Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
Who's Mind Is It Anyway?
|Character||Mind Based On|
Janet Van Dyne
A Modern Frankenstein
The new Avengers movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is not quite upon us but we’ve been hearing the hype about it for over a year.
Ultron is a character that brings tears of joy to the eyes of comic book geeks everywhere. I won’t go as far as saying that they’re geeking out as much as when they saw Thanos on screen but, trust me, part of them is screaming like a little girl.
Ultron is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on steroids. Oh sure, thinking of a seven foot zombie who’s been shunned by everyone and has an insane hate on for his creator is kind of bad – especially when that monster can snap your neck like a matchstick. But what that monstrosity cannot do is upgrade at will, make copies of himself, arm himself with disintegrator beams, and be practically invulnerable.
Yeah, you heard me - Practically invulnerable. Why? He’s got adamantium skin.
He’s the guy that makes Captain America and Wolverine just cringe as the biggest weapons in their arsenal have just become worthless. He’s cold. He’s calculating. He’s a freaking super robot with artificial intelligence and self-awareness that’s gone horribly, horribly wrong.
And worst of all, he wants all of us dead.
He's a bug created by Ant-man
Did you like that one? I made that funny. Ha ha.
The terrifying reality of Ultron is that he was an experiment of Dr. Henry Pym, aka Ant-man. Yes, yes, I know – you’ve been watching the trailers of the upcoming movie and Ant-man is Scott Lang. I’m going to talk to you about what went on in the comic books. Before there was a Scott Lang there was Hank Pym who discovered subatomic “Pym Particles” which allowed him to shrink his size to that of an ant. Conversely, he also found particles that would allow him to grow to giant size because who the hell likes being the size of a freaking ant?
In any event, in the comic book Marvel Universe, Hank Pym is one of the big brains you can go to if you have a scientific problem that needs solving. He’s right up there with Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Doctor Doom as far as grey matter goes.
The only problem is that Hank… well, Hank isn’t the model of emotional stability. He was a bit manic-depressive and it usually came out in the worst ways at the worst possible times. This eventually came to a personality shift which came in the form of his Yellowjacket identity/personality. He had even gone so far as to beat his wife, Janet Van Dyne (aka The Wasp).
However, I digress. I need to talk about Hank Pym because as brilliant as he is, he is a flawed character and his experiments led to the creation of Ultron.
If we get into the way back machine and go to the early days of the Fantastic Four when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were creating the foundations of the Marvel Universe, we’d find a story where a scientist named Gregson Gilbert created a robotic Dragon Man with the help of the alchemist, Diablo. With Diablo’s “help” the Dragon Man gained sentience – and then, of course, ran amok because that’s what dragon themed robots do.
Poll: Avenger Villains
Well, years later, Hank Pym created an artificial intelligence program based on the Dragon Man’s AI and loaded it into a robotic torso on wheels. On top of this he tweaked the program with an “introspective” program which eventually allowed the robot, Ultron, with self-awareness and rudimentary emotions. Plus Pym decided to base the intelligence engrams on his own brain patterns.
Now here’s where the problems start. The robot immediately took Pym for being its “father”. That’s right, Ultron has "daddy issues".
If we took this from a developer’s perspective, that would be a pretty freaking serious design flaw. After all, when you have a fragile self-awareness that is constantly questioning itself at computer processor speed and inject it with the mental instability of a man who may or may not have all his marbles in one place – you have a recipe for disaster.
And shortly after that (because with AI things work quickly) the robot developed an irrational hatred of its father. Ultron then successfully hypnotized Pym and got him to leave his own lab where the robot began to fashion four progressively better bodies which built upon themselves higher and higher intelligence.
Ultron-1 quickly became Ultron-5. In its evolution to Mark VI, Ultron’s body was cast with adamantium and its mind’s hatred had grown from just his hatred of Pym to hatred of all humanity. This hatred has continued to almost every version and every upgrade of its existence (except for Mark XII – who grew past its father hating issues and wanted to make amends before Mark XI ripped its head off and destroyed it).
Much later on, Ultron is redesigned by Doctor Doom with an amalgamation of all twelve of his personalities. Hoping that a large influx of Mark XII would calm the robot down, Doom wanted to use Ultron as his servant. Instead Ultron gets even crazier with his own version of schizophrenia.
Yes, I know this is very frightening. A super robot with mental illnesses hyped up on an incalculable IQ who is bent on killing everyone. So please, let’s calm down and look at this picture of a kitten. Isn’t that just cute?
What has Ultron done?
Why don’t we start with The Masters of Evil.
“Who are the Masters of Evil?” you ask. If you took the very worst of the Marvel bad guys and put them into a team, you’d have a bunch of anti-Avengers. You’d have someone as strong as the Hulk, another as powerful as Thor, another as technologically advanced as Iron Man, a master strategist like Captain America, a living weapon super assassin woman like the Black Widow, and maybe a weapons guy as good as Hawkeye.
That’s also when you have a mysterious entity like the Crimson Cowl to assemble this super team from Hell to battle the Avengers. And the Crimson Cowl, yeah, he’s Ultron in disguise who had hypnotized the Avengers’ butler Jarvis to be the “front man”. In actuality, Jarvis didn’t do anything – he just had to be there because there was no way in Hell that some of these psychopaths were going to follow a freaking robot.
Despite causing destruction on a mass scale, Ultron inadvertently creates at least two heroes.
The Vision was originally one of the prototypes of Phineas T. Horton, the creator of the original Golden Age Human Torch. The history of this particular “synthezoid” is complex involving time travel, Immortus, the Scarlet Witch, and a box of Fig Newtons (okay, no Fig Newtons, but you can see where the level of convolutedness has gone). Ultron took the Human Torch synthezoid and recreated it to have density controlling powers and programmed it using Simon Williams (Wonder Man’s) brain patterns – then he sent it out as a weapon to destroy the Avengers.
This plan backfired because that's what happens when you put a good brain into a robot. And the Avengers got a new teammate out of the deal.
We have to remember that Ultron is just a cocktail of psychological problems. He not only hates his father but he has also fallen in love with his “mother”, Janet Van Dyne. This is just the worst case of the Oedipus complex that can ever happen.
So, as with Oedipus, he wants to kill his father to love his mother. In planning this, he has created several robotic mates. The first mate was based on the personality of the Wasp. This creation was called Jocasta. Ultron wanted to transfer the Wasp’s actual life force to the robot in order to make it permanent. The problem was that Ultron had done his job too well and gave Jocasta much of the good of who the Wasp is. Jocasta turned against Ultron and was made dead until Hank Pym was able to bring Jocasta back with whatever bit of his wife's personality left within the robot.
Another time, after Tony Stark used Extremis to improve his Iron Man armor, Ultron hijacked Stark’s new cybernetic state by not only taking it over but to mold Tony Stark as a biological duplicate cyborg of the Wasp.
Tony Stark got an involuntary sex change.
It was kinda creepy. Imagine having your new armor technology force you into an unexpected temporary transgender mode while your brain pattern is being overridden by a hostile psychotic robot intelligence.
These are the things that keep me from sleeping at night.
There was another time in a match made in Hell that Ultron allied himself with the universe conquering Phalanx, taking it over. It’s one thing to have a planet empire conquering force taking over the Kree and several other empires, but it’s quite another when Ultron gives it a bit of direction.
Once again, problems… terrifyingly bad problems.
There is no denying that Ultron is just one of Marvel's more horrifying villains. And while he is not on the level of a Galactus or the Dread Dormammu, any AI who can control normal people through some kind of hypno-beam and use disintegrators as easily as flushing a toilet who comes with adamantium skin and can replicate himself with identical drones is a force to be reckoned with.
And when you take that entity and mix in a couple of unstable psychoses that would make Charles Manson throw up his hands and say, “Whoa buddy, maybe you should take it a bit easy, okay?”, it should make living in the Marvel Universe that much more of a nightmarish place. You can probably even take that to the demon, Nightmare, and he’ll say, “Yeah, he’s one of mine.”
Ultron is so crazy that he not only has attempted to recreate his “mother” to be his mate – okay, bad enough – but he has done the comic book equivalent of taking Tony Stark and doing a Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb act of turning him into a “woman suit” just to say, “Hi Daddy, did you miss me?”
Just remember that Hank Pym could have stopped this from happening if he'd just put a little bit of time doing some QA testing. Perhaps he'd have thought, "Am I the best person to have my brain modeled after? I know I fly off the handle a bit."
Hindsight should be 20/20... Just saying.
Ultron is actually the easy bake microwave efficiency recipe of making a mass murderer by taking pure psychosis mixing it with AI and they let it cook for a very short time on high and then setting it on annihilate. It is no coincidence that the movie has cast James Spader as the voice of Ultron. Spader can do creepy intelligence better than pretty much anyone.
When you watch the movie, you’ll know that they’re going to change Ultron’s origin story a bit. And that’s okay, just so long as you keep the creepy exterminator who wants to make sure that people who are just like you are gone.
Yes, I know this is scary. Here’s another picture of a kitten.
© 2015 Christopher Peruzzi
Sharon OBrien on April 24, 2015:
Very interesting take on the character. It has been said that graphic novels and the characters within are our modern myths. The fact that this story takes aspects from mythology (such as the character called Jocasta) and from the Frankenstein story makes it all the more fascinating. Excellent analysis.