Thursday, December 9, 2010

Face-Off: Just Outside the Big Three -- Hawkeye or the Vision?

Doug: Man, in the midst of this "Serpent Crown Affair", and catching up on the oh-so-awesome Avengers cartoon, I am just Avengers-centric in my mind! I can't get the Mightiest out of my head...

Doug: So, it occurs to me that of all the heroes who have been worthy to wear the mantle of Avenger (and let's face it -- bad writers have certainly stuck a few unworthy characters into the mix), there are a very select few who seem to be near the focal point of "what does it take to be an Avenger?" I'm not talking about the no-brainers of Cap, Iron Man, and Thor, but instead the very best of the rest -- those team members who have been around since the Silver Age, or who picked up significant steam in the Bronze Age and have certainly become ingrained in the public's Avengers-conscience. Whittling the roll call down, I'm landing at the feet of Hank Pym and his beautiful bride, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Hawkeye, the Vision, and maybe the Beast. Outside of that list, I think we get into a third ring or tier of characters.

Doug: And, if I continue to pare down, and this may seem blasphemous to reject two of the Founders, I come to Hawkeye and the Vision as the two Avengers who are next in importance outside the Big Three. Let's have a discussion, then -- of those two, which do you think is the best fit on the team, most essential for a story to be a true Avengers story, etc.? I guess it boils down to some issues that typify each character: do you want a brooding, powerful enigma of a teammate? Or is the fun-loving, daring, charming (sometimes like a rattlesnake), smug -- I could go on and on -- impulsive catalyst-for-action more your type?


Anonymous said...

Hawkeye is a mainstay all right, and it's tough to imagine a "real" Avengers story without him, but at the same time, his whining can get a little old. I remember being almost relieved at the cover of #109...and then we got to follow him around and listen to him whine more.

Vision however, quickly became the rock. The physical, if not the visual center of the team. When he took off with Wanda for their honeymoon, the team felt off for me.

For me an Avengers book without either the Vision or at least one of the Pyms just ain't right.

david_b said...

Much agreed on all comments, Eric. Vision quickly became 'the core' of the Avengers, almost 'completing' the team on several levels. Without the burden of having his own book, he was free to move and grow from inside the Avengers, much like Pym and Clint. This was solidified when Viz stayed on the masthead for so many years.

As for Hawkeye.., other than a verbal foil for Cap, I have to admit he didn't really have a cozy corner to stay in when he left the book.., bouncing around here and there. I thought his stint in Defenders was a nice ironic touch, thanks to Englehart's writing. Very similar to Hank's brief tenure with the team during Gerber's 'Sons of the Serpent' storyline the following year, by far my favorite YJ appearance.

A point made countless times in the letters pages back in the early 70s, but keeping the Avengers down to just the supporting players like Viz, Hawkeye, Swordsman, Wanda, Mantis and perhaps the Pyms would have been interesting (with an occasional appearance by the 'Big Three'), keeping the grandstanding to a minimum, but I personally would have missed missed the headliners.

It's debatable, but it was a crafty idea putting Clint in charge of WCA as a counterpoint to Cap and Janet Van Dyne's group.

Edo Bosnar said...

Vision. In my mind he is actually an ideal substitute for any one of the so-called 'big three' (well, maybe not Cap, but Iron Man or Thor, yes).
As for that list of other members you noted, my own preferences (and this probably says a lot about when I was reading & enjoying the Avengers the most) would be to exclude Quicksilver and maybe even Scarlet Witch, but definitely include the Beast and Ms. Marvel (she always seemed like a natural fit with the team).

david_b said...

Totally agreed on Viz.. With both him single-handedly tackling the Surfer in ish 116 and countless other face-offs, he more than makes up for Cap or Ironman.., although he lacks Cap's style.

Karen said...

I'm surprised how torn I am over this question. Most folks know I am a huge Vision fan. However, I've really come to appreciate Hawkeye over the years. Hawkeye has shown a lot of growth, and in many ways seems to really embody that "fighting spirit" of the team.

The Vision was a key player for many years though. I think his marriage to Wanda really hurt him; he was never quite as interesting after they settled down. I much preferred the tortured soul of the earlier years.

I'm shocked to say that I probably have to go with Hawkeye on this one.However, I don't think the Vision has a place outside of the Avengers.


Steven R. Stahl said...

I'd go with both on an Avengers team. Neither character works well alone. The Vision needs a partner and confidante to play off of; Hawkeye is a master of improvisation and a natural rebel against authority. The characters act equally well within stories; it's just a matter of crafting plot material and subplots that enable them to shine.

Marriage was the best thing that ever happened to the Vision. The development gave him places to go as a character. Leaving him isolated or continually longing for a relationship with Wanda or someone else would have resulted in a static, boring character, eventually eroded to debris by the repetition.

Englehart's VISION & SCARLET WITCH maxiseries might have been the Vision's high point as a character, as close as one could get in the comics format to a novelist handling him well. Examining the subtle differences between his computerized mind and an organic human's mind; having him relate to his children; trying to simultaneously handle the responsibilities of a father and a superhero -- writing those stories with the Vision as a superhero wouldn't have been easy -- I'd prefer doing fantasy stories with Vizh, Wanda, and the kids -- but Englehart or similarly talented writers could have done it. Englehart was doing it in WEST COAST AVENGERS before he was taken off the series.


Doug said...

Personally, I didn't care for the 2nd Vizh/Witch mini, and cared even less for WCA. Admittedly, it had a tremendous amount to do with the art of Richard Howell and Al Milgrom, respectively. But I didn't like the direction of the characters, either.


IADW said...

Vision - without doubt. I actually place him second only to Cap. To me the Avengers has been more about the dysfunctional family tree than the three icons, and the Vision is the heart of that.

Plus why Marvel hasn't sent him for a spin into his own series lately is a bit of a puzzle. He's got an awesome powerset and perspective and a really deep history.

Steven R. Stahl said...

But I didn't like the direction of the characters, either.

What would you have done differently?

The only way for their relationship to evolve was to make it more complex, and that meant dependents, i.e., children.

Mantlo's miniseries had them as tortured souls, searching for happiness and not finding it, just as his scattered one-shots did, which is why few fans remember the first miniseries. Englehart's work supplanted it.

If someone is going to take a literary approach, he has to take his characters somewhere, and that means evolution or death. No matter how a writer tries to disguise having someone run in place/walk in a circle, discerning readers can detect what he's doing.

If a writer is truly terrible, he'll retcon the characters so that they'll fit into his limited range of plot material -- welcome to today's Marvel.


J.A. Morris said...

The Vision, no question.

I like Hawkeye, but in the end he's just a guy with a bow & arrows.

The Vision was such a great character to read, struggling with his humanity, love, etc.
But when I started reading Avengers as a 9 year old kid, I just loved the Vision because he was a badass! Laser beam eyes, intangibility, flight, density, super-strength. I love that scene in the 'Serpent Crown' storyline where he absolutely destroys Hyperion. I appreciated the "tortured" aspects of the character when I was a bit older.
While we're talking about the Vision, I don't think I've mentioned here how much I appreciated Karen's recent article on Vision & Wanda in 'Back Issue'. I still mourn the end of that couple as we knew them. What was wrong with a human and a sythozoid marrying? Isn't that what comics are all about? He wasn't a toaster!
I know this'll sound weird, but in "my" Marvel Universe, the Vision & Scarlet Witch will always be married, just like Spider-man & Mary Jane. And Bucky and Norman Osbourn are still dead too!

Karen said...

My problem isn't with the Vision and Wanda getting married, but rather with what came after. Although I hold Englehart in high regard, I didn't care for what he did with the couple in the mini-series and later. I'm all for character growth, but I felt that the pair became too comfortable - life was too easy for them. Characters need challenges and struggles to make them interesting.

The single biggest problem, in my mind, was the creation of the children. I would have preferred to see the couple deal with their frustrations over not being able to have children naturally, maybe attempting to adopt or go some other route. Instead, it was essentially Wanda snapping her fingers and boom! She's pregnant.

I wouldn't want to see the Vision moping forever but I do feel that he would have to be reminded frequently of his android status. What about aging? He will never age, but Wanda would. There are a ton of things like this that could have been used to keep things going.

J.A., thanks for the comments re the Back Issue article. I hope my prejudices didn't show too much! I really hate all the stuff Byrne did. It just ruined the character. I did try to contact both Roger Stern and John Byrne for their comments but never heard back from either of them.

I had high hopes that Viz and Wanda would get back together under Busiek but it never happened. I don't see it ever happening now. The real Vision is still resting in a crate somewhere. It's appalling.


Doug said...

Steven --

Karen for the most part said what I feel about the subject. I didn't care about the whole children angle, and to be honest, that second mini was way too much of a sitcom/soap opera in terms of domestication. I realize that was the extension of the marriage and perhaps ground that needed to be tested, but it just felt off for me.

I also waver on the whole marriage thing in general. Karen and I have discussed this at length offline, back when we covered a long Vision series on the Two Girls... blog.

Good conversation here, kids!


Edo Bosnar said...

Man, it sucks being about 6-10 time zones away from most of the people commenting here; I just wanted to put in my 2 cents on the Vision & Scarlet Witch relationship/marriage: always seemed a bad idea to me. I like the idea of Vision finally finding someone, but I think it would have been much better if it was a non-superhero - the possibilities for so many angst-filled stories would be endless in that case.
Also, their relationship seemed to make Wanda a less interesting character - more often than not, she just seemed like a foil for Vision's various crises.

david_b said...

Doug, TOTALLY agreed on WCA and the 2nd mini-series. Only caught glimpses of the first, but TOTALLY HATED the Milgrom art. Totally. I hung with WCA for the first dozen issues, then it seemed pointless and boring, both art and character development.

Could they have made Hank and the entire team for that matter any more silly and boring..?

As for the marriage development for Viz and Wanda, I agree with both you and Karen for different reasons. First, it was a good development for Marvel characters (finally..), but I did miss the brooding Viz of old. I believe once they got to the point of adding children.., they really reached a dead end. Reed and Sue didn't seem to have any issues with a child and settling down (after FF 150..).

Like most, I didn't like Byrne's 'Vision Quest' arc to dismantle the Vision, and Mephisto angle with their kids. But, hey, they ruined Hank Pym as well, didn't they..?

Steven R. Stahl said...

I don't want to repeat myself with complaints about repetition. So -- assuming that Vizh and Wanda are perfect for each other, if you could write one set of stories about them, what would those stories be, in terms of plot content and character development? I've had my own idea, ever since I wrote some fan fiction 15 years ago, but that novel would have them with three kids, Vizh in an organic body, Wanda pregnant again, and be set in a fantasy world filled with things they've never encountered before.

As terrific as Englehart's stories were, and as much as stories by other writers are loved, I don't see the point in trying to copy or repeat them, either as a writer or as a reader.


Doug said...

For me the children aren't important -- I don't think that validates the relationship at all. I see Vision and Wanda as married to each other, but more than that -- married to the Avengers. I guess if I was going to "run the show" (and I'm no writer), I'd have them as the permanent residents of the Mansion, and put characters around them that would create tension and the potential for adventures in various locales.

I want sitcom, I'll watch some old black & whites. To me, this is why Reed and Sue, domestic troubles and all, never moved out of the Baxter Building.

Good writers can write well within any context.


Steven R. Stahl said...

I see the kids as adding delightful complexity to the couple and their relationship. For Vizh, especially, having kids naturally, so to speak, would be more wonderful than anything he could have imagined.

In the case of Wanda, being out of the Avengers and living as a housewife was a major goal/dream of hers from the time Englehart wrote her in AVENGERS. Her complaints about the short honeymoon were a sign of that. Note that in the VISION & SCARLET WITCH maxiseries, Englehart's use of the Grim Reaper, Nekra, et al., referred back to his original plan for Wonder Man in AVENGERS.

To me, the Vizh-Wanda relationship, the children, etc., are still as real as they were decades ago in terms of story potential. The Bendis and Heinberg material has had no effect on my opinions of the characters. I'm not crazy enough to write lengthy fan fiction for the sake of writing it -- that takes too much time -- but if the opportunity arose to write about them for pay, I'd grab it.


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