With the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel cinematic universe introduced two of Marvel comic book universe’s most iconic characters: Ultron, a genocidal android who just won’t die; and The Vision, a benevolent android who possesses more humanity than the humans he protects. The characters first appeared in the pages of The Avengers during a now legendary run by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema in 1968. With his Silver Age characters now appearing on the silver screen almost 50 years later, Thomas talked about his creations in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I never considered myself very good at making up names. Some of the first creatures I made up fighting The Avengers were part of a group called the Ultroids. I’ve always liked that tron ending. I had recently made up something called a psychlotron [a brainwashing device]. So I liked that tron ending, and Ultron just came as a good name.
“I got the idea of his look from a Captain Video comic book from 1951. I must have showed it to the artist, John Buscema, otherwise I don’t think he would have drawn the robot to look like that. It isn’t the same face, but it had the same kind of malicious smile I wanted. That robot’s name was Makino, who was a just in a one-shot story in Captain Video No. 3. But he was really formidable. He wanted to take over the Earth and obliterate humanity. I liked the tone of it, and that became the inspiration for Ultron.”
“I said, ‘What if I brought back The Vision from the old comics?’ [Lee] said, ‘Naw, just do an android.’ I never asked him why. He didn’t care what I did as long as it was an android, so I made up an android and called him The Vision, and he looked a lot like the old one.
“He liked it, but Stan hated the color of The Vision. ‘Why’d you make him red? Red’s not a good color!’ I didn’t want to make him green like The Hulk or Blue like the Atlanteans. I suppose I could have made him white, but the paper we printed on was so poor, that you would have been able to see the other side, so we didn’t make things white that we didn’t have to.”
Thomas rightfully credits Buscema for pulling off The Vision’s distinct style, and shows that he’s also a fan of the Marvel films:
“John Buscema added this great artistic touch, this little jewel on his forehead. I think in the movies, they are making it related to those gems of Thanos they’re going to use in the next two movies, if I’m not mistaken.”
Thomas gives an especially interesting answer—considering the reason for the interview—when asked why he didn’t create many new things for Marvel:
I knew I wouldn’t own [anything I created]. I accepted the work for hire, and as a result I didn’t want to create characters that much because I knew I would get resentful if they ever made movies and TV shows and merchandising out of it that I didn’t get money and credit for. I was never going to sue over it or anything like that, I just knew what I was doing when I did it, and I wasn’t going to claim otherwise later.
The rest of the interview, although painfully short, is definitely worth the read, with Thomas recounting the organized chaos that was the Marvel Bullpen during the ’60s and ’70s, getting a shout-out in the film, and how he came up with a few other Marvel mainstays (e.g., adamantium, the Quinjet). Thomas would go on to craft some of the greatest Avengers stories ever told with artists Neal Adams and Sal Buscema, hold the company’s Editor-in-Chief position before defecting to DC, and get inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame; so his war stories always promise to be fascinating.
What did you think of Ultron and The Vision’s live-action appearances? Do they live up to Thomas and Buscema’s original creations?