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Just How Much Is Elon Musk Like Iron Man?

Scott Lucas | August 26, 2013 | Story Profiles

This Saturday, the founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors, Elon Musk took to Twitter to trumpet his latest invention: "We figured out how to design rocket parts just [with] hand movements through the air." Sound familiar? It's from the Iron Man movies, where it's used by Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark to build his superpowered suit of armor. Though he denied that he was actually making an Iron Man equivalent, he did say that the technology was inspired by the movie.

Sure, Musk doesn't seem to mind the comparison to Tony Stark (he even made a cameo in Iron Man 2), but just how close is he to the fictional superhero? Let's look at the head-to-head match-up.

1. Super Cool Technology
Iron Man: Using the ac reactor, a fist-sized clean fusion reactor, Stark's metal suit can fly, shoot bolts of energy, and (in the comics) generate freeze beams, hologram decoys, and manipulate magnetic fields.
Elon Musk:
PayPal lets you buy as many commemorative Elvis plates as you can afford on eBay.
Advantage: Iron Man

2. Super Powers
Iron Man: On his own, Tony Stark can't fly, can't read minds, and can't even shoot webs from his hands. All he has in terms of raw power is being a crazy-wealthy genius.
Elon Musk: No flying, no mind reading, and no web slinging. But also a crazy-wealthy super-genius.
Advantage: Until one of them gets bitten by a radioactive spider, it's a tie.

3. Super-Hot Significant Other
Iron Man: Though she might fail the Bechdel Test, Gwyneth Paltrow's sunny Pepper Potts is a charming, helpful assistant-turned-CEO.
Elon Musk: His first wife, whom he met while in college, Justine, is a novelist. And if this essay from Marie Claire is to be believed, kind of awesome. His second wife (from whom he recently divorced), actress Talulah Riley, is blonde and in her twenties.
Advantage: Iron Man. Though Justine should call us some time.

4. Super Bad Drinking Problem
Iron Man: Booze. During 1979's Demon in a Bottle storyline, Stark confronts his alcoholism, a plot line that the movies had alluded to without centering on.
Elon Musk:
Caffeine. During marathon work sessions, Musk apparently used to mainline coffee and Diet Coke before cutting back.
Advantage: Musk.

5. Super Friends
Iron Man: Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye (whoever that is), and many other members of the Avengers.
Elon Musk: Musk had teamed up with Mark Zuckerberg, Ron Conway, et al. to back, Silicon Valley's new political vehicle, but he quickly backed off after it placed ads in favor of the Keystone Pipeline, which is opposed by environmentalists.
Advantage: Iron Man. The Avengers only fight against each other when they're under Dr. Doom's mind-control or when a Skrull is impersonating them. Wait, is that what's happened to Zuck?

6. Super Space Flight
Iron Man: At the end of The Avengers, Tony Stark takes to space—but he's only up there for like a minute.
Elon Musk: SpaceX is aiming for permanent colonization.
Advantage: Musk.

The Winner: By a 3-2-1 margin, it's Iron Man.

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