Who is that mysterious character with the jewel on his forehead at the end of the latest trailer for Avengers: Age Of Ultron?
No doubt, many of the uninitiated would have asked that question.
It’s none other than the Vision. In the comics, he is the android “son” of Ultron, which also makes Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man I) his grandfather. Synthetically, half of his anatomy belongs to the Golden Age Human Torch. Biologically, he shares Simon Williams’ (aka Wonder Man) brain patterns. If that’s not enough to confuse you, he is also the Scarlet Witch’s ex-husband (which makes Quicksilver his brother-in-law), and he once fathered two imaginary kids conjured via his ex-wife’s hex magic.
In the movies, this convoluted circuit is simplified: he’s essentially an upgrade to Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence “butler” Jarvis (an acronym for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System). He is played by Paul Bettany, who has voiced Jarvis since the first Iron Man movie.
It bears noting that the “synthezoid” (synthetic human/android) has a 47-year history in the comics, and is at the centre of some of The Avengers’ most memorable moments.
Created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema, the Vision made his debut in 1968’s Avengers #57 and #58, and possesses multiple powers and abilities.
These include density manipulation (allowing him to phase through objects and fly, while also giving him superhuman strength and invulnerability), mass control (allowing him to be as heavy as a dozen elephants or as light as a feather), solar energy beams fired through his eyes or the solar jewel on his forehead), and the ability to interact with other computer systems and process information at superhuman speeds.
In short, he’s like a combination of Tony Stark’s brains, Thor’s brawn, and Wonder Man’s personality (courtesy of the latter’s brain patterns).
While such multiple abilities should have guaranteed him permanent stardom, the truth is that this Avenger has hardly lived up to his potential.
Behold the Vision!
In the comics, the Vision was created by Ultron using the brain patterns of Wonder Man, with the main purpose of going against Ultron’s “parents” – Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (aka The Wasp). The name was coined after his first encounter with the Wasp, who described him as a “vision”, but the truth is that Thomas actually wanted to resurrect/induct a Golden Age character of the same name into the Avengers but was talked out of it by Stan Lee.
Thomas and Buscema packed a lot of Visionary goodness into the lightning-paced storyline in these two issues – the Vision made his debut, bushwhacked the Avengers, and later redeemed himself by turning against his creator, before being inducted into the Avengers by Hank Pym at the end.
Not exactly a comprehensive origin by today’s standards, but it did enough to open doors for the Vision, who eventually became a member of every Avengers formation: the core team, the West Coast Avengers, Avengers AI, the Young Avengers, and Mighty Avengers.
The final panel of Avengers #58 was also one of Buscema’s most classic scenes – after being formally inducted into the Avengers, Vision excused himself, and when he was alone, shed a single tear – proving that even an android can cry!
Torch from the past
Though Ultron was initially credited with creating the Vision, the arguably over-simplified premise that the synthezoid came from a lab didn’t sound intriguing enough. So the Vision was later given a more complex origin through Avengers #93, #116, #134 and #135, with the idea of him being built from a “host body” being introduced midway during the Kree-Skrull War.
Having succumbed to a Skrull attack, the Vision was in a disastrous state, and Ant-Man had to journey into his android body to repair the internal damage. That process uncovered the first clue that the Vision’s body could have belonged to the Golden Age Human Torch, aka Jim Hammond.
This was confirmed three years (our time, not comics time) later when the Vision travelled back in time to learn about the Human Torch’s tragic fate (he disappeared after going nova in the 1950s), and learned that Ultron did indeed use Hammond’s body to create him.
(Future storylines would modify this to explain that only half the Torch’s body was used in making the Vision, probably to pave the way for Hammond to return later.)
A Vision of love
Despite his efforts to fit in (he even had a human alter-ego named Victor Shade), a stone cold android tended to stick out like a sore thumb in any team. So, to inject some depth into the Vision, along came a love interest in the form of Wanda Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch).
Avengers #76 marked the first meeting between them. The idea of a synthezoid-mutant love story was certainly unheard of back then, and provided a new dimension to the Avengers’ team dynamics. The occasional outburst by Quicksilver on his sister’s relationship also injected some drama during every family reunion.
Later, in Giant-Size Avengers #4 (written by Steve Englehart, with art by Don Heck), the Vision landed in the Dark Dimension, where Dormammu and Umar were holding the Scarlet Witch captive! Aided by the Witch’s mentor Agatha Harkness, Vision managed to save Wanda, and after confessing his feelings for her, he proposed. She accepted, and the Marvel Universe’s oddest couple tied the knot!
NEXT PAGE: Where is the love?