Friday, February 20, 2009

The Vision: The Way We Were - Avengers 58 (Part 1)

Avengers #58 (November 1968)
“Even An Android Can Cry”
Roy Thomas - writer
John Buscema - artist
George Klein - inker


Karen: Welcome to the second part of our look at the first appearance of the Vision. This issue delves into the Vision’s creation by Ultron, and indeed, the creation of Ultron as well. We also get the first big grouping of Avengers, including the Big Three, since Avengers Annual # 1, I believe.

Doug: I don’t have it right in front of me, but I recall Thor and Iron Man being on the cover (a GREAT Buscema cover with Goliath) of #51, where Goliath regains his growth powers. If I recall, their role inside was not nearly what it is in this issue. But you’re right – this is a wonderful grouping, lacking only Hercules, Wanda, Pietro, and the frequently-guesting Black Widow.

Sharon: By the this time, Wanda, Pietro and Hercules were no longer with the team…and as explained in #57, Natasha had taken up with SHIELD again. As for Cap, Thor and Iron Man, Roy Thomas tried to work them in as much as possible, despite Stan’s preference that they not be included in the Avengers (mostly because Stan didn’t want their Avengers escapades to conflict with what was going on in their own series). So the Big Three would pop up here and there…as Doug mentioned, Thor and Iron Man took part in the action in #51, and Cap showed up in #56 and Annual #2. In #58, the trio function as the elder statesmen.

Karen: I always thought it was odd that Stan wanted to keep the Big Three out of the book, since (ostensibly) they would be the biggest draws and likely to improve sales. Hey, perhaps this shows that, unlike the current heads of Marvel, money was not always the prime motivator of decisions!

Karen: Cap decides to test the Vision with a little impromptu combat, and Iron Man and Thor follow suit. I love how Hawkeye is the only one to figure out that Cap is simply testing the new applicant – the relationship between Cap and Hawkeye has to be one of my favorites in all of comics.

Doug: It’s a fun battle, and a great way to show off the Vision’s powers. Of course, we’d seen these powers on display in the previous issue, but certainly not in the context of pitched battle against two of the mightiest Avengers! And, I too, loved the smirk on ol’ Hawk’s face.

Karen: After much effort, the Vision is able to recall his ‘birth’ at the hands of Ultron. Ultron treats him cruelly, not even giving him a name. Unlike Steve Englehart’s later interpretation, here Ultron’s attitude towards the Vision is that of a master towards a slave, not a father (albeit a terrible one) towards his son. That definitely evolved later on.

Doug: I’ve personally always found this odd, and at times overbearing. Yes, I understand the whole Oedipal angle of it, and it was never better than in the “Bride of Ultron” 4-parter. I guess where it was most annoying was in the early pages of West Coast Avengers, when Ultron often mockingly referred to Dr. Pym as “Daddy”.

Doug: Additionally, am I correct in understanding that Ultron was Hank’s version of a synthozoid? It seems quite strange, then, that this mechanical construct would manifest himself as a robot rather than a humanoid. Sure, he claims to loathe Pym and humanity – why then did he create the Vision as a humanoid? Additionally again, is it a stretch to believe that this robot could basically create life from scratch (obviously we don’t yet know that the Vision is the Original Human Torch) in only the space of several months?

Karen: I would agree, Ultron doesn’t seem to fit the bill for a synthozoid, but there is that implication. Maybe he was simply an initial step? Of course exploring the Vision’s past lead to Pym trying to recall the details about his efforts to construct his own synthozoid – and he realized he couldn’t remember a thing! The Avengers head to Pym’s boarded –up lab and then the whole Ultron story is complete: Pym created Ultron, who turned the tables on him and erased the incident from his mind! While this sounds a little corny, it actually came across pretty well. We see the beginnings of Ultron’s Oedipal Complex in his complete contempt for Pym. This is also one of the events that lead to Pym’s later emotional/psychological issues.

Doug: Hank’s brain-train wrecks pretty quickly from here on out…

Sharon: In terms of the flashbacks, a couple of things bothered an old continuity geek like me. First, Hank mentions the fight with the Dragon Man that occurred-- in his words-- “the other day”…this would have placed these events just after #42 or so. But in the flashback he’s wearing his more recent red and blue costume instead of the yellow and blue one he’d sported back when they fought Dragon Man (and for some months thereafter).

Sharon: Then, when Iron Man tells the tale of Wonder Man, within IM’s narrative Cap refers to Giant-Man as “Hank.” But back then (Avengers #9), Giant-Man’s civilian identity was not known, and certainly not to Cap—because in Avengers #28 Cap’s surprised that “High Pockets” turns out to be Pym! Well, I guess these minor inconsistencies can be excused as “memory lapses”, since we’re not dealing with infallible, omniscient narrators here.

Karen: The final piece of the puzzle for the Vision is discovering that his brain patterns are based on those of Wonder Man (who was then believed to be dead). It’s a lot of information to take in –as Roy has him ponder, “I wonder – is it possible to be ‘basically human’?” One of these days (maybe soon, since I’m working on an Ultron article) I’d like to ask Roy why he chose to include the Wonder Man aspect in the Vision’s story? Was it really essential to giving him his ‘human bonafides’?

Sharon: That’s a very good question. Why connect him to Wonder Man, who was pretty much forgotten at that point? Wasn’t Ultron’s involvement exciting enough? Back in 1968 I’d only been reading the Avengers for about a year prior to this issue, so I had no previous knowledge of Wonder Man or the events in Avengers #9. So this development, which involved a long-ago minor character, seemed to come out of the blue. Later on, when I started collecting back issues and saw there’s been no mention of Wondy since #9, I felt cheated by #58 and the notion that these events had occurred off-panel.

Doug: Does anyone truly know what a “brain pattern” is? Has this ever been addressed. Because Vizh never had Simon Williams’ personality or memories. So what does it mean?

Sharon: Another good question. I think the vague notion of “brain patterns” was meant to establish that a human mind (not necessarily Simon’s personality or traits) had been grafted into the Vision’s synthetic brain.

Karen: I think Sharon is correct, although later on, Busiek tried to show that Vizh and Simon had some similar personality traits. But initially, I assume Roy meant for that to be a way to allow Vizh to have emotions and set up his internal conflicts. Of course many people have noted a similarity between the Vision and Mr. Spock, from Star Trek. Although I would submit that Vizh was more like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz – always bemoaning the fact that he can’t feel!

Sharon: Busiek wrote an unforgettable great scene in volume 3: Vizh and Simon discover their mutual love for Walt Kelly’s Pogo—among other things. The way it was presented, you could just “hear” their dialogue overlapping…wonderfully effective sequence.

Karen: Of course the Avengers decide to approve Vizh for membership, which gives us possibly the finest piece of artwork ever to appear in comics: the full-page shot of the Vision, overcome with emotion, holding his head as a single tear trickles down his plastic cheek. Buscema’s work has such quiet power to it, helped immensely by Klein’s inks and zip-a-tone background. It is one of the most memorable scenes in all of comics, in my opinion.

Doug: Not only is the panel to which you refer dynamite, but there are two other full team splashes included in this issue, either of which would be worthy of a poster or print of some sort.

Sharon: Both images were indeed magnificent. Buscema was at his best when drawing gatherings of characters- - just one of many reasons he was the perfect Avengers artist! But with the first picture—featuring the then-current Avengers along with prospective member Vision--I couldn’t help but wonder why Jan was wearing what seemed to be a winter ensemble in an issue that came out in September. She looked like a slim Mrs. Santa or a giant elf.

Sharon: The other full-page picture referred to was even more impressive; I loved seeing the gone but not forgotten Wanda, Pietro, and Hercules. They’d also just appeared in the recent Avengers Annual #2 pin-up and I was glad that Roy (and John!) remembered them. Natasha was included here, though, at the time of #58 she had never officially accepted membership; and I was even more puzzled by Spider-Man’s inclusion. Roy does explain (through Thor) that these were not only official Avengers but also heroes who’d fought alongside the Avengers (so where was the Black Knight? Was Thor unacquainted with the recent events of #54-55?). And given that this was supposed to be a visual embodiment of Thor’s words, I can see why the Swordsman wasn’t included, since his tenure—at that time-- had not exactly been honorable.




(to be continued)



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1 comment:

Skydragon said...

The final splash page is awesome, and so is the entire story, but one thing I always particularly appreciated is that Vision does NOT manage to overpower the big three. Too often a writer would introduce a new character and make him/her look capable of easily defeating everyone.
(yep, any reference to Mantis and her neck hold on Thor is purely on purpose ^^).

The fact that Cap and the others are present in this story also shows how important they have already become for the team. It's a bit sudden, considering they hadn't spent too much time in the same roster before leaving, but in this story they always appear to be a step in front of Hank and Wasp, despite the equal founder status (or not even that for Cap).

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