Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Super Blog Team-Up: Was the Vision Really Carrying a Torch?


"We ask merely a man's worth -not the accident of his condition!" - Henry Pym, Avengers #58, 1968


Karen: Today we'll be taking part in a multi-blog effort, the Super-Blog Team-Up (doesn't that just sound cool?) where we and like-minded bloggers will all be discussing topics centered around the theme of retcons. Once you've read and participated in the discussion here, please be sure to check out the other blogs linked to at the end of the post. For our part, Doug and I decided to discuss a character we both like a lot (and based on recent comments, many of you do too): The Vision.

Doug: I've told the organizers of Super-Blog Team-Up that we are flattered to have been asked to join in today's festivities. If you are a new reader to this space, coming over from one of the other participating blogs (all of today's participating blogs' topics appear daily on our sidebar), we welcome you. To our own regulars, as Karen said -- please patronize our partners of today. You won't be sorry for extending past your normal routine.

Doug:  From my earliest readings of the Avengers, and keep in mind that I came to the team about a year before the "Celestial Madonna" storyline, I have been fascinated by the relationship between the Vision and the Original Human Torch.  To read the Vision as one of the cornerstones of the Bronze Age Avengers, while simultaneously reading about his "earlier self" in the pages of the Invaders -- my young imagination could have been overloaded.  What a man of mystery!  Well actually -- men of mystery!

Karen: I think you know he's always been a favorite of mine, since he was basically headlining the Avengers when I began reading comics. He was such a fascinating character: sort of like Mr. Spock - the superhuman outsider with the cool exterior, harboring so much turmoil within! And The Vision has had an existence rife with retcons! Considering neither Doug nor I are currently reading new comics, we'll only be covering things up to about 1999, but believe me, that's more than enough for the poor boy.

Karen: The Vision's initial appearance in Avengers #57 (October 1968) was not via a retcon but a reimagining. In an interview in Alter Ego magazine #50 (July 2005), writer Roy Thomas explained that editor Stan Lee had pressed him to bring in a new Avenger, and to make the character an android. Thomas, being a Golden Age comics buff, really wanted to bring back a character from that era: a mysterious, green-skinned being from another dimension called the Vision! But Lee insisted that the new Avenger be an android, so reviving the old character was out. Thomas sort of compromised, and took the name of the Golden Age character and the android background and voila! -new Avenger. He took the 1940s character design and worked it over with artist John Buscema, swapped green-skin for red, and the Vision as we know him was born.

Doug: It perhaps bears mentioning that Roy Thomas knew that creators maintained no property rights to new creations.  So "recycling" sort of became Roy's modus operandi. That certainly doesn't make the Vision or any of Roy's other contributions bad or cheap creations -- but it is a sign of the times in which Roy made his mark on the Avengers.

Karen: In his first appearance, we discover he was created by the Avengers' robotic foe, Ultron, to destroy them. But there's something about the Vision that causes him to rebel and ultimately turn against his master. Even in this first appearance he exhibits human qualities of emotion. Hank Pym (aka Goliath, aka Ant-Man, etc.) seems to accept him right off and becomes his champion. In the next issue, the Big Three (Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America) are brought in to vote on whether to make the Vision an Avenger. But they need more background on him. In the course of the story, the team discovers a few things: that it was Hank who actually created Ultron (and then was mind-wiped by him); that the Vision is a synthozoid, as Hank puts it, not an android ("You're basically human in every way -except your body is made of synthetic parts!"); and the Vision has the 'brain patterns' of the deceased hero Wonder Man, who died in Avengers #9. So what does it all mean? Well, in a strange way, the Vision is already 'part of the family,' as he is the creation of Hank's creation. And the comments on his basic make-up will come into play later on down the road, when we get into the John Byrne retcon.

Doug: Doing the re-read of Avengers #s 57-58 for this post, I really focused on elements of the stories that evoked the Vision's humanity. It's worth noting that the concept of the Original Human Torch as an android was quickly forgotten in those Golden Age tales. So I wanted to see just what might have been left of Jim Hammond as evidenced in our new hero in the Silver Age (of course hindsight is 20/20 in this case). Of note:
"I don't know why... but the mere remembrance of it (Ultron's name) fills me with a feeling of... hatred!" (57:12)
"But now, before you release the Avengers, you must answer the question which burns in my mind! I have human thoughts... human memories!" (57:19)
"I somehow sense you speak the truth... Master! And yet, I am consumed with curiosity..." (58:9)
"You've told me only what powers I possess... not what I wish to know! Who am I? What name is mine?" (58:10)
"I wonder... is it possible to be... 'basically human'?" (58:18)  
Doug: Iron Man, among others on the team, note that the Vision's voice is hollow (these stories predated the rectangular yellow speech balloons we'd know in the Bronze Age). However, that's merely a convention to establish the character as mysterious, and a line between the Vision and his human teammates.  If the above quotes are any indication, Roy Thomas really did intend for the Vision to be a synthetic human being, rather than a machine.

Karen: By the end of Avengers #58, the team gladly welcomes the Vision into their ranks, leaving the synthozoid at a loss for words. He excuses himself and we get one of the most famous pages in Avengers (and perhaps comics) history, beautifully rendered by John Buscema and George Klein, as we learn that "Even an android can cry!"

Doug: It really was a whirlwind of a ride in those two introductory issues. I'm envious of all the Silver Age Babies who would have come in on the Vision's ground floor!

Karen: The Vision would become a mainstay of the team for many years. Thomas clearly enjoyed writing the character, and the letters pages indicated he was a hit. His growth continued, as he developed feelings for the Scarlet Witch, which came to the fore during the spectacular Kree-Skrull War that ran through Avengers #89-97 (June 1971-March 1972). It was in issue #93 that we begin to get our first glimpse at retcon #1. It was not apparent at all at the time -in fact, most readers probably didn't give it a second thought -but there was a tiny seed planted that would grow into something quite surprising later on. Artist Neal Adams had come up with the idea of having Pym, as Ant-Man, go inside a comatose Vision. Thomas thought it was a great idea: "Neal's idea had nothing whatsoever to do with the war, but it sounded like fun, and 34 pages was a lot of space to fill. I told him to go for it." (Alter Ego: The Comic Book Artist Collection, Twomorrows Publishing, 2001). While inside, Ant-Man looks around the Vision's brain and sees something odd.

Thomas says, in the same article, "Neal said he wanted Ant-Man to have recognized somehow that the Vision's body had once been the (original) android Human Torch of 1939. Intrigued by the notion, I wrote a caption about  'a mystery within an enigma...one of which our readers may learn one day.' We'd see."  

Doug: I guess I'd be curious to know if there was any buzz at all among fans back when those issues were on the spinner racks. Really, it's such a throwaway line.  I do recall, the first time I read that issue, sort of going, "Oh, ho - there it is!" when I read it. But again, history's a powerful tool for examining today's topic. I do appreciate, though, Neal Adams's vision (pun intended) concerning this first retcon.  It really would add layers to the Vision's story, and in some fashion provide Marvel with a "legacy"-type of hero, the kind that DC was filled with in the form of the All-Star Comics revival of the mid-70s.

Karen: Oh, I agree! Marvel doesn't really have legacy characters, so I always liked this skewed version. Thomas let the whole idea rest a bit, not coming back to it until Avengers #102 (August 1972) when the Vision attacks a mutant-hunting Sentinel. The giant robot analyzes our hero and proclaims him to be an android "of three decades vintage." What? Another layer was added and ready to be explored, but it would have to be continued by Thomas' heir to the writing reins, Steve Englehart, who came on board with issue #105.

Doug: I guarantee you that my memory is not good enough now, and it probably would not have been good enough had I been a teenaged Marvel reader back in the day, to have made any connection to the Ant-Man bit and this new revelation.  But I can imagine a big "say what?!?" if reading this after coming in from a trip to the drug store.

Karen: Englehart took the idea created by Adams and Thomas and developed it fully over the course of his tenure on the Avengers. He planted more clues during his run, building up to a big reveal that the Vision was actually a re-born Torch in Giant-Size Avengers #3 (February 1975). Then back in the regular title, he spent several issues (#s 133-135) revealing how Ultron had used the body of the Torch as the foundation for creating the Vision. This revelation had a profound effect on the character, as Englehart said in response to an email from me for a Back Issue magazine article a few years ago: "His discovery of his complete origin solidified his self-identity, which gave him the inner peace to finally ask Wanda to marry him. Until that point, there'd always been a void at his center..."

Doug: Steve Englehart's contribution to the canon of the Vision is where I came in. My entry point(s) would have been a smattering of issues around the Zodiac story (Avengers #s 120-122), and then on into the Celestial Madonna arc (Avengers #s 129-135). Of note for me here would have been the Giant-Size issues that Englehart essentially used to make that storyline bi-weekly. If we talk about retcons, what we're basically saying is that what had been written was not true, or was just so sketchy that future authors felt that they'd found a wide-open door. I don't believe in the case of the Vision that either of those scenarios was evident.  Witness the panels that follow:


  

Doug: Englehart's plotting in Giant-Size Avengers #3, scripted fittingly enough by Roy Thomas, leaves no doubt in any reader's mind that the Original Human Torch was indeed the first form of the Vision. Just a bit later in the same issue, we see this scene:

 

Doug: I'd also note that the Vision is definitely not some sort of "toaster" here, but is instead every bit the synthetic man that Henry Pym had journeyed inside just a few years prior. After all, a toaster dents and scuffs; it doesn't raise a welt and bleed from the corner of the mouth. So in the view of both Englehart and Thomas, and Neal Adams and here Dave Cockrum, the Vision was a man built of synthetic parts, but parts that mimicked human bodily functions. Oh, and in regard to Thor's question at the bottom of the above page, Englehart would give us a detailed fleshing out of the transition from Torch to Vision in Avengers #135. In fact, this relationship between the Vision and the Original Torch had been strongly hinted at several months earlier during the aforementioned Zodiac storyline. I want you to look at the two page excerpts below...


Doug: Englehart knew his history. Back in November, I reviewed the first appearance and origin of the Original Human Torch from Marvel Comics #1. In that review, I wrote:
Doug:  It seems the grounds on which the Torch chose to trespass belong to a Mr. Sardo -- Grade A Smarm-meister and general organized crime-type.  Sardo is in the house with "Red", his assistant (I guess).  Red notices that the lawn is burned.  Well, it just so happens that Sardo is reading the papers about the Torch.  Sardo orders Red to get ready to winterize the pool -- even though it's not time.  Yep -- they catch themselves a Human Torch.  But having drawn the air from the pool, covering it, and then draining the water (yeah, I wasn't believing this, either), they have the Torch imprisoned and without his flame.   
Doug: Couple that scene with what we all know about the Torch's first days -- that after Professor Horton (and the media) learned that the flaw in the design of the Torch was his uncontrollable bursting into flame, the android was encased in an airtight cylinder and dropped into a vat of concrete -- and we really have no problem seeing the Vision's claustrophobia and seeming fear of water as logical and event somewhat nostalgic in hindsight.


Karen: So retcon #1, of the Original Human Torch into the Vision, was a done deal for many years. But eventually, someone decided to completely revise this accepted origin, creating our second retcon. That someone was John Byrne. Byrne took over as writer/artist on West Coast Avengers with issue #42 (March 1989) and began a storyline that would see the Vision "disassembled" by a coalition of government agencies that felt threatened by the android. Byrne's depiction of the Vision's flayed body was a far cry from the "synthetic man" Thomas and Englehart had described. Further, Professor Phineas Horton, the maker of the Torch who was believed killed when Ultron was turning the Torch into the Vision, was shown to be quite alive, and asserting that the disassembled android was not his creation. Piece by piece, Byrne went back and tore away each part of the Vision's origin as described by Englehart. Shortly after the Vision's deconstruction, the Original Human Torch was reintroduced as a character in the title (Avengers West Coast #50, November 1989), which seemed to be one of Byrne's major reasons for the move all along. It was explained that the Vision was constructed using essentially the molds and chemicals left over from the Torch's birth. The Vision went from being the WWII hero to being his left-overs.  And so retcon #2 was complete.

Doug: I recall being both awed and angry when I read this so-called "VisionQuest" storyline off the spinner racks. Again, having been ground floor on the origin that everyone knew to be canon, I kept hoping this would take a turn to be some sort of "Elseworlds", alternate reality, time travel mishap, or something. But nope -- as you said, this was John Byrne's vision of the Vision. And I didn't like it at all. I felt it discounted too much history, and really screwed with some characterizations of not only the Vision but of Wanda and Hank Pym that we'd known for decades. Shoot -- here's what Alex Ross thought of it, from the splash page of Marvels #0:

 

Doug: Those ain't toaster parts in Professor Horton's laboratory!

Karen: Well, Roy's intention -Torch or no Torch -was always that the Vision was a synthetic replica of a human being. I've misplaced my reference but I know he was a little dismayed when even Adams drew more mechanical parts (despite a very human-looking uvula!) inside the Vision  in Avengers #93. Byrne essentially continued that version, to the extreme. For Byrne, apparently, the Vision had always been nothing but a machine. He seemed to be ignoring everything that had gone on before in order to fulfill certain plots of his own, like making Wanda go evil and crazy, and bringing back the original Torch -who he saw as "not a toaster," for some reason. I  disliked how years of character development and relationships were destroyed in a couple of issues; it just seemed so disrespectful, and frivolous.

Karen: In 1999 fans would see yet another facet added to this story; perhaps not a full retcon, maybe only a partial one. You can decide. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Carlos Pacheco had created a sprawling saga called Avengers Forever, a 12-issue series which took a group of Avengers through various time periods and realities to combat the schemes of Immortus. At one point, in issue #8 (July 1999), a Space Phantom recounts Immortus' various machinations of the team, which included manipulation of the timestream with something called the Forever Crystal  in such a way as to allow for there to be two comatose Human Torches -one for Ultron to take, and the other, to be buried and not seen again til revived by the West Coast Avengers. This solution allowed both retcons #1 and  #2 to now be true -wrap your brains around that!


 
Doug: About a month ago, in anticipation of this post I re-read Avengers Forever and was simply blown away. I'd read it as it was published all those 14 years ago, but to be honest I didn't really remember too much of it. I think the span of time since it was "new", as well as it's distribution over the course of a year had really dampened my recollection of even the major events of the storyline. I'll right now heartily recommend it to any and all Avengers fans, as it's a splendid read. So that being said, the pivotal issue as Karen said above, is #8. Right after I read it, I sent Karen an email and said that we needed to look for any comments author Kurt Busiek had made on the subject of retconning Byrne's retcon of Roy's retcon (got that?)! I did a little Internet research, albeit quickly, and decided that maybe contacting Busiek directly might be our best bet. This blog follows him on Twitter (for new readers, you can follow us @bronzeagebabies), and Karen had an email address for him from a time past when she'd interviewed him for an article on Ultron that she'd written for Back Issue magazine. On February 1st I approached Busiek on Twitter and asked if he minded if I emailed him a couple of questions about his treatment of the Vision/Torch situation in Avengers Forever #8.  Here is that conversation, and Karen and I are quite appreciative of Kurt for taking the time to write his rather exhaustive reply:
Doug: Thanks very much in advance for your time. 

Doug: Several blogs are putting together a "Super Blog Team-Up" day in mid-February where everyone will write something about retcons.  Karen and I have chosen to examine the intertwining backstories of the Original Human Torch and the Vision.

Doug: My main question centers on your treatment of the events in the life of the Vision in Avengers Forever #8.  I'm not really concerned with your outcome, which I felt was a nice compromise.  What I would like to know is the build-up to that decision/portrayal, either in your own mind or in collaboration with Roger Stern.  I'm not looking for any disparaging of John Byrne's take -- no, nothing sensational at all.  But I would like to know your attachment to the character as a fan.  I'd assume you were intrigued by some of the hints Roy Thomas and Neal Adams, and then Steve Englehart, had left ahead of Steve's definitive origin in Avengers #135.  Which version of the divergent timeline do you think was canon in the MU?
Doug: Thanks again -- I'm totally open to anything you want to say on the subject and respectful of your time.  If you don't mind if we quote you in the post, that would be nice.  We'll also respect any desire to be "off the record".
Kurt Busiek: I'm a big Vision fan, and thought Roy, Neal and Steve built and developed a fascinating, nuanced character. I did think that John's revelation that the Vision and the Torch weren't the same being was flawed in spots -- he clearly wanted them both around, but the reasoning he offered seemed to be based on a reading of what had gone before that didn't account for what we'd actually seen on the page. If the Vision wasn't a rebuilt Human Torch, for instance, why the claustrophobia? Why did he have suppressed memories of things that had happened to the Torch?
Kurt Busiek: Combined with other bits, like Phineas Horton being dead but turning up in Avengers West Coast without explanation, or him telling Hank Pym that Pym had misunderstood the word "synthozoid" when Pym had actually coined the word (how does one get the definition of a word wrong when making it up yourself?), that seemed to provide enough contradiction to build on -- it was easy to say that the "Horton" in that story was a fake, and that the Avengers had been messed with somehow in order to take his statements at face value. No disrespect is meant to anyone involved, it's just the sort of thing that comics creators do -- if there's an inconsistency, you can either paper over it or you can use it as "evidence" that things Are Not What They Seem, buttressing a change by pointing to "clues" that might not have been meant as clues when written or drawn, but which can be repurposed that way. Avengers Forever postulated an ongoing manipulation of Avengers history by Immortus, so we "found" lots of examples to back that idea up -- and all the better when we could point to examples of inconsistencies or oddities that were already there in Avengers history rather than have to make up new ones.
Kurt Busiek: I don't like to sweep away the past -- I'd rather say that everything we saw happen happened, but may not have the explanation you assumed at the time. So I don't have to choose between Hank making up the word "synthozoid" and Horton telling Hank that the word doesn't mean what he thinks it means, or the Vision's suppressed memories and the Human Torch being a separate entity. I can say, "Hey, it all happened, so what can explain such seeming contradictions?"
Kurt Busiek: In the end, I tried to keep as much true as I possibly could, from what Roy, Neal, Steve and John had all established, and wind up with an origin for the Vision that honored the past stories while still resulting in the original Torch walking around. And which version was canon? Both, of course. That's how the Forever Crystal works -- he diverged the Torch into two divergent paths, and kept both in the same timeline. One isn't a copy of the other; they're both branching pathways off the same root. Neither is "more real." Either one could have been reality, and Immortus used the Crystal to override normal causality so they could both be.

Kurt Busiek: It might be a bit too complicated, but hey -- if you're going to have Avengers history messed up and steered by an overcontrolling chronal scholar, complexities are going to happen.

Kurt Busiek: And sure, you can quote me on your blog.

Doug: So there you have it. Personally, I felt that Kurt Busiek was incredibly diplomatic, but I'm going to read right between those lines and say that I wonder if he feels like Karen and I feel -- that Roy Thomas, et al. had it right the first time.  And maybe I'm back to the ol' "history's 20/20" concept in that what John Byrne wrought has not stood the test of time. He killed the character of the Vision, and any hope Byrne had for a second life for the Original Human Torch never materialized. So what was the point? If it was to alienate readers who'd been along for the ride for over a decade (some to the point of two decades) when the Vision became a wholly different entity, then he was successful. I say, "big deal". He should have left it alone and figured out another way to do his "Dark Wanda" story. Come to think of it, his legacy on that storyline isn't so hot either, is it?

Karen: The Torch-Vision origin was a clever idea that provided not only continuity from Marvel's Golden Age history to the present but also gave the Vision a greater sense of humanity. Stripping this away from him seemed not only pointless but also mean-spirited. The character never seemed to truly recover from it, and became a lower echelon hero afterwards. He was even torn apart and absent from the books for many years.  He's finally back in the Marvel universe, and he may even appear in the next Avengers film. But which version will we get? The synthetic man or the toaster?

29 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

Great post, Karen & Doug! Also really cool that Kurt Busiek 'participated' as well.

Anyway, I agree that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Roy's original retcon of Human Torch/Vision, and I think Marvel should have maintained that version by editorial fiat.
As big a Byrne fanboy as I am, I thought his retcon (annihilation, really) of Vision was overkill to the nth degree. The only real problem I saw with Vision, and Wanda, was that they were kind of a boring couple, but there were much less drastic ways to deal with that problem...

mr. oyola said...

I love the way Busiek handled it.

I was just discussing on another blog how the inconsistencies in comic continuity are productive and generative- that is, writers can use them as inspirations for other stories as a form of explanation that smooths over the rupture until it emerges again.

I think that is one of the best things about serialized comics!

I never felt one way or another about the Vision. My biggest exposure to him was when I briefly got Stern-era Avengers and he was acting like dick - so I didn't like him back then - but Avengers Forever seems like something I should get and those early stories seem great.

Doug said...

Thanks for the love guys!

Karen and I really wanted to do something special as part of today's Super-Blog Team-Up. We hope we rose above our normal expectations and achieved our goal! Certainly having comments from heavy hitters like Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, and Kurt Busiek doesn't hurt when discussing one of the Avengers' central characters.

Hope to see more comments today, especially from readers who might be new to this blog...

Be well,

Doug

mr. oyola said...

P.S. I am trying to leave a comment on every participating blog whose topic I remotely have an opinion on.

david_b said...

This day is pretty awesome, and I'm checking out the other blogs..

"ALL..HAIL.. SUPER BLOG TEAM-UP"

(From my window, I can gaze upon the huddled masses in the streets are all raising their arms in victory.., ale all 'round..)

One thing I love about the BAB column is I can peek at issues I NOW cannot live without.

That Avengers Forever title is looking better and better, Karen. I love the Goliath scenes in what you depicted. Finally, someone delving into the Silver/Bronze past and paying tribute to it.

Count me in as a new fan.

Doug said...

Hey, all --

Just wanted to alert our readers to Marvel's newest tpb and hc solicitations -- there's some awesome stuff of note for all Bronze Age Babies!

Doug

Matt Celis said...

Just wish Byrne hadn't destroyed the classic Vision. Also wish Vision never got married and subsequently sidelined. He was such a central figure in the Avengers, it just seems the character got tossed aside for no good reason.

Myles said...

Yeah, it's strange that Stan Lee demanded the Vision be an android because it was modern, whereas the original Vision's status as an extradimensional being was passe, when one considers that as you say in the article arguably the first Marvel superhero, the Human Torch, was an android. And there have been plenty of extra-dimensional beings since; who was the first android/robot type being introduced in the Marvel Age? Was it the Dragon Man?

Chris said...

Great post! Thanks for uncovering and sharing some very interesting background on the origin of the Vision.

Viz has always been one of my favourite characters ever since I first got to know him from Team-Up #42 which was one of my first comics. I loved his speech bubbles and icy cool demeanour. Plus he had cool powers which gave the writers something new to play with.His powers were pretty unusual (for comic characters) weren't they?

I remember thinking I was reading something special and important when reading his origin (which were being reprinted in the British B&W weeklies at the time). Even at that young age I knew it made sense and was an exciting story as well. The Mantis part wasn't bad either.

As much as I love John Byrne, I didn't like the changes to the Viz he brought about although I could live with the loss of the children.

On a final note,I've not read Avengers Forever since it came out. I enjoyed it then but I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy it even more now knowing more Avengers history.

Paul said...

Thanks for the great post and for the Super Blog Team-Up. What a great idea.

Vision has always been my favorite Avenger. In fact, I would say favorite superhero. I, like Doug, was not happy with what Byrne did to him, essentially destroying the character. And, as Doug said, he had never really recovered from that.
(I haven't read a new comic in about a decade, but I've seen hints of what they're doing with Vision in Avengers A. I. Have to say, I'm crazy about what I see there either.)

One of the changes that annoyed me most is the dissolution of his and Wanda's marriage. I, for one, was thrilled to see a happily married couple being portrayed in comics, even as a kid. It seems that the notion that kids cannot identify with married characters strikes me as short-sighted and lazy. I can only think of one marriage in superhero comics that has endured, and that's Reed and Sue Richards. (And truth be told, they may not be together anymore for all I know.) Of course a married couple may have its ups and downs, but ending the relationship is not always the answer. And totally erasing it out of existence, as I said, just seems lazy. Okay, that's gotten a bit off-topic, but I felt the need to rant. Sorry.

Paul said...

One quick amendment: Although I somehow never managed to acquire that particular issue of Avengers Forever, I applaud Kurt Busiek for his approach to the material. The way that he worked out the divergent origins of the Vision was the total opposite of the laziness that I talked about in my last post.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I've never read Avengers Forever, but now I'm thinking I'd better!

I like the "blog crossover" idea...except now I've found MORE cool comics blogs that I have to start reading...there's only so much time in the day!

Mike W.

dbutler16 said...

Great post! It was a lot of fun reading the history of Vision retcons. I started collecting The Avengers with the Bride of Ultron story and Vizhwas always one of my favorites. In part because he looked cool and in part because, like Karen mentioned, he had the Spock thing going on.
Count me as strongly disliking the Burns retcon, which ruined a great character, and the Dark Wands story was awful anyway.

Longbox Graveyard said...

Byrne's destruction of the Vision (and his unique relationship with Wanda) was such a disappointment, so misguided, so senseless, really ... I don't think readers today can really appreciate how strong and distinctive these characters were in the early 1970s. Byrne's deconstruction was one of the great mishaps in Marvel history and Byrne and his editors should never live it down.

(And I say this as an unabashed Byrne fan, by the way ... love him on most everything else he did at Marvel, but his Vision story was a catastrophe).

Great article!

Doug said...

LBG --

I couldn't agree more. We've had conversations around here in the past about creators as custodians of the past -- of the history of characters. I suppose each generation has their attachments, but let's face it -- the industry over the past three decades has ceased to serve only a recurring line-up of 10-year old consumers. Many of us in the "middle-aged" category have a deep sense of connection to characters and storylines as they were in our formative years. Should things change? Sure they should -- but not from their fundamental nature.

Byrne screwed that up.

And I'll also add that generally I have loved everything the man has done at both of the Big Two. But his assassination of the Vision is akin to all the unkindness Bendis has wrought over the past 10 years.

Doug

Doug said...

Thank you to all who've commented thus far, either here or on Twitter. There has been much praise heaped on today's post, and Karen and I are truly gratified by the sentiments. We wanted to treat this as a special day, knowing that not only were our usual cast of readers counting on us but that there'd be some "new faces" stopping by.

To our pals who participated in the second Super-Blog Team-Up -- thanks for having us along and pushing us to really reach higher. We hope that if you get the gang together again in the not-too-distant future, you'll keep the Bronze Age Babies in mind!

And to those of you coming by who have not checked out the other eight blogs, please do so. I think the neatest thing about today is the diversity in not only content, but in the style in which that content is delivered. This has been a uniquely fun experience!

Best,

Doug

Redartz said...

I never read Byrne's Vision disassembly, nor Avengers Forever. I will definitely look for the latter in the TPB.

The Vision has a great history, and was a pivotal figure in many Avengers epics. I found his marriage to Wanda rather charming; at times it brought a very human element of modesty to him (think of the scene on the beach during their honeymoon). Somehow these comics marriages become all too vulnerable to later 'disassemblies' (don't get me started on Peter and Mary Jane...). It is heartening to see the increased attention to the Vision stemming from the Avengers film prospect. Might even justify picking up an issue or two of the current book.

Oh, and a big "thumbs up" to Super Blog Team Up!

Comicsfan said...

Avengers Forever is truly a fine series which I'll have to sit down and re-read at some point. It's sometimes a little dizzying, with its back-to-back revelations and twists; but it gets huge props for attempting to make sense of so much Avengers development over the decades.

As for the Vision and the Torch, and the derailing of Thomas's (and Englehart's) plans to tie the origin of one to the other, Busiek's compromise works well enough for me--for the simple reason that, once the Torch's stint in Avengers West Coast was through, I very much enjoyed as a reader what was done with the Torch by writers like Ed Brubaker et al. The original Human Torch wasn't really a character I was going to keep an eye out for on the sales rack, so I had no great interest vested in the character either way; but his status as an android (and an apparently fairly easy android to abduct and reprogram, at that) made for very interesting and often tragic stories for him, a pattern of abuse going all the way back to FF Annual #4. Quite a fresh and compelling take on a legendary hero who Marvel might otherwise have simply brought back into circulation in much the same way that Byrne arranged.

Hell of a nice job on this, you two. :)

Doug said...

Thanks, guys!

I've also been remiss in not publicly thanking my writing partner. We did a little trade-off about a month ago. I told her I'd take the play-by-play on the first three issues of "Secret Empire" if she'd frame today's post. Well, did she ever! As most of you know, she is a part-time contributor to Back Issue magazine, and through that has been able to interview several of our Bronze Age creative heroes. It was the notes from the interviews of days past, as well as a darned good memory in terms of digging up Roy's comments from various locations that really brought this post to reality.

She's pretty good, in case you all didn't know it!

Doug

Karen said...

Finally, the work day is done, dinner is over, and I can sit down and read all the Super-Blog posts and enjoy!

It really was great fun to work on our post; Doug and I wanted to do something special and I hope that came through. I appreciate his kind remarks towards me, but he came up with the great idea to contact Kurt Busiek! Kurt was more than gracious in responding to us. Many thanks again to him.

Also, kudos to all our fellow bloggers! It's been great to see the other posts and feel like a real part of a cross-over event -but this one didn't cost anyone a dime! I was also pleased to see several of our "regulars" commenting over at the other blogs -spreading the love so to speak!

I feel like those of us who truly dig the Vision are a select few now. His star, that shone so brightly once, has really faded away at Marvel. As Paul mentioned, I don't think younger readers can understand what a central character he once was. It is somehow comforting to hear from others who remember him as an important part of their comic reading lives.

Flodo Span said...

This post was a real education for me. I knew about Vision and Wanda, and I knew there was a connection to the original Torch but this was something else. Amazing how some of the seeds that were planted in Vision's back story took so long to shoot.

I love the back and forth format of this blog. You guys have something really special going on. Keep doing what you're doing!

Bruce B. said...

Fantastic post! Y'all really outdid yourselves this time.

I never cared for the idea that Vision was a revamped Human Torch. I couldn't get past the idea that he was 30-year-old technology by that point. It would've been like entering a car from the 1940s into the 1973 Daytona 500. Vision seemed too "high tech" to be a WWII-era relic.

Having said that, Byrne's retcon was awful. Absolutely awful. I'm normally a huge Byrne fan, but he totally ruined the Vision and Scarlet Witch, at least for a while.

Doug said...

C'mon, Bruce -- everyone knows Ultron graduated first in his class at the Career Center student awards program in 1968! Duh...

Hey, that's a great point, though; one I'd never given a thought to.

And thanks for the kind words on the post -- we appreciate it!

Doug

Doug said...

A note to those of you who enjoyed the Super Blog Team-Up last Wednesday:

Fantastiverse's post on the retcon of Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier is now live. Check it out, and if you didn't see any of those other blogs' contributions, please do!

Doug

JalRod said...

Frankly, John Byrne may be the most overrated comic book writer ever. His Vision retcon is an abomination. His work on FF is ridiculously flawed. He completely made a mess of the Amazing Spider-Man retcon. His only true success may be Superman.

Anonymous said...

You guys obviously hate the Byrne stuff - and I did not like the change myself. But - and you knew this would come - I think consideration has to be made of where the Vision was at the time. Frankly, Englehart had completely ruined the character in the second Vision & Scarlet Witch miniseries. He now was a suburban dad with 2 kids, and was no longer the cool aloof character who was arguably the most popular character without a book in the 70's. Taking that into account, Byrne's move makes a lot more sense. He returned a sens of danger and mystery to the character. I still don't like it - but I like it better than what he was when it happened.

Doug said...

Anonymous --

I don't know that I hate the John Byrne stuff as much as I feel that his "solution" to the problem was so extreme, that even if he'd wanted to change course the undoing of his changes would have been years in the making.

I would agree with your assessment of Englehart's second Vision/Witch LS, but just have to believe that the damage done therein could have been corrected organically within the parameters of the character as we knew him. There was a ton of physical, emotional, familial et al. angles that could have been used to make the Vision more dynamic and interesting -- instead, we got a neutering of the character in multiple facets of his being.

Thanks for you input -- I especially appreciate your observation about that V/W mini-series.

Doug

david_b said...

Doug, Karen, good idea...:

Any love for the V/W mini's..? A review of the first one would be cool.

As for the second 12-ish LS..?

We can calmly reflect that it really didn't happen, a dream like Bobby Ewing suddenly popping up in the shower.



"..yeah, that's it, that's the ticket.."

Doug said...

David --

I've never read the first Vizh/Witch mini-series. I faithfully bought the second one -- all 12 issues. Curse the completist in me! Truly one of the worst experiences of my comics collecting career! But it's long since gone to someone who would hopefully love it more than did I.

So unless Karen has either of those two series, I think they shall remain "unreviewed", at least on this blog.

Sorry!

Doug

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