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…