Without getting into Avengers: Age of Ultron spoilers, we look at the Marvel Comics stories that inspired the movie.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is nearly here (and we have a spoiler-free review that you can read). So while fans look to the future for the next upgrade in the history of the robotic menace, Den of Geek peers into the past and focuses on the greatest Ultron stories of all time.
Since the time-travelling, reality-warping comic story that bears the “Age of Ultron” name is wholly inappropriate for the big screen (at least, for now), and hardly even features any actual Ultron, we've got five other tales of robotic evil for you to check out.
Here we go…
“The Origin of Ultron”
Avengers #54-58 (1968)
Writer: Roy Thomas Artist: John Buscema
The first time Marvel fans met the mechanical despot they didn't even know they were meeting Ultron. He was hidden beneath the disguise of the Crimson Cowl and took a card from Baron Zemo’s deck by assembling a team of Masters of Evil to go against the Avengers. When the Avengers finally confront the Cowl, he shocks everyone by revealing he is not a flesh-and-blood human but a robot with a massive hate for all things organic!
Ultron was created by Hank Pym, who used his own brain patterns in the experiment, and his creation instantly developed a sci-fi Oedipus Complex, displaying very disturbing feelings for Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp. Ultron also grew a festering hate for his “father.” Ultron upgrades himself, giving himself number designations for each new version long before Apple thought of it, and hypnotizes Pym to forget his creation. Yes, an Oedipal, evil robot with hypnotism powers and a metal chubby for the Wasp. Comics, ladies and gentlemen!
This all led to Ultron creating Avengers icon the Vision out of the android body of the Golden Age Human Torch who, during the course of the story, turned against his evil master and joins the Avengers. So what from this classic origin will appear in the film? Well, we know that Hank Pym isn't in this film (he's busy being played by Michael Douglas in the Ant-Man movie) and so Tony Stark will be the creator of Ultron. The Crimson Cowl stuff will be deleted for sure and I’m pretty sure robotic hypnotism is out, but you can bet your repulsers that the father hate stays. The Vision plays a pivotal role in Ultron’s origin, and we know he shows up, too.
“The Bride of Ultron”
Avengers #157- 166 (1977)
Writers: Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter Artists: Don Heck, Sal Buscema, George Perez, George Tuska, and John Byrne
Things just got weirder and cooler from there. Ultron, still harboring inappropriate and disturbing feelings for the Wasp, decided he was going to make his own metallic bride and pattern her after Janet the same why he was patterned after Hank Pym. Ultron kidnaps the Wasp and once again uses his hypnotic powers to control Pym into downloading the Wasp’s thought patterns into his robotic bride. Never one to miss a literary softball, Marvel named the female robot Jocasta after Oedipus’ own wife/mother.
On the surface, this is a pretty kick ass Bronze Age tale, but one only need to peer underneath to see the disturbing sexual underpinnings of this story: a machine who is unable to couple with an organic person who tries to force the essence of that being into a metal shell so the robot can have his way with her. There's no Wasp in this movie, either (again, see: Ant-Man) but one can only hope that Whedon’s Ultron is more than just motivated by killing organics. Ultron isn't just Skynet from the Terminator films. Skynet never plotted to duplicate its creator’s wife and make sweet, oily, robot love to her.
“The Ultron Imperative”
Mighty Avengers #1-6 (2007)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Frank Cho
Set after the events of Marvel’s Civil War (which is getting its own Marvel movie soon enough), the Mighty Avengers team needed an a-list threat to cut their teeth on. Ultron hijacks Iron Man’s armor transforming it into his new body, and in a perfect bit of well-established character weirdness, Ultron’s body is now an exact robot duplicate of the Wasp! He kills Sentry’s wife, forever altering the status quo of that particular Avenger and is only defeated by Ares who sends Ultron’s disembodied consciousness into space, but not before reminding the Avengers and the readers that Ultron is the pinnacle of badassery…and can look pretty good in a tube top.
Annihilation: Conquest (2008)
Writers: Keith Giffen, Christos Gage, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Artists: Kyle Hotz, Sean Chen, Timothy Green, Mike Lilly, Mike Perkins
Yes, Ares sends Ultron’s consciousness into space during “The Ultron Imperative,” but the metallic menace is not lost. Instead, he is revealed as the big bad of Marvel’s second sweeping space opera, Annihilation: Conquest. As radio waves, Ultron contacts the robotic X-Men villains, the Phalanx, and decides the directionless conquerors need a singular consciousness to lead them. Always ready to fill the role of dictator and cold-blooded killing machine, Ultron gleefully accepts the role, eventually possessing the artificial body of Adam Warlock.
A rag-tag group of heroes including Star Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Gamora, Groot, Quasar, Moondragon, and the newly introduced Wraith join forces to stop Ultron. Yes, Ultron was directly responsible for assembling the Guardians of the Galaxy! It’s not too tough to envision an Avengers film where Ultron is defeated by being sent into space only to become the villain of a future Guardians sequel, but we might be getting ahead of ourselves.
Finally we have the granddaddy of all Ultron stories:
Avengers #19-22 (1998)
Writer: Kurt Busiek Artist: George Perez
There are some stories that just stay with you. “Ultron Unlimited” begins with Ultron destroying the entire Western Europe nation of Slorenia, transforming each horribly murdered citizen into an Ultron clone. The Avengers, shocked and exhausted from the mindless carnage around them, are pushed to the limit to defeat Ultron.
The stakes never felt higher than in this classic tale as Ultron essentially becomes robot Hitler. This characterization of Ultron would follow him into each subsequent appearance. He was not the robot that desired to commit genocide to punish his “father” he is the robot that DID commit genocide, and Hank Pym had to live with it. It was one of the rare instance where the Avengers weren’t just protectors and heroes, they truly had something to “avenge.”
Thor’s words, “Ultron, we would have words with thee,” as he busts through countless robot clones to finally find the monster responsible for the carnage still resonates. Just imagine that moment on a big screen. Here’s hoping Chris Hemsworth gets to say it!