There’s Nothing Wonder Bread About Wonder Man

We examine the news that Wonder Man will join the MCU in a new Disney+ series and consider how that aligns with Kevin Feige's plans.
Wonder Man Marvel Studios

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores the report of Wonder Man possibly joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how he fits into Kevin Feige’s plans.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably say it again: No comic book character is too obscure to get the Marvel Studios treatment. Rocket Raccoon, Shang-Chi, and Moon Knight could barely sustain their own comic title. Now, they’re household names. Hell, they’ve even resurrected Howard the Duck.

The entire MCU was built around Iron Man. Pre-2008, Tony Stark was considered a second-tier or third-tier supporting player within the comic book realm. That idea today seems absolutely absurd. If Marvel Studios has proven anything, even the silliest concepts can become blockbuster badasses when paired with the proper creative team. Audiences will accept the silly and the wild. In fact, they crave it.

Getting word that ShangChi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton and Brooklyn NineNine writer/producer Andrew Guest are working on a Wonder Man series for Disney+ is still deliciously ridiculous. In some circles, the comic book character is an object of ridicule. In other, wiser circles, the character is an alarming indication of where the MCU might be heading with a few of its Avengers.

Who is Wonder Man?

Wonder Man, aka Simon Williams, first appeared in 1964’s The Avengers #9. He’s the collaborative creation of Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and Stan Lee. Most interestingly, Wonder Man arrived as a threat to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and died in that issue. Ah, but what does death mean in comics? Absolutely nothing.

Eight years after his introduction and demise, Wonder Man returned in The Avengers #103 as a comatose prisoner to the diabolical Kang the Conqueror. Yes, this is where things get crazy. Those paying close attention to Phase 4 after the Loki season one finale should have their ears pricked.

We’ve known for a while that Kang will terrorize Ant-Man and the Wasp in their Quantumania sequel. However, Kang’s treacherous reign and Jonathan Majors‘ performance of him will not be contained to one mere sequel. In an interview with Total Film magazine, Kevin Feige recently stated that the larger picture would soon reveal itself to Marvel fans. Plenty of hints have already been dropped regarding the current saga’s destination. Kang and Wonder Man fit nicely into those plans.

Kang revives Wonder Man as a weapon against the heroes. He’s easily thwarted, but this is not the last time Wonder Man is manipulated in such a fashion. Each time he’s brainwashed by a psycho to do some dark bidding. After Kang comes the Black Talon, and after that nutter, the Living Laser.

Marvel Studios Already Tried a Wonder Man

What’s most significant, though, is what happened to Wonder Man before his resuscitation. While trapped in suspended animation, the murderous robot Ultron used his brain patterns to create Vision. It’s similar to what went down in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but obviously, minus Simon Williams.

We must consider where Vision and Kang are at this moment in the MCU. Sylvie killed He Who Remains during Loki‘s climax, which allowed the Multiverse to erupt again, freeing the many Kangs to run amuck. At the end of WandaVision, we saw how S.W.O.R.D. pieced together Vision after his encounter with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. The new and “improved” Vision not only lacked the original’s Time Stone, but he seemed emotionally distant too.

Wanda’s Westview-fabricated Vision battled the zombie white Vision and achieved victory only after he unlocked the memories buried in the other Vision’s databanks. The restored Vision currently remembers his time with Wanda and the Avengers but feels nothing toward him. He needs to reclaim his humanity, for lack of a better word. Simon Williams, the Wonder Man, could be the human to help.

We nearly made contact with Simon Williams in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Writer/director James Gunn cast his frequent collaborator Nathan Fillion in the role and almost shot some scenes with the actor. Alas, those sequences were cut, and Wonder Man‘s time in the franchise was put on hold. If you look closely in the background of the film’s few Earth-set sequences, you can spot a movie poster featuring Simon Williams.

Wonder Man, Wanda, and Vision

In the comics, before battling Captain America and his buds, Wonder Man made a living on the big screen. Williams pushes himself even further into Hollywood when he gains his superstrength and ion-based energy powers. He was less of a reality star and more of an Audie Murphy type, using his superhero experiences as the backbone of his cinematic exploits.

As you might guess, this greatly enlarges Wonder Man’s ego, and part of his charm is how unsufferable he can sometimes be. It’s easy to imagine a situation where Simon Williams, the actor, is gravely injured during an MCU blowout. Vision is nearby. So is Hank Pym or Bruce Banner or some other smart guy Marvel scientist. They plant his brain patterns into the new-old Vision to save Simon Williams’ life. The communion allows Vision to reconnect with his emotions. He’s almost like the Vibranium-skinned hero we once knew, except he has Simon Williams’ thoughts rattling around inside.

Imagine a WandaVision sequel where Vision and Wonder Man come together and come apart. They are two wretchedly flawed creations. Both suffer from tremendous psychological and physical pain. Both are healed through platonic and romantic relationships…relationships with Wanda.

Yeah, back in the books, when Vision and Wanda initially split over that whole fake kid thing, Wanda gravitated toward Wonder Man. After all, Vision’s brain patterns were lifted from him anyway. She gets another try with the same fella, sorta. It’s creepy and weird and oh so delightfully Marvel.

Wonder Man is an Easy fit for the MCU’s Future

Wanda appeared to perish in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but, again, you can’t trust a death if you don’t see a body. And even then, you can’t trust a death. Comic book stakes are not about who lives and who dies. Comic book stakes are rooted in emotional torment. The physical stuff, including the punching and kicking, always takes a backseat to the hyper-realized inner conflict. No one really cares whether Wanda is too strong for the MCU or not. They do care whether she and Vision can return to that all too brief blissful moment before Thanos’ children ruined everything.

Wonder Man does not have the most interesting moniker in comics. Kirby, Lee, and Heck probably just went, “Well, DC has Wonder Woman. Why can’t we have Wonder Man?” And we’re all stuck with it.

Wonder Man’s journey through Marvel Comics is super weird, though. The further the MCU continues, the weirder it will be and needs to be. Wonder Man perfectly slides into Phase Four or Five. He’ll provide plenty of hot gossip for us to dish over, breathing new awkward life into Wanda and Vision’s romance while stirring heated online debate.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)