Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chapter 2: In Which Ultron the Robot Puts the Lotion on the Skin

Just about every volume and variant of Avengers features some kind of showdown with the evil robot Ultron. But with very few exceptions, the encounters fall a bit flat. While they do provide ample opportunity for Hank Pym to be wracked with excruciatingly emo remorse over creating Ultron, they never get at the delightful Silence of the Lambs core of the relationship. That's right.  Send the kids to the other room -- I'm talkin' Ultron-sex tonight.

The short version is that Hank Pym created a robot, and imbued it ith artificial intelligence using his own brain patterns. The robot turned evil (as robots will do), and periodically tries to kill everyone. Most especially, he is obsessed with either impressing or killing Pym, who is both his figurative father and a version of himself. That much is enough for a villain , but not for the five-alarm oedipal nightmare that we're going for here. 

Ultron has often been portrayed as fixated on creating a family. He made a "son," The Vision, with whom he intended to infiltrate the Avengers, but Vision defied Ultron to become a hero, rejecting the father in favor of the grandfather. Ultron also created two "wives" with mind-patterns based on female Avengers, one of whom was Pym's wife, the Wasp. The son created a version of mom. And he surrounds himself with other "Ultrons," identical to himself. Does this seem like a little way beyond normal villany? One would think so, but most writers have characterized this as a lonesome drive for family. I think it might be something else.

Most recently, Ultron has been seen commanding a robot army in space, but before that, he even assumed the form of Pym's wife. The son dressed up as mom to get dad's attention. Ultron made his own "mom suit." It's like an inverted oedipus, who wants to supplant the mother in the father's attentions. At the same time, Ultron is not just a "son" to Pym, his psyche is also an imperfect duplicate. Ultron wants to seduce himself. This thwarted and impacted psychosexual fixation - not just a bland and innocuous desire for "family," makes Ultron terrifying and alien. So why not bring out that subtext? Ultron will destroy the world to seduce himself. Stop making Pym feel guilty about Ultron. Start putting him in a pit with a basket of lotion.

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