Stark Industries is the fictional company created by Howard Stark in the MCU. Stark Industries plays a large part in the entirety of the MCU but is the most prominent in the Iron Man franchise. Obviously, this is because the company is a big part of Tony Stark’s story and thus Iron Man’s story. Iron Man would not exist without Stark Industries and vice versa; the Stark Industries company would not be what it is without Iron Man. The two are deeply intertwined and thus are their actions.
Let’s be realistic, no multinational tech conglomerate is a particularly “good” company. Most massive companies like Stark Industries do not exactly have the best track record of making decisions with everyone’s best interest at heart (or, by the standards of capitalism, anyone’s interest other than their own profits). But it is hard to objectively say whether Stark Industries is exactly an evil company. If you think Stark Industries is evil, does that mean that Tony Stark must then be evil? Take, for instance, Elon Musk. If he’s likely evil, then is Tesla as well? Does an evil corporation necessitate evil CEOs and board members? Who really knows, is anyone truly either good or evil?
What is Stark Industries?
Stark Industries is the multinational industrial company and tech conglomerate created by Howard Stark in 1939. As you could have guessed, Howard Stark is Tony Stark’s father. When Howard passed he gave control of the company over to Tony, but as Tony was barely 21, an interim CEO was appointed. Said interim CEO was Obadiah Stane, who lost his position to Tony when some questionable dealings were discovered.
The role of Stark Industries has changed over the years. When Howard Stark was in charge, the company worked hand-in-hand with the US Military, specifically to help the government develop Project Rebirth. Under Stane’s leadership, the company was involved in some under-the-table illegal arms deals that were discovered by Tony Stark himself. Once Stark removed Stane from his position as CEO, the company flourished yet again, now focusing more on tech and removing most of its weapons space. A few years after, Tony assigned Pepper Potts as CEO of the company, a position which she still holds (in the MCU timeline).
Has Stark Industries Done Anything Particularly Evil?
Well, yes, they have. Let’s remember that Stark Industries is a mass weapons company. While everyone may not find that to be particularly evil, their actions in being a weapons company are most definitely negative. The company supplies weaponry to nations with human rights violations. As this occurred before the first Iron Man film, there is not much to say about it.
However, when Tony is almost killed by his own weaponry, he takes a second look at who his company supports. 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 stop producing weapons as a whole. As weaponry production is considered an “evil” industry, this change helped to move Stark Industries away from that side of the technology space and more into traditional tech.
This is not really delved into in the rest of the films, so it is hard to say whether this has changed. We know about Stark Industries, but not at the level that it was involved in the earlier films. However, we know that the villain Vulture used technology and weaponry from Stark Industries to create a massive criminal empire, so even in its later years it’s hard to exactly call the company ‘good,’ Tony Stark, as noble as his intentions might be, 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 head of Stark Industries and is running the company as Tony did, so hopefully she’ll use Tony’s better years as a model.
Are Stark Industries Accountable For Their Actions?
Well … yes and no. Is a manufacturer of AR-15s responsible for the tragic, senseless school shootings sweeping America? Are McKesson and Johnson & Johnson responsible for an opioid epidemic which exists because of the pills they peddled? Is BP responsible for the catastrophic effects of climate change? (Okay, that one’s a definite yes) Stark Industries is tangentially related to a lot of awful things, and Tony Stark is directly related to (and profits endlessly from) the company.
It’s hard not to watch the movies in the Iron Man franchise and not see all the mistakes that Tony Stark made, to the extent that he and his company are probably responsible for making life a terrifying nightmare for people in the MCU; as a Fortress of Solitude article is frankly titled, “Tony Stark is Responsible For Creating Most of the MCU’s Villains.” Listen, the man is not perfect. The mistakes that Tony Stark makes are one and the same as the mistakes that Stark Industries makes. The two are so interconnected that all actions can be traced back 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 traced back to either Tony or Stark Industries, the number would be quite large.
However, the aforementioned issue of former CEO Obadiah Stane selling weapons to terrorist organizations can not exactly be traced back to Tony Stark. At that time, Tony was not yet head of the company, nor was he in charge of Obadiah and his actions. Since the dealings were also not on the books, Obadiah was able to hide the dealings from Tony on an even deeper level. While Tony Stark and Stark Industries do have intertwined accountability, no one but Obadiah Stane is accountable for the selling of weapons to terrorists. Stark Industries is obviously not a ‘good’ company (what company is) and has some major issues, but at least they make super cool stuff! (Just like Apple, which knowingly used child labor with disgusting conditions for three years to make its iPhones and other products). Luckily, it’s just a movie, right?