Who Is Vision? Meet The Newest Avenger

At the end of the latest Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, we got a glimpse at the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Vision. But who is Vision? Is he hero or villain, or both?

Read on to learn about Vision and figure out how he might fit into the Avengers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Paul Bettany

The Actor

Paul Bettany plays Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but despite the fact that the character has been a major part of Avengers stories in Marvel Comics for decades, the studio has been secretive about just who the guy is, and how he fits into the story. That shot above is the first time he's shown up in a trailer, and that's all we really see. We've got a pretty good idea about what's going on with Vision in the film, however, based on his comics history and what Bettany has said in the past.

Who Is Vision? The Brief

If you're new to Vision overall, here's a quick rundown. Paul Bettany also voiced Tony Stark's helper artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S in the Iron Man films and The Avengers, which is your first big clue about the character's nature. Vision is an android created by Ultron himself in an effort to parallel Ultron's own creation at the hands of Tony Stark. Many months ago, Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon was asked about the relationship between J.A.R.V.I.S. and Vision.

[Is] that casting coincidental, or can we assume that Ultron uses J.A.R.V.I.S.' consciousness for spare parts in the Vision-ary experiment? Whedon takes a deep breath. We're in spoiler territory. "It's not coincidence," he says, then declines to elaborate.

Bettany told me last year "Vision feels paternal to a number of people," and described the character as "someone who is learning about the world at an exponential rate. He becomes more sassy as the movie continues." So we know that the newly-created Vision does a lot of growing up very quickly, and that much of it will occur in this film.

Because Vision has been a hero in Marvel comics for so long, the assumption has been that his on-screen incarnation will work with the Avengers rather than fighting against them. But could he actually be a villain for most of the movie?

But we know a lot more than that. We're going to spoil or semi-spoil a lot of old comics lore here, so if you've been meaning to read the first few decades of Avengers comics and haven't yet gotten around to it, hopefully the Internet, and this page, will still be waiting for you when you're done.


Who, or What Is Vision?

There was a Vision who appeared in a Marvel book in the '40s, but that guy isn't even the great-grandfather of the Vision we know and love. There is another old Marvel character who is directly related to the Vision, but we'll get to that in a minute.

The Vision as we know him — red, yellow and green, with that jewel in his forehead and the giant cape — sprung fully formed from the pages of The Avengers #57. He was a "synthezoid" created by Ultron, with a personality taken in part from a then-dead character called Wonder Man, and pitted against the Avengers. First to encounter him was Wasp, who gasped that the mechanical man was "some sort of unearthly, inhuman vision!" The name stuck, and despite the fact that Vision was initially a bad guy he quickly came around to work with the Avengers.

In part that's because he's a badass. For one, he's a synthezoid (ok, I'm just going to say android from here on out, because "synthezoid" is Ultron's term and screw that guy) and so he's not vulnerable to some harm that might come to regular humans. More importantly he can manipulate his density, becoming insubstantial enough to pass through walls, or fly, or dense enough to fall through floors and deliver a punch that can make Thor think twice. (Getting old-school Thor to even think once was a big deal; twice is impressive.) He'll also stick his arm right through your body to deliver a shocking blow, which is something no one wants to experience.

Oh, and that jewel in his head is a solar power collector — different universes, but he and Superman run on the same juice –  and also emits "beams of infrared and microwave radiation, with temperatures ranging from 500 to 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit." So he can cook a pizza just as well as a legit brick oven, or pose a threat to some of Marvel's most imposing creatures.


After the break: personal and family histories are pretty weird with this guy.

Family Matters

So what about that old Marvel character tied to Vision? Early stories featuring the character dropped hints that he might have been built from the body of the original Human Torch. That's not the Fantastic Four character Johnny Storm, but the '40s-era android who fought by the side of Captain America in World War II. The character actually appeared in the very first Marvel comic, originally published when the company was called Timely — he was in Marvel Comics #1. That book was quickly retitled Marvel Mystery Comics, which is the same title where the early '40s Vision also briefly appeared.

(As you can tell, Marvel of the '60s and '70s liked to cannibalize or reinvent ideas published decades earlier.)

As it turned out, Vision was related to the original Human Torch, and in a spectacular bit of multi-stage ret-conning, Vision's true lineage was laid out for readers. He was, in order, determined to be a modified version of the original Torch; then a second Torch model created by his original inventor (which meant the original Human Torch could fly again in Marvel pages); then a being created out of the original Torch's spare parts; then finally a parallel version of the original Torch that existed at the same time as the original Torch thanks to the machinations of a being named Immortus, who had done some tinkering in time.

Oh, and the guy who helped make that last discovery? Ant-Man.

True Love

Perhaps the most spectacular thing about Vision is that, despite being non-human, he has managed to father human children. See, barely a couple dozen issues after his initial appearance, Vision met Scarlet Witch and got hearts in his eyes. The two became a couple and even starred in a limited series of their own, The Vision and the Scarlet Witch. (They were actually married by Immortus, the same guy who split the original Human Torch's timeline.) With a little magic work on the Witch's part to "warp probabilities," the two had twin sons. They lived happily together for quite a while, with Vision assuming a leadership position in the Avengers. It was the weirdest little perfect nuclear family Marvel had. They even moved to California, to be part of the West Coast Avengers.


Except it's a trick, because as we know all too well the image of the perfect nuclear family is basically an illusion.

The dastardly writer/artist John Byrne, in a period when he was throwing around his influence to reorganize the origins of some major characters, wrote an Avengers West Coast story that really pushed Vision's android nature by throwing most of his human-like characteristics out the window. Vision himself is totally disassembled. There are a couple of great panels like the one above in Avengers West Coast #44 and #45 showing him in pieces. Eventually the children he fathered with Scarlet Witch are shown to be illusions (they are in fact pieces of Marvel's resident major demon, Mephisto), and that creates some huge problems.

And the reason for all this? An earlier Avengers story had Vision going a little power-crazy and attempting to take control of all the computers in the world, with particular attention on defense systems. (This was written in the mid-'80s, making it kind of like Vision's riff on WarGames.) A coalition of agents and scientists from the major government intelligence organizations had been monitoring Vision since then. When he started to work with the Avengers again, and therefore had access to serious Avengers computer systems, they stepped in and literally took him apart.

In the long run this whole stretch of story drives Scarlet Witch out of her mind, and that has huge ramifications.


After the break: Scarlet Witch's own break leads to alternate Visions.

Alternate Visions

There are two other versions of Vision you should know about, because they could both play into elements of his on-screen incarnation.

The first is in Young Avengers, a team created after a mentally broken Scarlet Witch takes her first devastating actions against the Avengers. In this story, a young version of the character Kang the Conquerer travels into his past (our present) in an attempt to become less evil than he knows his future to be. There he crafts an Iron Man-like suit, takes the name Iron Lad, and powers it with a version of Vision's old operating system. When the kid casts off the armor, the Vision AI animates it as a new body, and it effectively becomes a (rather inconsistently written) version of the character. He does a little "Caine in Kung-Fu" walking the earth after Civil War, and eventually comes back around to a confrontation with his sorta-creator, Iron Lad.

Does that sound like a rough template for what could be part of his origin story in Age of Ultron, with some combo of Tony Stark and Ultron subbing in for Iron Lad?

Sentinel of an Alternate Universe

There's also another alternate version of Vision that is tied to Tony Stark, but in a much more weird way. The second big action taken by the insane Scarlet Witch was the creation a gigantic projected image of a world where mutant-human relations are flipped. Humans, called Sapiens, are subjugated by mutant rule, with the "House of M" as a domineering overlord using Sentinels to control human rebellion.

In Tony Stark's story from this alternate version of the world, one Stark company development is the Vision Project, an incredibly advanced AI. Coerced into giving up the Vision plans to the House of M, Tony sees them quickly built as alternate Sentinels, complete with Vision's traditional color scheme. (See above.) There's a bit more to the story, but these Vision Sentinels are basically window dressing and a way to further tie "real-world" Marvel elements into the alternate House of M story.

The idea of well-intentioned Stark technology turned into a horde of antagonistic robots should already be familiar to anyone who has seen the Age of Ultron trailers. We wouldn't be surprised to see a few glimmers of the 'House of M' story factor in to this film.


After the break: OK, so how does this all relate to the movie?

The Yellow Jewel

In comics, the jewel in Vision's forehead is his and his alone, but at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we can't see a glowing jewel, especially one given a little hero shot such as the above, without wondering if it might be one of the Infinity Stones that we suspect Thanos will be attempting to collect.

Changing the jewel to be an infinity stone would be a huge alteration on Whedon's part, to the point where we don't really expect that's what is going on. Still, there is speculation that ranges all over the map, from the idea that Stark uses Loki's staff to find another infinity stone; that Ultron comes up with one; or even that a stone is ultimately used to free Vision from Ultron's control.

Vision concept Paul Bettany

In the short term, Vision will be important to Age of Ultron. Thematically, he fits right in with the father/creator themes that are in play with Tony Stark and his relation to his father's legacy and the creation of Ultron. Elements of the 'House of M' and 'Young Avengers' conceptions of Vision seem to be big influences on this story, at the very least. And on the physical side, he's a major player — a character whose power can rival that of the Avengers' biggest guns.

And that leads to a question: Is Vision actually an antagonist in this movie? Marvel has done a great job teasing out some plot points of Age of Ultron, but we have a very good sense that there's some big third-act stuff that we haven't seen at all. Knowing that Vision started off as a villain, could he spend most of Age of Ultron working with Ultron against the Avengers? It's possible, which could account for his relative absence from the marketing so far.

In the long run, we expect Vision to side with the good guys, and he could be even more important to the team. Bettany doesn't have the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. (who does?) which means he may not become a team leader in the wake of Downey's potential departure. He's still likely to be an actor who'll remain integral to the ensemble.

We have a pretty good idea that Scarlet Witch's realty-warping powers come into play in this film, with some of the Avengers suffering terrifying hallucinations at her hand. In that respect, the pairing between she and Vision is likely to be a significant part of the Avengers story going forward into the two-part Infinity War story. And if Vision is villainous throughout his first movie appearance, there's even more chance for he and the Witch to bond.

Bettany has said that Vision feels "protective" towards the Witch, which suggests a lot, especially as they're both paired with Ultron at some point in this film, but doesn't specify anything about where their relationship goes. We're starting to see hints of romantic relationships between team members now, and a legit pairing of Vision and Scarlet Witch could be an anchor — and also a thing which, if broken, could lead to major action on screen. That feeling of protectiveness could tie him to Scarlet Witch, and also help sever their bond with Ultron.


Avengers: Age of Ultron opens on May 1, 2015.