ROY ’ S OWN ADVENTURES
Meet Roy Thomas, the real father of the machine…
Who created Ultron? Silver Age Marvel comics told us it was Henry Pym. This year’s blockbuster movie tells us it’s Tony Stark. In real life it was comic book writer Roy Thomas, handpicked by Stan Lee to inherit his gig on The Avengers. Speaking exclusively to SFX, the veteran creator reveals the true secret origins of Ultron and the Vision… What inspired the Vision?
I wanted to bring back an old Joe Simon and Jack Kirby character called the Vision but Stan nixed that. He said he wanted me to make up a brand new character who was an android. He may have looked a little like the old Vision but he was really a brand new character. The idea of him being an android and trying to deal with humans, and the human emotions that he had, even though he wasn’t human… I found it kind of challenging to write. Why do you think the Vision resonated with readers? People talk about parallels with Spock on Star Trek…
I had sort of seen Star Trek. It was playing in the next room when I was playing poker on Friday nights! I would just see little pieces of it and pick it up by osmosis. I knew who Spock was and I suppose there was some influence there. In some ways it could have been the same kind of influences that influenced Spock! Otto Binder wrote the famous story “I, Robot” with the character Adam Link, who was a robot with human feelings. I think I took a lot from that. I called him a synthezoid. I made up that word – which I don’t think was a great one! But that’s what he was. It just meant that he was a synthetic human. What inspired the creation of Ultron?
I was in part channelling a Captain Video story I’d read in 1951. Captain Video was fighting this super- intelligent robot called Makino, which seemed pretty much indestructible. The first look of Ultron owed a lot to Makino – I must have shown a picture of that to John Buscema. Sal Buscema ended up drawing a revised Ultron that was based on a Bob Powell robot that was in a comic called The Avenger in the mid ’ 50s. But there were new things in Ultron too. It wasn’t just a copy of the Captain Video villain, he had his own thing going for him – the idea of a robot creating an android to be a weapon, for example, and then the android turning against him. It was kind of an Oedipal thing. He was an appealing foe for the Avengers and probably one of the better villains I made up during my days in comics. What do you make of the big- screen Ultron?
I’ve only seen images of him so far. It looks very much the way I think it ought to look. I was prepared for Ultron to look quite different because they’re reimagining him, of course, but in fact it looks very much like the version that Buscema drew based on what I wanted from Makino. I think it really reflects what John and I did.