In the run-up to San Diego Comic-Con this week, Marvel made a couple of thrilling announcements for its marquee characters. In brand new comic-book lines launching this fall, a black hero will assume the mantle of Captain America, while a woman will take up Thor's hammer. These transformations were matched with a third announcement, one that's more of an eyebrow-raising development than a jaw-dropping surprise. Iron Man is going to be a West Coast Avenger.
When Superior Iron Man #1 drops in November, it will see Tony Stark packing up his repulsors and moving from New York to San Francisco. (Continuity note: While the Iron Man film franchise places Stark's home on a cliff in Malibu, in the comics, Stark is generally more associated with Manhattan, home of Stark Tower and the Avengers Mansion). In addition to the move, Iron Man will be donning the latest successor to his Extremis armor, a new mark that suggests Tin Man by Tim Cook. The controversial Extremis armor isn't absent altogether, apparently: In Superior Iron Man, Stark is bringing "dark tech" to San Francisco in the form of an Extremis mobile app. Just what the Bay Area needs: One more gadget-obsessed narcissist moving to Silicon Valley.
Yet if the hints dropped by Marvel are reliable, then Shellhead may be in for more dramatic changes. (Bear with me, True Believers, while I explain some things to the regulars.) The title Superior Iron Man alludes to another recent Marvel series, Superior Spider-Man, in which Spidey's body was taken over by arch-villain Dr. Octopus. Sinister shenanigans ensued, with few of Peter Parker's friends the wiser.
While Doc Ock hasn't surfaced in any of the whisperings about what's happening with Iron Man, it appears that Stark himself may be taking a darker turn. Which is too bad, especially for San Francisco, which probably never asked to be visited upon by Bad Apple Iron Man. And—well, we could go on all day about the ways that Otto Octavius might have abused Stark technology using Spider-Man's access to Avengers infrastructure, couldn't we?
But there's a narrower issue with Superior Iron Man that doesn't sit quite right: Stark's move to the Bay Area. San Francisco doesn't need Iron Man. No doubt, with a little help from his friends, Stark will come around on whatever dark impulse is driving him. (He got through Fear Itself, am I right?) And on the other side of the darkness, he will emerge as some kind of San Francisco avatar. But San Francisco still won't need Iron Man.
Know who needs Iron Man? Cleveland. If anyone can fix the Mistake on the Lake, it's Tony Stark.
That's right: Iron Man should move to Cleveland, not San Francisco. There's no city in the U.S. that needs Iron Man more and yet still affords Tony Stark some measure of the luxury to which he has become accustomed. Stand up, C-Town!
Cleveland has proven that it will welcome narcissists with open arms, even those who have already betrayed the city. As long as he's promising wins, even an anti-hero is going to get the welcome mat in Cleveland. This city has seen worse than Extremis.
The addition of Iron Man would be welcomed by LeBron James, who likes to be part of a super squad. Iron Man and King James are both fabulously wealthy men gifted with natural abilities that are unrivaled by their peers. Stark and Bron is a buddy-cop movie I'd watch. No doubt, the heroes could bond over their shared hatred of the Mandarin—a villain with 10 rings.
Stark Industries could bring jobs to Northeast Ohio that the region desperately needs. According to a U.S. Conference of Mayors forecast, Cleveland ranks 305th out of 363 U.S. metro areas when it comes to economic growth predicted for 2020. The same forecast doesn't expect peak employment to return to Cleveland until 2018 at the earliest.
One major problem with Cleveland is its rapid depopulation. Since 1990, the city has shed more than one-fifth of its residents. And unlike other major metro areas that have lost population, the suburbs and counties surrounding Cleveland haven't made up for the decline.
And like many other cities suffering from population decline, Cleveland has a violent crime problem. With a rate of 23.2 murders per 100,000 people in 2012, Cleveland's murder rate rivals that of Philadelphia or Memphis. As CityLab recently explained, immigration is key to turning around cities with high violent crime rates and plummeting populations. While it isn't clear that Tony Stark is a friend to immigration—he'd just as soon host the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, I'm willing to bet—Iron Man is very tough on crime.
As Cleveland boosters claim, its position on the Great Lakes gives it superior access to markets throughout North America. Some 50 percent of the population of the U.S. is within a long day's drive of Cleveland, and while that doesn't matter much to Iron Man—who can fly from New York to Washington in under an hour—he still occasionally needs to host meetings with Cap or Henry Pym. The Cleveland Foundation reports that "Cleveland has the potential to host a series of thriving, high-tech, high-growth clusters... [including] biomed, health IT, manufacturing, food processing, film, and business-to-business." Iron Man can do all those things while simultaneously fending off Kang the Conqueror.
Some of you might be saying, "Make Mine Motor City." It's true that Detroit suffers from some of the same maladies as Cleveland: high crime rate, severe population drain, and a major manufacturing bust. But Detroit has already got a cyborg.
San Francisco doesn't need Iron Man in part because San Francisco has so many capes already. Daredevil relocated to the Bay Area earlier this year. (In fact, according to Mashable, the Superior Iron Man will clash with the Man Without Fear.) Some of the X-Men still live there—maybe? There's good reason for the coastal migration: Some of the things that drew heroes to New York in the first place no longer exist. The Greenwich Village that served as the mystical anchor for Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum is all but gone.
At one time, the West Coast Avengers was a label of derision, reserved for morts like Tigra, Vision, Wonder Man, and U.S. Agent. (Remember Darkhawk?) Now, plainly, it's fashionable for superheroes to take up residence in San Francisco—perhaps because the notion of iconoclastic disruptors in hoodies taking on the overculture appeals to comic-book writers. Today, comics reveal a different narrative about their authors than the Golden and Silver Age comics written by young Jewish immigrants arriving in New York City.
Comics have always told stories about cities: Spider-Man's Queens, Luke Cage's Harlem, Daredevil's Hells Kitchen. (Alright, stories about New York City.) Marvel would do well to expand the range of the cities where its stories take place. It's great that Thor is a woman, and here's hoping she moves back to (near) Oklahoma City. It's wonderful that Captain America is black, and he belongs in the nation's capital, Chocolate City. It's cool that Iron Man is an iPad now—but Cupertino doesn't need him.