Egos and tempers clash: Iron Man, Thor and Captain America fight for the leading role in 'The Avengers'

With the tremendous project 'The Avengers' in the works it's easy to wonder how three superheroes will get along, and organize themselves.

The cast of 'The Avengers' poses at Comic-Con International on Jul. 24, 2010 (Denis Poroy/FRE/AP).

It’s hard to believe, but we’re officially less than nine months away from The Avengers, perhaps the most ambitious superhero movie in cinematic history, and the one film that will definitively prove whether or not Marvel Studios’ ambitious plans to weave multiple films together over several years will work with mainstream audiences.

With the recent releases of Captain America (see our 4/5 star review) and Thor (see our 3.5/5 star review), there are no more lead-in films to Joss Whedon’s epic superhero team-up. While that may be a bummer to fanboys who have enjoyed one of the better superhero movie summers in recent history, there is some consolation.

Now that all the solo films have been released, we’ve learned all there is to know about each individual member of The Avengers. In other words, we can finally start debating The Avengers in earnest, and I’m going to kick off the conversation!

RELATED: Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. on 'Iron Man 3' and 'The Avengers'

In the comic books, Captain America has more-or-less always served as the leader of The Avengers. As such, Steve Rogers will also be the leader of the team in The Avengers film. However, as any fanboy knows, movies are a different animal than comic books, which begs the question: should Captain America be the man who gets to yell “Avengers Assemble!” on the big screen?

In the Marvel movie universe, there are really only three viable leaders for The Avengers:Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. At the risk of starting a massive argument in the comments, we’re putting each of the heroes to the test to see who would be the best leader for the team.

Here are the rules. Each hero will be rated in five categories: Character, Leadership Skills, Weapons, Style, Intangibles. The winner of each category gets three points, the runner-up gets two points, and the loser gets one point. After five categories, we add up each hero’s points to determine a winner. (Remember: This is just hypothetical. Captain America will more than likely be the leader of The Avengers when the movie hits theaters next year, but let’s not keep that from spoiling the fun!)


Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man are all great characters, but which one of the three has the greatest moral character? Let’s break it down.

As another famous Marvel hero once taught us: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” While all three of our would-be leaders have great power, not all of them exercise great responsibility.

In the Iron Man films, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark as a hard-drinking, womanizing, and aggressively sarcastic man whose genius is only rivaled by his ego. While Iron Man acts heroically, he doesn’t seem to act out of an innate goodness, but rather to inflate his celebrity and improve his family’s legacy (especially in Iron Man 2). Iron Man is undoubtedly a great hero, but he doesn’t always demonstrate great integrity, which is why he’s at the bottom of the list.

Like Iron Man, Thor is another hero whose ego sometimes kept him from doing what is morally right. Instead of fighting for something worthwhile, Thor simply fights because he’s bored, putting his entire civilization at risk in the process. Unlike Iron Man, however, Thor learned from his mistakes after his powers were taken away. Maybe if somebody stole Iron Man’s suits, he would have had the same epiphany. Despite his redemption, Thor’s initial arrogance keeps him out of the top spot.

The clear winner in the Character category is Captain America. As played by Chris Evans, Steve Rogers is a brave and selfless soldier with an unshakable desire to do what’s right (even though his 90-pound frame refused to cooperate with him). When he takes on the mantle of Captain America, Steve doesn’t let his newfound powers go to his head, instead showing that his greatest strength was always his integrity.

VERDICT: Captain America (3), Thor (2), Iron Man (1)

Leadership Ability

Whoever leads The Avengers has to, you know, be a good leader. So which one of these three Marvel heavyweights has the best leadership skills?

With his dizzying array of weapons and high-tech tools, Iron Man is undoubtedly a powerhouse, but when it comes to leading a team of fellow heroes, Tony Stark just doesn’t have the right temperament. As shown in Iron Man 2, Tony prefers to work solo. It’s true that he eventually teams up with War Machine, but that was the exception, not the rule. It’s hard to imagine Tony swallowing his ego enough to lead a team into combat and demonstrate the tactical skill necessary to guarantee victory. Again, old Shellhead comes in at the bottom.

Although his arrogance occasionally proves to be a problem, Thor definitely is a stronger leader than Iron Man. As an Asgardian warrior, Thor is battle-tested and even leads his own band of warriors (the Warriors Three). Though Iron Man might be more fun to go into battle with, I’d rather have Thor telling me what to do on the battlefield.

Of course, when it comes to true leadership, Thor can’t hold a candle to Captain America, and that’s why Cap wins this category as well. Through his extensive military training, Steve Rogers is well-equipped to handle a wide range of battlefield scenarios. He’s also proven that he can lead men into battle, successfully leading his Howling Commandoes squad to numerous victories against the far more powerful armies of Hydra. With his humility and military expertise, Cap is the best man to lead a team of superheroes into battle.

VERDICT: Captain America (3), Thor (2), Iron Man (1)


When The Avengers hits theaters next year, we’re not going to see Cap, Iron Man, and Thor sitting around playing patty cake, we’re going to see huge action scenes with outrageously awesome special effects. As such, it’s important that whoever leads The Avengers is packing some major powers. So, which one of our three heroes brings the best weapons and/or powers to the table? (NOTE: This category is going to start some serious arguments.)

After undergoing his transformation from 90-pound weakling to shield-wielding super-powered soldier, Captain America becomes a true force of nature. Unfortunately, while his super-strength, enhanced durability, and endlessly useful shield are impressive, they’re not enough to win him this category.

With his always-evolving suit, Tony Stark is a one-man weapon of mass destruction. Thanks to the Iron Man armor, Tony can fly out of our atmosphere; shoot lasers, missiles, and energy pulses with pinpoint accuracy; and make incredibly intricate calculations with ease. Granted, when his suit is off, Tony is just as fallible as you or me, but his amazing armor still places him firmly in second place for this category.

Very few Marvel superheroes can rival Iron Man when it comes to power, but one of them is definitely Thor. As a God, Thor is virtually invulnerable, and with his mighty hammer Mjolnir, he can do practically anything the situation calls for. I’m not usually a fan of superheroes with every power (ahem, Superman), but Thor’s unique combination of strengths is more than enough to win him this category.

VERDICT: Thor (3), Iron Man (2), Captain America (1)


If you’re going to lead the world’s premiere superhero team, you can’t be some bum off the street. For such a high-profile position, you need someone who is as comfortable talking with Jay Leno as they are fighting to save the world. So who has the style to lead The Avengers?

Though Captain America showed off a knack for choreography during his stint as a USO performer, it’s hard to imagine the humble Steve Rogers gracing the cover of GQ or Esquiremagazine. Cap is an old-fashioned kind of guy, and the bright lights of our modern 24-hour media might be too much for him to handle, which is why he comes in last for this category.

As a member of Asgard’s royal family, Thor is used to the spotlight. Throw in his rock star looks and unique wardrobe, and it’s easy to imagine Thor leading The Avengers into battle (or onto the red carpet). That being said, Thor does come from an entirely dimension, which probably means he’d have to overcome some cultural blocks before the world would embrace him. All things considered, Thor is a stylish superhero, but not stylish enough to win the category.

When it comes to style, nobody can top Tony Stark. As a billionaire playboy and the CEO of a globally recognized corporation, Tony is well-acquainted with the demands of the media and of the difficulty of living a dual life. Also, this category is where Tony Stark’s cockiness finally helps him. To lead a superhero team, you’ve got to have a little bit of swagger. Tony’s outsized ego might make things difficult on his teammates, but there’s nothing the public loves more than Iron Man.

VERDICT: Iron Man (3), Thor (2), Captain America (1)


Sometimes, the thing that makes a good leader isn’t easily defined or measured. Each one of these characters brings something unique to the table, but whose intangible element makes them the best choice to lead The Avengers?

Thor’s intangible quality is two-fold. One, Thor is royalty. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s impossible to qualify the kind of impact that being raised in Asgard under the tutelage of Odin would have on a warrior. Two, Thor is a God. Presumably, having God-like power can manifest itself in a number of useful ways (though perhaps none which would necessarily make him a better leader). Despite his impressive intangibles, however, Thor comes it at the bottom of this category.

Tony Stark’s intangible quality is that he’s a certified genius. Whether he’s reprogramming his Iron Man suit on the fly, hacking into an enemy’s network, or devising new and better weapons, as one of the world’s greatest inventors and engineers, Tony is able to impact battles in a number of ways. While you can probably measure Tony Stark’s IQ, you can’t measure the kind of impact his technical brilliance might have on the battlefield, which is why Tony gets runner-up in this category.

Last, but certainly not least, you have Captain America. Though I’m certain I’ll get some negative feedback for this, I think Steve Rogers has a much greater intangible asset than Thor and Iron Man. Put simply, he’s just a kid from Brooklyn. Thor is, for all intents and purposes, an alien to our world. Likewise, Tony Stark, with his brilliant mind and billions of dollars, is completely disconnected from the everyday world. Captain America on the other hand understands what’s at risk when the world is under attack, because when it comes down to it, he’s just a regular guy. While that might not sound impressive, it’s hugely important to his character and something that greatly enhances his leadership potential.

VERDICT: Captain America (3), Iron Man (2), Thor (1)

Final Tally and Final Thoughts

After adding up the scores, Captain America comes out on top with 11 points, while Thor follows close behind with 10 points, and Iron Man, who kicked off The Avengers hoopla in the first place, comes in last with 9 points.

While this article clearly contains personal opinion, it’s interesting how our scores seem to confirm Marvel’s most likely creative decisions for The Avengers. From a movie perspective, it makes the most sense to have Captain America as the leader of the team. Of all the characters in The Avengers, Captain America is the one that audiences can identify with the best and is also the easiest character to build a narrative around.

Thor could also be a viable protagonist, especially since Loki is the primary villain in the film, but his otherworldliness makes him a better supporting character than a lead. Likewise, Iron Man is a fine character to carry his own movies, but in The Avengers, his personality would be better utilized as a comic relief type character. Presumably, that’s why Iron Man is asked by Nick Fury to be “The Consultant” to the team rather than a full-fledged member.

What do you think of our scores, and how would you change them? If you had your choice, who would you like to see lead The Avengers?

The Avengers hits theaters on May 4th, 2012.

RELATED: Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. on 'Iron Man 3' and 'The Avengers'


Rob Frappier blogs at Screen Rant.

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