Meet Roy Thomas, the real fa­ther of the ma­chine…

SFX - - Avengers: Age of Ultron - Nick Setch­field

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.

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