Family drama, a powerful and inescapable part of life, impacts even the heroes of the Marvel Universe. The Vision was thrust into the middle of a dysfunctional clan when his “father,” the homicidal robot Ultron, created him using the brainwaves of Simon Williams, the Avenger known as Wonder Man. So it’s no surprise that the Vision later found great comfort and a sense of belonging in the family he created with his former wife, the Scarlet Witch, and despair once it was destroyed.
In “The Vision,” Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta are asking the question of what the will Vision do to build a new family, how far will he go, and what might he inadvertently release into the world? The answers are at times tragic, horrific and often humorous as the Vision and his newly created family of Synthezoids — his wife Virginia, his daughter Viv and his son Vin — do their best to fit in and survive life in the suburbs.
CBR News spoke with King about the shocking events of the series’ first three issues, how his tale is almost a classic Shakespearean-style tragedy, and how events that have happened and have been hinted at will escalate quickly and lead towards a big climax in Issue #12.
CBR News: It’s safe to say, “The Vision” is like no other Marvel comic currently being published, so I understand now why you had to be sort of vague in our initial interview about the book. What can you tell us now about your approach to the book?
Tom King: People talked about what “The Vision” is and what genre it falls into. Is it horror? Is it superheroes? And sometimes, it’s even funny. I try not to think about any of that stuff when I’m writing it, though. I’m just trying to tell this one story about this one family dealing with all these problems, and it comes out in all those directions. So I’m trying not to pigeonhole myself by thinking of it as just one thing. [Laughs] That sounds arrogant and writer-y. I’m sorry.
My approach to the character is, I just think of him as a guy who wants to be human to a fault. It’s like in Shakespeare, where everyone has a flaw. This is his central flaw: he wants to be like these humans. Because of that, and the pressure that comes from that, he starts to implode a little bit, like Shakespearean characters do.
So far this book meets the classical definition of tragedy in that you’re dealing with a basically good protagonist who has this one particular character flaw that you’ve already hinted is going to cause some horrible things to happen.
Yeah, that’s what it is to me, too. It’s sort of me doing a “Hamlet”-style thing. It’s like, this shouldn’t happen to him because he keeps trying to do the right thing, but in trying to do the right thing, things keep going wrong. So he’ll find that he suddenly can’t control all the things around him, which is probably the most human thing about him.
The end of Issue #3 suggested Agatha Harkness may be the narrator of this tale.
Yes, she is. She’s the origin of all those pink captions. That’s the reveal at the end of Issue #3. The reason she got those captions was, she’s been dead for a while, and when she was dead, she was dreaming as maybe some people do, and maybe witches do more than others. She saw this sort of vague vision of something really horrible happening in the Marvel Universe. She also saw the Vision as the cause of this terrible trouble. She needed to know more, and she went out and cast this spell and ate a cat, as you tend to do. [Laughs] Because of that, she got the entire story that you’re going to hear in these first 12 issues, and she’s telling that story. Now, who she’s telling that story to is an important question.
I love the voice you gave her. What inspired you to use Agatha in this way?
I stole from a few places. I think Neil Gaiman is an obvious influence on this book. I feel like I’m copying him sometimes. He used to have these real big mysteries, and there would be this mysterious voice that somehow knows everything, but doesn’t give you all the information. I used to love that. I also took a lot of it from the voiceovers that Orson Welles used to use in some of his old movies, where you start with a very confident narrator and it falls apart.
I really like that third person voice. I think it adds an element of mystery, and just from a writer’s perspective, it gives me a chance to put some exposition in a place that’s interesting you have to do that as a writer.
Agatha Harkness is a supporting character over in the “Scarlet Witch” series, so that kind of begs the question of when Wanda Maximoff will appear in this series. It does feel like she’s played a role in the book from the beginning, even though she has yet to appear, physically.
To me, at least, Wanda has been on every page of this book. That relationship Vision had with Wanda may even be the origin of his flaws. I tried to hint at the tragic end of their relationship. At one point they were living together, had children, they had a nanny taking care of their children, and they were happy. All of those people died, though; every single one of them that lived in that household. It’s almost like the “Back to the Future” picture. One fades away, and then another.
Coming back from that tragedy and starting over is the story of this book. What did that do to the Vision? In Mark Waid’s story in “Avengers” #0 He tried to erase all of his emotional memories. Maybe that kind of pain is deeper than something you can erase. Maybe that’s his driving force.
The other sort of family member to Vision that we haven’t seen yet is his “brother,” Simon Williams. What’s your sense of the relationship between those two?
I can’t talk about what I want it to be just yet. That stuff will come up, though. That’s how I first came to the Vision when I was reading comics; this idea that he was this copy of Simon and they couldn’t accept each other. I kind of love that dynamic, and I want to play with it, so that will come up.
You’ve started to tackle some of their relationship because Simon’s biological brother Eric (the Grim Reaper) has already appeared, and was murdered by Vision’s wife Virginia, who then covered up her crime.
I always think of that famous cover of the Grim Reaper standing over [Vision and Simon]. He’s waving his scythe, and they’re both tied down. I think it was a George Perez cover from the early ’80s. There’s so much emotion there.
It’s like, “Here’s a man who’s literally married to the person my brother loved, and my brother just died.” There’s so much wonderful comic book soap opera there. What Roy Thomas developed was pretty fricking awesome.
Another big element involving Virginia is the mystery of who the Vision used for her brainwaves.
Like I said, the Vision creating this family was not an entirely sane thing to do. I think that sort of comes from his past experiences. I think he had to compromise himself to create this family, and one of the compromises he made was finding the brain patterns to make his wife. The children are created from a combination of their two brain patterns, so there was only one other person he had to find. Who that individual is, how that sort of affects his wife and maybe his children, and the decisions he made is key to the whole series.
To me, Virginia is the star of this series. She’s such a fascinating character. In Issue #4, she has some moments that I think are really going to drop some jaws to the ground.
We’ve gotten scenes with Virginia, Vision and Vin interacting with characters outside of their family unit, but I don’t believe we’ve seen Viv interacting with people outside of her family yet.
Poor Viv! She got chopped in half in the first issue. Viv gets some scenes in the next issue, and her personality starts to develop and come out. You’ll start to see some of that, and her connection to this tragedy, over the next two issues.
[Laughs] There’s a lot of fun coming, and there’s a lot of pain coming. I think it’s going to play out in an interesting way.
I don’t think you can ever avoid the theme of nature versus nurture in a story that involves children, but it seems like that’s going to be an especially important theme with Vin and Viv.
That’s what comic books do best. We take some of the small concepts in our lives that seem very chaotic and uncontrollable, and we sort of order them by empathizing them and turning them into metaphor. That’s, of course, what the Vision family is. We all have to deal with the stuff that they’re dealing with, like the idea that our parents are a little crazy, and we have to decide if we’re going to be crazy like them or be crazy in a different way until we find our kids and discover what our craziness is. [Laughs]
All of that stuff is in there, but because they’re robots, I can sort of isolate it, almost like a scientist does. I can eliminate some of the stuff that clouds it in our everyday life and talk about it directly. You can do that in sci-fi a little bit, but it works very well in comics. It’s a great medium to bring those issues up and talk about them.
It appears that the Vision family’s immediate future will involve the fallout from the Grim Reaper’s murder.
Absolutely. I’ve given the book this kind of ominous tone, and I feel bad for people because it’s the kind of tone people have seen in “Lost” and other stuff where there’s sort of no payoff at the end. So I should say that all the events I’m talking about are going to play out in the first 12 issues. I don’t believe in people waiting forever.
We’ll hit a halfway point in Issue #6. Then, by Issue #12, all these incredible events and stuff that I’m hinting at will have happened and you’ll see what comes of it. [Laughs] I don’t want people to be like, “Oh, he wants us to think the world is going to end in every issue,” and then by Issue #52 or something, they’ll have become bored with it. The world is ending sooner than you think.
Mark Waid just finished telling the tale of how the “All-New, All-Different Avengers” came together. Will we start to see some connective tissue between that book and “The Vision?”
As far as impact, I’m just a little fish. I’ve been worshipping Mark Waid’s stuff for, like, 20 to 30 years. I want to do what I can to help him tell his story, so what happens in “Avengers” will impact “The Vision,” and what happens in “The Vision” will get back to the “Avengers.” I love the shared universe. It’s my favorite thing about comic books, and I love continuity. It will all tie together in the end.
Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art has gotten even better on this book. He’s got such a knack for dark, emotional stories. “The Vision” seems perfect for him.
I’m the luckiest writer in comics when it comes to artists. I’m sort of rising to a level where I can request artists, but I didn’t have that when I got most of my first books, and I got stuck with some of the best people I could possibly imagine. When I first got Mikel Janin on “Grayson,” it was like, “This guy is going to be Jim Lee.” That’s who he was; Jim Lee in 1987. When I got Walta on “Vision” and I saw his first page, it was like, “I got Dave Gibbons in 1985!” That’s the kind of emotion and storytelling that he’s doing.
His acting is great, but when I get his pages, I’m always drawn to his backgrounds and what he’s doing there. He warps everything just a little bit, and he puts these lines and details in. I love the callback. That’s kind of my thing, and that’s what he loves to do too. Little details from Issue #1 end up in Issue #4. Then it all builds into this big plan. I’m so lucky to have a guy with that kind of talent.
I also want to praise the work our colorist Jordie Bellaire. I think when people hear colorist they think it’s just someone who helps the story, but Jordie actually tells the story. She’s as much a storyteller and part of this as I am or Gabriel is, and she deserves all the credit for any of the success it has.
When I see Gabriel’s pages it’s like, “These are perfect! Let’s print them in black and white.” Then when I get her pages, it’s like, “This has gone beyond!”