Hey, folks! I’ve decided to do some heavier lifting with this installment. After Avengers: Age of Ultron was released, I thought it might be a topic of interest (and a no-brainer to followers who know I’m a fan from waaay back) to discuss where the movie deviates from its’ Marvel Comics source material. But then with Ant-Man still on its’ way, I thought it might be a good idea to wait and talk about the inevitable differences that would crop up there too – it made extra sense, since besides also being a part of the Marvel Universe, his origin ties him into the Avengers’ “family”. However, life had other plans and I had to take a leave of absence from the world of Geek Hard, so it looked like I missed the boat on these particular topics, right?! Nope. With Captain America: Civil War on the horizon, discussing all these characters is topical again and a scorecard will be as handy as ever.
I want to give you a quick reference guide, pointing out some major Avengers comic & movie continuity differences. By no means is this an in-depth history of all the characters mentioned (if you haven’t, check out Andrew’s excellent piece in the archives on Ant-Man/Scott Lang for a nice primer on that sort of thing). That’s just way too long for an article in a column for one-offs and would need a regular series of its’ own. For simplicity’s sake, difference here means major direct facts or events presented in one genre that are totally different or ignored in the other; cataloging every little time-line or continuity variance and all the issue #’s is also a task left to the true hard-cores out there. Alright, let’s get going:
Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch
Well, they’re siblings Pietro & Wanda Maximoff in both, but that’s about it. The movie gives them their powers courtesy of undergoing willing experimentation by Hydra scientists under the direction of Baron Von Strucker. This is all in an effort to enable them to strike back against the Avengers, whom they have been led to believe are responsible for damage to their home nation of Sokovia. In the comics, they are born as mutants, a concept that should sound familiar if you follow anything X-Men. You may recall a Pietro character (along with a glimpse of Wanda as a younger baby sister) used in the Days of Future Past installment of that franchise (and he’ll be returning in Age of Apocalypse), but we won’t go there. Pointing out differences between two major versions is enough work without having to acknowledge any liberties taken in third or fourth-party variations – thank Marvel for letting other studios license their properties before they tried consolidating everything for that.
Anyway, they first appear on the comics scene as part of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Shortly after their debut, they begin their journey on the path to redemption as the first new Avengers, along with Hawkeye, who are recruited to come on board and join Captain America to fill the void as the original members (Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man and the Wasp) take a leave of absence. This group has often been historically referred to as “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” – no, that name has definitely not held up well. It was also alluded to and finally confirmed that Magneto was actually their father – until thanks to ever-changing continuity, that was undone a few years back.
As far as abilities, with Quicksilver, his powers and arrogance stay the same. He’s a speedster; maybe not as powerful as DC’s Flash, who taps into the speed force, can vibrate through molecules and heal quickly due to a rapid metabolism, but way beyond human nonetheless. If you’re upset over what happens to Pietro in the movie (screw you if you’re calling me a spoiler, you’ve had plenty of time to see it if you want to!), I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it – anyone with a comic-informed imagination can give you at least three ways off the top of their head to ‘fix’ that.
The Scarlet Witch is tougher to explain because her power has changed and evolved so much over the years. Originally, she had a “hex” that affected probability. Put simply, she could use it on a sturdy wall and make it crumble down on you, or cause you to trip when running towards her, when 99 times out of 100 that would never happen. So just physical stuff – no, I can’t tell a wise-ass out there why she never used it to make lottery balls fall in her favour! She eventually received some true magic training as a proper “witch” that led to her being able to tap into something called “chaos magic” which if fully utilized and un-suppressed, could alter reality. It actually did, and was responsible for destroying the first incarnation of the Avengers – don’t worry, you only have about 15 years of reading to catch up on if you want the scoop on how they came back from that one! The movie version adds yet another angle, putting a psychic spin on things; as Wanda seems to get in her opponents’ heads and create scenarios out of their lives that mesmerize them into submission.
A Few Quick Thoughts on The Hulk and Hawkeye
All old-schoolers know ol’greenskin left the Avengers after their second adventure, before their identity was even truly established. Only in recent years has that fence been mended, bringing him back into the fold and utilizing him as the heavy hitter he should be. The Hulk has also to my knowledge never been even close to any sort of intimate relationship with the Black Widow, hinted at or otherwise. Clint Barton was once married to Mockingbird, now re-introduced to the audience in t.v. land watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – another Marvel entity that deserves documentation on the world of change it’s endured since the 60’s, from the meaning of the letters in that acronym right on up to Nick Fury himself. But the normal domestic bliss thing, with a wife and two kids? Nope. That’s a carry-over from Marvel’s Ultimates line and title, the company’s attempt to con-temporize old staples for a new generation of readers. That’s also where we get Cap’s movie costume – looks more armour-y and less costume-y. But remember what I said about third party variations – Fuggedaboutit. That universe was recently collapsed via Marvel’s latest giant Secret Wars crossover, with the only survivors to join the current Marvel U being their Reed Richards (a.k.a The Maker) and a second Spider-Man, Miles Morales.
Even what seems like minor details and characters are getting tweaked. Take the Age scene with the mercenary Ulysses Klaue. He loses his hand courtesy of Ultron. We can only assume the next time we see him will be with a new prosthetic under his new identity as the super-villain Klaw, the master of sound. In the comics, we see Klaw (no cute alliterative re-spellings) lose his hand while plundering the nation of Wakanda in an encounter with a young Prince T’Challa, who will shortly assume the mantle of the Black Panther as they become mortal enemies. The Panther is set to appear in Civil War installment, so will their first on-screen meeting take place there? Yep, the destinations are eventually pretty similar if not the same, even if the routes taken are vastly different…
Okay, major traffic jam here. So Ultron was not an a.i. defense system gone bad created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. It was actually a sentient robot that became exponentially self-aware and malevolent (think the original Terminator’s Skynet contained in a body) created by Hank Pym a.k.a. the original Ant-Man; later to become Giant-Man, Goliath, and Yellowjacket with various reversions and switch-ups through the years (more on him in a bit).
The Vision was created by Ultron, but didn’t appear until after his first few encounters with the Avengers. The Vision’s brain patterns didn’t come from Jarvis, Tony Stark’s a.i. assistant based on an operative of his father posing as a butler. In the comics, Edwin Jarvis was actually a flesh-and-blood butler who first served the Stark family and then the Avengers in good standing, acting as a friend and confidante to many members at Avengers mansion, long before they relocated to Stark Tower. The mind of the comics’ Vision came from the recorded brain patterns of deceased Avengers’ foe Wonder Man a.k.a. Simon Williams, who would return from the dead himself years later to reform and become an honoured member.
The Vision’s physical self would also acknowledge Marvel history, as Ultron repurposed the android body of the original Human Torch of the 1940’s. While the comics’ Vision draws solar power through the gem on his brow, it is not from the Infinity Gauntlet, which plays such an important role in past stories involving the galactic villain Thanos, and will figure prominently in upcoming Avengers films. The Vision would eventually meet, fall in love with, marry, have kids with (!-yes, this was explained, although they were eventually lost) and part ways with the Scarlet Witch in their original comics run. I wouldn’t worry about seeing this at the movies though – they’re already jam-packed enough that many characters are already running shy on face-time and character development, so forget allowing a secondary plot-line this heavy to develop!
As for Ultron himself, he has definitely lasted more than one battle in the comics, arguably going on to become one of the Avengers’ greatest foes. The cycle of Ultron returning to plague them finally looks broken in the Rage of Ultron graphic novel which ends with Pym and Ultron merging…wait, what?! As dumb as it sounds, I’ll just say enjoy the years worth of great Ultron storylines before this while someone at Marvel comes to their senses and revokes this debacle of a final act.
Hank Pym/Ant-Man (Giant-Man)/Scott Lang/Yellowjacket/the Wasp/etc.
So Hank Pym isn’t an ‘older’ super-hero from a prior generation as presented in the movie. He is actually a founding member of the comics’ Avengers along with Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man & the Wasp. Established early on as having something of an inferiority complex despite being a genius (which later compounds into other mental issues), he applies his Pym particles, size-changing tech for growth (originally needing gas or pills, later able to control it mentally) and becomes Giant-Man in an effort to be more powerful while in the company of such heavy hitters.
Meanwhile, Pym has shared and modified the shrink tech with his fiancée, later his wife, Janet Van Dyne so that when she reduces to a certain size, a pair of implanted bio wings appear, allowing her to fly and join Hank on their adventures as the Wasp. In the comics, they aren’t old enough to have a full-grown daughter (Hope played by Evangeline Lily in the movie) and don’t have any children at all. Pym decides he prefers the code-name Goliath and during this period suffers a schizophrenic break-down due to outside pressures and the stress on his nervous system of constantly growing. He adopts the new personality/identity of Yellowjacket which goes back to shrinking (somehow regularly going insect-sized is still okay), but now more Wasp-like, flies instead of riding ants and fires stinger blasts from his hands.
An interesting sidebar here is that Clint Barton, better known as Hawkeye, goes through an inferiority crisis of his own, ditching the bow and arrow for a few years to step into the vacant Goliath position, even after seeing what it did to his friend Hank.
In the comics world, Scott Lang is still a thief and ex-con, but isn’t drafted by Pym as a replacement. Instead, the stealing of the Ant-Man gear is Lang’s own initiative, to try and use it to rescue Dr. Erica Sondheim, a heart specialist who is being held by Darren Cross of Cross Technologies. Cross has a heart problem and forces her to conduct a surgery to save his life. Lang needs to save Sondheim because his daughter, Cassie, is also dying from a heart condition and the doctor is the only one that can help her. When it’s all said and done, Pym lets Lang keep being Ant-Man as the suit wasn’t in active use (the moral here: steal your heroes’ stuff – they might let you keep it!) and he trusts that Lang can continue using it for good; syncing things up with the same journey of personal redemption theme we saw in the movie.
In recent years, Pym has almost come full circle and after a few more phases, including full retirement from super-heroing, becomes Giant-Man again after working out the negative side effects. Movie tech has made dinosaurs and giant robots look credible on the big screen, but I don’t know if we’re quite there with people (the same idea as early computer animation of humans still looking creepy, because somehow the eyes always seemed a little off). So as much as I’d love to see some form of giant walking amongst the Avengers in their movie universe, tall as buildings and smashing the shit out of everything, I can wait until they’re ready to get it just right. So this is where we’ll draw the line today. Other folks of all sorts – good, bad, bad-turned-good and vice-versa – have taken on or adapted these various size-changing guises for their own purposes through the years (if you want an extra homework assignment, read up on Atlas, Yellowjacket II and Black Ant for kicks), with mixed results and varying popularity with fandom. But with your head probably already spinning, I think I’ve sorted out most major movie/comic discrepancies as promised.
So there you have it: something that hopefully helps anybody coming from strictly enjoying the movies or the comics to keep straight the major changes they can expect to find without freaking out if they seek to sample more from the other side of the fence. Less of an argument settler and more of an argument diffuser, showing both sides where paths diverged versus proving one or the other “right”.
I should mention that as a “comics first” kid, while it always takes some getting used to, I don’t see the adjustments made for movies as “wrong” (full-blown re-conceptualizations of classics, like depicting Galactus as a nebulous cloud in the second FF film however, well, that’s a totally different, terrible story). If anything, I appreciate how difficult it is for the writers to arrive at compromises that are accessible and understandable to new fans, without alienating or insulting original fans. The “re-telling” of classic tales was happening long before comics existed. How do other long-time readers feel about this? Is it something you can abide for interested new arrivals or is it blasphemy? Like I’ve said before, my only problem is the ensuing confusion this creates for anybody trying to navigate any of this on their own, without the help of a friendly comic store or friends and family already in the know. But, as any true fans of comics (or anything, for that matter) will tell you, the more work you put into learning about something, the more you’ll potentially overall enjoy it, so…..
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!!!