How about that Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, eh? What an entrance! We’ve come a long road and seen a lot of Marvel films to get to this point, and it seems certainly well earned. You may be wondering, though, who is this Ultron fella that seems to be creeping out our heroes by shambling into Tony Stark’s pad? What’s his deal and where does he come from? In the comics, Ultron is, arguably, the major Avengers villain as he is first and foremost an antagonist to the group itself, rather than say Loki who’s really more of a Thor villain. While the origin of Ultron may be different in the movie, we thought we’d walk you through the birth and “life” of this sinister automaton who has been a thorn in the Avengers side for so long. Get better acquainted with the comics history of Ultron after the jump.
I Got No Strings
Ultron is a cold, unfeeling machine in the same vein of Skynet from Terminator or Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The main difference, of course, being that Ultron can fight you hand to hand whereas Hal closes shuttle bay doors and Skynet uses armies of metal skeletons (though Ultron has his own army to unleash upon the world). This mechanical blight upon the world was originally created in the comics by Avenger Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man (who will be played by Michael Douglas in next summer’s Ant-Man feature). Originally created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema in 1968, Ultron was designed by Pym to be an artificial intelligence, created for the betterment of mankind—which is honestly how most of these “robots gone awry: stories start off. Ultron subsequently decides to take things into his own hands, as he sees humanity as weak and unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. His original design, as you can see in the photo above, was quite different from the design he has today.
What was so cool about the character of Ultron was that he was constantly “improving” himself. When Ultron first appeared, he went by the name of “Ultron-1” and each time he lost while fighting the Avengers, he would return later on, stronger, faster, and more terrifying as “Ultron-2”, “Ultron-3”, or my personal favorite, “Ultron-14”. It made for a cool, sinister character in that Ultron was never really able to be defeated. He was a consciousness who would jump from body to body with the slightest of ease so you never quite knew if you had actually won or if Ultron was just biding his time, figuring out ways to beat you. Ultimately, while Ultron said his motivations were to eliminate mankind and replace them with machines, he really was something of a lost child. After being created by Hank Pym, Ultron consistently tried making his own robotic family, feeling rejected by Pym and the rest of the Avengers for, you know, trying to kill them all the time. He even made a robotic wife named Jocasta who herself wound up being an Avenger later on.
Now Ultron’s abilities are something of a mixed bag (usual super strength, speed, lasers, etc) as they’re the typical powers you would expect an insane robot to have really, but his main body that he calls home is made of Adamantium, the most indestructible metal that lines the bones of a certain Wolverine. Since Adamantium’s film rights are owned by 20th Century Fox and the X-Men franchise, this won’t be the case in Marvel Studios’ upcoming film, but more than likely he’ll be made from the same material as Cap’s shield, Vibranium. Vibranium hails from the land of Wakanda, which is ruled by T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, who has yet to make his appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper, but whose time may be soon approaching.
To Hold Me Down
Ultron has beguiled the Avengers for decades now and there are many stories you can look into to get a better sense of the character and his motivations. The best story that I can recommend right off the bat is, “Ultron Unlimited”. This storyline, created by writer Kevin Busiek and artist George Perez, I think will be the closest in terms of storylines to Avengers: Age of Ultron. In it, Ultron decides he’s had enough screwing around and gets serious by killing all living citizens in the small Eastern European nation of Slorenrnia, after which he begins making it his own, populating the area with copies of himself. The Avengers are INCREDIBLY outgunned here as Ultron has created tens of thousands of copies of himself, where only one alone would be tough enough for the entire team to handle. It’s a story that makes you feel like there’s no way the Avengers are going to win this fight, which the trailer for Age of Ultron evokes with its grim overtones. In “Ultron Unlimited”, though, the team is eventually able to outsmart Ultron and band together with the power of friendship to defeat him. Well, friendship and mystical hammers bludgeoning Ultron’s face, but you get the general idea.
One of the most recent Marvel crossover events was called, appropriately enough, “Age of Ultron”. In this story, writer Brian Michael Bendis and a number of artists showed us a world in the near future where Ultron enacts a world takeover, kills a good portion of the hero population and has the whole planet under his thumb. There’s a lot of time travel (you didn’t really think Ultron won, did ya?) and it shows off Marvel’s current large stable of heroes, but there are also scenes that definitely helped to influence Joss Whedon’s upcoming sequel, such as Captain America’s broken shield, which is a universal sign of “things have gotten ROUGH” in Marvel comics. The sense of dread and hopelessness is palpable in the story, and it’s a dark turn of events that very much seems to be the same path the movie is taking.
There Are No Strings On Me
So how will Ultron from the comics differ from the Ultron of the films? I believe he’s going to be very different in a lot of ways, while still holding the overall theme behind the character. Yes, he’ll be a character who’s an insane machine hell-bent on world domination, but I don’t believe he’s going to be made by Hank Pym in this one, mostly because the characters from Ant-Man aren’t being introduced until after Avengers 2. Pym may have little to no input into it’s creation, rather it will most likely be Tony Stark who creates Ultron, trying to perhaps create a replacement for Iron Man since he “retired” at the end of Iron Man 3. Ultron of the comics was modeled after Hank Pym’s brainwaves in fact, so considering Pym’s about as interesting as a bag of nails, it’s no surprise Ultron came off cold and without a personality. From what we’ve seen of Ultron’s speech so far, played delightfully via performance capture by James Spader, the machine is going to have perhaps a twisted version of Stark’s personality. It will certainly be something to see and I can’t wait for May of next year.