With Avengers: Age Of Ultron finally reaching our screens this week (if you’re in America, you have to wait a little longer), the character known as The Vision will make his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The debut is something that fans of the comics have been anticipating for a while, but he's not the most well-known to those whose main Avengers experience has been through the movies. Here, then, is an introduction to this complicated creation.
Like many of his fellow Marvel Comics characters, The Vision has a complicated birth, one that has been rejigged and retold several times. But he first showed up in Avengers issue 57, published October 1968. He’s the work of Ultron, the rogue robot who gains sentience and decides to rebel against his creator, scientist Hank Pym. Turning against Pym and the Avengers, Ultron tries several times to destroy them, but after failing at each attempt, he concocts a new plan. He kidnaps Professor Phineas T. Horton, creator of the original Human Torch (an android, not Johnny Storm from The Fantastic Four – we told you it was complicated) and demands that he alter the droid into something new to take on our heroes. The prof switches the colour of the Torch’s face to Red and changes its powers, creating what is known in the Marvel universe as a Synthezoid.
But to Ultron’s surprise, Horton left the Torch’s memory mostly intact, which meant he initially refused to do Ultron’s bidding. Enraged, Ultron kills Horton, leading The Vision to seek vengeance. But Ultron was too powerful, and managed to imprint the android with the brain patterns of Wonder Man, adding a control crystal so he’ll do Ultron’s bidding.
This split in this nature – the human side versus the machine – has been a fascinating subject for different writers to explore, and he’s a chance to look at humanity through a different lens, much as with the likes of Isaac Asimov’s robots and Star Trek’s Data.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The first appearance of The Vision in Marvel Comics
Curious as to how The Vision got that moniker? It wasn’t handed down by Ultron, but in fact stuck after his first encounter with the Avengers. Team member Janet “Wasp” Van Dyne described him as an "unearthly, inhuman vision" upon that initial meeting, and the title passed into use. Not the most auspicious start you might think, and indeed The Vision attacks our heroes, only to be taken down. At a moment when it looked like the cackling Ultron would defeat the Avengers, the droid once again overcame his programming and helped the team defeat their metallic menace. After asking to join them, he’s tested by the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man and passes, going on to become a valuable ally. Well, except for those storylines when he’s needed to be a threat again, especially with Ultron able to take over his mind. But in his time, he’s fought and won against the likes of Kang, Man-Ape, the Circus of Crime (come on MCU, this has to be part of Phase Four!) and Yellowjacket, the villain we’ll meet in this year’s Ant-Man played by Corey Stoll.
The Vision has quite the array of abilities. While his body mimics that of a human, he’s much stronger and resilient than normal people (“normal”, of course, being a relative term in this universe). He’s got that nifty computer brain, which makes him incredibly smart, can generate holograms to make himself look human, change his density (so as to become hard like a diamond or float through walls like a ghost), fly and channel solar energy to emit radiation beams through the gem on his head. Which comes in really handy when the microwave is broken.
The Vision and The Scarlet Witch
One of the more iconic elements of the Vision’s backstory is his romance with Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch. Tentative at first, their relationship blossomed into love and they even got married, heading to a honeymoon on the island of Rurutu in French Polynesia. After their trip, they returned to spend a few more years fighting alongside their Avengers colleagues before retiring to New Jersey. It seemed like a happy ending, at least until the Vision’s old control crystal malfunctioned and he went all WarGames, becoming bent on creating a golden age of peace by taking over the world’s defence systems. Oh, and they had children together, but the kids turned out to be fragments of the soul of the demon Mephisto. We know, we know... most parents think that’s the reason their kids misbehave. The trauma of seeing the “children” absorbed back into Mephisto temporarily sent Wanda insane, and she separated from The Vision. Darkness, thy name is Marvel.
Left: The Vision in the Marvel Animation Series; Right: The Vision in action
Given the sprawling history of Marvel comics, it’s perhaps not that surprising that there have been different versions of the character through the years. He’s been destroyed and rebuilt, had his memory patterns changed, discovered there is an Anti-Vision from another universe, been torn apart again by She-Hulk and later saw his memories incorporated into another character. He’s been a prominent part of the Avengers cartoon series, which is not that surprising given that he’s also a fan favourite.
READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP
Paul Bettany as The Vision in Avengers: Age Of Ultron
With Avengers: Age Of Ultron only just appearing in UK cinemas and yet to arrive in some other countries, we'll hold off on too much discussion of how he fits into the plot. Suffice to say, he is closely linked to both Ultron and, since Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark accidentally creates the rogue A.I. and not Hank Pym, The Vision also has a bond with the billionaire. Paul Bettany, who, until now, has only had to show up to recording booths to voice Stark’s sardonic computer J.A.R.V.I.S., is playing The Vision on screen. “He’s incredibly good at punching, which is key," explains Bettany. "He also has the ability to change his density and that's awesome and really exploited brilliantly by Joss in terms of cool moments. Vision is able to do something otherworldly and it’s kind of great. And he’s discovering it all as he goes along.” He was less thrilled about the harness work involved, which he has said felt like being “hung by your genitals”, but that’s all part of the job... Expect The Vision to play a huge role when Avengers: Infinity War arrives starting in 2018.