Alright, so I finally gave up—I could not find that article I was looking for. I still recall the gist of it, of course, and will touch on several of its points (at least as I remember them), but it’s regretful that I can’t cite it directly. If I find it later I will post about it here, as it was an excellent piece and I would have loved to share it. Anyway…
How about the Vision, huh?
Origins of the Vision
With the release of the Avengers sequel a couple months ago, the Vizh has actually gotten a fair amount of fresh press, some of which has been enlightening. Here’s what Roy Thomas had to say to Rolling Stone:
Rolling Stone: You co-created the Vision, as well, who is also featured in the movie. How did that character come about?
Thomas: I said, “I want to bring back the old Vision, the 1940s Simon and Kirby character,” and Stan said “No we want a new Avenger, but I want him to be an android.” He never said why! And I said, “You don’t care why as long as he’s an android?” So I made up an android and I called him the Vision; he hated the red face but other than that he thought it was fine.
Thomas elaborated on the latter point to the Hollywood Reporter:
HR: What was Stan’s reaction to The Vision?
Thomas: He liked it, but Stan hated the color of The Vision. “Why’d you make him red? Red’s not a good color!” I didn’t want to make him green like The Hulk or Blue like the Atlanteans. I suppose I could have made him white, but the paper we printed on was so poor, that you would have been able to see the other side, so we didn’t make things white that we didn’t have to. I don’t think he ever thought The Vision was a really strong name. It seems a little wimpy, but I felt Vision—it really means like a ghost or a mirage or an image.
Personally, as a youngster seeing him for the first time, one of the things I loved most about the character was the color scheme. I understand how more mature sensibilities might be put off by it—I mean, he’s the perfect balance of green and yellow until you get to the face and BANG! you’ve got this stark crimson popping out at you—but as a little kid I loved colorful characters. In fact the more colors the better, as far as I was concerned. (This is why Captain Ultra was one of my favorites back then. He was intended to be a joke character, but the joke went completely over my head at the time.)
In any case, outlandish fashion was kinda “in” during the 70s anyway. If you don’t believe me, just do a Google image search on Walt “Clyde” Frazier from that decade. Or maybe watch Saturday Night Fever.
My own introduction to the Vision was in the pages of Avengers #149, purchased right off the local newsstand circa June 1976. As detailed in my “Comics-Geek Odyssey” post of just over a year ago, I would then purchase issue #148 a short time afterward.
Vision doesn’t get a whole lot of service in either of these issues, but what little I saw was intriguing. First, as I mentioned, was the color scheme, which I greatly admired. Back then the more colors a superhero had in his costume meant I got to use more of my crayons when I tried to draw him myself, which was always a pleasure.
And the Vision does get this one fun, little scene in Avengers #149 where a Roxxon thug busts his knuckles against his chin. Most of the story this ish centered on Thor, Moondragon, and Hellcat, but Vision taking that punch was memorable for a young, put-upon, primordial geek like myself. I had already encountered a few bullies by then, and the fantasy of them breaking their hands against my face when they tried to punch me was certainly appealing.
Next came #148 (which I bought after #149, remember?), and Vision is largely in the background again this ish, but they do have a brief flashback to the previous issue, wherein Vizh and Scarlet Witch whupped three members of the Squadron Supreme, including their heavy hitter (and Superman analogue), Hyperion.
This clearly signaled (at least to my young mind) that the Vision was a total shitkicker and not to be trifled with.
The Corner Man
Vision first appeared in Avengers #57 (Oct. 1968), was accepted as a member the following issue (58), and then got his head included in the corner box (alongside several of his teammates) in issue #59.
Beginning with Avengers #93 (Nov. 1971), Vision would occupy the corner box all by his lonesome with this badass pose:
This same drawing of the Vizh would continue to occupy the corner box through #152 (Oct. 1976). With issue #153 (Nov. 1976), he took on more of an action stance:
This figure remained through issue #184 (June 1979). With issue #185 (July 1979), the mag resumed with the floating heads motif.
So to the young me, the fact that the Vision represented the whole team by himself in the corner box had to mean that he was (A) the leader of the team, (B) the most powerful/most important member of the team, or (C) both. Whatever the case, it raised the Vision’s coolness quotient all the more in my eyes.
The Crying Android
By the time we get to the Christmas season of ’76, I would get my hands on Marvel Treasury Edition #18, the Giant Superhero Holiday Grab Bag for that year. One of the classic tales reprinted therein was Avengers #58, “Even an Android Can Cry.” This story is a must-read for all comics fans for a number of reasons.
First, this is the issue where we learn the true origin of not only the Vision, but of Ultron as well. It ties together the Vizh (and later, by extension, the Scarlet Witch), Ultron, Hank Pym (and again, by extension, Jan/the Wasp), and Wonder Man. This collection of characters would make up the family core of the Avengers title for the next dozen years or so afterward.
Secondly, it’s just a fun story, with terrific art by Big John Buscema, and it does a great job of building up the Vision, specifically, as a character of interest. The scene where he tosses aside Captain America & Iron Man like playthings before going toe-to-toe with Thor himself is an extra-special treat.
Thirdly—and by far most importantly—are the deeper, more artistic implications of the story. Vision is one of those classic Marvel characters that is superficially inhuman, but in reality more human than many of us. He’s referred to as an “android” in this tale, though that was never really what he was. Later on, this would be amended to “synthezoid,” which is meant to imply a synthetic form of man—a far more apt term for what writer Roy Thomas intended, as clearly demonstrated by the following exchange, which takes place after Vision is voted in as a member of the team:
VISION: You accept me… though I’m not truly a human being?
HANK PYM: Is a man any less human because he has an artificial leg… or a transplanted heart? The five original Avengers included an Asgardian immortal and a green-skinned behemoth! We ask merely a man’s worth… not the accident of his condition!
Which brings us to this gorgeous, stunning, full-page splash by Buscema (with the line from which the story takes its title), showing the Vision’s private reaction to the team’s acceptance of him:
“Even an Android Can Cry” is Marvel at its progressive, humanist best. It’s about tolerance, acceptance, and brotherhood. Any kid who reads this story will likely emerge as a better person for it—it’s what superhero comics can do when they’re done right. Without hyperbole, this is one of the greatest, most important comic book stories of all time. And it sets up the Vision himself as one of the greatest, most important comic book characters of all time
Closing Out the 70s
Avengers #151 would mark the return of Wonder Man to ranks of the living and, eventually, to the Avengers as well. This would dredge up some old wounds for the Vision and (briefly) put a fresh spin on his identity crisis, as the “brain patterns” of the “dead” Wonder Man/Simon Williams were used by Ultron in creating the Vision. But the issues between Vision and Wonder Man would be largely resolved by issue #160, wherein Vizh came to the realization that he and WM should consider one another “brothers.”
Ultron would pop up again several times during this period, resurrecting the father-son conflict I discussed in my Age of Ultron review. The father-son relationship is a classic literary trope and is used to quite powerful effect between Pym, Ultron, and the Vision during this time. An extra layer of drama is added to it with Ultron and the Vision’s concurrent struggles with their own humanity.
On the action side of things, Vision’s star also continued to rise at this time. After the “ghost” of the Black Knight hands the rest of the Avengers their behinds in issue #157, the Vision comes along and single-handedly lays the smackdown on him. Then, in the midst of the Count Nefaria storyline in Avengers #166, Hank Pym/Yellowjacket realizes their best shot at beating the Count is to revive the incapacitated Vision, as he is “one of the mightiest beings in the world.” Sure enough, Vizh proves to be the difference maker, defeating the Count by dropping himself down upon him from a great height while at maximum density.
And then we have the epic Michael/Korvac saga, which took place across Avengers 167-177. In the climatic installment, Korvac nearly wipes out the entire Avengers roster, including auxiliary members and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy, until there are just four heroes left to oppose him. One of the “final four” still standing—along with Thor, Iron Man, and Starhawk—is the Vision.
Clearly, the Vision was being portrayed as one of Marvel’s big guns, and as a young reader I certainly took notice. Spidey was my favorite comics character at the time, with Supes, Batman, and the Hulk right behind him. But Vizh was at the top of the next tier for me—the tier of the true comics aficionado, which (for me) included Captain Mar-Vell, Omega the Unknown, Dr. Fate, Captain Comet, and Adam Warlock.