The modern Vision made is first appearance 50 years ago today in Avengers #57, released on August 8, 1968 (by coincidence, exactly seven years after Fantastic Four #1).
But series writer Roy Thomas wasn’t originally planning to create a new character. He simply wanted to bring back the Golden Age character The Vision, created by the Captain America team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. He explained to the Hollywood Reporter:
I said, “What if I brought back The Vision from the old comics?” He said, “Naw, just do an android.” I never asked him why. He didn’t care what I did as long as it was an android, so I made up an android and called him The Vision, and he looked a lot like the old one. John Buscema added this great artistic touch, this little jewel on his forehead.
Why did Stan Lee insist on the character being an android? In a column for The Beat, Brad Ricca wrote some insightful and well-researched speculation that androids may’ve simply been in the zeitgeist at the time, but I wonder if the real reason is actually tied to Marvel’s original android, the Human Torch.
Marvel Comics #1 in 1939 saw the first appearance of the Sub-Mariner, the Angel, and the Human Torch, back before the company was called Marvel. When Marvel did finally happen, the original Captain America and Sub-Mariner were able to sneak in, but the Human Torch and the Angel were new characters. The latter was a completely reworked character, but the Human Torch was a teenager who shared the same look and power when fired up.
Human Torch creator Carl Burgos did some work for Marvel in the mid-’60s, but had a falling out. In Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, he speculates that a cameo by the Golden Age Human Torch might’ve had something to do with it:
In early August, Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four Annual #4 featured Burgo’s original Human Torch, battling the new teenage Human Torch and the rest of the Fantastic Four. Cover-dated October 1966, it appeared exactly twenty-eight years after Marvel Comics #1 — in other words, exactly as the initial twenty-eight-year copyright was expiring. The original Torch had been revived just long enough to ensure their copyright claim — only to be killed again, pages later.
Despite the similarities, Bargo apparently had no claim to the modern Human Torch, who is considered a different character. After all, one is a teenage boy named Johnny Storm, the other is an android.
In 1968, Marvel was in the middle of a dispute with Joe Simon over ownership of Captain America. I imagine the last thing Marvel wanted to do was bring back any other character Joe Simon co-created — like the Vision — because it’d only lead to additional disputes. But if they could make the character different somehow, that would be fine. Maybe if one of them was an android…
I don’t know for sure if that’s the case, but it seems plausible?
Mild-mannered UI/UX designer by day and freelance writer/artist by night, nothing can stop Kate Willaert in her quest to analyze everything in geek culture. She also writes about video game history for GameHistory.org.