The Vision is one of the most memorable Avengers of all time. He's saved the world dozens of times - 37, by his own count - and yet the one thing that's consistently eluded him is true humanity. A family, a civilian life, a world outside of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It's that piece of the puzzle that continues to elude him in writer Tom King's The Vision series.
As The Vision moves into its second arc, things are only going to get worse for the Android Avenger and his family. After an issue focusing on his prior relationship with the Scarlet Witch drawn by guest artist Michael Walsh, regular series artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta returns for the Vision's confrontation with his Avengers teammates, and to close out the "Shakespearean" drama of his artificial family - and in true bardic form, King says the story will end in tragedy.
Newsarama talked to King about what lies ahead for the Vision and his family in the series' final issues, leading up to a finale that King says gave his editors pause - one that King says will end with "blood and oil on the floor".
Newsarama: Tom, we spoke back when this book was launched, with you saying that The Vision as Marvel’s “Vertigo moment,” meaning a story that focused on the character, and twisting this idea of what the Vision could be. Do you feel you’ve lived up to that ethos with your first arc?
Tom King: Man. “Vertigo moment.” That is some arrogant, cool stuff I said. I wanna go back and tell past Tom he should stop thinking less of himself and say stuff like that more often [laughs].
I like that. “Vertigo moment”. That’s cool. I don’t know, I can’t judge my own work. All I see are the flaws in it. I don’t see Gabriel Hernandez Walta or Jordie Bellaire’s flaws – I see my flaws everywhere. I can’t tell you how I lived up to it. People seem to like it. It’s true to what I wanted to do. Marvel is letting me go crazy, put big stakes in the book and connect it to continuity, and make it as unique as those books I love like The Sandman, Swamp Thing. Nobody’s standing in my way. It’s up to me whether I think I’m executing it, and I hope I am.
Nrama: Another thing you mentioned when we last spoke is that the narrator of The Vision was an established Marvel character. A lot of people seemed to have theories about their identity – I certainly did – but The Vision #6 revealed the ghost of Agatha Harkness as the narrator. Why was she the right choice to tell Vision’s story?
King: I love the Vision’s backstory. I’m looking at a new cover while we’re talking about the family tree, and I love how Vision is connected to the Marvel Universe in so many weird ways. Who Agatha Harkness is, being the Witch of Wundagore, and she’s the nanny of the High Evolutionary, and it’s connected to Magneto – I just love that stuff, that family tree, so I wanted to use that. But also, this book is so much an Isaac Asimov sci-fi story and I wanted to bring in a little bit of magic and sort of draw that contrast between using magic to see into the future and a robot who is trying to control the present. It seemed thematically interesting.
Nrama: Speaking of current events in The Vision, obviously things aren’t well in the Vision household. That scene in the last issue where their neighbor visits their house and it’s completely wrecked really showcased just how out of hand things have gotten for them. It seems like when Vision purged his emotions, he may not have done such a great job. Are his reactions as his life spirals out of control inevitable? Is he more human than he even realizes?
King: Well, when he purged his emotions, he restarted himself. It wasn’t like he purged himself of all emotion. He didn’t turn himself into Spock, he just sort of gave himself a fresh start, from the beginning again.
I’ve said this before, The Vision is a Shakespearean drama, and every Shakespearean hero has his tragic flaw. That’s the Vision’s tragic flaw, his desire to be human. Or his belief that he can calculate what a human is and, his embrace of this desire to be “normal,” to be “average." And like every tragic flaw, it’s noble. That’s what makes Hamlet interesting. It’s kind of noble that he doesn’t immediately kill his uncle. He kind of thinks about it and tries to decide if it’s the right decision, but that’s his downfall.
The Vision is the same way. What he’s trying to do, what he’s trying to achieve is a good thing. But in trying to achieve that, it’s becoming an obsession. It tears him apart. I think that speaks to a lot of what people feel in their own lives, when their main goals start to tear them apart and they have to recover from it. That’s the essence of tragedy that’s been relatable for 3,000 years.
Nrama: Vision has a powerful monologue in The Vision #6 where he talks about learning Virginia’s secrets, and how, if his choice to hide them was exposed, he’d be seen as simply a machine, serving the same function that was programmed into him by Ultron. In the end of that issue, it looks like the Avengers are gearing up to go deal with him. What does that say about their perception of him in relation to his fears?
King: I think the Vision got to that moment where he’s like “I can fix this, nothing’s really gone that wrong”. Someone was attacking her family and she killed him. It’s sad, but it was somewhat justified. And poor C.K. gets killed, and she doesn’t pull the trigger, she’s just defending herself. She just bops the guys over the head. I feel like they haven’t done anything that wrong, but when he tells that lie without knowing what’s on the other side of it, he’s gonna have to be in a position to defend what they did. But having told that lie, he can’t make that defense anymore. It took the ground out of his argument, cause they’re just gonna say “Look, you’re being sucked into this. You’re part of this. You’ve gone wrong and we can’t trust you.” To make that choice at that moment between basically abandoning the project entirely – in his head, he thinks that if he told the Avengers, they’d make him put down his family – or going forward, he decides to go forward.
As for where the Avengers are, I think they’re in an interesting place too. I put this explicitly and purposefully in #5 where the Vision gets a question from the cop when the cop says, “Who can confirm your story?” and Vision says, “I can confirm it.” Vision doesn’t lie to the Avengers. What he says is true. He’s gone off the rails a few times, he’s had some bad West Coast Avengers moments, don’t get me wrong. But overall, the Avengers have been able to trust him. And so he’s still saying to the Avengers “Everything is fine,” and in contrast to that, a dead witch comes out of the ground and says “Your friend is lying to your face, and some day in the future he’s gonna blow up the world."
So it’s not as easy a situation as you might think, where the Avengers are like, “Oh, we have to act on what the witch says.” They have to actually see if what the witch says is true, so they’re like, “Oh, should we trust the woman who ate a flower and killed a cat, or should we trust our friend who is one of the greatest Avengers of all time?” How do they balance that? How do they not offend the Vision with these accusations? They have to approach it from an interesting angle, and that angle leads to a lot of disaster.
Nrama: In that scene where he’s talking to the cop, you interspersed his recollection of the 37 times he considers himself to have saved the world. As a lifelong Avengers fan, it’s clear you have a knowledge and reverence for these characters and their history. For the Vision, a big part of his history is his romance with the Scarlet Witch. He’s tried this whole family thing before with her. We know she’ll be appearing in Vision #7, or at least that it will be exploring their relationship. Is there hope for fans who want to see them back together, or is this going to divide them even further?
King: I’m a huge Avengers fan. I came in through the Avengers. My first comic was Avengers #300, the infamous Gilgamesh issue. And I was a fanatic. Writing that scene was the most fun thing ever. Researching those 37 times, coming up with the terms of when he saved the world and when he didn’t. Vision was technically dead for years. It was very funny to research, and also to see what I didn’t have to research.
As far as the Scarlet Witch goes, to me, she’s always been sort of the off-stage character who’s been responsible for part of the action. She’s sort of the quiet ghost in the room – or the second quiet ghost in the room. And that relationship and what Vision went through propels this story. What we do in #7 is show you how that happened and how that energy haunts him. If you’re in a relationship now, what’s happened to you in the past has affected it. When you talk to your wife, there are ex-girlfriends in the room. That stuff impacts you. The mistakes you made, and the mistakes you didn’t make. And that’s true of Vision.
He went through a very intense relationship with Wanda. They were married, they had kids, then they came out of it, and Wanda fell in love with his brother. There’s some major emotional context there, and how that shapes the Vision, that’s what #7 is all about. And it’s perfect – we’re doing our guest artist as we prepare for the final push so Gabriel can do everything. Michael Walsh is filling in on The Vision #7, and he’s just nailing it. It’s absolutely beautiful – my personal favorite art he’s ever done. I’m biased.
I said to Gabriel, “You draw the family, that’s your story. We’re gonna go back and tell this story about the Scarlet Witch, and when we come back to the family, that’s all you.” So when the entire series wraps up, it’ll be Gabriel’s vision of what this family looks like.
Nrama: How has your working relationship with Gabriel evolved in the six issues you’ve done so far, and the remaining issues you have? How will you push him to own this last arc?
King: I don’t have to push him to own anything. He owns it himself. He’s more than 50% of this team, and Jordie’s another 50%, so I’ve got like half a percent at the end. At this point, I can see Gabriel’s pages in my head while I’m writing them. That just makes comic book writing a lot easier. I kinda know what he’s going to do, and even knowing what he’s gonna do, I know he’s gonna be better than that vision in my head. It’s like riding without a net. You totally trust each other.
What Gabriel does better than anyone else in comics is quiet, better than anybody. Just the quiet scenes – he adds so much tension, so much spooky stuff. In #6, a big moment happens, and then the page turns, and it’s a close up of Vision with no dialogue at all. And that’s tough, because thinking in terms of how we read comics, you’re gonna flip right past that. You’re gonna have one second with the reader before you get to the next page. He has to draw it in a way that I don’t have to put any words in it, and it can make the reader hesitate enough that they stare at that page. I knew Jordie and him could do it, and they nailed it perfectly. You can feel the impact of it. Your eyes has to linger.
Nrama: Looking ahead at the second and final arc of The Vision, we know from solicitations that the Avengers will confront Vision over what’s going on. We’ve seen time and time again that the Vision can take on a whole team of Avengers. Is this a big, knockdown, drag-out fight, or is there hope for a less messy resolution to this conflict?
King: There’s no clean solution to this one. It’s 12 issues. It’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and the end is bloody. I feel like this whole time I’ve had this narrative device that feels like we’re watching a car accident that’s getting worse and worse. If at the end I’m like, “Oh, everything turns out all right, they’re a happy family again,” I feel like I would’ve robbed the reader of something.
What Agatha’s saying, it’s not a lie. Vision’s gonna do stuff and the Marvel Universe is gonna have to react to it. Everything’s gonna be on the edge of a needle where it could fall one way or the other. And the way it falls will hopefully break your heart in the best way possible.
Nrama: Speaking of breaking our hearts, the solicitation for The Vision #9 implies that one member of the family isn’t going to survive the issue. Whose funeral should we be gearing up for? Something tells me this won’t be the last member of the family we’ll have to say goodbye to.
King: It’s not the last time. I can confirm that it’s not the dog – I think I’ve killed enough domestic pets so far. Maybe I’ll have a canary or a goldfish later on [laughs]. Like I said, by the end of this, there will be blood and oil on the floor and one or maybe all of the Visions won’t make it. Maybe all of the Avengers won’t make it.
I got on the phone with editorial and they said “We have to talk about this ending, Tom. These are corporate characters." So we went through it piece-by-piece and found the edge we could get up to. So I crossed that a little bit, and I think we’re good. Marvel has been totally supportive of this. They’ve been just been great to work with.
Nrama: I want to talk about the dog. The creepy dog.
King: Creepy? He’s adorable! What are you talking about? [laughs]
Nrama: I mean he’s got a dead dog’s brain.
King: Just the brain patterns of a dead dog! I don’t know what Vision did with the actual brain. That’s another series entirely.
I named the dog Zeke, which was the name of my wife’s childhood dog. I just needed a filler name. I was gonna go back and change it, but I forgot. So my wife is reading it, and she says “Oh my God! What did you do to my dog?” [laughs]. Poor Zeke.
That was the first time we had to edit something. That brain panel was a lot worse before. Hopefully when we get to the trade, you can see the original version.
Nrama: When are we going to learn the dog’s name?
King: There’s a contest going on to name the dog right now. We’re doing a “Name The Dog” contest inspired by the old “Name the Legion of Super-Heroes Leader” contest and the vote to kill Jason Todd. We’re hoping to get more votes than to kill Jason.
Nrama: You’ll have to make the dog pretty annoying for that.
King: You can write in at Marvel. There’s an address in the letter column, or you can tweet at me. I’m @TomKingTK. I have a few favorite names. The contest will close around Memorial Day, and the name will be revealed in #8.
Nrama: I’ve gotta ask you about this. In The Vision, Gabriel draws Vision like someone’s dad – because he is. But in the trailer for Captain America: Civil War, Vision is all decked out in a pressed suit complete with an ascot. How do you feel about that as his civilian look?
King: [laughs] At first I was all excited, thinking that someone was reading my comic book. But then I did the math in my head, and realized the Vision has appeared in a lot of turtleneck sweaters before I got ahold of him. But I will take credit if anybody wants to give it to me!
Nrama: Normally, I’d wrap this up by asking what’s coming up next for you, but if anyone doesn’t know your next project, they’ve probably been under a rock somewhere. Obviously, you just signed with DC, and you’ve got some big opportunities coming up over there with Batman. But is there hope for more Marvel work in your future? Do you have a pitch you’d like to see the light of day eventually?
King: Hell yes. I grew up a Marvel Zombie. I was also a big DC fan, but like I said, I came into comic books through the Avengers. It was a hard decision. I had a series that was greenlit - Vote Loki, that was my idea – and I was so sad because it’s such a good take on that character that I wanted to do. So the answer is yes, I love the Marvel Universe, I love my editor Wil Moss. Tom Brevoort has been incredibly nice to me, and he’s one of the few people who’s willing to go head-to-head with me on continuity stuff. But I couldn’t say no to Batman. And it’s not like I’m in a bad position, but yes, I’d love to work with Marvel again. I want to write everything.