It’s interesting, considering the medium of choice, that all the Gather ‘Round Padawans have, thus far, dealt with human characters. Superhumans (Spider-Woman), Inhumans (Ms. Marvel), and formerly human (The Spectre) perhaps but all, at their core, humans.
Time to remedy that.
This time, I’m delving into the world of synthezoids or, rather, one synthezoid in particular. One who wants nothing more than to be human. To be one of us. To feel what we feel, to form the bonds we form, to connect to that greater thing we apes have by privilege rather than by right (and which a good many of the ants in the colony really don’t deserve): the human race.
In this, the eleventh Padawans, I want to focus on The Vision.
The Vision is one of several revival titles to emerge in the wake of Secret Wars. The character himself has evolved since last we was a constant presence in the comics: he is still an Avenger, is, in fact, a member of the All New, All Different Avengers along with Nova, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Cap (Sam Wilson), Iron Man (a depowered Tony Stark, not in that he’s lost his armor but rather, he’s lost all of his assets), Thor (Jane Foster), and Spider-Man (Miles Morales). His main duty, however, is to act as the Avenger’s liaison to Capital Hill.
To this end, he has settled in suburban Virginia with his wife and their two children. To the dismay of many readers, The Vision that wife is not Scarlet Witch nor are the children those he had with her; instead, he has constructed a synthezoid family for himself. His goal, his most fervent desire, is the American dream: big house, happy marriage to a wife with the same name as the state in which you live, daughter (Viv), son (Vin), Bob’s your uncle, happily ever after.
Would you be shocked if I told you it isn’t going well?
Didn’t think so.
The Vision’s neighbors are immediately terrified of the family because they’re different (granted, given Vision’s history, a degree of concern isn’t entirely unwarranted). Still, he’s done nothing to earn their ire in this arc has, in fact, done nothing other than attempt to be a gracious host. A good neighbor. To assimilate.
Unfortunately, Grim Reaper attacked the Visions’ home while the pater familas was away on Avengers business seriously wounding Viv and forcing Virginia (yes, Virginia, her name is Virginia and they live in Virginia) to commit murder to protect her family.
The Vision does manage to heal Viv but not before Vin, traumatized by what happened to his sister and furious at the children bullying him at school, is suspended for fighting. The father of the same boy with whom Vin fought captured video of Virginia burying Grim Reaper’s body and is using it to blackmail the entire Vision family into leaving town. Virginia is keeping this from The Vision, her obvious discomfiture putting a tremendous strain on their marriage.
Despite the spite, the nastiness, the overt discrimination (or at least that of which he is aware), when Vin decries his schoolmates upon his return from suspension, telling his father, “They hate us… they’ll always hate us,” The Vision replies, “Nonsense… You cannot hate what you do not know… they do not know you, therefore, they are incapable of hating you.”
What has humanity done to earn the faith The Vision bestows upon them?
Such faith is, perhaps oddly and perhaps not so much, one of the reason The Vision will never be entirely human. It is a faith based on rationality. No matter how carefully, how finely, The Vision tunes his emotions, they are components of a program. His feelings are logical lines of code, a rational progression of if –> than statements. If I do not know the thing –> then I cannot hate it.
And herein lies the difficulty: human emotions aren’t rational. Neural impulses aren’t reliable if –> then statements. They are knee jerk reactions stimulated by the hindbrain, the part of us that is still animal. We can curtail that to some extent, but the impulses can’t be changed.
One of those impulses is to fear the unknown.
Consider some of the most deeply rooted and common phobias: alien creatures such as snakes and spiders; the dark; deep water; caves; death; the void. These are all things to which we can’t relate because we have no pre-experience frame of reference. The are things we cannot see through, cannot penetrate. Things we don’t, and can’t, ever completely, know.
These fears are primal. At one point in human history, they made a certain amount of sense. They kept us from drowning, suffocating, being buried in a rock slide, being bitten, being eaten. They ensured we survived to propagate the species.
Not sure where my fear of clowns factors in, but *shudder.* Maybe it’s the outrageous clothing or the concealing makeup and wig, a throwback to fears of an enemy tribe painted in woad and blood charging across a field at my ancestors. Maybe they’re just flipping creepy.
Clowns aside, if we examine the aforementioned fears rationally, which many of us are able to do as adults, we realize they’re far less applicable in the modern age for most of us. We sleep in houses with locked windows and doors; certainly people can break in, but it isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was back in the days of extreme-yore. We can summon light at the flip of a switch, call for help in seconds and expect a commensurate response, have expiration dates on food we don’t have to hunt for unless it’s Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve and Aunt Gertrude forgot the marshmallows for the sweet potato pie.
Still can’t do anything about the clowns.
We remain, however, primed by nature, by survival instinct, by Darwinism, to fear the unknown as a protective mechanism to ensure survival of the fittest.
Which is a shame because we really should have evolved further by now.
In using logic to explain an emotional process, The Vision is showing us the potential to move beyond our animal nature to the truly extraordinary.
What a shame we’ve disappointed him.
We (and I mean the collective we, here, not me or you or that guy reading over your shoulder) have, rather than fixing our code, allowed it to degrade to the point of insanity. Fearing the lady down the street who wears a hijab because it marks her as a member of a massive world religion, some members of who are extremist dickbags does absolutely nothing to ensure your survival.
It isn’t necessary for humanity’s survival. Fearing the child who has a violent outburst on the bus or in school because they are autistic or are being abused at home? Cruelty, not rationality. Judging someone by the color of their skin, by the amount of ink they have, by the number of piercings or the color of their hair? Lack of understanding doesn’t make any of those people dangerous. It makes the hater ignorant.
Fear leads to hate. And hate leads to the dark side.
How do we reprogram? How do we change? How do we evolve? Can we?
Absolutely. But it is going to be neither comfortable nor fun.
The first step is always to examine your initial responses, your prejudices. We all have them (and this time I do mean you, me, and the lady down the street). Instead of being ashamed, instead of berating yourself, hold them up, crack them up, study the entrails. Unravel the knots.
Ask questions. Most people are happy to answer. If they’re not, maybe they’re afraid of you. Maybe your offering of attention or interest will help them overcome their own prejudices, their own fears. Honest dialogue, honest interest are almost always welcome. If there’s a language barrier find a way to overcome it. If there’s a misunderstanding, talk it out.
Worst case, agree to disagree with mutual respect. As we always tell the kids, the world would be a very boring place if everyone was exactly the same. Common ground isn’t always possible but we can, at the very least, avoid shooting at one another over the border.
Next? Next we instill the new programming in our children from day one. Make dialogue their default. Make curiosity their reflex. Make empathy part of their neural DNA. The younger the individual, the more plastic the brain. The more adaptable. The more accepting of change. Which doesn’t let us, as adults, off the hook; if anything, we bear a greater responsibility in that we must lead by example when we’re still finding our way.
Take a cue from The Vision. We real-life organics have a lot to learn from fictional synethzoids.
They’re just as imperfect as we are, but, at least, they’re trying.
The Vision is an ongoing, monthly title published by Marvel Comics. It is currently being written by Tom King and the primary artist is Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Jordie Bellaire is the color artist, Clayton Cowles is lettering and production, Mike del Mundo is the primary cover artist, and Michael Cho is doing the variant covers and the recap page art.