Wonder Man's Comics History Points to a 'Hollywood Hero' Series - Nerdist
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Wonder Man’s Comics History Points to a ‘Hollywood Hero’ Series

One of the most stalwart Avengers from the pages of Marvel Comics, Wonder Man, is finally making his way into the MCU. It was announced that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is taking on the role of superhero/movie star Simon Williams for a new Disney+ series. Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton is working together with Andrew Guest, producer of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Community, to bring the character to life in a new series. With Guest on board, we can safely assume the MCU Wonder Man series will have a more comedic bent, similar to Marvel Studio’s She-Hulk.

Wonder Man in the 2000s Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics

But you might be wondering who the heck Marvel’s Wonder Man even is and if he’s somehow related to Wonder Woman. Well, she’s a DC hero, and he’s a Marvel one, so that should answer your question. (Although the two did arm wrestle once in a crossover event, which Diana very likely won). Here’s the skinny on the so-called “Ionic Avenger,” and our theories on just what an MCU Disney+ series about the adventures of Simon Williams’ Wonder Man might look like.

Marvel’s Wonder Man: The Seventh Avenger

The first appearance of Wonder Man, in the pages of Avengers in 1964.
Marvel Comics

Wonder Man was actually one of the earliest Marvel heroes ever inducted into the Avengers. He first appeared in Avengers #9, way back in 1964, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Technically, he was the seventh member to be inducted into the team. However, Wonder Man seemingly died in the very issue Marvel introduced him, and he didn’t come back to life on a more permanent basis for another 12 years, in 1976. As for why he was sidelined for so long, Stan Lee insisted that DC Comics threatened legal action due to Wonder Woman. But once DC introduced a Power Girl after Marvel introduced Power Man (Luke Cage) first, it seemed they had no legal legs to stand on. And thus, Wonder Man returned to the pages of Marvel Comics. We assume the MCU won’t follow this precedent when Wonder Man finally arrives on our screens.

A Wonderous Origin Story for Wonder Man

Wonder Man 1979 costume
Marvel Comics

Simon Williams was a spoiled trust fund baby, heir to the company and fortune of Sandford Williams. But his bad business decisions ran Williams Innovations into the ground, and Simon blamed the company’s biggest rival, Stark Industries. He accepted an offer from the villainous Baron Zemo to gain ionic powers in an experiment. And thus, Marvel’s Wonder Man was born. Wonder-Man’s powers included super strength, invulnerability, and in later years, flight and energy projection. It’s too early to know which power the MCU version of Wonder Man will retain from his comics counterpart.

The Grim Reaper, Eric Williams, fights his brother and the Avengers.
Marvel Comics

Simon Williams thus took on the identity of a new Marvel superhero named Wonder Man. And then, under Zemo’s orders, Wonder Man infiltrated Tony Stark’s team. All with the intent of destroying Iron Man and the Avengers from within. But Simon had a change of heart after serving with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Unable to betray his new teammates, he dies defending them from Zemo’s Masters of Evil. His criminal brother Eric Williams adopts the identity of the Grim Reaper. Grim Reaper then seeks revenge on the Avengers, blaming them for Wonder Man’s death. In the process, he becomes one of their worst enemies.

From Bad Guy to Essential Avenger

The many costumes of Simon Williams, the Wonder Man.
Marvel Comics

But, of course, Simon wasn’t really dead. The body of this Marvel hero went into an “ionic coma,” during which time Hank Pym recorded Wonder Man’s brain patterns. Patterns that would later form the basis for the mind of the android Vision. Eventually, Simon would emerge from his coma, and rejoin the Avengers in earnest. His brother Eric now hated Simon for siding with the Avengers after he became their enemy, causing that relationship to fall apart. But Simon had a new sibling now, as he considered Vision his “brother,” since they shared brain patterns. Wonder Man’s connection to Vision could come strongly into play in his MCU future.

He also made best friends with the X-Men’s Beast. Wonder Man also founded the West Coast Avengers and began a long career in the movies, trading on his superhero status to become an actor. And he’s been juggling those two roles ever since.

Simon Williams, the Avenger known as Wonder Man.
Marvel Comics

Nathan Fillion as Wonder Man? (It Almost Happened)

Wonder Man very nearly made it into the MCU before, albeit in a minor way. There were Easter egg movie posters in the background of the Earth-based scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that featured Marvel’s Wonder Man. And the face used for these Wonder Man posters was none other than Castle and Firefly actor Nathan Fillion. But those scenes were cut from the final film. Perhaps even back then, Kevin Feige had other things in mind for the Superstar Avenger.

Marvel’s Wonder Man in the MCU

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black-Manta in Aquaman and a comic page of Wonder Man
Warner Bros./Marvel Comics

There will probably be a few key differences between the Marvel Comics Wonder Man origin story and the one Yahya Abdul-Mateen’s version will have in the MCU. Unless we see extensive (and expensive) flashbacks, we doubt that Baron Zemo will have given powers to Wonder Man to go after Tony Stark. Marvel Studios would have to bring back Daniel Bruhl and Robert Downey Jr. for that, and we’d be very surprised if that happened. So Wonder Man’s MCU origin story will have to be retooled a bit. But with a Vision series coming soon, Marvel might find a way to tie Wonder Man and Vision together in the MCU, as per the comics.

So how could this work? Perhaps, in an effort to regain a more human personality without the mind stone, Vision fuses with Wonder Man’s ion-powered mind. This would be a way to tie the two characters together in a way that is similar to the comics. And if the Scarlet Witch ever returns (which she will), it might make for a very interesting love triangle. In Marvel’s comics, Wanda once brought Wonder Man back to life after one of his many deaths as being of pure energy. Of course, the character of Simon Williams could definitely stand on his own. But could Marvel Studios resist incorporating two of their biggest assets, Wanda and Vision, into the proceedings? We doubt it.

The love triangle of Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, and Vision.
Marvel Comics
Wonder Man Could Be Marvel Studios’ First Hero-Turned Star in his Series

So far, in the MCU, we’ve seen superheroes as celebrities, like Iron Man. In fact, all of the Avengers have public identities, with the exception of Spider-Man. But we’ve never seen one parlay that fame into getting jobs on the big screen or doing product endorsement the way Wonder Man might in the MCU. Wonder Man is the ultimate celebrity/hero. He is someone who has to juggle the ridiculousness of life as a movie star with actually helping people. And that aspect of the Marvel hero’s could make for one interesting MCU Wonder Man series.

Wonder Man in ion energy form.
Marvel Comics

Series like The Boys have dealt with this idea, but mostly in a satirical way. They’ve never really done a deep dive into what it means to be both hero and a movie star. A Wonder Man series would be the perfect opportunity. It’s also perfect for a comedic angle because we’d likely see exaggerated movie versions of MCU heroes. We’ve seen Yaya Abdul-Mateen play a supervillain in Aquaman and a super god in Watchmen, so we know he can pull off a Marvel super movie star in Wonder Man.

Originally published on June 17, 2022 

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