Monthly Archive: May 2015

Big Trouble Equals Big Fun – Act 1: The Midnight Road

Without a doubt, one of the best movies of the 1980s was John Carpenter’s ‘Big Trouble in Little China’.  This offbeat action, horror, comedy, fantasy is hard to match in fun and excitement.  From the opening scene with Egg Shen, the enigmatic Chinese sorcerer, to the final glimpse of the Pork Chop Express as it rides off into a torrential downpour, the movie has just the right mix of humor, camp, action, and plot.  Since its release in 1986, the story of Jack Burton’s short visit to San Francisco has stood alone.  No sequels, no prequels, no television spin off.  That is until Boom Comics started publishing the comic by the same name.

For those who haven’t seen the movie I have things to say.  First, what is wrong with you?  Do you starve yourself of good food, the great outdoors, and human companionship as well?  Second, stop reading this now and go out and watch it – I’ll be here when you get back.

Okay, now that we are all on the same page, some comments about the comic.

Brought to you by the creative team of John Carpenter (yes that John Carpenter) & Eric Powell on story and dialog and Brian Churilla as the artist, Big Trouble in Little China is a blast as a comic book.  The initial storyline is roughly in three acts with about four issues per act.  All the action and favorite characters are there along with a lot more humor, weird, and Jack Burton backstory.  We also get to see a lot more hells than just those mentioned in the movie (the Chinese have a lot of hells).

The first act picks up precisely at the moment the movie leaves off.  We see the Pork Chop Express fighting its way through rainy northern California weather with an unwelcome hitchhiker

Pork Chop Express

stowed in the back of the rig. Not content to just sit there getting wet, Lo Pan’s demon soon bursts his way into the cab and lunges at Jack.  Just as Burton is deciding that his time is up, the creature starts licking his face affectionately

Jack and Pete

and suddenly a beautiful friendship is born.  Dubbing his new pet Pete, Jack decks him out in spare clothes and then promptly turns around and heads back to San Francisco.

When Jack and Pete arrive just in time to attend Wang Chi’s wedding to Miao Lin.  At the reception, Egg explains that the bond that Lo Pan had with Pete transferred to Jack when the later killed Lo Pan.  Jack and Pete kick around at the buffet table and at this point we are treated to the first of four flashbacks to previous Mrs. Burtons.

At the Wedding

It seems that wife #2 became available after she ‘encountered’ Jack in a broom closet at his cousin’s wedding.  On pregnancy test and shotgun marriage later, Mr. and Mrs. Burton are enjoying what passes as marital bliss when the bottom falls out.  Wife #2 had no bun in the oven and a father, who as the leader of his local cult, is trying to resurrect a Babylonian death god.  It seems that Jack is destined to be surrounded by the supernatural. Needless to say a quicky divorce follows.

Just as Wang Chi and Miao Lin are about to start their honeymoon, the Wing Kong crash the party and a full-fledged melee breaks out.  The action comes to a screeching halt a few minutes later as a new villain makes the scene.

New beginning

Deeply annoyed with the fall of Lo Pan, Qiang Wu gives Egg and Jack three days to retrieve the spirit jars of Storms, his brother disciples.

Midnight Black Road

So begins the quest on the midnight/black road (one complaint – the writing staff keeps switching the name).  As Pete, Jack, and Egg travel along the midnight road in the Pork Chop Express, we are treated to a whole big plate of strange and, often crude humor.

Where did Egg go

Along the way, we are treated to the back story for wives #3 and #4.

It seems that the third Mrs. Burton, troubled with the prospect of growing old, joins a band of goth vampires and becomes one of the undead.  She comes back for one more marital bed tussle before she ends her human husband’s wife.  Lucky for Jack he’s an early riser and that his bedroom window faced east on a sunny day – scratch wife #3.

Mrs. Burton #4 has an even stranger hookup with our romantic lead.  It seems that she was a mind controlling gypsy who put her beloved to the sinister task of killing and robbing those hapless souls who came to her to have their fortunes told.  Unfortunately for her, the local villages finally have enough and, gathering their torches and pitchforks, put her to a gruesome end – scratch wife #4.

The funniest exchanges occur when they near the lair of the Seven-Faced Widow.  Her lair sports a fantastic image of her

Seven Faced Widow Home

but as our heroes soon discover images can be deceiving

False Advertising

Despite coming face-to-face with the Seven-Faced Widow’s impressive stature, Jack remains unfazed and delivers some biting commentary about the state of art on the midnight road.

A pithy exchange

The widow poses some challenges that the trio must conquer in order to obtain the jars.  But Jack, being rather quick in his reflexes and comfortable thinking outside the cultural-sensitivity box, simply steals the jars and heads back to Qiang.

At this point we actually get to hear about Mrs. Burton #1.  It seems that she was a beautiful and decent soul and that she dies of some disease or condition.  This flash back is about the only poignant note one finds in the series to date but it gives a lot more depth to Jack’s character.

Finally, Egg, Pete, and Jack make it back to our world and deliver their cargo.  Once the former Lo Pan fan boy has the jars he quickly reconstitutes the storms

The Storms are back

and then brings back a petulant Lo Pan from, get this, the hell of those killed by idiots.

Lo Pan returns

Thus ends act 1.  Next week, I’ll cover the new quest to beat back Lo Pan in Act 2.  It gets weirder and a lot more fun.

Lost Classic: Abraxas and the Earthman

Captain Ahab as an alien, space-faring whales, giant praying mantises, and the corpus callosum.  What do all these things have in common?  They are integral story elements in the lost classic comic story called Abraxas and the Earthman.

Originally published in serial form in Epic Illustrated issues #10-17, the mature magazine offering of Marvel Comics in the 1980s, Abraxas and the Earthman was the brain child of Rick Veitch.  Veitch is primary creator and seems to have done the plot, dialog, layout, finished art, and coloring all by himself. The work is best enjoyed in the bound edition published by King Hell Press, even though the page size is slightly smaller than the original.

Veitch’s retelling of Moby Dick seems to have borrowed as much from the hippie culture of the 1970s as it does from the Romanticism period in American history that birthed Melville’s 1851 tale.

The story centers on the bizarre otherworldly adventures of the cetologist John Isaac.  Isaac’s psychedelic odyssey starts aboard the nuclear submarine the Barb under the command of Navy Commander Falco.


Their mission is barely underway when they are attacked in true 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-fashion by a giant squid.  This squid, however, is no ordinary denizen of the deep.  It sports what looks to be a log cabin on its back, and its large and immensely strong tentacles begin to tear gaping holes in the submarine’s hull.  The Barb is soon destroyed and Isaac and Falco face death in the murky waters well below the surface.  They are spared this fate when something grabs a hold of Isaac and pulls him to safety while he, wildly clutching at Falco’s leg, rescues his commanding officer.

As soon as they are inside the squid, they discover just how their rescue was effected.  A large, purple alien, named Staub, dressed in 18th-century sailor’s garb, had yanked them from the sea and is addressing his captain saying


This is our first glimpse of the strange aliens and bizarre world that inhabit the space whaling fleet, and our first hint that the unusual (perhaps unique) structure of the human brain will play such a major role in the story line.

In answer to Staub’s call, Captain Rotwang walks in on one good leg and one peg


and informs Falco and Isaac that the ‘Great Red Abraxas’ took his leg and that the Xlexu surgeons were ones who fashioned its disgusting replacement.

Rotwang then turns and orders his men to ‘put your backs into it’, leave the Earth and its puny whales behind, and head for the whale planet.  The squid/longboat breaks the surface and, hauling two humpback whales in toe, sets out for space.  Shortly afterward, they near Rotwang’s giant whaling vessel, named the Yorrikee, which looks more like a self-contained ecosystem than a sailing vessel.


If Melville intended the Pequod to be a microcosm of human existence, I suppose that Veitch intended this star-sailing ship to a be a microcosm of the entire universe.

Once aboard, Rotwang orders the Xlelu surgeons to prepare Isaac for lookout duty and Falco for the furnace.  The Xlelu, large aliens that resemble praying mantises, incapacitate each man and then carry them off.  Through the strange venom in its bite, the Xlelu merges his consciousness with Isaac. The latter watches in muted fascination as the surgeon removes his skin and then turns his attention inward.

In a dream that isn’t quite a dream but a mental representation of the biochemical changes acting within him,


Isaac witnesses the landscape of his mind.  He sees a sea of faces each with a vivid red gash down the center of his forehead.  The Xlelu states that these are the faces of John’s former lives, each bearing the mark of the divided double-lobed brain.  The Xlelu then merges John’s brain into one harmonious whole.

The Xlelu hang the modified cetologist, now cocooned in a chrysalis, to a branch of one of the trees to await his rebirth.


The physical changes are profound.  Where his skin once covered his body, there is now a clear membrane that allows the passerby to see muscle, bone, ligament and tendon as clearly on display as in a medical student’s anatomy book.  In addition, Isaac can now see almost the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  As radical as these changes are, they are nothing compared to what is in store.

Rotwang shows up on the scene with a devil’s bargain.  He offers to restore Isaac if John will help him hunt down the great red whale Abraxas.  Convinced that he needs more incentive, Rotwang then shows him the rest of the Xlelu handiwork.  A living, body-less Falco is now a plaything, subject to Rotwangs’s whim


while  Falco’s body, complete from the neck down, tirelessly tends the Gravity Root, the power source for the Yorrikke.

Reluctantly, John agrees to help, and Rotwang immediately seals the deal by forcing John to participate in the flensing of a whale that has been captured. Flensing involves stripping the outer flesh of the whale from its body, including the skin and the blubber underneath, which is then boiled to get the valuable whale oil contained therein.

Once the whale has been completely butchered, a dispirited John Isaac climbs in some tree branches and falls immediately asleep.  Shortly after he begins to slumber, the Yorrikke encounters the whaling vessel Ymir headed by Captain Dolphin.  In a meeting closely paralleling the one between the Pequod and the Rachel in Moby Dick, Rotwang sees the horror that Abraxas has visited on the Ymir but, nonetheless, continues in his self-destructive path of vengeance.

The next day, Isaac is forced to take part in the customary post-flensing meal.  Rotwang forces him to drink the blood of the slain whale and to take part of its giblet, an organ located in the head of the whale, used to create its song and said to be the seat of its soul.


The giblet acts as a mind-altering drug and Isaac’s aura soon leaves his body to fetch Abraxas.

Finding that Isaac’s job is now done, Rotwang welches on the deal and tries to kill the now insensate human, but he is unable to carry his plan through because at the moment Abraxas arrives, his size dwarfing even the immense extent of the Yorrike.


Seizing the distraction, the Xlelu intervene on John’s behalf and rescue him.  They carry his limp body and drop him down the maw of Abraxas.

For the most part, this is the point in which Abraxas and the Earthman begins to depart from Moby Dick.  Safely inside the red whale, Isaac, unaware as Abraxas destroys the Yorrikke, begins to piece together what the Xlelu have been up to.  He finds a host of Earthmen transformed just like him, all mad from the incessant whale song of pain that Abraxas sings.  They force John, who they call self, into the living giblet of Abraxas, where he achieves a kind of soul-communion with the whale.  Once inside this mysterious organ, his soul (here defined as the conscious mind joined with his aura)


is liberated and helps to heal Abraxas.

Rotwang is not quite out of the picture though.  After acquiring deadly technology from giant aliens (yes it did get weirder), he convinces the rest of the fleet to unite with him to destroy Abraxas.  He forces the Xlelu to join the two lobes of Falco’s brain.  Falco immediately has a vision where Abraxas is floating and the hunt is back on.  Meanwhile, John and Abraxas have now completely merged into a single symbiotic creature – two bodies, two souls, but one entity.


They go on to save numerous souls from the grip of Aion, “the devourer of awareness who strips all memory from souls before sending them back to live another life.” The symbiote then deposits each soul in a whale, thus starting a new race of man-whales.

Rotwang and the fleet close in for the kill but, despite the savageness of their attack with the stolen alien technology, Rotwang’s final grasp at revenge fails to do anything more than injure Abraxas and lead to the destruction of the whaling fleet.  The Isaac/Abraxas soul emerges once more, pulls the stinking, blackened soul of Rotwang from his body, and sends it on to be purged by Aion.

As the story closes, the Xlelu, who have tended Abraxas’s wound suffered at the hands of Rotwang, perform a last bit of exposition.  They say that as agents of evolution, they have been entrusted with the seed of life (DNA). From that seed they created whales first.  Ages ago, the whales engaged in the Great Migration, leaving the whale planet behind and spreading across the universe, giving rise to the various races of men.  Now is the time for men and whales to exist in communion.


The Xlelu ask Isaas/Abraxas what they will call their new race.  Their answer:  “Call me Ishmael.”

And so ends one of the trippiest comics stories I’ve ever read.  Part science fiction, part allegory, part moralistic tale, ‘Abraxas and the Earthman’ has some rough spots in both pacing and plot.  The end chapters seem rushed as if the serialization were coming to an end and Veitch had to fit some pieces in at the last minute.  That said, there is simply no way to view this work as anything other than a classic tale doing what comics do best.

The art and panel layout are vivid, beautiful, and imaginative.  The story line is weird in the best sense of that word, exploring concepts that can only be expressed in the medium of sequential art.  No amount of descriptive prose can bring home the wonder of the Yorrike, the horror of the bodyless Falco, or the alien nature of the Xlelu.  ‘Abraxas and the Earthman’ is a classic tale worth reading and adding to any comic collection.

Roots of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

I got a request from a friend after we both went to see Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron.  My intention was that last week’s post on this installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and what is likely to be a huge pot of money for the power structure of Disney, would be my only post related to the movie.  Alas, that intention is now derailed as my dear friend asked for some back story on the Maximoff Twins, Pietro and Wanda.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, also known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, are some of the new Avengers featured in the film.  They received a cameo appearance in the mid-credit teaser from Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier.  Quicksilver is super-fast, running so quickly as to be only a blur.  His representation in the movie closely parallels the original conception of this character in the comic books.  The Scarlet Witch is a bit more complicated.  In the film, she possesses both telekinesis and the ability to manipulate the minds of her enemies.  While stylistically similar to her comic book version (scarlet clothing and exotic gestures to invoke her power), the Scarlet Witch of the movie differs in some key ways, making it much easier to integrate her character into reasonable storylines.

The back story from the comic book begins with their premiere in X-Men #4 in 1964.  When we first meet Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, they are seated at a dining table, eating an evening meal with the Toad and Mastermind. Brother and sister are not only mutants but also official members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.


It seems that Magneto had saved them some time earlier from villagers intent on harming them for being different.  In their first battle with the X-Men, Quicksilver’s incredible speed doesn’t prevent him from being literally out-maneuvered by the Angel.  The Scarlet Witch quickly retaliates with a small movement of her hand and the ceiling caves-in on the Angel, incapacitating him.


This is the first occurrence of her mysterious hex power.  This choice of mutant ability will cause problems for Marvel from here on and will become a sort of ‘deus ex machina’ that some writers avoid and others embrace but which will continue to generate controversy even after it is ‘fully explained’.

The twins appear repeatedly in X-Men #5-7, but with the action always carefully scripted so that Wanda either doesn’t need to or is prevented from using her hex power in any significant way. There is even an occurrence when, while meeting the Sub-Mariner, Wanda is overcome by girlish emotion an accidently unleashes a hex his way.


They stay under the thumb of Magneto until the end of X-Men #11, when the dread master of magnetism is snatched away by the Stranger. Feeling their debt to Magneto fully paid and longing for a more wholesome way to employ their mutant powers, brother and sister bid their time by laying low in Europe and looking for an opportunity to become heroes.

Such an opportunity presents itself in Avengers #19, when they read a newspaper account of how the Avengers had just added Hawkeye to their ranks and that other new members might be accepted as well.


A quick letter is penned and sent to the Avengers (ah, the good ole’ days of snail mail and low security).


And the next thing you know, Wanda and Pietro arrive in New York, where they are greeted by none other than Tony Stark (looking vaguely like Robert Downey Jr).


The Avengers do name them as replacements, as the heavy hitters on the team, Iron Man, Thor, and Giant-Man, had decided to step down from team adventuring for a while.  At the end of Avengers #16, the first really new lineup is introduced


with Captain America leading the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye.

In many ways, this is one of the best Avengers lineups, since the team now lacks in raw strength and has to compensate with teamwork, strategy, brains, and resourcefulness. It also provides a showcase for the talents of both Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch.  In particular, the nature of her hex power gets better defined and a limit on her ability is set down – most probably in order to cap the open-ended nature of her appearances in the X-Men.  Wanda is only able to produce 3 hex bolts before becoming too exhausted and needing some time to recharge.

Unfortunately, this approach was probably too much of a strain on the writing crew and the roster gets switched again by issue #28 with the return of Giant-Man and the Wasp. Shortly thereafter, the twins return to Europe in Avengers #31 to regain their power. A brief stay seems to rejuvenate them both but with a greater impact on the Scarlet Witch.  They rejoin the team in Avengers #36 and remain there until issue #53. During this time the Scarlet Witch is an on-again/off-again character – sometimes deadly strong with her hex power, sometimes weak.  I think the writers simply didn’t know what to make of her powers and, by issue #48, she’s lost her hex powers completely.  This happens during the opening round of a cross-over battle between the Avengers and the X-Men, on one side, and Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants on the other.

After Magneto’s defeat in issue #53, Wanda and Pietro again return to Europe looking to revitalize Wanda’s mutant powers.  The readership is denied even a glimpse of the pair until nearly two year later, when Wanda and Pietro resurface in issue #75.  This time Wanda is lured into reciting a spell and releasing a menace from another world.  This is the first inkling of her possessing magic as well as mutant powers.

Brother and sister again rejoin the Avengers shortly thereafter and a romance almost immediately blossoms between Wanda and the Vision.  Indeed they almost kiss in issue #91 but, at the last minute, the Vision demurs.

By now, nearly 8 years have passed since Wanda and Pietro made their first appearance and during that time they were never really parted.  That said, their paths diverge in Avengers #104.  After a battle between the Avengers and the Sentinels, Quicksilver is mortally wounded and, being stranded in an unknown location, is left behind.


As I recounted elsewhere, he is eventually rescued by Crystal of the Inhumans; an act of kindness that entwines his fate with theirs.

Wanda remains with the Avengers, where her romance with the Vision deepens.  Eventually the twins are reunited at the marriage of Quicksilver and Crystal.  Shortly after the ceremony, the witch known as Agatha Harkness, who had been the Fantastic Four’s governess, chooses Wanda as her new magical apprentice.


Under Harkness’s tutelage (and Steve Engelhart’s scripting), the Scarlet Witch begins to evolve from a love-smitten damsel into a strong, mature character.  Part of that maturation results in her marriage to the Vision in a joint ceremony marking the end of the Celestial Madonna storyline that ran through the Avengers from 1972-1974.

By now, the attentive reader might have noticed that I have not used the name of Maximoff in describing the Wanda and Pietro of the comic book universe.  This is because their parentage and surname went unrevealed for a long period of time, and when revealed it was given as Frank (Giant-Sized Avengers #1, 1974).  The Golden Age hero Robert Frank, aka the Whizzer, maintains that Wanda and Pietro are his children, and this identification seemed natural as both the Whizzer and Quicksilver possessed super speed.  Robert, distraught with grief over his wife’s death in childbirth, abandoned the children to be raised by Roma in Eastern Europe. Frank’s assertion of paternity remains unchallenged for five years until John Byrne ties all of the various pieces together into one of the best storylines in Marvel’s publication history.

It starts in issue #181, when a Roma by the name of Django Maximoff ‘kidnaps’ Pietro and Wanda and tells them an alternative origin.


He insists that Pietro and Wanda are his very own children and urges them to remember him.  They soon free themselves from his clutches but decide to journey with him to Eastern Europe to find the truth.  After all, they had returned there on two other occasions when they needed to.  Their journey leads them to the awful truth that neither the Franks nor the Maximoffs are their parents.

By eyewitness testimony of the cow-woman Bova, they come to learn that their mother, a woman named Magda, had fled from her husband and sought refuge on Wundagore mountain.  Wundagore is the home of the High Evolutionary, a scientist obsessed with creating a race of sentient animals.


Magda soon gives birth to Wanda and Pietro, but her happiness is short lived.  Fearing that her husband would soon hunt her down, Magda leaves Wanda and Pietro with Bova, who then brings the babies to her master.  The High Evolutionary first attempts to give them to the Franks,


who were expecting their own child. However, Madeline Frank dies after giving birth to a stillborn baby and Robert flees under the weight of his own grief.  The High Evolutionary then gives the babies to the Maximoffs to raise as their own.


While not explicitly stated, long time readers knew that Magda’s mysterious husband was none other than Magneto.  Thus the twins had been saved early on and subsequently bullied by their own father, even though they were unaware of it.

Later writers build upon this structure.  Wanda’s mutant powers are explained as manipulating the probabilities of the universe.  These powers, her magical training, and her kinship to Magneto lead to weirder and weirder storylines.

Thankfully, the creators involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have the sense to limit her powers and, since Fox owns the Marvel mutant property, this twisted history will never see the silver screen.

The Origins of Ultron

Well, the first big summer blockbuster comes out this weekend – Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.  Based on the original Avenger’s movie success, the fantastic track record of Marvel’s cinematic universe, including the shows made for television, and the marketing undertaken by them and their parent company, Disney, it is likely that this installment will make well over a billion dollars.  Clearly, with a draw like that, the majority of moviegoers will be people who have only a cursory familiarity with the comics history that is the backdrop for the movie.  So, this week I will try to give some background about the villain called Ultron.

I would venture a guess that most people know that Ultron is some sort of artificial intelligence that has grown too big and fast and has now become hostile towards its creator and, by association, the whole human race.  Given the demographics of the audience, it is likely that people will say that this particular concept is reminiscent of the Matrix or Terminator movies.   Ultron, however, appeared on the scene much earlier than either of these films.

The original appearance of Ultron was in Avengers (1961) issue #54, where he went by the equally bizarre name of the Crimson Cowl.  He appears on the scene as the sinister leader of the new Masters of Evil – a group rounded out by the bunch of lesser-known super villains comprised of Klaw, the Radioactive Man, Whirlwind, the Melter, and the Black Knight (I guess pithy names were hard to come by in the 1960s).  Nothing in either his appearance or in his mode of speech reveals his mechanistic, man-made origins, and no doubt he would have passed Alan Turing’s test.


The ensuing clash between the Masters of Evil and the Avengers features a set of one-on-one battles:  Hawkeye vs. the Melter, the Black Panther vs. Whirlwind, Klaw vs. the Wasp, and Giant Man vs. the Radioactive Man.  Despite being betrayed by the Black Knight, the Masters of Evil gain the upper hand and quickly subdue and imprison the Avengers.  After some meaningless plot twists, including Jarvis, the Avengers butler, being subjected to mind control so that he appeared for a time as the Crimson Cowl, the real Crimson Cowl finally reveals himself to be Ultron-5.


The Avengers manage to get free and defeat the Masters of Evil, but they fail to catch Ultron-5.  The story closes with a melodramatic threat from the robot that has more of the feel of a human villain simply dressed as robot rather than the artificial intelligence with thought patterns and behaviors quite different than Man’s.  This overly abundant mimicry plagues almost every story of Ultron going forward, and the metal menace is often portrayed as having an inferiority complex, as being jealous that he is not quite human enough.

Ultron reappears a few issues later in #57.  This issue not only fills in the back story of his origin, but it also includes the first modern appearance of the synthezoid called the Vision.


Visually patterned after the Golden Age hero of the same name, this Vision has a robotic body but a human mind.  He quickly rebels against his ‘father’ and sides with the Avengers against the ambitions of Ultron.


It seems from the Avengers 2 trailer that we will be seeing at least a glimpse of the Vision in the movie as this still shot shows.


Issue #57 is also notable for the iconic ending involving the remains of the Ultron-5, who is destroyed in his clash with the Vision.  A young boy discovers Ultron’s severed head and plays with it against the narrative of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandius.


The Ultron saga doesn’t end there.  Issue #58 fills in some of the gaps in both the Vision’s and Ultron’s back story.  It seems that Ultron was created ‘accidently’ by Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man [the original], Giant Man, and Yellowjacket) and that the nascent intelligence quickly grows beyond his ability to control it.  Feeling (exactly how?) malevolent towards his creator, Ultron erases Pym’s memory, and then chooses not to kill him but to exact revenge on him when he least expects it.  When the Crimson Cowl ploy proves useless, this metallic Frankenstein creates the Vision as his agent of retribution, but rather than giving the Vision a machine mentality, Ultron imprints on him the brain patterns of the deceased Wonder Man, an old foe/friend of the Avengers from Issue #9.

Over the next decade, Ultron shows up in a variety of roles.  Each time, he emerges with a new model number but with the same old insecurities, hostilities and delusions of grandeur that led to his defeat in earlier incarnations – so much for machine learning.

The interested reader can consult the Wikipedia article on this robot menace, but I advise against it.  Ultron never rose to inspire the dread or wonder that other machines-run-amok have in other venues.  It/he lacks the frightening, single-minded and logical purpose of Proteus from Demon Seed.  Ultron never demonstrates the ruthlessness of the Terminator or the utter disdain to man that Agent Smith from The Matrix does.

Fortunately, the movie version of Ultron, what little has been revealed, seems a great deal more sinister and powerful; perhaps because the writers have borrowed from these more successful versions of out-of-control a.i., perhaps because our level of sophistication has increased.  In any event, Avengers 2 looks to be a blast.