown arguing on talk shows or news or whatever that the villains act the way they do out of a psychological need induced by Batman's existence and actions.

But there's an even more "meta" way of looking at this--more than 99%, probably, of all super villains literally only exist because the creator of the superhero needed someone to actually challenge the hero to keep the reader interested. So this concept that "the hero is the source of the villain's existence" is true in an extremely literal sense--I'm guessing that at least Frank Miller was going for exactly that concept as a wink to the reader.

It's also true in the real world--for examples, see the book Blowback talking about this happening with American foreign policy or the USSR's experience with having more enemies in Afghanistan after they left than there were when they went in to fight them.

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