The below outlines Wonder Man’s comic origins, and contains spoilers for some his history.
Ever since Vision was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe during Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Comics readers have been wondering when Simon Williams A.K.A. Wonder Man would be joining the fray. That question began to be answered with the announcement that Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton would be helming a Wonder Man series at Disney+. And in equally exciting news, reports claim that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II will be the actor bringing Simon Williams to life. It’s a really clever piece of casting that will be extra intriguing to viewers who watched HBO’s Watchmen, in which Abdul-Mateen II took on the role of Doctor Manhattan. He’s a seasoned superhero movie performer as he’s also the villain known as Black Manta in Aquaman. But we’re here to talk about Simon Williams, who he is, and how he’s going to play into the future of the MCU and particularly two fan fave star-crossed MCU lovers.
Who is Wonder Man?
Readers first met Wonder Man on the cover of 1964’s Avengers #9. The technicolor cover showcased the looming heads of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant-Man looking down on their new superpowered foe with a banner that proclaimed: “Marvel Comics proudly introduces… Wonder Man, the newest, most dynamic surprise character from the world-famous House of Ideas.” It was a big promise, especially since Wonder Man wouldn’t survive through the end of the issue. The creation of Baron Zemo deep in his lair in the Amazon Jungle, Simon Williams was a normal man, kidnapped and bombarded with “the most potent ionic rays” which gave him super strength and apparent invincibility. The reason for these mad scientist shenanigans? To install Simon–now known as Wonder Man–into the Avengers, posing as a hero. While Wonder Man goes along with the plan for a while, he eventually decides to help the Avengers beat Zemo. It’s a noble choice, but one that costs him his life. Zemo had secretly poisoned him, and–once betrayed–refused to give Simon the antidote. RIP Wonder Man.
So how did Wonder Man return? And why is he getting a spinoff if that was his only appearance? Well, he soon became a vital part in the creation of a famed Marvel hero in a moment that would impact Wonder Man and the Avengers for decades to come.
How is Wonder Man Connected to Vision and Scarlet Witch?
Simon Williams didn’t make his comeback until four years and 51 issues later in Avengers #58. But it wasn’t in the classic comic book fashion. He wasn’t resurrected or revealed to have been alive all along. He wasn’t even a clone. Instead, in the famed story “Even An Android Can Cry” by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, George Klein, and Sam Rosen, readers learn that he is a key part of the origin of the synthezoid known as the Vision. As the team led by Iron Man tries to discover who Vision is and where he came from, they discover something shocking. The evil villain known as Ultron stole something priceless from them: the “memory tape” that they made of Wonder Man’s brain. And he used it to create the Vision. Yep, unlike the MCU where he’s created via the magic of Thor and the brains of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, in the original comics Vision is an android with a computerized version of the brain of Simon Williams. That could have been the end of the strange saga, but Wonder Man wasn’t done.
Simon Williams’ true return was seeded in 1972 when Avengers #102 revealed he wasn’t dead but in fact was just in a comatose state since Avengers #9. Sadly for Simon, it wasn’t the Avengers but Kang who would resurrect him in Avengers #131 as part of his villain team known as the Legion of the Unliving. After a couple more rebirths, Wonder Man finally joined the Avengers proper in 1977, where his connection to Vision became even more vital.
The pair struggled to come to terms with their unconventional relationship, but after years together they began to see themselves as strange but supportive siblings. Unfortunately, that couldn’t last as Vision’s memory was wiped by an evil corporation, leaving him personality-less. It was then that his desperate, loving wife Wanda decided to ask Simon to once again donate his brain imprint to Vision, allowing her to restore him, but he was understandably unwilling. His reasons were deeper than surface discomfort as he had grown to love Wanda, although it wasn’t until years later that she would return his feelings. It was a passionate affair but ultimately ended due to Wanda’s love for and inability to let go of Vision, her one true love.
What Are Wonder Man’s Powers?
That’s a good question! Like so many of our favorite comic book characters, the answer has shifted throughout the years. As we mentioned, his original powers were super strength and invincibility. He got those powers thanks to Zemo’s initial ionic experiments, which would later add another layer to his abilities. Following one of his many deaths, Wonder Man returned to life seemingly composed completely of pure energy although the truth is more complex.
At times Wonder Man has claimed to be made of Ionic Energy, but the more appropriate description is that his flesh and bones are infused with it. His unique anatomy means that he can regenerate from injuries, create solid material out of energy, and is even able to manipulate electromagnetic fields. Basically, his origins are now the source of his most unusual powers. Other than that, he has some classic superhero skills: flight, invulnerability, bullet proof skin, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, extreme agility, and super reflexes as well as latent powers like teleportation and shapeshifting that are more rarely used by Wonder Man.
Wait, Wasn’t Wonder Man an Actor?
Yep. Aside from his connection to Vision, the other most well known aspect of Simon is his quest to be an actor. During the ’70s, Wonder Man was living at the Avengers Mansion and decided that he needed to make it on his own. After Captain America sought to slim down the team in Avengers #211, Simon decided to leave to pursue his acting career with good old Hercules. From there he had a stint as an actor, which led him to become a Hollywood stuntman thanks to his near invincibility. That part of his life is chronicled in both West Coast Avengers Vol. 1 and his solo series Wonder Man. It also feels like a very likely inspiration for his Disney+ show.
What Role Will Wonder Man Play in the MCU?
After the events of WandaVision and the introduction of the mind-wiped White Vision, Simon Williams feels like a natural next step for the MCU. The big question, though, is how the MCU will reimagine the villain-turned-hero for his debut series and the wider franchise as a whole. As we’ve explored here, there are plenty of options. This writer’s best guess would follow a beloved MCU tradition: Simon Williams could have been an employee or rival of Tony Stark. The latter seems likely as in the comics ’80s his history was expanded to include a backstory that pitted him against Stark Industries as a wealthy competitor to Stark.
In either case, it’s likely that the MCU will introduce the idea that Willliams’ coding skills or literal brain imprint were used to create Jarvis and eventually Vision, which would give him the vital connection that the characters need. It would be an easy way to establish the brotherhood between the pair, as well as connecting him back to Stark, something the MCU loves to do. Another option is that the Wonder Man series could potentially be a period piece, set in the past to establish the character and his life before he joins the MCU. That could be a great way to build in the comedic hijinx of his Hollywood career as well as letting audiences get to know Wonder Man before he joins the current MCU. It could also be an easy route to end with Williams in a coma, ready to be reawakened by the MCU’s newest big bad.
Looking at the comics and the timing of the Wonder Man series, it’s hard not to imagine that Kang will play a role in Simon’s main MCU introduction. The Legion of the Unliving could be a very cool thing to add to the MCU. Or we could see Kang in his scientist guise being the one who finds White Vision, connecting the new synthezoid with Simon. But we think it’s more likely that Simon will be established in the series before being introduced to the main MCU, where he will become entangled with a resurrected Scarlet Witch and become heavily involved with White Vision and the Avengers. Heck, in the comics Wanda and Wonder Man break up during the Kang Dynasty comic that gave the upcoming movie its title.
But we’ll have to wait until the highly-anticipated MCU series arrives on Disney+ to find out.
Rosie Knight is a contributing freelancer for covering everything from anime to comic books to kaiju to kids movies to horror flicks. She has over half a decade of experience in entertainment journalism with bylines at Nerdist, Den of Geek, Polygon, and more. Rosie is a published comics author who has written titles including Godzilla Rivals vs. Battra and The Haunted High-Tops. She co-hosts the weekly Crooked Media pop-culture podcast X-Ray Vision.