In this feature we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!'” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ’em out!
With Avengers 2: Age of Ultron out tomorrow, I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at the introductions of each incarnation of Ultron so far (this is basically a visual counterpiece to this loooong history of Ultron I did for the main site last October)…
NOTE: Updated with the Ultron from Rage of Ultron included!
In 1968’s Avengers #53 (by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and George Tuska), a new Masters of Evil was formed and managed to actually capture Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The team consisted of a number of familiar bad guys (The Melter, Klaw, Radioactive Man and Whirlwind), but they were led by a mysterious new villain known as the Crimson Cowl. At the end of the issue, the Cowl is dramatically revealed to be none other than the Avengers’ own butler, Edwin Jarvis! But in actuality, that cliffhanger was a fake — Jarvis was actually being hypnotized by the real brains behind the Crimson Cowl, the seemingly simple robot who shares the page with Jarvis. Yes, in Ultron’s dramatic first appearance, he was not only not named, he was not even spotlighted.
Next issue, we learn Ultron’s name, right after it is revealed that he is the actual brains behind the Crimson Cowl. It is surprising to note that when Ultron first appeared, he was already referring to himself as Ultron-5 (years before “Short Circuit’s” Johnny Five). Not only did they quickly establish a trend of Ultron re-numbering himself every time he upgraded, but they chose to start the process with him already on his fifth incarnation. The Avengers defeated the Masters of Evil, but Ultron-5 escapes, leaving the heroes in the dark about who wanted them dead so badly.
It is not until Avengers #58 (by Thomas, Buscema and George Klein), however, that we finally discover Ultron’s origins. The Vision wants to join the Avengers, and naturally, they want to know as much about him and Ultron as they can find out. They soon discover that Hank “Ant-Man/Goliath” Pym actually knows more than he realizes. His memory is refreshed and he recalls that he actually built Ultron. (Yes, Hank is a smart enough biologist and chemist to come up with a way to shrink a human being, make another shrunken human being grow wings and build a sentient robot!) After Ultron gained his artificial life, he turned on his creator and used the same brainwashing abilities he used on Jarvis to force Pym to forget his role in the villain’s creation. With their worries about the Vision assuaged, the Avengers allow him to join the team — and upon telling him the news, they famously learn that even androids can cry.
Ultron would be reborn in Avengers #66 (by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith) at the hands of his own creation, the Vision. Ultron left hidden programming in the Vision, forcing him to help rebuild his master. The problem was, that that same issue saw the debut of the unbreakable metal known as adamantium, so when the Vision rebuilt Ultron, he used it — making Ultron-6 the most powerful Ultron to date.
Ultron was gone for a full five years — an eternity in comic book bad guy time — before returning for a two-part crossover between Avengers and the Fantastic Four, just in time for the wedding of former Avenger Quicksilver with former FF member Crystal. “Avengers” #127 (by Steve Englehart, Sal Buscema and Joe Staton) featured the Inhumans, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four all attacked by the giant android enemy of the Inhumans known as Omega. But at the end of the issue, we discover that Omega has been taken over by Ultron-7. In “Fantastic Four” #150 (by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott), we learn that Ultron was alive due to Maximus (the mad brother of the Inhuman’s king, Black Bolt) salvaging Ultron’s brain box after he exploded, and implanting it in Omega’s android body. Ultron quickly betrayed Maximus and began to use his now amplified mental powers to kill everyone around Reed and Sue Richards’ son, Franklin, who saved everyone by seemingly using up all of his mysterious powers to destroy Ultron.
Ultron-8 debuted in “Avengers” #161 (by Jim Shooter, George Perez and Pablo Marcos), where he actually teamed with Hank Pym, who suffered a mental breakdown and believed that Ultron is his ally and the Avengers his foes. Ultron kidnaps the Wasp, planning to transfer her mind into the body of a robot designed to be his queen. The process is halted by the Avengers, as Iron Man threatens to destroy Ultron’s new “bride” unless Ultron gives up. Forced to retreat, Ultron leaves Iron Man to wonder if he would have actually gone through with his threat if Ultron had not backed own. Less than a year later, in #170-171, Ultron’s “bride” — Jocasta — comes to life and seeks out Ultron, only to follow in the Vision’s footsteps and turn on Ultron as well. The Avengers arrive, intent on destroying her, and end up helping her as the Scarlet Witch destroys Ultron with her probability altering powers, forcing his built-in molecular arranger (which allows him to build his body out of adamantium) to malfunction.
Here now lies my best attempt to make Rage of Ultron fit into continuity. The basic conceit of Rage of Ultron is that Ultron was sent into outer space after a battle with the Avengers and he returns in the present to fight them. This allows writer Rick Remender to avoid the “end” of Ultron at the conclusion of Age of Ultron (more on that at the end of this piece, of course). In Avengers #161, Ultron introduces the concept of him having previously hypnotized people recreate him after his destruction. Avengers #161, though, specifically references his previous defeat in the Inhumans/Avengers/Fantastic Four story. However, when he returns in Avengers #201-202, there is no specific reference to him rebuilding himself from his last defeat, except his specific insistence of taking out Scarlet Witch first (since she led to his defeat in Avengers #171).
So that gives us a chance to slide in Ultron into this spot, let’s say it takes place roughly #172, right before The Korvac Saga but before Hawkeye and Yellowjacket leave the team (yes, Hawkeye didn’t have his Sky-Cycle yet, but whatever, that’s a minor thing). You can even have it some point in the #190s, if you’d like and just say Hawkeye and Yellowjacket are helping out. The key is that it has to be after #171 and before #201.
With that in mind, we get the Ultron from Rage of Ultron (by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena and Pepe Larraz)…
This Ultron never actually dies, but is sent off into outer space, where he comes back in the present to get revenge. However, we’ll presume that Ultron’s programming deemed him effectively destroyed, which set into place his back-up plan of having a pre-hypnotized person rebuild him (of course, this opens up the problem of the numbering now being off, but, well, eh, what are you going to do?) So then, in Avengers #201-202 (by David Michelinie, George Perez and Dan Green/Mike Esposito), Tony Stark is revealed to have been pre-hypnotized, so he rebuilds Ultron-9. This time, he also has Tony incapacitate the Scarlet Witch and deliver her to Ultron so he can kill her. He is terrified of her powers, believing she is the only person who could stop his plan to brainwash the human race and be part of Ultron’s new hypnotized army. The Avengers ultimately defeat him by dropping him into a vat of molten adamantium. In what must have been a particular embarrassment for Ultron, it was the weakest Avenger, Hawkeye, who delivered the final blow that knocked him into the vat.
In “Marvel Two-in-One” #91-92 (by Tom DeFalco, Ron Wilson and a bunch of different inkers), Ultron used his connection to Jocasta to force her to save him from his frozen state by helping him transfer his consciousness into Ultron-10 (NOTE: This is why Rage of Ultron has to be before #201, since Marvel Two-in-One #91 picks up from where Ultron was in Avengers #201).
One interesting possibility is that the Ultron from Rage of Ultron was Ultron-9, somehow bringing itself back to consciousness. That would avoid the numbering problem. Maybe we should just go with that.
Anyhow, the all-powerful entity known as the Beyonder decided he needed an Ultron for his Secret Wars, so he created Ultron-11 for just that purpose — in “Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars” #1 by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck and John Beatty.
Ultron-12 made his debut in the first issue of the “West Coast Avengers” ongoing series (by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott), working with the Grim Reaper in an elaborate plan to get revenge on Wonder Man and the Vision. Wonder Man’s brain waves were used by Ultron-5 to create the Vision in the first place, the same process Ultron attempted to utilize with the Wasp and Jocasta, so Grim Reaper has some odd grudge against both the Vision and his resurrected brother. At some point, Ultron-12 develops human feelings for his “brothers” Wonder Man and Vision, and his “father” Hank Pym. He turns on the Grim Reaper and begins a sort of familial relationship with Pym, going so far as to call himself Ultron Mark 12, as it sounds more human. Unfortunately, Ultron-11 has been revived. After being united with a spare body, 11 and 12 clash as the latter attempts to prevent the former from killing Pym. In the end, Mark 12 “dies,” but not before Wonder Man is able to singlehandedly defeat Ultron-11 by “shaking his brains out of his skull” — which Wonder Man notes that he can’t actually crush, since it was made out of adamantium. No, it really didn’t make any sense.
Ultron-11 was later rescued and showed up in a Runaways storyline where it was revealed that Ultron-11 created the human/robot hybrid Victor Macha (while pretending that it was Doctor Doom behind the boy’s origins), as shown here in Runaways #5 (by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona and Craig Yeung)…
Darkhawk destroys this Ultron again at the end of this storyline. But that does mean that Ultron-11 twice was running around at the same time as another Ultron. Interesting. Thanks to reader Sean Fewster for suggesting that I feature this Ultron (I originally excluded him since he was “just” a revived Ultron-11).
The next Ultron is not really viewed as an “official” incarnation. Doctor Doom merged the consciousnesses of a bunch of different Ultrons into one body in “Daredevil” #275 (by Ann Nocenti, John Romtia Jr. and Al Williamson). Calling itself Ultron-13, it had multiple personalities and never appeared to be fully functional. After all, Daredevil literally defeated it by beating its head form its body with a stick.
A more realistic case for the official Ultron-13 came in “Avengers West Coast” #65-68 (by Roy & Dann Thomas, Paul Ryan and Danny Bulanadi) which found Ultron planning to treat humanity with a special process that would slowly turn everyone into robots under his control.
Ultron was captured after appearing in several Spider-Man Annuals while searching for synthetic vibranium, and used his time in stasis to develop nano-bytes that could attack flesh and use them to reconstitute his body, becoming a new kind of Ultron (he called himself the Ultimate Ultron again, but let’s go with Ultron-14) in “Avengers West Coast” #89 (by Roy and Dann Thomas, Dave Ross and Tim Dzon), Ultron added a new robot to his family when he used Mockingbird’s brainwaves to create Alkhema.
There was an Ultron-15 for a brief period of time during a Vision mini-series by Bob Harras, Manny Clark and Al Vey, but he acted like Vision’s drunk dad. The Vision and this Ultron agree to spend time together as father and son, but by the time the next Ultron showed up, this interaction was essentially glossed over and forgotten.
Ultron-16 debuted, seemingly having wiped out a whole country in the Heroes Return era “Avengers” #19 (by Kurt Busiek, George Perez and Al Vey). When the Avengers arrive, they’re shocked to learn that there are hundreds more Ultrons ready to fight — Ultron’s dream of an army of Ultrons was finally coming true. Once again, his plan was to wipe out humanity, and this time, he kidnapped Hank Pym, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Grim Reaper and the Vision in an attempt to use their brainwaves to re-populate the Earth with new robotic beings. It was during this story that it is established that Ultron’s brainwaves were based on Hank Pym’s. The Avengers fought their way to the unnumbered “prime” Ultron in an iconic sequence where Thor lets Ultron know that they “would have words with thee.” (I bet some form of that ends up in the movie!) Ultimately, the synthetic vibranium Ultron had been looking to steal in the Spider-Man Annuals come into play, taking the form of antarctic vibranium, which can destabilize any metal, including vibranium and adamantium. Eventually, Hank Pym uses the synthetic metal to destroy Ultron.
Ultron-18 appeared in the one-shot “Avengers: The Ultron Imperative” (by Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, Steve Englehart and a host of artists), where Alkhema (who survived her last two team-ups with Ultron) found herself recreating Ultron again, his programming overriding her free will. This Ultron was not made out of adamantium, however, and once Alkhema allowed herself to be destroyed by Hawkeye, Ultron was able to be destroyed fairly easily. Ultron-18 resurfaced in “Iron Man” #47 (by Frank Tieri, Keron Grant and a bunch of inkers), though, as the head of the Sons of Yinsen, a cult that worshiped technology. Iron Man’s armor had gained sentience in an earlier storyline, and we learned that it was Ultron-18 who manipulated those events. Ultimately, Iron Man works with Jocasta to defeat Ultron.
The next Ultron was the bad guy in the debut of Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho’s “Mighty Avengers.” Ultron had learned how to take over Iron Man’s armor, but now due to a new technology known as Extremis, Iron Man’s armor was literally part of him. as a result, Ultron ended up transforming Iron Man into a new Ultron. Eventually, Hank Pym was able to defeat Ultron by feeding it a computer virus that forced it to relinquish control back to Iron Man. This Ultron was the first Ultron to do away with the numbering system entirely.
Ultron next showed up in an unlikely place — in the far reaches of outer space. In the crossover event “Annihilation Conquest” (by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Tom Raney and Scott Hanna), Ultron teams up with the technorganic race known as the Phalanx to conquer the Kree Empire, and threaten to conquer the universe. Luckily, the newly formed Guardians of the Galaxy were able to thwart his plans. Hmm… Ultron. Thanos. Avengers. The Guardians. There’s some movie potential here!
Ultron continued his trend of appearing in odd places when he popped up in an “Avengers/Invaders” crossover by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Steve Sadowski. In the story, Ultron took over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Life Model Decoys for a time before the android Human Torch is able to stop him.
Ultron then had a reunion with Hank Pym and Jocasta in “Mighty Avengers” #36, by Dan Slott, Khoi Pham and a few inkers. In it, Ultron starts calling himself Ultron Pym. Jocasta ends the battle by agreeing to go with Ultron, in order to help keep an eye on him.
And now we come to Ultron’s biggest victory. When an Ultron head showed up in the pages of “Moon Knight,” by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev,, the villain group known as the Intelligencia gain control of it and attempt to to merge it with the armor of a Galadorian Spaceknight. They seemingly don’t succeed, but in “Avengers” #12.1, by Bendis, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, the merger occurs. The newly awakened Ultron takes off, and while Iron Man notes that this is bad news for the human race, he’s unaware just how right he is.
Ultron soon returns with an army of Ultrons from the future, and proceeds to pretty much take over the entire planet. With only a handful of superheroes left to resist his rule, the “Age of Ultron” is underway (by Brian Michael Bendis and a few different artists, primarily Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco).
A small group of heroes use Doctor Doom’s time machine to go to the future where they attack Ultron at his home base. They are pretty much slaughtered, leading Wolverine and the Invisible Woman to use the time machine to travel back in time to before Hank Pym invented Ultron, Wolverine having decided that the only way to prevent the “Age of Ultron” is to kill Pym before Pym invents Ultron. With that mission accomplished, Wolverine and the Invisible Woman discover that without Hank Pym, the world is possibly even worse off than it was under Ulton’s rule — well, probably not, but it’s pretty damn bad. Wolverine goes back in time again, and stops himself from killing Pym! The two Wolverines and the Invisible Woman debate the subject with Hank, and they come up with a solution — Hank writes a piece of code into Ultron, and then hypnotizes himself to forget he did so. Now, Ultron activates in “Avengers” #12.1, history is rewritten. Hank’s code kicks in, and although Ultron fights it, his “father” wins and Ultron is shut down, effectively nullifying the Age of Ultron before it starts.
As noted, Ultron shows up again in Rage of Ultron, but that is an Ultron from the past, so Hank’s plan still worked, it was just that there was an old Ultron left out there.