Scientists as Superheroes? The Role of Science in The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The respect for science and the desire to include as much of it as possible reflects the attitudes espoused by Stan Lee and co during Marvels so-called golden years.

Ever since Marvel kicked off their shared cinematic universe with the release of Iron Man in 2008, they have shown a consistent reverence and respect for science, even if the films themselves often play loose and fast with the rules. In fact, science itself is a persistent and powerful force within the MCU and is approached differently in each franchise. The respect for science and the desire to include as much of it as possible reflects the attitudes espoused by Stan Lee and co during Marvels so-called golden years. Here is a look at how two of the main characters are scientists first and foremost.

Iron Man

Tony Stark’s only ‘superpower’ is his towering intellect, which allows him to design and construct the Iron Man Mark 1 suit almost single-handedly from “a box of scraps” as his nemesis later observes. Throughout the film there are nods and touches that keep Tony Stark defined in the viewer’s mind first and foremost as a scientist; he follows the scientific method when designing and testing each iteration of his suit. In subsequent films in the franchise, this idea is taken further; in the second film the main villain, played by Mickey Rourke, is similar to Stark in that he is also a capable scientist trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. In Iron Man 3, Tony finds himself suffering from PTSD like symptoms following the events of the first Avengers film. Once again, he leans heavily on his resourcefulness and intellect as a scientist and, once again, his primary opponent is also an accomplished scientist.

Doctor Strange

Last year’s Doctor Strange sees Benedict Cumberbatch making his MCU debut as a character who has noticeable similarities to Tony Stark, including being an accomplished scientist; in this case a neurosurgeon. Also featuring prominently in Doctor Strange is Christine Palmer, a nurse played by Amy Adams, who is Stephen Strange’s best friend and confidant. The positive portrayal of scientists, in particular women’s roles within science, by Marvel and others is having a really positive impact on the number of young people interested in science and is helping to rapidly close the gender inequality gap for hiring numbers and educational uptake. With online doctoral nursing programs it has become easier than ever to study for a nursing degree, and for those who already have the BSN to DNP online qualification, allow you to take full advantage of it.


Every film in the Marvel franchise has touches of science fiction and some, Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, are straight up science fiction. As these worlds all collide in Avengers: Infinity War we will certainly be seeing Marvel incorporating quite a lot of science fiction elements and themes into the films.

The MCU has done an impressive job of bringing these characters, many of them now over half a century in age (and their creator almost a century old himself) to life in an updated way. Marvel has always had a reputation for being progressive and in this respect, the MCU has done a fantastic job of remaining faithful to the visions of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, et al.

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Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
One Comment
  • Nicholas Adam Yanes
    25 July 2017 at 8:52 pm -

    This is great!

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