The comparison is with Iron Man (with suit) and not Tony Stark (without suit). Granted that without his suit, Stark would be pretty much powerless in front of Captain America, but in suit, we have seen his prowess surpass him in many instances.

For instance, we see in Avengers (2012) that Captain America is struggling to overcome Loki in Berlin and Iron Man comes to his rescue overpowering the Loki pretty easily.

Yet, at the end of the Avengers, Captain America tries to 'take charge' and give orders to the rest of the Avengers. Is there any circumstance in the Marvel universe when both these super-heroes have to match their strength against one another?

As far as my observation goes, here are some advantages that Iron Man has over Captain America:

  1. Iron Man can apparently fly long distances without parachutes and Captain America cannot.
  2. Iron Man has special weapons under his sleeves that Captain America doesn't.
  3. Iron Man is built from Metal - Captain America just has serum-enhanced, but only 'human' features that may not match with metal.

OTOH, I don't see Captain America having any special powers that Iron Man doesn't. Does he have any?

  • 9
    Bear in mind that the cap served extensively in WW2 and so has a lot of tactical experience that Tony doesn't have. This is why he's often deferred to for leadership decisions in combat.
    – Liath
    Oct 31, 2014 at 11:30
  • 1
    @Liath - Right you are. I changed it to metal, as thats what I meant. Oct 31, 2014 at 11:34
  • 7
    where did you get that the strongest in combat should be the leader?
    – Zato
    Oct 31, 2014 at 11:38
  • 1
    The conflict is coming Oct 31, 2014 at 11:55
  • 6
    The General in an army isn't usually the strongest. In fact that would be a terrible way to choose a leader
    – user20310
    Oct 31, 2014 at 12:21

2 Answers 2


I think it's more complex than that:

  1. Iron Man had the advantage over Loki in that he came in fast and hit him with momentum. Loki gave up immediately after, but Loki meant to give up, it was part of his plan. If Captain America had been alone and just stayed in the ring, Loki would have "lost" eventually.

  2. Captain America didn't 'take charge'; Tony Stark told him to take charge ("Call it, Captain."). Iron Man recognized that what was needed in that situation was leadership, and that Captain America was the only one of the group qualified to provide it. As solos, none of them could defeat the Chitauri. As a leader of men in WWII, Captain America was the only member of that group with experience both leading and working with others.

  3. As for powers in general, you're right, Captain America doesn't have frickin laser beams. I don't think you'll ever get a good apples-apples comparison there, because it's not apples to apples. (Accelerated healing seems like a really useful thing to have, and the Iron Man suit doesn't provide it, for example).

  4. Finally, The Avengers (the movie) explicitly lays bare the question:

    Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?

    Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.

    Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.

    Tony Stark: I think I would just cut the wire.

    Steve Rogers: Always a way out… You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.

    Tony Stark: A hero? Like you? You're a lab rat, Rogers. Everything special about you came out of a bottle!

    Steve Rogers: Put on the suit. Let's go a few rounds.

    Being a hero is more than being a guy in a suit. Stark's crack about "everything special" is answered by the first Captain America movie, where it's clear that what qualified Rogers was not his physique but his moral qualities. And by the end of the Avengers, Stark proves he's got them (albeit well hidden) - by both nominating and deferring to Captain America's leadership, and by "making the sacrifice play".

  • 2
    Great answer--great analysis of the dialogue and canon. Oct 31, 2014 at 11:53
  • 5
    "...Captain America was the only member of that group with experience both leading and working with others." The Cap is certainly the most qualified to lead, particularly when on Earth, but I just wanted to point out that Thor has extensive leadership experience during conflicts as well.
    – Ellesedil
    Oct 31, 2014 at 12:54
  • 4
    i think the point that knocks thor out is that he doesnt work well with others, he tends to beast mode every situation, as we saw in his first movie, hes not a team player. hes working on this yes, but instead of sending troops here here and here, hes most likly having somone else order the "troops" while he goes apesh!t where ever he feels.
    – Himarm
    Oct 31, 2014 at 13:04
  • 2
    @Ellesedil That is true, and he has grown, but the confrontation in the woods in The Avengers reveals Thor's greatest weakness (and one that Cap does not appear to share): excessive pride. Oct 31, 2014 at 13:05
  • 4
    Thor leads by example - by being out in front, and by choosing companions who will wade into the fight with him. We've seen that get him into trouble. And when he met the other Avengers in Manhattan, his first instinct was to pursue his own agenda ("Romanoff:'How do we do this?' Rogers:'As a team' Thor:'I have unfinished business with Loki'). @Himarm and BrianWarshaw are right, he's slowly learning but not yet a leader.
    – gowenfawr
    Oct 31, 2014 at 13:22

Having contributed to the question a bit I'm going to attempt and answer based on the films, I expect someone will be able with much more comic experience will be able to give better explanations at some point.

Firstly in terms of physical strength this is a immeasurable battle, Tony goes through 42 versions of suits in the film, the first are made out of scrap metal and some make him able to wrestle hand to hand with Thor (who can apparently bend the armour with his grip - I think it's fairly safe to say that Thor is stronger than Steve Rogers). In addition we've also seen hints in some trailers that we're going to see the "Hulk Buster armour" which is designed to go to toe to toe with "the other guy". In short, there's a range. In a straight arm wrestle Steve may be able to overpower some of the early versions but certainly not the later models.

So why does Tony often defer to Captain America's decisions if he's stronger (when suited up)? Why not? I'm stronger than my girlfriend but she still bosses me around!

Leadership doesn't come from strength, Steve served extensively during WW2 running special missions against hydra, he's had a lot of military training and experience. It's fair to say than when in a big battle (such as the one in NYC) he's got the experience on his side. After all he doesn't question Tony's science!

Do the Avengers have a leader? I think it's debatable, however they all have their strengths and weaknesses. In a combat situation they defer to the most experienced soldier, when working through the science Tony and Bruce take the lead.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.