Elspeth (elspethdixon) wrote in ship_manifesto,

Captain America/Iron Man (Marvel Comics)

Title: A Sword, a Horse, a Shield
Author: elspethdixon
Spoilers: moderate ones for years of comics continuity, major ones for Civil War. [note: a lot of canon has transpired since I first wrote this, some decent, some good, and some inexpressibly horrible. Because trying to keep this manifesto up to date would be a study in futility, given that canon is always ongoing, I'm not going to try and update it for new canon events. I may, however, occasionally add new fics to the recs list at the bottom]
Email: lowryer@gmail.com

*groans* This is a good 1,000 words over the limit. I plead the incredible density of comics canon - 45 years worth of it.

A Sword, a Horse, a Shield

The Steve Rogers/Tony Stark ship manifesto.

Why Iron Man / Captain America?
Because Brian Michael Bendis loves us and wants us to be happy? (See volumes 1-4 of The New Avengers trade paperbacks.) Because they've lived together on and off for about ten years of Marvel Time and keep coming back for more. Because Tony knows what Steve likes in a bagel. Because there are more dramatic near-death "Heroic sacrifice in an attempt to trade my life for yours!" scenes than any other pairing I can think of. Because Idealism/Ingenuity make a great couple, as far as I'm concerned. Because they're Just That Wonderful.


As a slasher, I ship a lot of pairings that I know are just wishful thinking on my part, but there’s also the odd pairing that truly, honestly strikes me as canonical — the ones where assuming that two characters love each other/want to sleep with each other actually explains canon events better than the non-shippy alternative. The ones where I’m secretly convinced that, not only do I ship them, but so do the canon writers.

Captain America/Iron Man is one of those pairings.

I maintained at the time and still maintain that Civil War and its aftermath make a lot more sense if you assume that Cap and Tony were and still are in love with each other. For one thing, Civil War is actually what led me to start seriously shipping them, because I like my comic couples to come equipped with lots of melodrama. And subsequent mainlining of Iron Man and Avengers back issues has only confirmed my conviction that these guys love each other and always have.

Unfortunately for them both, true love doesn’t actually conquer all.

Declaring my Bias Right up Front

I have a significant emotional investment in this pairing. Also, I'm one of about three fans on the internet who actually liked Civil War and liked Tony during it. Individually, Steve and Tony both hold a great deal of personal emotional meaning for me: I come from a family with very strong connections to the military and Steve, both as a character and as a symbol, is very near and dear to my heart. And Tony hits several of my most solid characterization kinks with his self-worth issues and engineer geekery and bastard/control-freak façade, plus… my extended family has a history of alcoholism and depression; Tony is a character I sometime see more of myself and my family in than I want to.

And as a pairing… my anniversary is March 16, the day after Civil War; the Confession came out. This is not a coincidence.

Join the Army: Be all that you can be!

Steve Rogers

The most important thing to know about Steve Rogers is that he always does the right thing. No matter what his personal feelings are, no matter how much it might cost him, he’s the first guy to stand up and battle injustice, and the last man to surrender the fight.

In fact, save for one recent but very significant exception, I’m not sure he’s ever surrendered. I think you pretty much have to beat him unconscious to get him to quit.

  Only a handful of his close friends actually think of him as “Steve Rogers" -- everyone else calls Steve by his code name, which at this point is so much a part of his identity that it might as well be his real name: Captain America. (I’m serious — even the aforementioned close friends call him "Cap" half the time).

To condense decades of comics canon into a couple of paragraphs: At the beginning of WWII, Steve tried to join the army, only to be rejected because he wasn’t healthy enough to pass the physical. Undaunted, he volunteered for an experimental super-soldier program. Normally, this sort of things ends up turning you into Wolverine, but Steve was lucky.


The super-soldier serum he was given (since retconned as a retrovirus, because it’s marginally more plausible that way) enhanced his strength, flexibility, and reflexes to the peak of human perfection, gave him a just a bit of a low-level healing factor, made him immune to most diseases and resistant to a number of drugs and mind-control techniques, and gave him the body of a really well-built football linebacker. Tall, broad shouldered, muscular, adorably handsome in a square-jawed, All-American way. Well, when he’s being drawn well. There was also a period of hideously painful Liefeld art that we’re going to ignore, because we likes our retinas, precious.

He received combat training, a special shield made of vibranium/steel alloy that he can throw like a Frisbee, and a blue costume based on the American flag that he apparently designed himself (he was twenty-one at the time, which may explain the stupid little wings on his mask). And he fought Nazis, including, occasionally, evil zombie Nazis with giant death machines. He also had a cute sidekick named Winter Soldier Bucky who got captured and tied-up a lot.

Near the end of the war, Steve and Bucky were pursuing an evil supervillain named Baron Zemo when the plane they had stolen acquired blew up. Steve was thrown into the North Atlantic, where he was frozen inside a glacier. Thanks to the power of lots of authorial handwaving Marvel science, this kept him in a state of suspended animation for twenty thirty fifty years.

Whereupon, in a striking coincidence that could only by the work of even more blatant authorial handwaving destiny, he was found by the newly formed superhero group the Avengers, who recognized him, thawed him out, and adopted him, mostly because Thor thought he was cute (and also because Iron Man fanboyed him lots).

Avengers v1 #4
Avengers v1 #4
The Avengers rescue Steve from the ice.

During the explosion that left him trapped in the ice, Bucky Barnes, who was Steve's best friend and surrogate-little-brother in addition to his side kick, was blown up in front of Steve's eyes. This left him with a moderately severe case of PTSD that he's since recovered from. In spite of this, Steve has remained a basically upbeat, positive person (save for the brief periods when Tony left the Avengers and Steve sulked and whined and declared that he wished they'd left him in the ice). He's very close to the other Avengers, especially Tony and Clint Barton (a bow-and-arrow using superhero known as Hawkeye, who fills something of the same little-brother role Bucky once did).

For the past decade or so (comics time -- forty years in real-life time), Steve has consistently been one of the Avengers’ lead members, because superheroing is the only life he knows and the only one he can really envision for himself. Anything else would be shirking his responsibilities, would be letting down Bucky’s memory, would be an abandonment of the principles he’s dedicated himself to. Also, he doesn’t really know how to be anything other than a hero and a soldier, and it's that tension between Steve-as-a-person and Steve-the-hero-and-solder that often furnishes the internal conflict in Captain America.

One of the central themes of Captain America over the years is the idea that behind "Captain America: Living Legend" is Steve Rogers: ordinary guy who's sometimes kind of a dork. Steve loves swing dancing and big band music and Tolkien and an obscure 20s radio show called "The Midnight Racer," wears noir-style trenchcoats whether they're currently in style or not, has a deadpan, slightly goofy sense of humor, believes very passionately in Liberty and Justice For All, and is often disillusioned by a government that doesn't always adhere to those ideals as closely as he does. He's also mulishly stubborn, prone to periodic sulking fits, and utterly convinced that he's always right.


Steve Rogers is essentially a man out of time—he’s in pretty much the same position as someone who’s time traveled into the future—and nothing from his previous life is left. No family, no home, few friends outside of the superhero community and S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s one of the few superheroes not to have a secret identity or a double life, and his occasional attempts to establish one have never succeeded. Bad guys inevitably followed him home and put his neighbors/friends in danger, until he ultimately decided that the best course of action was to simply give up on the idea of a normal life. Steve is Captain America, and everyone knows he’s Captain America.

That’s okay, though, because Steve is very good at being Captain America. He always does what he thinks is right, almost never lets personal feelings get in the way of doing his job, and truly, honestly isn’t in it for the fame (actually, fame kind of embarrasses him). He wears the costume and carries the shield not because he expects to see any reward from it, but because it’s The Right Thing To Do.

The tinsmith forgot to give me a heart.

Tony Stark

The most important thing to know about Tony Stark is that he hates himself. A lot. For various reasons, beginning with survivor’s guilt and ending with alcoholism and years of chronic depression.

The second most important thing to know about Tony Stark is that he has a suit of high-tech armor that he loves a whole lot. And a bad heart. Unlikely though it may seem, these two facts are closely connected.

Tony, an engineering genius who inherited his father’s manufacturing company, Stark Industries, at a ridiculously young age, was kidnapped by communists insurgents while on a research trip to Vietnam someplace unidentified in Southeast Asia Iraq Afghanistan someplace dangerous. We’ll call it Vietghanistan. The communists Vietghanistani rebels blew him up with one of his own landmines, and a piece of shrapnel was lodged in his heart. With the aid of fellow prisoner and scientist Dr. Yinsen, Tony was able to design a metal breastplate that kept his heart beating (how exactly was never explained, or rather, not in a way that made sense), as well as a suit of armor molded out of scrap metal that he and Dr. Yinsen intended to use to escape.

After Dr. Yinsen was executed by their captors, Tony instead used the suit to exact revenge for his death and escape on his own. Determined that his life—now bought at the cost of someone else’s death—would be worth something, he built a new, better suit as soon as he got home and became the superhero Iron Man, using his armor to fight communism crime.

Officially, of course, Iron Man was merely his body guard — Tony’s public persona remained that of a businessman and wealthy playboy.


And therein lies some of the trouble. Tony Stark built and sold weapons, Iron Man saved people. Tony Stark went to flashy parties, Iron Man joined the Avengers. Tony Stark had comparatively meaningless sex with a lot of bimbos, Iron Man had Captain America for a best friend. You see where this is going, right?

Tony likes being Iron Man a lot, but he’s really not all that fond of being Tony Stark.

Possibly my single favorite panel from Tales of Suspense.  They'd all be sorry if they knew he was dying! One of the ongoing themes in the Iron Man title is the irony derived from the fact that the supposedly “Invincible” Iron Man is, underneath all that armor, actually a deeply vulnerable and messed up guy. The heart problem that he started out with (which initially made him dependant on the armor in order to stay alive), was eventually cured, only to be resurrected repeatedly in various forms over the years. Tony’s bad heart is a remarkably “sticky” piece of canon, and writer after writer has found a way to re-introduce it every time it’s repaired, mostly because Marvel really likes to continually stick Tony on the verge of death.
Possibly my single favorite panel from Tales of Suspense. They'd all be sorry if they knew he was dying!

He was also shot and temporarily paralyzed by an evil girlfriend; briefly suffered nerve damage from an early attempt to use neural implants to control the cybernetic stuff in his suit (he got better); briefly ended up with a mechanical heart after his armor came alive, fell in love with him, and then tried to kill him; and recently ended up infecting himself with a techno-organic virus in order to keep from dying of internal injuries. So, basically, he’s gone from needing his suit to live, to wearing it even when it was slowly killing him, to actually having bits of it become part of his body. At this point, Tony literally is the armor. And the armor is Tony.

Which, ultimately, may not be the best thing for him, because Tony has consistently used the armor as a way to hide from his problems.

Tony, admittedly, has always had somewhat more of a “civilian” life than Steve, but his closest friends outside the Avengers are pretty much all his employees (Jarvis, his butler; Pepper Potts/Hogan, his secretary; Happy Hogan, his chauffer; Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, his company test pilot), and it’s his role as Iron Man and as an Avenger that he’s essentially based most of his self-worth on. A founding member of the Avengers, Tony has funded the team throughout most of its history, and considers the other long-time Avengers (like Steve) to be his family.

Which is why, when an evil industrialist named Justin Hammer figured out how to hack his suits controls and forced Iron Man to kill someone, the results were… um... not good.

Thus began the issues with depression and alcohol I mentioned earlier, which were dramatically worsened when an even more evil businessman named Obadiah Stone embarked on a long campaign of psychological warfare against Tony designed to win him control of Stark Industries. Tony, temporarily deprived of emotional support for a variety of coincidental reasons—Pepper and Happy had gotten married and left to start their own lives, Rhodey was in the hospital, Iron Man had temporarily dropped out of the Avengers to deal with the whole Stone issue—slid into a comparatively well-written (for the early 80s, anyway) depressive funk, really started drinking, and lost Stark Industries to Stone. And then fell apart even more, in what he’s canonically acknowledged was basically an attempt to commit suicide via alcohol.  

Obviously, it didn’t succeed, and Tony eventually pulled himself back together, rebuilt Stark Industries, and ultimately put on his armor again (Rhodey had been wearing it in the meantime). He never really got over the depression, though, or the sense that he’d let everybody (including Steve—actually, mostly Steve) down and is very, very aware that all it would take is a single slip to send him right back to being a self-destructive mess.

Also, there have been several more ugly incidents with people hacking his armor, using mind control on him, and otherwise turning him into a living weapon against his will, the most recent happening just after he gained nanite/techno-organic virus powers and just before the start of Civil War.

Tony, as might be imagined, has some control issues these days.

And With a Stronger Faith Embrace

Their relationship, or "Cap is Tony's rudder"

I would provide you with an illustrated list of all of the blatant demonstrations of love/marriage/slashtasticness that occur between Steve and Tony in canon, but others have already done this for me.

Tony has had a massive, hero-worshipping crush on Steve for most of his adult life. Steve has counted Tony as one of his closest friends for pretty much the same length of time, trusting him with his life and his friendship before he’d even seen his face.

Given the slightest excuse, Tony can and will go on at length about Steve’s virtues: his strength, his nobility, his refusal to give up or give in, his beautiful “azure eyes” (direct quote), Tony will gladly tell you about them all. He thinks about them a lot, frequently when he thinks he’s about to die.

Steve, likewise, can go on and on about Tony: how smart he is, how resourceful he is, how determined he is… it’s a regular mutual admiration party.

The two of them touch one another continually, far more than either of them does anyone else: if the Avengers are in a fight and Tony gets knocked down, ten-to-one Steve will be the one giving him a hand up. If Steve's the one who's laid out flat, Tony will be there to cradle him in his lap and make sure he's okay.


   They do this a lot.

During the attempting-to-commit-suicide-via-alcohol period mentioned above, Steve is notably one of the few people who makes a serious effort to get through to Tony. He confronts Tony and demands to know why he’s so hell bent on destroying himself, and Tony responds that “If you knew what I felt like, you’d know.” Steve, concluding that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, turns and walks out without saying anything more, shuts the door behind him, and then, in an effectively underwritten scene (well, underwritten in comparison with the rest of the issue, which reads like someone decided to write a harlequin novel based on a Tennessee Williams play, complete with a jaw-droppingly pulp-romance-like cover), slams his fist into the wall in angry frustration.

During Avengers: Red Zone, when Steve has been exposed to a lethal toxin and is choking to death, Tony removes his helmet (exposing himself to the same toxin) and gives him mouth-to-mouth, despite the fact that he's risking his own life by doing so.

Red ZoneBefore he shucks the helmet, he rationalizes the decision to by telling himself that "Captain America" is more important than he is. Then there's half a page dedicated to their lips touching.
Red Zone
Tony gives Steve mouth-to-mouth.

After the Avengers are broken up by disaster and tragedy in Disassembled, Tony is the one Steve goes to to restart a new team, and despite stated misgivings, Tony immediately agrees to it, largely (one gets the feeling) because it offers the chance to be on a team with Steve again. "No politics," Steve tells him, when pitching the idea, "just us."

Steve is an idealist with a practical streak, while Tony is an "ends justify the means" pragmatist with an idealistic streak. This leads to frequent clashes between the two of them over methods and tactics, but at also means that the two of them balance one another remarkably well. Tony challenges Steve, forces him to rethink his assumptions and defend his ethical position -- and Steve needs that. Without someone to question him, to treat him as a friend and comrade instead of "Captain America: Living Legend," he'd still be stuck in 1945. For Tony, Steve's friendship and faith in him provides both a sanity check that keeps him from straying too far into supervillain territory, and the support that allows Tony to keep on fighting the good fight, to keep on trying to live up to and be worthy of that faith. Tony has declared on multiple occasions that he thinks Steve is a better man than he is (he even goes so far as to tell Steve that he's perfect), and that Steve's faith in him is the one thing that allows him to still have faith in himself.


Steve and Tony arrange a date with one another.

Canon Love Interests, and Why They Don't Pose as Much of a Barrier to Slash as You'd Think

Tony Stark has slept with many women over the course of his adult life, if not quite so many as his reputation would have people believe. Many women, and possibly a few men, too and the Living Armor. Nearly all of them (the ones that weren't just one night stands, anyway) have stabbed him in the back. Sometimes literally; one of his ex-girlfriends actually shot him in the spine (and she wasn't even one of the supervillains).

A lot of people seem to have Tony mixed up with Bruce Wayne, thinking of him as a "playboy" and a womanizer. This isn't true, or at least, isn't the whole truth. Tony is a fundamentally lonely person who has relatively few methods of connecting with people: he has employees, fellow superheroes, and people he sleeps with (every time Tony meets someone he likes out of costume, he either flirts with them or tries to hire them to work for Stark Enterprises). Tony craves affection, and sex provides him with at least the illusion of it. He doesn't value himself, but sex is one way for him to feel like others value him.

Tony, despite his promiscuity, is essentially a serial monogamist -- when he's seriously involved with someone, he's completely faithful to them (even when they're not faithful to him, as with Rumiko). He's clearly seeking a long-term, stable relationship, but, possibly because of his ongoing self-worth issues, has a knack for invariably picking people who turn out to be bad for him. Tony has dated supervillains (Madame Masque), plants hired by his enemies to conduct psychological warfare against him (Indres Moomji), other businessmen/women who were only trying to take advantage of him (Sunset Bain, arguably Tiberius Stone), one night stands who may arguably have date-raped him (Heather), and creepy possessive stalkers who tried to kill him (Kathy Dare, the Living Armor), along with a string of single dates and/or one night stands with vapid supermodels and society women.

Despite this, there are really only two serious, long-term women in Tony's life: Pepper Potts-Hogan and Rumiko Fujikawa. Pepper, Tony's secretary, is one of his oldest and closest friends, married to another of his oldest, closest friends, Happy Hogan, and though the two of them have flirted on and off for years, their relationship is, at its root, friendship rather than romance. Rumiko, Tony's on-again-off-again girlfriend for most of volume 3, and my personal favorite of his female love interests, is a somewhat more complex situation: Tony was honestly in love with her, and she obviously cared about him, but their relationship never held together for more than ten issues at a time (plus, she jerked him around endlessly and cheated on him with Tiberius Stone). When she died at the hands of a supervillain gunning for Iron Man, Tony was devastated, but not to the near-suicidal levels of his grief over Steve.

No matter what arm candy Tony's currently taking to society dinners, or what warm body he's curling up with in bed in an attempt to assuage his loneliness or to find the escape he once got through alcohol, Iron Man, the Avengers, and Steve always comes first. Even when Steve's dead, he still comes first.

Steve has a much shorter track record with woman than Tony does: he had a crush on a woman named Peggy Carter during WWII, which may or may not have ever been consummated, a relationship with a woman named Bernie that was more platonic friendship than actual romance (another fan has described it as reading like "that time I was in love with my gay best friend for a year"), an on-again-off-again fling with a supervillainness named Diamondback that made no sense whatsoever (oh, late-80s/early90s canon, you were not good), and only one serious, life-long romantic love: SHIELD agent Sharon Carter.

A younger relative of Peggy's, Sharon is the spitting image of Steve's first crush, and Steve falls for her from the moment he first meets her. The two of them have dated on and off since Tales of Suspense-era 60s canon, and Sharon is one of the four most important people in Steve's life, up there with Bucky, (little brother), Sam Wilson (Steve's best friend and partner in the superheroing business when Steve's not working with the Avengers), and Tony. However, despite all of their history together, Sharon and Steve are/were in love as much with the idea of each other as with the real people behind that idea.

Sharon puts Steve on a pedestal to some extant: she's as much in love with "Captain America" as she is with Steve Rogers, which, considering that she grew up hearing stories about how awesome he was from Peggy, makes a certain amount of sense. And Steve, in return, occasionally puts Sharon on a pedestal: she's the one who's supposed to be "the girl of his dreams"; pretty, blonde, very similar in appearance to the woman he had a crush on during the war, and also a kickass SHIELD agent, which solves the romantic dilemma created by the fact that Steve's closest emotional ties are always with his comrades-in-arms. She's what he's supposed to want, and also a socially acceptable way to get what he actually wants (which is essentially the kind of shield-brother relationship he has with Tony and arguably with Sam or Bucky).

I could not love thee, dear, so well, loved I not honour more.

The structure of the end of Captain America volume five (which, as we all know, ceased publication after issue number 26) is set up so that Steve dies after being betrayed three times, by each of the three great loves of his life: America, Tony, and Sharon. Except that "America," which is Steve's great love the way France is Enjolras's mistress, isn't ever going to love Steve back, anymore than "truth" or "justice" can love you back, and Sharon and Steve, while they inarguably love each other, are in love more with what the other represents to them. It's that betrayal, or perceived betrayal by Tony that gives Civil War and it's aftermath the element of true literary tragedy it has (despite Mark Millar's execution of the storyline suffering in places).

In a nutshell: the US government decides that superhumans all need to register with the government and operate under government control (1st betrayal: America rejects Steve despite the fact that he's dedicated his life to it). Half the superhero community dutifully does so, including Tony, who lets himself serve as a figurehead for Registration because he's afraid of what people will try to do to the superheroes if they don't co-operate (2nd betrayal, and the one that really, personally hurts Steve). Everyone else, led by a seriously pissed-off Steve, rebels. In the end, Steve surrenders in order to stop the escalating superhero-vs.-superhero fight from destroying New York. Then, as he's being escorted into the New York City courthouse to stand trial, Red Skull, one of his oldest enemies, seizes the opportunity and has him fatally shot. By Sharon, whom one of Red Skull's allies has brainwashed (3rd betrayal).

You'd think this would spell the end for Steve/Tony, but if anything, Captain America #25 and its aftermath have only strengthened the canon support for the ship. Tony's grief over Steve's death is raw, overpowering, and hasn't shown any signs of lessening despite the year's worth of comics that have been published since then. At Steve's funeral, he breaks down in tears on national television and is unable to deliver the eulogy (Sam Wilson has to step in and deliver one of his own instead), and later, when the remaining original Avengers have a private funeral for Steve in the arctic, he confesses to the absent Steve that he doesn't know how to go on with out him, saying "you were my rudder." Steve, in lieu of a will, turns out to have left behind nothing but a single handwritten note to Tony, asking him to take care of America and Bucky for him and telling him that he has always been, and will always be, Steve's friend.

Civil War: The Confession

I know this because the worst has happened. The thing I can't live with...has happened. And for all our back and forth--and all the things we've said and done to each other ... there's one thing that I'll never be able to tell anyone now. ... The one thing!! The one thing I should have told you. But now I can't...

Civil War: The Confession is a one shot comic written by Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis in order to wrap up Marvel's Civil War crossover. Supposedly, the Confession consisted of Tony spelling out his reasons for supporting Registration. In actuality, it's exactly what the title says, a confession, as he tells Steve all the things he was too arrogant/stupid/short-sighted/etc. to say when they would have done some good.

The entire sequence up until the last page consists of a series of tight close-ups on Tony as he talks to Steve. He explains what he was trying to do (prevent the destruction of the superhero community) and why he was trying to do it (because he thought it was the right thing to do, because Steve taught him that you always try to do the right thing, no matter what it costs you), and then breaks down and starts to cry, saying that now that it's over, now that he's lost everything, now that the worst possible thing he could ever imagine happening has come to pass, there's one thing, one thing he can't tell anyone.

"It wasn't worth it."

In the final panel of the next-to-last page, the camera pulls back just a little bit, so that the reader can see the bloodstained edge of a metal table beside Tony. In the final, full page spread, we get a bird's-eye view of the entire room, and the reader "sees" for the first time that Tony is talking to Steve's body. Maleev deliberately drew Steve lying on his back with his shield over his chest, as an obvious visual reference to Steve's first appearance in Avengers #4, and I can tell you, as an Avengers fan, that final page was like a punch in the gut.

  It Wasn't Worth It
    It wasn't worth it.

In Steve and Tony's relationship, over the past four decades, there's been one occasion where each walked out on the other, where each let the other down, let their own emotions/fears/anger get in the way. For Steve, it was Iron Man #172 when he walks out on a suicidally depressed Tony, leaving him alone in a hotel room, because he doesn't know how to handle the situation. If Steve hadn't given up on him there, it's arguable that the next thirteen issues of self-destruction might never have happened, that Steve could have pulled Tony out of the downward spiral he was in, instead of it taking a year of real-time and a near death experience for Tony to pull out of it on his own.

For Tony, the walking out comes in the second (flashback) half of The Confession, when he walks away from that final conversation with Steve, leaving him alone in the Helicarrier's brig. If Tony had told Steve then what he's telling Steve (too late, uselessly, desperately) in the monologue scene, then they might have been able to negotiate, to salvage something from the wreckage. Steve might never have been standing there on those courthouse steps to catch Crossbones' and Sharon's bullets.

My personal take on Steve/Tony in canon is that they've loved each other most of their adult lives, but that neither ever actually acted on it in canon -- it's what makes The Confession so effective; despite the fact that Steve was the love of his life, Tony never told him, never actually verbalized it, so Steve never knew, and now it's too late (and likewise, Tony never knew that his feelings were returned). It's the great dramatic irony of the end of Civil War: Steve died thinking Tony no longer cared about him, not realizing that Tony loved him more than life itself (literally, given Tony's occasionally suicidal tendencies), and Tony, until he got that letter Steve left him, thought that Steve died hating him.

Death Cannot Stop True Love; All It Can Do Is Delay It for a While

Steve/Tony Fandom

In one of those great strokes of fannish irony that happen from time to time, Steve/Tony fandom, such as it is, didn't begin to come into existance until Civil War was well under way, and only really got started once Steve was already (temporarily, we all pray) dead. That being said, there's still forty years of back canon dealing with the two of them for fans to read.

Required reading:
The list of slashy moments scans on cap_ironman is a good start. Also worth tracking down are the following (note: scenes from a few of them are included in the slashy moments list):

Avengers Volume 1, #4 (Steve's origin story)
Tales of Suspense, #58 (Early on in their friendship, Steve and Tony face off against one another)
Iron Man Volume 1 #172 (Also known as "the Intervention Issue" and "The Gone With the Wind Issue" because the cover features Steve cradling Tony in his arms while backlit by a burning building, this reads like someone decided to write a Harlequin novel based on a Tennessee Williams play)
Captain America Volume 1, The Nomad Arc (one of the most famous silver age Cap storylines. Tony isn't really present, but the very stupid-looking costume Steve wears justifies a read-through all on its own)
Iron Man: Armor Wars (Tony goes kind of crazy, Steve tries to stop him. There is a moment where they look deep into one anothers' eyes and known that thing will never be the same between them again. It is awesomely melodramatic)
Captain America/Iron Man 1998 Annual (amusing look at Steve and Tony's relationship as they fight a supervillain together)
Avengers: Red Zone (i.e. Avengers Volume 3 #65-70 . Tony risks his life to give Steve mouth-to-mouth)
Avengers Dissassembled (the Avengers break up)
Iron Man Volume 4, #1-12 (Extremis and Execute Program Arcs, good intro to current Iron Man cannon with a retelling of Tony's origin story. At the climax of the storyline, Tony stops his own heart to save Steve.)
Captain America Volume 5, #1-14 (A very well-written Steve, and the re-introduction of Bucky into the Marvel U).
New Avengers #1-20 (Steve and Tony get married start up another Avengers team together)
Captain America/Iron Man: Casualties of War (to quote likeadeuce "This is basically a slash fanfic with a fistfight instead of a sex scene")
Civil War: The Confession (Tony's love for Steve becomes canon)
Fallen Son #5 (Tony declares his love in canon some more)

Fandom on LJ:

Steve/Tony fandom is small, as fandoms go; only about a hundred or so members, and only twenty or so writers (plus a few talented fanartists). There are two comms for the pairing, the older of which, stevelovestony, is relatively inactive these days. Most of the action currently takes place at cap_ironman, a fic/fanart/squee/discussion comm. Much of the fic is crossposted to marvel_slash, but not all of it.

 There is also an efiction archive, Tales of Suspense, where some of the fic from the comm is archived


A more-or-less complete listing of all the fic for this pairing can be found here courtesy of grey_bard. Some of my favorites, and some fandom milestones, include:

The Past is Gone (But Something Might be Found to Take Its Place) by harmonyangel One of the very first Steve/Tony fics, written the day before Captain America #25 came out. harmonyangel writes a very, very good Cap, and this bittersweet little fic, set right after Disassembled, is one of my favorite of hers.

Resurrection, Reconstruction & Redemption, by elspethdixon and seanchai. Yes, I know; it violates fannish ettiquette something fierce to link your own fic, but I can't very well leave it off the list. RR&R is a Civil War fixit fic, and is/was the first really major Steve/Tony fic out there, responsible for converting a number people to the fandom, and at 200 pages and 90,000 words, is the closest thing to an epic the fandom's got.

No Right Words by crimsonquills. Tony's latest relationship blows up on him and Steve makes a realization.

A Meeting of Minds by crimsonquills. Crimsonquills takes a classic slash cliché, the psychic soulbond, and inflicts it on Steve and Tony. The result is both funny and occasionally sad, as Tony, in classic self-sabotaging fashion, determinedly attempts to conceal his feelings for Steve from an increasingly bewildered and annoyed Steve, and we see that even the ability to read one anothers' minds isn't enough to prevent miscommunications between the two of them (and yes, there is ultimately the transcendent soulbond!sex we've all come to expect from bonding!fic).

Deeper Than Bone, by fire_tears.
"Thor has already lost one shield-brother. he will not lose another." A satisfying wallow in Tony's emotional devastation in current canon, with the added advantage of containing a very nicely written Thor.

saint_kit has written a number of wonderful ficlets and drabbles for the pairing. My personal favorites are:
Little White Lies, Seven lies Steve and Tony tell each other.
Drinking Me Lonely, I'm a sucker for Tony!angst, and this ficlet deals with two prime sources of Tony angst, Civil War, and Tony's alcoholism.
Klutz, For one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the world, Steve has an amusing habit of tripping over his own feet on occasion. He's also got a possessive streak. saint_kit combines the two for humorous effect here.

Harsh-verse part 1, part 2, and part 3 by pandanoai. Series of deliberately, well, harsh ficlets set just prior to the Drinking Arc (i.e. Tony's attempt at suicide via alcohol).

Everybody Got Naked and We Got Cap Back Day by wired_lizard. A short but glorious fixit fic that elegantly ties up both Civil War and Secret Invasion (post-Civil War, shape shifting aliens try to take over the world; don't ask, just go with it). wired_lizard does a wonderful Tony voice, and despite the humorous title, this fic ripped my heart out and shredded it (why can't it be canon? Why?).

Most of the best writers for this pairing are, understandably, 616s comics canon people, but several new writers have started producing movie-verse fic in the wake of the recent Iron Man movie. smilingskull’s Does a Body Good is one of my favorites.

And more fics:

In a Different Light. Big bang fic by marinarusalka – a really awesome blend of movie verse and early Avengers canon, perfect for getting into the pairing if you're only familiar with the Iron Man movie. There's lovely h/c and one brilliant action scene where Steve fights a giant scorpion.

Beneath the Armor by crimsonquills. This one is a get together fic set early in the Avengers’ history as a team – she really nails the feel of Silver Age Avengers, and Steve is a huge, adorable sap here. Plus, there’s bonus Tony-needs-his-chestplate-to-live! drama. Everyone loves Tony-needs-his-chestplate-to-live! drama, right?

Help Wanted by iambic. Adorable Marvel Adventures fic about the formation of that ‘verse’s Avengers team. So adorable that I’m reccing it in a list of slash recs even though it’s gen (Marvel Adventures is the PG-rated fluffy/happy version of core canon, where even the Hulk is lovable and cute).

Precious Illusion by simmysim. Steve comes back from the dead to find that Tony has upgraded. Gorgeous fic that gives a new meaning to the idea of grief turning someone into an "empty shell." (happy ending, though)

I’ll remember best of all, all the things we didn’t say, or “In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream,” by dorcas_gustine. A creepy, haunting fic that’s like the darkfic flipside of Precious Illusion. Warning for what’s very much not a happy ending, though it’s a far more positive ending than canon was aiming for at the time.

What Tomorrow May Bring by simmysim. Another epic fixit fic, this one a fixit for a more recent massive comics-writer clusterfuck (Dark Reign) – a very plotty and comics-canon heavy story, with lots of character cameos, that’s lots of fun. I think one of my favorite parts of the whole thing is the SHIELD/law enforcement/military aspect of it, with Steve working with SHIELD -- you don't often get to see Steve as a field commander/soldier outside of his superhero/Avengers duties in fic.

Tags: #manga/comic, marvel comics

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