Sunday, November 26, 2006

The secret of Avengers Mansion

No super team can successfully function without having access to a state of the art facility to have their meetings, do research and experiments, plan attacks against the baddies and hone their combat skills. It is also a good device used to gather unsuspecting heroes in one place so they can be ambushed by villains again and again and again.

When one thinks of super hero team facilities (and I often do) what comes to mind are the Authority's inter-dimensional ship, the JLA Watchtower on the moon, the FF's Baxter Building, the Bat Cave, Superman's Fortress of Solitude and Doc Savage's retreat of the same name. The X-Men receive a mention only because of the Danger Room, the oft-copied training gymnasium used to fill pages in a script.

And then there is the Avenger's Mansion. Formerly one of the many homes of the Stark Family, Tony (Iron Man) Stark extensively modified the mansion to host the Marvel super team known as the Avengers. The mansion has over the years been variously destroyed, rebuilt, moved and sunk in the ocean. It was last demolished in the Avengers Disassembled story line and left as a shell of it's former glory as a memorial to times past. It will undoubtedly be eventually rebuilt once Marvel "returns to it's roots" again whenever Bendis leaves the Avengers characters to another writer.

Rebuilding the place should not be too difficult as much of the infrastructure was just for show anyways, a shiny facade meant to impress the rubes, the gullible and Hawkeye.

To the casual observer the mansion appears to be filled to the rafters with arcane, super scientific gizmos that can allow one to traverse dimensions and create anti-Ultron weaponry from scratch in mere minutes. Yet much of the impressive mansion was a fake, a con perpetrated by Tony Stark on his teammates and the world. This is made evident whenever a wall in the mansion is demolished by either a hero or villain (which was just about every issue). Whenever a wall gets holed anyone can see that all that impressive machinery is just a thin veneer of molded plastic or formed metal glued onto concrete.

No wonder Tony could afford to rebuild the manse every few months. He saved a ton of money in overhead. All that stuff sure looked good, but it was in fact non-operational.

But why the scam? Easy, Tony Stark is a salesman and a bit of a jerk and he always has been. You don't become a billionaire many times over by promoting a product half-heartedly. Tony Stark hypes what he sells as the greatest thing ever since the invention of fire.

To that end is the shiny, sparkly high-tech world of the Avengers. The manse is the public front of the team and a symbol of Stark technology. One could say the Avengers and their facilities are one big live-action infomercial. The mansion is designed to impress politicians, intrigue the public, cause envy among the other sponsors of super teams and worry the crap out of the bad guys.

Tony engages in a public relations Cold War because he always has to be the top dog. Like any good strategist he knows half the battle is won by using psychology on your opponents. By constantly revising the tech of the Avengers he forces other teams to try to keep up. Like the Reagan-era build-up of questionable strategic defense using junk science, Tony Stark makes sure he is preeminent among the super groups by bankrupting other governments and super teams by conspicuously upgrading their offensive and defensive capabilities. I imagine that Kyle (Nighthawk) Richmond was always freaking out over the latest large delivery to the Avengers Mansion loading dock. "Tony just got a Framistat Mark XII! Why can't I have a Framistat Mark XII? It costs how much? It's proprietary? Then why does Stark produce it? Screw it, I'll just hang at Doc Strange's place. We have a magician, nyahhhhh! What? The Scarlet Witch? And she's really hot? Damn you, Stark!"

As the mansion gets attacked or infiltrated about every month the con often does not hold up to scrutiny. But after the dust settles Tony just "upgrades" the facility again, publicly declaring that this version of the mansion is the best and most secure ever. But how did he fool his teammates? That's actually easy and that can be broken down thusly:

  • Hawkeye: Dumbass.
  • Thor: Doesn't care. As a god, is used to shiny useless items held in high esteem that actually do nothing.
  • Scarlet Witch: Self-involved bitch queen.
  • Wonder Man: Self-involved drama queen.
  • Beast: Knows a little showmanship is needed, easily distracted by the Stark International Ball-O-String Dispenser-matic.
  • Captain America: From the 1940's. Is lucky he can operate a microwave.
  • Vision: Brain secretly re-programmed by Tony Stark not to notice faux machinery as he phases through walls.
  • Jarvis: Highly paid to keep his mouth shut.
  • Quicksilver: Self-centered and half-crazy.
  • Tigra: Self-centered pleasure addict.
  • Starfox: Self-centered pleasure addict.
  • Black Panther: Does much the same thing as Tony does but in Wakanda.
  • She-Hulk: Too busy slutting around to notice.
  • Hulk: Stupid. When not stupid, amused by puny humans and their antics.
  • Ant-Man: Delusional, obsessed with success. Ignores anything that might threaten his sense of self-worth, like reality.
  • Wasp: Too busy designing new costumes and slutting around.
  • Gyrich: Government agent, in on the scam. Recognizes need to attack an enemy on multiple fronts.
  • Teen Tony: Too busy downloading porn on the armor's wireless internet to care what his adult counter-part is doing.
And the list can go on, but there are some common themes to be found in the choice of who gets to be on the team, they usually have to be corrupt, oblivious in some way or just plain stupid.

The New Avengers Tower is a very good example of the psychological warfare used by Tony Stark. The tower is on prime real estate and is imposing in itself. Not only does Avengers Tower symbolize the success of Tony Stark and his business empire but it also hosts the scary, other-worldly, parasitic base of operations for the uber-powerful doesn't exist/does exist character of the Sentry. Any villain would have to be seriously impaired in judgement to assault the Tower with all that going on. Yet the Tower is even less of a top-flight facility than the Mansion was. So far pretty much all anyone has seen of the place is a sitting room with a conference table. But that's the power of the image Stark puts out about the Avengers. The Tower could be 25 floors of empty space but as long as all the media sees is a group of heroes discussing battle plans around a table that is enough of a deterrent.

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3 comments:

  1. Wasn't the JLA Watchtower a space station? Or was that just in the cartoon and more logical? I never did understand why Marvel heroes had high profile bases in the middle of densely populated cities; it seems very selfish.

    The JLA were always in a cave or in orbit or on the Moon, or somewhere that was out of the way so civilian casualties would be at a minimum when they were attacked.

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  2. One of the old JLA bases was a space station. They had a cave, an HQ in a Detroit industrial area, embassies in the center of large cities and the moon base.

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  3. When you think about it, there's got to be something along these lines behind Stark's decision to leave Avenger's Mansion as it is.
    I mean, he claimed he couldn't afford to rebuild the place, but, unlike almost any other filthy rich fatcat who owns property in NYC he can leave a whole block of prime real estate in the middle of Manhattan to sit empty and undeveloped.
    That’s almost as fantastic and farfetched as Reed launching rockets into space a few blocks away…

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