By Glenn Walker
The thought occurred to me on a recent episode of the All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast that not everyone knows who the Vision is, or why he is so important to the Avengers. As I said on that episode, when it comes to the Avengers in the late 1960s, the 1970s, and the early 1980s -- the Vision is the fo-shizzle.
The origin of the Vision is one of the first to be mostly retcon: that's retroactive continuity for folks not familiar with comic book lingo. It means that the story we're now told comes from slightly altering or bending events already established as history in the comics. It's made to fit with what we already know, but it's a story that is being told later. Got it? Good, we'll get to that part shortly.
Outside of comic book continuity, the Vision's origin is part of what was called a secret crossover. Back in the dark ages, before cross-company crossovers happened on a semi-regular basis, sometimes writers would get together and do them subtly for their own entertainment. The introductions of the new Vision in Avengers #57 by writer Roy Thomas and the new Red Tornado in Justice League of America #64 by Gardner Fox was one such event.
Both characters had several similarities. They were both androids who were taking on the names of long forgotten Golden Age heroes, sent by villains to infiltrate a superhero team and destroy them, but eventually they each turned good and joined that team. Both had super powers their namesakes did not, both were struggling to become human, and both would eventually find love. They appeared within a month of each other, with the Red Tornado beating the Vision to print by a month.
The Vision, at first, was the creation of the Avengers' arch-foe Ultron, itself an artificial intelligence built by Hank Pym, Goliath at the time. The Vision was an android, technically a synthezoid, an artificial being who had seemingly plastic-like flesh and blood organs beneath his crimson skin rather than gears and machine parts. He possessed complete molecular control over his body. He could become intangible and float or fly, and become as hard as diamond. He was sustained by solar energy through a gem in his forehead and could discharge powerful solar beams from his eyes. His deadliest attack by far was passing a hand into a victim intangibly then solidifying, disrupting the target on a molecular level… painful.
The Vision quickly became one of the most popular characters in the Avengers, so popular in fact that it was his image that appeared next to the price and Comics Code info on the cover of the title for almost a hundred issues. The Vision was the Avengers. Rarely an issue went by without him in it, or on the cover (besides the corner image). He was one of the most powerful Avengers, humbled only briefly by bouts of unexplained claustrophobia, a drive to become more human -- and love.
Yes, perhaps the most important factor in the Vision's life was his love for the Scarlet Witch. Two outcasts from society, non-humans, the android and the mutant, found love in each other's arms. It was a not-so-clever analogy for interracial relationships while mixed into the Marvel Universe world of superheroes. Their forbidden love shocked the world, alienated Quicksilver, the Witch's brother, and endeared the Vision and the Scarlet Witch to Avengers readers everywhere.
Around this time, the Avengers came into conflict with Kang, and the Legion of the Unliving. The Legion included beings plucked from time just before the moment of their deaths to serve Kang and destroy the Avengers. Among them were Wonder Man, whose brain patterns were used by Ultron to create the Vision's mind, and the original android Human Torch. In the battle, the Vision had been nearly destroyed, yet was saved by the above two, along with the Frankenstein Monster, all of whom felt some sort of kinship to the fallen Avenger.
The Monster perhaps sensed another artificial being. Wonder Man maybe understood on some level that they shared a mind. The Human Torch saw something very disconcerting. He saw himself. The Vision's crimson body was in fact his own! The truth became very evident that Ultron had used the Torch's inert android body to create the Vision. The android Avenger's weakness of claustrophobia was clearly inherited from the Human Torch from years of being trapped underwater.
The Legionnaires, after saving the Vision's life, were returned to their proper places in time. Wonder Man would return from the dead, vying for the Scarlet Witch's affections, and adding more of a soap opera element to the Avengers comic. It was an intriguing dilemma, as they were essentially the same man. Circumstances made it so the Vision was dismantled at one point, and his wife fell fully for Wonder Man.
Things got worse for the Scarlet Witch as time went by. She became more and more powerful, eventually gaining the power to alter reality itself. She had had this power all along, having created children for herself and the Vision with it. Once she realized that her children were not even real, she snapped, and snapped hard.
In the event called "Disassembled," the Scarlet Witch succeeded in doing what no other villain -- not Kang, or Ultron, or the Masters of Evil -- had been able to do: She defeated the Avengers. Amongst the rubble was her former husband, the Vision, torn apart by the enraged She-Hulk, as both were manipulated by the Scarlet Witch.
As with most Marvel superheroes, everyone got better eventually. The Vision's recovery was easier, being a repair rather than an out and out resurrection. Early events in Avengers Vs. X-Men have the Vision and the Scarlet Witch confronting each other for the first since the events of "Disassembled," a moment Avengers readers had been waiting for for years.
What happens next is anyone's guess, but I hope that the Vision returns to his status of greatness among the Avengers. Time will tell…
By Glenn Walker
Hopefully y'all have been following the All Things Fun! Comic Vidcast uploaded every Wednesday, and if not, get yourself over to its special webpage and enjoy. As I said, it's uploaded every Wednesday morning by 11:30 AM sharp Eastern Standard Time, and available for viewing – as are all the episodes, throughout the week afterwards. The Vidcast even has its own channel on YouTube.
I, along with co-hosts Allison Eckel and Ed Evans, discuss the new comics that come out that day for the week. We like to think we offer our own unique and informative view of the comics world and what's going on within it and around it.
Although, sometimes fifteen to twenty minutes just isn't enough to explain some of the references made during the vidcast, and it certainly isn't anywhere near enough time to justify the vast storehouse of useless comics knowledge spilling out of my head. We've had to do an explanatory post like this once or twice before, and hopefully this new edition of Show Notes might help alleviate the pressure on my brain.
Lucas "Snapper" Carr
Allison doesn't like this guy and thinks he's dumb, and didn't know why he was showing up in recent issues of the out-of-continuity Young Justice. Old folks like me were thrilled with both the history and irony of his appearance. Sadly, when most people do think of poor Snapper, they do think lame. That's because they don't have a sense of history, or perhaps don't know his history.
Snapper was designed to be the identifying character in Gardner Fox's Silver Age Justice League of America. He was the little-bit-out-of-date beatnik kid who got to hang out with the World's Greatest Heroes. "Wow, if we, the readers, could be Snapper, wouldn't that be cool?" was the line of thinking, but after a while, Snap got annoying. While Fox was on the book, Carr worked as a storytelling device, informing readers on the ins and outs of the team, the day-to-day operations, and he even had a friendship with the League's second new member, the Atom.
However, as time went by, even Gardner Fox got tired of poor Snap, and used him less and less. When Fox left, and new, younger, hipper writer Denny O'Neil came on board, things changed. O'Neil sought to streamline the JLoA to be more his style, and more in line with other books he wrote. More focus was placed on his pet characters like the darker detective Batman, Green Lantern, his revamped and more socially conscious Green Arrow, and the Earth-Two Justice Society transfer, Black Canary. O'Neil also got rid of folks. Over in her own title, he had depowered Wonder Woman, and here, he had her resign from the League. J'Onn J'Onzz returned to his homeworld, and O'Neil simply just ignored Aquaman as if he didn't exist.
Denny O'Neil had more sinister plans for poor Snapper Carr. In the writer's mind, as Snapper grew older, the League had gotten tired of him, and in turn, Snapper was weary of being made fun of by his peers for being the 'Justice League mascot.' In short, he was feeling alienated, and was ready to strike back at 'the man,' his mentors and friends in the JLA. Snapper fell under the sway of an anti-superhero public speaker (shades of the Glorious Godfrey who would come a few short years later) called Mr. Average.
The insidious Mr. Average convinced Snapper that he had to turn against the heroes, and he weaseled their biggest secret out of poor Snapper: the location of their secret headquarters, the Secret Sanctuary in Mount Justice. Oh, and did I mention that Mr. Average was actually the Joker in disguise? Yeah, this was bad. And it led to Snapper Carr's resignation as an honorary JLA member, and the move to a satellite headquarters in orbit.
But therein lies the irony of Snapper appearing in Young Justice, as you see, the YJ team meets in the old Mount Justice headquarters. Cool, huh? Snapper Carr eventually made amends with the JLA, but not after making further mistakes, like being misled once again by villains like The Key, the Star-Tsar, and the Privateer. He later sidekicked for the android Hourman from the future. Snapper Carr remains a case study in the idea that there are no bad characters, only bad writers.
The Absorbing Man
Stop snickering, Allison. I know how you like to make fun of the sometimes-lame names of Marvel Comics characters, but this one is really cool. And besides, it's DC that has characters like the Crimson Centipede, the Purple Pile-Driver, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, and Don Rickles as a super-villain -- not Marvel, so take that.
The Absorbing Man began his comics life as small-time and not-so-bright criminal Carl "Crusher" Creel, and in the typical fashion of most Silver Age Thor villains, being unknowingly empowered by Thor's evil stepbrother Loki. In this case, Loki gave Creel the ability to absorb the strengths and properties of whatever he touches. For example, he touches stone, he becomes as strong as stone, and in actuality, stone. Needless to say, he's been shattered several times.
Over the years, other than Thor, he has clashed with the Hulk several times, giving you an idea of Creel's power levels. The turning point for the Absorbing Man was in the late 1970s in Avengers #183-184 when he made the big leagues. He ended up taking on the entire Avengers team when all he wanted was to be left alone. From that moment on, he was taken seriously and was considered a major Avengers foe, as opposed to that dumb guy with the ball and chain who sometimes bothered Thor and the Hulk.
He's been animated several times, beginning with the Thor segments of 1966's "Marvel Super Heroes," and most recently in Disney XD's "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" as both an adversary of the Hulk and the whole team again. Creel has even made it to the big screen, albeit in a mangled comics-to-film version. In Ang Lee's Hulk movie, Nick Nolte plays Bruce Banner's father, who is imbued with the Absorbing Man's powers.
Crusher Creel continues his major threat level status even today as one of The Worthy in Marvel Comics' latest big crossover event, "Fear Itself."
Here's another name Allison has busted on, and a character with a lot of history, and an amazing character when written right. Currently he's being miswritten by Brian Michael Bendis in theAvengers comics franchise, as a bitter former member who wants to stop his old teammates by starting his own group, the Revengers. It all sounds familiar, but essentially out of character.
Wonder Man began life as a one-shot, one-note character in the classic Avengers #9 by Stan Lee and Don Heck. Simon Williams was recruited byBaron Zemo and the first Masters of Evil to gain super powers and infiltrate the Avengers and destroy them from within. With a mysterious 'ionic' process, Williams was given enhanced strength, endurance and invulnerability, as well as a rocket belt for flying. He joined the team, and then when the Masters of Evil attacked, Simon had a change of heart and fought against them. Zemo double-crossed him, and Wonder Man became the first Avenger to die in battle. At least he died on the side of the angels.
Wonder Man was not forgotten. His name and memory came up often in the Avengers series. Things got hot when Simon's brother, the Grim Reaper, attacked the team seeking revenge. It was revealed later that Simon's brain patterns were actually recorded, and used as a template for the android Vision's mind after he had been reprogrammed. And much later, Avengers arch-foe Kang stole Wonder Man out of time and used him as a pawn in his Legion of the Unliving. In all cases, fan response was strong.
All of these post-death appearances told the powers-that-be at Marvel one thing: Wonder Man was popular. And what do you do with dead characters in comics when they're popular? You bring them back from the dead of course! Wonder Man returned in Avengers #151, first as azuvembie (don't even ask, or just click, but you've been warned), and then for real and for good, regaining his full member status on the team.
Wonder Man became a fast fan favorite, became a founding member of the West Coast Avengers, best friends with teammate the Beast, got his own series, and yes, died a couple more times, and came back as well. He's become known as a loyal support Avenger, his colorful, and sometimes drab costumes, and for coming back from the dead frequently. What he's not known for is being vengeful and unfoundedly proactive. Again, it's Snapper Carr time -- there are no bad characters, only bad writers.
That said, Wonder Man, and the Revengers, can be found in recent issues of the Avengers franchise of titles, fighting his former friends, the Avengers.
That's all for this time. I'm sure there will have to be more explanations of obscure and arcane info from my twisted mind. Maybe next time I'll teach y'all how to pronounce all the 'O' villains in the Justice League's rogues gallery…
By Glenn Walker
More than a few times on the All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast when we've talked about Flashpoint I have referenced an old JLA/JSA crossover whose story is similar. The story appeared in the summer of 1965 in Justice League of America #37 and 38. With last week's conclusion to Flashpoint, I thought it now would be a good time to take a closer look at this classic story.
I picked up #37 first, not when it came out -- I''m not that old. As a widdle keed, I bought it for like a dime at a giant yard sale at Atsion Lake. Inside the box I plucked it from were comics with names and titles that I didn't even know yet, like the Losers, Capt. Storm, the Doom Patrol, Plastic Man, and House of Mystery. It was a veritable Silver Age goldmine, and I was yet to be a Vast Storehouse of Useless Knowledge, darn shame. I finally snagged JLoA #38, and the conclusion to the story, for much much more than a dime, at a comic book convention in the early 1980s. The fact that it was my first 'old' comic makes it extra memorable to me. We always remember our first.
Back in the early days of the DC Multiverse, this third JLA/JSA team-up actually formally introduced Earth-A, the fourth such parallel Earth. But, for those scientists, and DCU veterans out there, Earth-A wasn't a proper parallel Earth, it was in fact an 'alternate' Earth-One, one that was altered by tampering with events in its timeline. Someone time-travelled into the past and eliminated the Justice League. Starting to sound familiar, folks?
In "Earth -- Without a Justice League" and "Crisis on Earth-A," the classic original creative team of Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky presented a twisted tale of time travel and treachery. The Johnny Thunder of Earth-One, a petty con man and small-time criminal, upon learning the good fortune of his Earth-Two counterpart, wrested control of the Thunderbolt from him. Seeing the Justice League as a threat to his evil plans, he commanded the Thunderbolt to prevent the Justice League from ever becoming super-heroes. Yeah, it's what happens when the bad guy gets the genie.
Jetting back through time, the Thunderbolt went to work interfering in the various members' origins. He protected Barry Allen from the fateful lightning bolt, saved Krypton from destruction, prevented Abin Sur from crashing on Earth, destroyed the white dwarf star fragment that changed Ray Palmer into the Atom, short-circuited Dr. Erdel's experiment, and beat the crap outta Batman on his first case. As a kid, two things stuck in my mind. One, I was awed by the sheer power of the Thunderbolt. That he could save Krypton was no easy feat. And two, I got to see the Sekowsky-rendered original costume of the Batman. It's the rarely seen variation for his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, and was new to me. With no more JLA to stop them, Thunder and his gang proceed to raise hell.
Luckily, in typical Silver Age fashion, the JSA is paying attention to the doings on the altered Earth-One and go, disguised as the Justice League, to stop the evil Johnny Thunder's crime spree. Even awkwardly disguised, the JSA made short work of the Thunder gang. With the very powerful Thunderbolt at his disposal, however, bad Johnny makes him turn his gang into his very own Justice League by replacing them with the JLA members. He throws thug Race Morrison into the Flash's lightning bolt, and irradiates henchman Barney Judson with white dwarf material.
With Superman, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter… it gets iffy as to how they were replaced. Like I can sorta see Hawkman as J'Onn J'Onzz, but this is getting ridiculous. Yeah, I know, it really doesn't work if you think too hard about it, but let's be guided by the Marvel Comics "One More Day" philosophy - "It's magic, we don't have to explain it."
Anyway, presto change-o, and Johnny's gang becomes the Lawless League of Earth-A, and they do battle with the Justice Society. The conflict escalates as these things do, and finally the evil Johnny Thunder starts getting his butt kicked in the midst of combat, so he makes a final wish: none of this ever happens. Poof! Everything goes back to the way it was. No harm, no foul, except that bad Johnny ends up in jail. Perfect Silver Age ending: Almost everyone lives happily ever after. The evil Johnny Thunder does return decades later, but the less said about the 'new' origin of Black Canary, the better, as far as I'm concerned. It's rather disturbing, and best forgotten.
And there you have it, a lightning bolt-themed character changing the time stream to eliminate the Justice League - Silver Age version. And it happened before, and it will happen again. It just happened in Flashpoint. The Reverse-Flash, or maybe even the Flash, has been mucking with the time stream and has created a new continuity -- one where the Justice League never existed, where Aquaman and Wonder Woman have led their nations to war, and where the world stands in the balance.
Something tells me, based on the solicitation for the DCnU comics now beginning the New 52, that no one is going to make a wish and everything will be going back to status quo -- at least not in a good way. Let's just hold our breath, and hope for the best. This is a brave new world…