Before You Go: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Welcome back to Before You Go, our sometimes column where I give you all the background you could want — and then some — to prepare you for this week’s big nerd movie.

Since we already covered general Avengers history in our previous installment (look it up in the archives), this time we’ll focus on the new characters joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Twins

Created by — all together now — Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff made their comics debut in 1964 in the fourth issue of “X-Men.”

X-Men_4_March_1964Their origin story at the time was that they were children of gypsies, living in Europe. When Wanda’s mutant powers manifest themselves for the first time, everyone thinks she’s a witch and they decide to burn her. Magneto conveniently shows up out of nowhere, rescues Wanda and Pietro and forces them to join his new organization — the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

The Brotherhood and the X-Men butt heads a few times but Wanda’s and Pietro’s hearts really aren’t in it. First chance they get, they leave the brotherhood and join the Avengers. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch become Avengers at the same time as Hawkeye in the first big shake-up of the organization in “The Avengers” 16th issue.

Oh, I should explain their superpowers. Quicksilver runs really fast. The Scarlet Witch…uh, no one really knows what the Scarlet Witch’s powers are. They change from year to year, writer to writer. Sometimes she’s uber-powerful, sometimes she’s not. It’s all about magic, and since no one knows what magic is, she can do whatever the writer wants.

3681111-$t2ec16jhjgie9nnwpiqhbrzle!f0oq--60_57Wanda and Pietro were mainstays of the Avengers throughout the early years, but mainly in the background. Pietro eventually got tired of this and ran off and married Crystal of the Inhumans and stayed with them for many years. They later broke up and he started hanging out on the X-Men side of the street. Now that he’s in the movie I expect we’ll be seeing more of Quicksilver back with the Avengers.

Wanda stuck with the team and as a result became a much more major figure in Avengers history than her brother. Her romance with The Vision made them the power couple of the Avengers during the ’70s. They were together a long time but eventually things got messy (Superhero marriages have a terrible track record).

Scarlet went off the grid in recent years after she went crazy and killed Vision, Hawkeye and Ant-Man (they got better) then eliminated the mutant gene from most mutants (this was also fixed later). Today she’s back to being an Avenger in good standing.

No Need To Plug Me In, Daddy

Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the killer robot Ultron made his debut in 1968 in “Avengers” 55, after an unnamed cameo in the previous issue. He was the creation of Dr. Henry Pym, who, after discovering particles that make things shrink and grow, and inventing a way to communicate with insects, and helping to co-found The Avengers, decided it was time to try his hand at artificial intelligence.

avengers-22-cover-110478It worked out better than planned, and worse.  Ultron quickly became self-aware, decided humans were beneath him, and has spent the rest of his existence trying to wipe them out — starting with The Avengers.

Despite his inhuman appearance and hatred for humanity, Ultron is a rolling boil of human emotions. Foremost among them is his Oedipal Complex — Ultron really wants to murder his “father” (Hank) and “marry his mother” (Janet Pym, Hank’s longtime partner). He even went so far as to build a robotic bride (Jocasta) into which he would download Janet’s brain patterns. Jocasta turned against Ultron, which has happened to him before. And that brings us to our final character.

It’s some sort of unearthly, inhuman Vision–!

A mere two issues after his debut, Ultron decides he wants to have a son. So he builds one.

Avengers_Vol_1_57Created by Roy Thomas, Stan Lee and John Buscema, The Vision also debuted in 1968, in the 57th issue of “The Avengers.”

The Vision is not a robot, he’s an android, or to be more precise, he’s a synthezoid or “synthetic human.” Why Ultron wanted to build a son that was more human than he was is anybody’s guess. It was probably more the writer’s decision.

Vision “feeds” himself by absorbing solar energy through the jewel on his forehead. He can also channel that solar power into energy blasts. His main power is that he can control his density, meaning he can become intangible like the wind or solid as rock or diamond or some really dense material.

The Vision became quite popular after his first appearance. In fact, he became the star character in “The Avengers” throughout the ’70s. Then he married Wanda and had kids and lost some of his android mystique. He’s had his ups and downs since then including several instances of being deactivated, destroyed and disassembled. But he always comes back.

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