Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: The Vision and Scarlet Witch (1982)

For some reason, the Vision always really appealed to me as a kid. He must have had other followers, as he was always pretty prominently featured in the Avengers, including a monthly presence in the top left corner of each cover. With hindsight, I find it odd that I liked him so much as he doesn't really have the heroic leadership of a Captain America or the hotheadedness of a Hawkeye. I guess it's because he is an outsider, trying to fit in with mankind. The fact that he married one of the hottest women in the Marvel Universe must have eased his pain somewhat. The Vision and Scarlet Witch miniseries kind of snuck up on me back in '82. For some reason, I was all wrapped up in the Contest of Champions around the same time. Boy, did I ever think that was great - just goes to show how our tastes can change over time. I think I missed the first issue entirely (having since picked up a copy), but that cover to issue #2 was a siren song I couldn't resist.

I like what Bill Mantlo was trying to do here: placing two characters whom we've rarely seen away from the battlefield into a domestic setting. Having a window in the private lives of a superhero was still pretty novel back then. Of course, life in small town New Jersey didn't stay quiet for long and we had a series of adventures involving mad scientists, bitter brothers and deadbeat dads. On the surface, it may seem like it was pretty typical superhero fare - but there's a thread of emotion that runs through the storyline and that's what I must have found uniquely engaging as a 10 year old. Wanda's attempts not to hurt the Whizzer's feelings really resonated with me, so did her shock at the sight of the Vision's withered arm. Particularly touching was Wonder Man's dedication to helping the Vision recover from his wounds, which buried the hatchet from Avengers #158.

As I say so many times, this certainly isn't Watchmen but it's pretty solid early 80s comics. Mantlo was a talented and versatile writer. The team of Leonardi and Rubinstein really worked well together - bringing out the human side of a synthezoid and a mutant. I recently found the mini in a bargain bin and read it again for the first time in two decades. It holds up pretty well. If you see it on the cheap - I recommend having a look.


Dr. Retro said...

Thanks for refreshing our memories. I recently came across this series as I was organizing my massive comic collection. You're making me want to read it since I didn't remember hardly anything. I'm all for even more in comics about the private lives of super heroes. The older I get, the more the human interest aspect fascinates me.

Aaron King said...

I was a big fan of the Vision when I was younger, too, and I think you got the reasoning right: he was an outsider trying to fit in, a creature of logic trying to understand emotion. Since young comic fans generally skew towards the intellectual, the presence of the Vision makes sense.