Thursday, October 18, 2007

Characters I Like -- Wonder Man

As I said in the first one of these, there's a decent number of superheroing characters I like who the "general populace" of the online comics community tends to dislike. Some of this comes from when I started reading comics, true, but a good part of it comes from my personality and background, too. I think that is where my fondness comes from for one of the seemingly most-maligned Avengers ever, Simon Williams, AKA Wonder Man.

AVENGERS #9, Wonder Man's First Appearance
Wonder Man hit the scene very early on in Avengers history, being created, pounding on the Assemblers, and then sacrificing himself to save them all in the span of 22 pages of Avengers #9. Initially created as a one-shot baddie, this would be his only real appearance until about four years down the road, when his connection to the Vision (via copied brainwaves) and the Grim Reaper (via brotherhood) started to play big parts in the series under Roy Thomas. But even then, Simon was little more than a stiff on a slab with a viewing window -- a pawn to blackmail Vizh or bulletin board material for the Reaper to attack the Avengers again. He would pop in '75 as the mind controlled slave of Immortus, but the following year he would return proper, re-animated by Black Talon as a psuedo-zombie, then controlled by the Living Laser until finally, some twelve years after the fact, regaining himself and becoming an Avenger. Sort of. Actually, he wouldn't officially join the team until 1980. Simon would be a fairly regular member of the team, paling around with the Beast, until he moved out west with Hawkeye as a founder and stalwart member of the West Coast Avengers, getting his own fairly successful series, and then Force Works in 1994, before he died. Again.

Wonder Man would make his comeback in the "Heroes Return" relaunch of Avengers, going all ionic in the process and once more serving on the team. Since then, he's been primarily seen in that title, although he pops up from place to place occassionally. Once Brian Micheal Bendis took over the Avengers' reins, Wondy has returned to a place of some minor prominence, and now has a pretty high profile in the post-CW Marvel Universe.

Simon has a rather unfortunate history when it comes to wardrobe. Starting with his classic red and greens, he cycled through a few questionable looks -- including the infamous safari jacket, and the Wacko-exclusive suit with the jetpack -- before settling on his current red and black look. Unless you read Mighty Avengers, of course. Personally, I like the original look, and the red and black uniforms. But as bizarre as some of these looks are, they seem to fit the slightly buffoonish Simon, and have become something of a running joke for the character (or at least, they used to be).

I was introduced to Wonder Man in Avengers v.3 when Busiek and Perez brought him back from the dead for the second time. From that intro, I don't think it is hard to like him. With his crazy ionic-energy look and powers, he was interesting from an action standpoint. But his connection to Scarlet witch interested me too. He obviosuly cared for her, but he wasn't pushy or a jerk about it, but it still brought him into conflict with Vision. Longtime readers bemoaned that it was the same-old triangle again, but when I started reading Avengers Simon was already dead, so this was fresh and cool to me. Later that year, when Wanda was able to bring Simon fully back to life, there's a great scene between Simon and Vizh, which nailed the character for me. His boundless enthusiasm and affection for his mechanical "brother" speaks to the heart of Wonder Man as a character, man who doesn't always make the best decisions but who always tries to do what is right, and is loyal to those he cares about. (There's also a great bit in #14 where the Beast discovers his old friend is alive.)

As of late, Simon has been popping up in big events like House of M and Civil War, as well as regular spots in Ms. Marvel and Mighty Avengers. I don't like Bendis' work in general, but one thing I do like is that he seems to share a similiar appreciation for Wonder Man. So it looks like the ionic powerhouse is, for the time being, here to stay.

This is Wonder Man, and he is a character I like.

(BIG props to Wonder Man: Cooler Than Superman, far and away the best Wonder Man site out there.)

1 comment:

G. Kendall said...

Wonder Man's been one of my favorites since I first saw him in West Coast Avengers as a kid. I don't really get why some fans hate him so much, aside from being the "other man"in the Wanda-Vision relationship. Busiek wrote Avengers #14 in part, I think, to appease the fans who claimed that WM should "pay" for his various crimes. That's a great issue.