The MCU‘s original Avengers team involved Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) teaming up for the first time in The Avengers against the malicious Loki, the prime perpetrator of the Battle of New York. Though each original Avengers’ strengths differ, and though there was major friction upon first coming together, the group eventually found harmony as a team. From this iconic squad of characters, it may be tough to pick a favorite or determine who is the strongest — Screen Rant, in fact, lists Thor as the strongest — but even tougher is answering the more perplexing question of who the leader of the team was: Captain America or Iron Man?
On the one hand, there’s Steve Rogers, decorated war hero, one-of-a-kind Super Soldier, and, with his Vibranium shield, is a nearly indestructible superhman with all the hand-to-hand combat prowess one needs to fight a big bad villain. On the other hand, there’s Tony Stark, billionaire, tech genius, and philanthropist, who is not only the brains behind much of the Avengers’ tech, but also the one with an ever-advancing cache of suits and gadgets to fend off Earth’s greatest threats. Knowing all this, let’s dive into who the leader of the MCU’s original Avengers was.
Leadership Experience: Captain America vs Iron Man
Steve is not new to leadership. He has been in command on the battleground since the very beginning of his superhero journey, back in WWII. For instance, in his first mission that did not include caroling for war bonds, Steve infiltrated the HYDRA base with the hopes of rescuing his prisoner-of-war best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), eventually emerging as the leader of the breakout in the facility. What’s more, he not only avenged an army of at least a hundred men against the Red Skull’s henchman, but continued to lead the squad on many such occasions, proving his greater worth on the battlefield than on the stage. Under Captain America’s disciplined leadership, he and his trusted Howling Commandos brought down HYDRA facilities fanning across Europe. Steve’s accumulation of experience for team missions is unmatched by any member of the Avengers, even Tony Stark, for that matter.
On the other hand, Tony likes to go on a more independent route when it boils down to fighting for the world. From the beginning of his journey as Iron Man, escaping from the Ten Rings in the caves of war-torn Afghanistan, to defeating Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) in Iron Man 2, to sweeping up the mess of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony is all about getting things done by himself. Though Stark has a small team of people who happen to care about him a lot and have always got his back in each of his missions one or the other way — Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and the CEO of Stark Industries and his wife, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — their contribution is confined to tasks that are mostly away from the battleground and are more technical. His A.I.’s Jarvis and Friday, are his aides, too, during his missions, but since they are not humans and not actually involved in the fighting, it does not fall much under the spectrum of Stark exhibiting his leadership.
Tony’s Take on Steve’s Leadership
Tony knows his area of expertise, which is technical innovation (and, sometimes renovation), better than anyone in the MCU and has, for the best, left the leadership of the avengers in the experienced hands of Steve. He even went so far as to dub Captain America as the leader of the original Avengers team in Age of Ultron. In a sequence, when the Avengers return after demolishing the highly defensive HYDRA Fortress commanded by Baron Strucker, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) meets them at the Stark Tower. While keeping them briefed about the new threat (the enhanced Maximoff twins, looming in Slokovia), she refers to Stark as “boss,” to which he interrupts and points at Steve: “He’s the boss. I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler.” As such, Stark is well suited to the title of leadership in the financial and business matters of the Avenger initiative. Captain America takes the lead on the battleground when the team is fending off the carnage of other worldly beings. Also, “Avengers assemble!” sounds more sincere when Steve says it because we know how Stark can get quirky with every possible dialogue.