You know the summer blockbuster season is approaching when the comic book movies start rolling out. Kicking off the fracas this year is Iron Man 3, the latest in the ongoing saga of genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark and his armoured alter-ego, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.
I had the chance to check out a screening earlier this week and it’s safe to say that Iron Man 3, like most of Disney/Marvel’s super-hero brouhahas, will rake in the big bucks. It’s got the action/comedy/romance formula down pat, with another excellent performance by Downey. As a fan, I was disappointed with the twist taken by the film’s main villain, the Mandarin (played with equal vigour by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley), but that’s probably only something us nerds will complain about.
Still, I couldn’t help but entertain one strange notion during the entire run-up to this latest Iron Man movie: would it have been possible for Stark, and therefore his super-heroic side identity, to be Canadian? Sure, Canada has been well represented in Marvel comics, what with the Alpha Flight super team and of course the company’s most popular hero Wolverine, who also returns in another film this summer. But could Iron Man, an otherwise human hero comprised of some of the most cutting-edge technology in the world, have originated here?
After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that no, he couldn’t have. Here are just a few reasons why.
1. The military: Tony Stark originally accrued his fortune as an arms supplier to the U.S. military. Depending on which origin story we’re going with, he built the Iron Man armour to escape his captors either during the Vietnam or Afghanistan conflict.
Getting rich as a military contractor is a lot harder in Canada, where total military exports between 2007 and 2009 were just $1.5 billion, while total contracting in 2010-2011 was only $3.3 billion. That’s less than even the 10th biggest U.S. contractor alone gets.
Each suit of Iron Man armour costs Stark an estimated $100 million, while his total expenses are in the billions. He simply couldn’t have earned enough money working for the military in Canada to sustain all that.
2. Income and taxes: Corporate taxes are about the same in the United States and Canada, but personal taxes are slightly lower down south. The differences are really felt the higher salaries go, and of course they are much, much higher in the U.S.
John Hammergren, chief executive of pharmaceutical giant McKesson, made a killer $131 million in 2012, compared to the paltry $40 million that Frank Stronach, Canada’s highest paid (ex) CEO, got. With Stark being one of the smartest men on the planet, he likely would have bolted for higher compensation and take-home pay a long time ago, even if it were possible in the first place for his company to have thrived in Canada.
3. Heart condition: With his on-again, off-again heart condition—caused by the shrapnel that was originally lodged there—Stark would probably have been wise to live in close proximity to some renowned cardiology centres. Although the Montreal Heart Institute is pretty good, many of the best are in the United States, such as the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Johns Hopkins in Minnesota.
More important than proximity, however, is the fact that it’s easier for wealthy people to jump the queue in the United States. While Canada has a much better universal health care system, the wait times for complex medical treatments are notoriously long.
4. Villains: With the U.S. having lots of billionaire industrialists, Tony Stark naturally had plenty of potential business rivals. That’s how he became embroiled in feuds with the likes of Obadiah Stane, Justin Hammer and Tiberius Stone. With Canada’s general lack of super-wealthy, ego-maniacal techo-magnates, he just wouldn’t have much to contend with.
It’s hard to imagine Stark getting into knock-down-drag-’em-out battles with the likes of Corel founder Michael Cowpland or deposed BlackBerry kingpin Jim Balsillie. Those guys did enough to defeat themselves without having Iron Man to beat the tar out of them.
5. Spelling: Somehow, “Armour Wars” just doesn’t look right in relation to “Armor Wars.”