The Slashers’ Guide to Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
The Tony/Steve Edition
So there you are, minding your own business—maybe you’re at work, maybe you’re at school, maybe you’re standing helplessly in the aisle of a comic book store, staring up at the pictures of pretty men in form-fitting leather and super-tight spandex—when suddenly it hits you. “MY GOD!” you cry, “I need more slash in my life!” Co-workers/classmates/the store employees may give you strange looks at this announcement, but do not feel judged! You are not alone in your quest for slash. So today, I’m going to provide you with some.
The cartoon show, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (from here onward referred to as A:EMH), tells the epic tale of the formation of Marvel Comics’ superhero team, The Avengers, and how its members interact with each other, battle their enemies, and have glorious sex behind the scenes. No, really. They do. I’ll prove it.
Among the characters featured on the show are Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Steven Rogers (Captain America). Both characters have a long and rich history within Marvel Comics, and that history is translated neatly into the cartoon universe created in A:EMH. Not only do both characters retain much of the same style and personality traits that their fans find so compelling, they are also just as gay for each other in the cartoon as they are in the comics.
One of the good things about being a slash-fan is our willingness to ignore or twist canon to suit our purposes. The best thing about being a slash-fan is that we don’t often need to; any canon is full of homoerotic moments just waiting to be squee’d over. And so this essay shall delve into the slashier side of Tony and Steve’s relationship, bringing to light what is already slashy in the cartoon, and twisting the rest of it in order to suit my slashy purposes.
Part One: Location! Location! Location!
The first thing any slasher has to be aware of with their pairing-of-choice is WHERE DO THEY LIVE/WORK/INTERACT/HAVE NAUGHTY SEX? Tony Stark, a wise and far-sighted individual, has provided a simple answer to this crucial question: The Avengers Mansion, Manhattan, NY. Yes, my friends, that’s right: Tony and Steve live together (along with a few other unimportant people*) in a mansion in New York City. The fact that they live together is key. It removes many of the problems with which Clark/Bruce slash-fans face. Sure, Clark can fly up to Gotham anytime, but won’t people start to wonder how mild-mannered Mr. Kent manages to go out with Mr. Wayne at night, and then appear at the Daily Planet the next day, bright and early? And what if Bruce and Clark start to get serious and want to live with each other? I doubt Clark would want to leave Metropolis, and Bruce is certainly not going to move away from Gotham, so—WHOA. Tangent. Darn those World’s Finest heroes. Always trying to steal my attention away from Tony and Steve. Now where was I?
Tony and Steve do not have this problem on A:EMH. They live together. They eat breakfast together (see below). They train together. It does not take a great leap of imagination to think that they also sleep together.
[In the top right panel, note how Tony likes to watch Steve workout. In the bottom right panel, note how Steve loves to rub his hands down the back of Tony’s expensive silk shirts. (Screencaps pilfered from mandybu )]
The fact that Tony and Steve are so accessible to each other is a major plus point in their favor. For instance, in the case of Star Trek’s Kirk and Spock, one of the best parts about shipping them is the fact that they live together on the Enterprise, all alone** in space.
*These “other unimportant people” are the other Avengers, and are, in fact, quite important, with much slash-potential of their own.
**Kirk and Spock do not live alone on the Enterprise. There are at least four-hundred other Starfleet officers living onboard with them. Sometimes even an ambassador or two. All of them, slashable.
Part Two: I’ll Make a Man Out of You
Steve Rogers is a good old American soldier, fighting for the good old American virtues of freedom, equality, and gay sex for all. His desire to fight for his country, along with his brave heart and indomitable courage, won him a place in history as one of America’s greatest war heroes. As a soldier, he’s loyal and obedient, and understands the importance of a chain-of-command better than any other Avenger.
Enter Tony Stark.
Tony, the leader of our band of heroes, is much more interested in technology, the future, bourbon, and saying hilarious one-liners, than forming a tight, militaristic chain-of-command. Essentially, he likes it when everyone just does what he tells them to do without arguing. In the episode “Panther’s Quest,” Tony gives Steve a bad order, one that effectively separates and weakens the team as a whole. Steve wants to fight the order, but he’s a good soldier, and instead runs off to do as he’s been told, even though he knows it’s wrong. The conflict between Steve’s deference to authority and Tony’s lack of any real leadership skills are, oddly enough, one of the things that bring these two characters together.
Instead of outright disobeying Tony when he gives a “bad order,” Steve begins to make little suggestions in an effort to steer Tony in the right direction. Ultimately, Steve’s desire to help make Tony a better leader works. Character-wise, where Tony is at the beginning of the series (reckless, irresponsible, you’ve all seen the movies, etc.) is markedly different from where he is at the end of season one. Helping him grow into a legitimate leader creates a bond between the two characters. Tony comes to depend on Steve more than anyone else, and Steve, in turn, looks to Tony in helping him find his place in the 21st century. They are so in love.
Part Three: My Top Six Moments
There have been so many wonderful Tony/Steve moments in the first season of the series, it’s almost impossible to mention them all, let alone pick a favorite, but I’ve managed to whittle it down to my top six. I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum for those of you who haven’t seen A:EMH yet.
#6: In the season finale episode, “A Day Unlike Any Other,” the Avengers (minus Tony and Steve) express their desire to fight together with the Asgardians to defeat Loki. At the mention of “together,” Hawkeye says: “Hey, speaking of ‘together,’ anyone seen Iron Man or Cap?” It’s a brief, easy-to-miss moment, but definitely a squee-worthy one. This line is a testament to the fact that both Tony and Steve have grown very close since they first met. So close, in fact, that their teammates seem to associate the word “together” with the two of them.
#5: In the same episode, another sweet, but brief moment occurs. Tony is reunited with the Avengers and quickly gets to work as a proper leader, both saving his teammates and then ordering them efficiently. The show’s writers are clearly demonstrating how far Tony has come in his role as a leader: from being reluctant and uninterested, to commanding and inspiring. But this is not what makes this moment so slashtastic for me. It’s Steve’s reaction to Tony’s heroism that makes the scene so poignant.
Tony orders his team to help Thor (who has been magically imprisoned) while he fights Loki on his own. It’s dangerous, but Tony understands that freeing Thor is their best chance to defeat Loki, and so he sets off to distract the trickster on his own. Upon seeing this, Steve, the obedient soldier, disobeys Tony’s order, rushing to help him instead. Not only has Tony come a long way, but so has Steve, who disregards the chain-of-command in order to save the man he loves. HAPPY SIGH
#4: In the episode, “Hail Hydra,” Tony is flying around in the Iron Man suit, when suddenly its systems fail, sending him plummeting to Earth. Concerned, but unable to help him himself, Steve sends Jan to make sure Tony’s all right. A few minutes later, Jan checks in with Steve to inform him that “giant atomic robo-monsters” are attacking New York City. In the midst of this startling new development in the battle against Hydra, Jan also makes sure to mention to Steve that Tony is okay. Clearly, Steve was worried. Clearly, Jan knows what’s going on between them.
#3: This one’s a funny one. In the episode, “Masters of Evil,” the Avengers’ arch-villains attack the mansion, seeking to eliminate our heroes one by one. At the time of the attack, Steve is alone in the training room. When the lights go out on him, the first thing he says is: “Tony?” Now, this really makes me wonder. Does Tony often turn the lights out on Steve when they’re alone? Was Steve expecting Tony to meet him in the training room for some reason? The slashy explanations are boundless!
#2: The episode, “The Man Who Stole Tomorrow,” features a deliciously slashy exchange between Tony and Steve. In the middle of a battle with Kang the Conqueror, Steve tells Tony to figure out how to use Kang’s advanced technology in order for them to return to their own time. Tony exclaims: “What?! I can’t—!” To which Steve responds: “You’re the only one who can!” This is beautiful moment all on its own—Steve clearly displaying the faith he has in his leader, a faith that Tony does not yet have for himself—but it’s made even more wonderful by the fact that in the very next episode, this same concept in reiterated.
In this next episode, Tony has to find Kang so that the Avengers can stop him, so Steve goes to buy Tony time. As he leaves, the camera does a dramatic close-up on Steve’s face as he says: “Find Kang. You’re the only one who can do it, Tony.” After he leaves, Tony mutters: “I hate him, you know.” Then amends his statement by adding: “When he’s right.” It’s such a lovely moment. And we all know that “hate” is another way of saying: “I’m so madly in love with you, I can hardly stand it.”
#1: This is perhaps the best evidence I have that argues for a strong relationship (whether sexual or not) between Tony and Steve. It’s the “Needs of the One” moment, and for anyone familiar with Star Trek, you’ll know immediately what I’m talking about.
In the episode, “The Man Who Stole Tomorrow,” Kang the Conqueror, a villain from the distant future, informs the Avengers that Captain America will be responsible for the destruction of the world. (And for argument’s sake, let’s just say that the Avengers have very good reason to believe what Kang tells them.) The only way to stop the destruction of the Earth is to kill Steve. As the leader of the Avengers, the decision on how to proceed falls to Tony: will they fight Kang and risk destroying the world, or will they sacrifice Steve in order to save the Earth?
Tony’s answer is clear: no way is he going to give up Steve, not even for the world. Steven Rogers takes first priority in Tony’s mind, there’s no other way to explain this answer. Even I would have agreed that the world would have to come first. Tony must really love him. In the same way that Kirk risked the lives and careers of himself and his crew, even sacrificing his beloved ship, in order to save Spock, Tony does the same here, literally risking everything to protect Steve from Kang. And if the Star Trek example doesn’t convince you, then here, have a DC one:
[scan snatched from mithen ]
See? Even in the Clark/Bruce ship, evidence of the “Needs of the One” mantra can be seen.
So there we have it! Iron Man and Captain America: an epic romance of brotherhood in times of war, in which two men tirelessly battle endless foes side-by-side while shagging off-screen. This is the stuff with which slash is made of. Just think of all the great slash pairings of history: Clark and Bruce, Kirk and Spock, Obi-Wan and Anakin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson*, Frodo and Sam. Tony and Steve are most definitely on the list.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and bear with me as I exalted the greatness of Iron Man/Captain America slash.
*Seriously, you want to tell me there wasn’t something gay going on between these two?