Marvel Universe has many buildings to house its super-humans Baxter Building, the Avengers Mansion and X-Mansion, to name a few. None of them, however, are quite as impressive as Stark Tower home to Tony Stark, headquarters of the Avengers and by that extension, the target of every super-villain worth his while wandering about town. At 1130 feet tall and 93 floors high, Stark Tower is a building extraordinaire; a fitting tribute to its extraordinary occupant. Without giving spoilers away, it’s likely that it will feature in the newly released Iron Man 3, after… well we won’t go into what exactly happens, we’ll leave that to the movie to explain, though this picture from the trailer should make things pretty clear.
Stark Tower doesn’t do things by halves, just like its owner. It’s big, it’s brash, it radically alters the New York skyline and isn’t exactly apologetic about having done so. In fact, the production designer for The Avengers, James Chinlund, considers it a fitting home for Tony Stark’s less than tiny ego, assembled, as it were, upon the MetLife building (which Stark purchased, in the production designer’s revised history of New York). ‘The height of arrogance’, in Chinlund’s words, though to be fair, if you had the money and the technology Stark has, you probably wouldn’t be hiding it away either.
What’s more, its powered by technology that actually works. Like the artificial intelligence system J.A.R.V.I.S ( an acronym for ‘Just a Really Very Intelligent System’), who manages to be butler, caretaker and personal assistant to Tony Stark.
Its also supposed to be one of the most secure buildings on the planet; the Avengers HQ is accessible only to a select few who have to undergo rigorous bio-metric checks before they can enter the building. And of course, deal with J.A.R.V.I.S or override his system as Agent Phil Coulson, member of S.H.I.E.L.D, does at the start of The Avengers.
Even better, it’s powered by sustainable technology that works.
The floor plan is elaborate too; Stark mentions 10 floors of R&D and there are speculations that the tower, as it is being redesigned after the epic alien battle, will include living quarters for all of the members of the Avengers.
And all of this is run by JARVIS. Coupled with some computers that appear to work exclusively on holographic interfaces.
There’s also the armoury and the landing deck which strips Stark of his Iron Man suit. And it has a private bar and a panoramic view of New York city. What’s not to like?
Which is all very well except for the minor point that it becomes the launching point for Loki’s ambitious plans for world domination, inspired by his very obvious god complex and less than subtle plans for revenge. The ensuing alien invasion, shatters the name perched atop the building, leaving behind an A, which is supposed to be a nod to the building’s reinvention as a headquarter for The Avengers.
Almost, only almost, in sync with the Stark Tower’s comicverse story arc.
Comicverse tells a different story about Stark Tower. It’s built, originally, to house Stark Industries and the general public; the ones who want to rent office space in Stark Tower Complex, anyway. Apart from Stark Industries, however, people seem reluctant to move in. Because they’re afraid aliens will attack without provocation.
Completely reasonable given that the Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers have their headquarters demolished every now and then by their various enemies and occasionally by team members gone rogue.
After the Avengers’ Mansion (which, by the way, is property of Tony Stark donated to The Avengers) is destroyed by the Scarlet Witch , Tony Stark once again steps in and donates the top three floors of Stark Tower to The Avengers to use as their head quarters.
Which makes complete sense because where else would they get the kind of insane technology they’re used to in their mansion? Chez Stark, naturally.
Stark Tower is, after all, made of concrete reinforced with Vibranium, one of the metal components of Captain America’s virtually indestructible shield. The glass windows are supposed to be indestructible too, though Spiderman and Wolverine set about disproving that one when Wolverine teases Spiderman about Mary Jane having an affair with Tony Stark. In true blue superhuman style, Spiderman kicks him through a window.
It’s also very hi-tech, even if (unlike in the movies) it isn’t run by an intelligent system but by a butler/caretaker, curiously named Jarvis again.
The Stark Tower lobby is filled with scanners and probes to sift the good from the bad. There’s an alarm system attached to this which alerts the Avengers if a threat enters the building. The top three floors form the headquarters for The Avengers, containing their living quarters as well as a conference room and communication systems linked to important organizations, a hangar for the quinjets used by the team, a pathology lab, a forensics center, medical facilities; basically a lot of the pre-requisite goodies for superhuman do-gooders.
This version of Stark Tower, however, is built at the Columbus Circle in New York, on the former site of Sentry’s watchtower. When Sentry; a mentally unstable superhuman who had to erase the world’s memory of him to protect them from his evil side, The Void; reappears and joins the Avengers, his watchtower attaches itself to the top of the Avengers Tower.
But wait, what about those expected alien attacks, you say? There’s a protective dome that covers the top floors which is supposed to protect the citizens of New York if the Avengers are attacked and anything dangerous is let loose.
This, however, doesn’t stop the tower from being destroyed during World War Hulk. As the story arc’s name would suggest, the Hulk goes on “Hulk, Smash!” mode and destroys… Well, destroys a lot of things as revenge for being banished by the Illuminati, an elite group that orchestrates events on the earth for the “good” of the people. Tony Stark is a member of the group; one of the reasons why Stark Tower ends up as a pile of rubble.
But, like The Avengers and so many others, Stark Tower makes a comeback and is rebuilt using Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate (S.H.I.E.L.D) funds – being the head of S.H.I.E.L.D has its benefits as Tony Stark discovers. It’s not long before the mind-bending events of Secret Invasion leads to its main occupants being turfed out; who do you trust when Tony Stark himself is supposed to have been a sleeper agent for the invading evil alien Skrulls?
The Tower is then taken over by Norman Osborn, formerly the Green Goblin, who has nefarious plans for S.H.I.E.L.D (he starts out by renaming it H.A.M.M.E.R) and a group of super-humans who call themselves the Cabal. They’re like the Illuminati, but bad through and through.
This is followed by the establishment of the Dark Avengers and other Dark Things in Stark Tower during the events of the Dark Reign story arc.
Which all culminates in the Siege story arc; an invasion of Asgard – home of the Norse gods – launched from Stark Tower, all part of Osborn’s very dark plans. Though, presumably, Sentry’s death and the disappearance of Sentry’s Tower were not part of them; like Osborn’s defeat.
To symbolize this new alliance between Asgard and Earth, Thor responds by plonking yet another tower on top of Stark Tower, this one belonging to the god who keeps watch over Asgard; Heimdall. It’s not a tower as much as it is an arch, and a pretty impressive one at that.
So aliens aren’t attacking Stark Tower as much as they’re adding features to its structure.
It’s not long, though, before dark things are afoot once again. In Fear Itself, The Serpent – Odin’s long lost brother – awakes in Asgard and thinks it would be fun to launch, gasp, an invasion. With hammers. Seven of them, to be specific, given to assorted super-humans to be The Serpent’s heralds on earth.
The Thing (the stone-like member of the Fantastic Four) is one of the seven to receive the hammer, becoming Angrir, Breaker of Souls. Soon after his transformation, he takes on the Red Hulk and ends up destroying Stark Tower while taking the Red Hulk down.
You’d think that maybe, just maybe, the Avengers would take the hint and build themselves a secret lair, preferably buried deep in the heart of some obscure mountain. But no. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Stark Tower reappears a third time to strike fear in the hearts of its enemies and give hope to the people of New York. Built with his own money this time, Stark goes as far as to thumb his nose at the world and emblazon his name across it in giant electronic letters.
Stark Tower isn’t just a tower. It’s a centerpiece. It’s a stage on which these characters come and go, and, occasionally, use as a punching bag for those extra-frustrating days. But its also a symbol of brilliance and unmitigated genius; of mammon; of casual cool and suavity; of resilience and hope.
A fitting home, then, for its owner; Tony Stark, self-described “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”.
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