The Maria Stark Foundation is a private charitable organization founded by Tony Stark and named after his adoptive mother Maria. After her mother's death in the automobile accident which also cost the life of Howard Stark, Tony set up the Maria Stark Foundation to promote affordable housing, community centers and other philanthropic gestures. The Foundation's membership is primarily comprised of executives, accountants and lawyers.
Among the Foundation's most notable work was funding the repair firm Damage Control and the superhero team the Avengers, the latter being originally funded directly by Tony Stark himself. The Foundation's support for the Avengers included paying a stipend to every member at request; management and funding for support staff; funding for repairs and maintenance to the team's headquarters and equipment; legal fees and a supplied lawyer for facing any lawsuits; storage for the Avengers' personal effects, particularly of dead or missing members; reimbursement for any damages to public or private property caused by a team member on duty; and general handling of any complaints issued to the Avengers from the public or private sector. The law and accounting departments of the Foundation conducted regular reviews of the Avengers' actions to ensure accountability for their public activities.
When most of the Avengers were seemingly killed in battle against Onslaught, the US government threatened to release their portion of funding from the remains of the team, forcing then-leader the Black Widow to disband the team rather than pursue litigation. When the Avengers resumed their activities later on, the Maria Stark Foundation resumed their funding. Almost concurrently, Tony Stark set up a new company called Stark Solutions, and arranged for all money earned by his firm to be donated to the Maria Stark Foundation to promote charity work. Stark's friend Happy Hogan became liaison for local affairs for the Maria Stark Foundation. He first helped set up an athletic center for the Puget Sound Youth Project of Seattle, Washington.
At one point, Tony Stark donated the entirety of his personal future to the Foundation in an attempt to live a new life outside the public eye, but he eventually returned and reclaimed his money.
Following a battle against the Elements of Doom, several Avengers attended an audit by Max Caton and Janice Imperato. The team was held to task for the damage caused by their battle, and Caton and Imperato arranged for the Maria Stark Foundation to handle each of these concerns.
The Avengers eventually disbanded again in the wake of the destruction of the Avengers Mansion and deaths of several members due to the actions of the Scarlet Witch when she went insane. During the Avengers' absence, the Foundation continued to serve their interests. At one point, they dispatched a cease-and-desist order to the Great Lakes Avengers.
Despite the subsequent revival of the Avengers as a team, the Maria Stark Foundation appeared to have not renewed financial support of the team, and funding depended once again directly on Tony Stark. For instance, when Tony Stark's personal fortune floundered, the Avengers became financially lacking, and after he fell into a coma in the end of the Second Civil War, the Avengers had to find funding with Parker Industries.
Following Stark's return from a coma, he grouped his different firms into a single conglomerate called Stark Unlimited. However, the Maria Stark Foundation remained separate from Stark's other endeavors and outside of his reach. During this time, the organization was run by Tony's brother Arno. When Arno delegitimized Tony's status as a real person since his body had been reengineered from scratch by a bio-restructuring pod of his design, he argued that Tony was owned by the Maria Stark Foundation. Through this claim, Arno managed to seize control of Stark Unlimited.
- The Maria Stark Foundation was first established in a back-up feature of Avengers Annual #11 that detailed the Avengers Charter.
- Comic-publishing company Marvel Comics made an arrangement with the Maria Stark Foundation to depict authorized adventures of the Avengers. Unlike the agreement made with the Fantastic Four, the Avengers didn't personally handle the arrangements for their series. Since the approvals and information flow were handled by Maria Stark Foundation intermediaries, Marvel's writers were given less details about the Avengers' exploits than the Fantastic Four. Because of this, Stan Lee once referred to Marvel's Avengers comics as "only 69% authorized."
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