Vision’s strange history is full of legacy – his name comes from one pre-existing comic character, and his body from another.
Often overlooked due to the larger-than-life presence of most of the other Avengers, Vision’s story is an intruiging one nonetheless.
The balanced, neutral personality of the character is apt, given that his real-world creation relied so much on compromise. While given separate origins in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the comics universe (the version this article is primarily concerned with), both versions examine what it means to be a hero, and what it means to be human.
Often compared to DC’s Martian Manhunter due to similarities in their appearance and powerset, Vision is nonetheless a unique character with a storied and interesting past.
Vision: Real-world origins
While working on Marvel’s Avengers comics in the mid 1960s, writer Roy Thomas and editor Stan Lee wanted to add another member to the Avengers roster.
One of the characters suggested by Thomas was the Golden Age Vision – an alien policeman (as seen in the picture above). Lee, however, was adamant that the new member should be an android. The two eventually came to a compromise: They’d simply create a second Vision character, one who was an android.
Thomas wanted the character’s body to be entirely white, to give the impression of a ghost or a hologram. However, due to the printing technology available at the time, this wasn’t possible – the closest thing available was to simply not colour in Vision’s skin and leave that part of the page blank. Thomas wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he decided Vision should have red skin instead.
In early 1970, Thomas re-introduced a character named Scarlet Witch back into the Avengers. Wanting to write a romantic relationship for the comic, Thomas chose to canonically ship Scarlet Witch and Vision for two reasons:
1. A matter of convenience – neither of them were used by other comics at the time, so he’d essentially be allowed to use them however he wanted to, and
2. It would help in the exploration of Vision’s humanity.
Thomas also came up with the idea that Vision’s body would be that of the original Human Torch.
Not to be confused with Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm, the original Human Torch was an android superhero from Marvel’s early days, back when they were still called Timely Comics. Although practically unheard of now, the original Human Torch was incredibly popular back in the day. He would often team up with Captain America, and he was one of the first Marvel characters to be given a on-going solo series.
Named for the Golden Age Vision, and canonically given the body of the original Human Torch, two aspects of Marvel’s history now formed the very DNA of the Vision’s real-world origins.
Vision: In-universe origins
A gifted engineer named Phineas Horton attempted to create synthetic life, in the form of an android.
However, every time the synthetic human was exposed to air, it would burst into flames. Before Horton was able to completely eradicate this glitch, the synthetic android (or ‘synthezoid’) began to experience sentience. The android learned to control the flames around him to a certain degree, earning him the ironic-yet-apt nickname, ‘Human Torch’.
Human Torch fought as a superhero during World War II, but when the conflict was over he deactivated himself.
Unbeknownst to the fiery android, a time-traveller named Immortus created a duplicate of Human Torch’s synthetic body during his hibernation. The original Human Torch would eventually resurface and continue on with his life, not realising he now had a brother.
The inert duplicated synthezoid was left behind and eventually found its way into the hands of Ultron, another android who often battled the Avengers. Ultron activated the synthezoid, merged it with the brain patterns of the deceased Avenger named Wonder Man, and programmed it to attack the Avengers.
Using the brain patterns of an Avenger was a mistake – the synthezoid was inherently sympathetic to their heroic cause, so the Avengers were quickly able to talk the synthezoid down. During the short battle, one of the Avengers had remarked that the synthezoid was ‘a vision’, so the android chose the name Vision.
And so Vision’s quest for his humanity had begun.
After serving with the Avengers for a while, Vision had some idea of the meaning of humanity, but he still didn’t understand the concept of love – until he’d spent some time with his team-mate, Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff), and began developing feelings for her. He was surprised to find that she was romantically attracted to him as well, and together they explored their emotional connection.
Eventually, they’d marry and have two children.
However, their children sadly died, which would affect both of them so harshly that even their love couldn’t save the marriage.
Having found a family, and then eventually losing it, Vision would experience the full breadth of human emotions – the joy of love, the pain of loss, and the power of grief.
Some time later, he found himself with a family of synthezoids like himself, but that also didn’t end well. It’s enough to make an android cry.
While constantly dealt a bad hand by life, Vision still strives to conduct himself with dignity, empathy and compassion. He reminds us that being born human isn’t as important as earning our humanity – a story we can all surely relate to.