Earlier this year, in June, it was announced that a Wonder Man series is in development in the MCU, written by “Hawkeye” and “Brooklyn 99” writer Andrew Guest, with “Shang-Chi” fame Dustin Daniel Cretton serving the role of director. The buzz around the series started after last month’s reports of actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II being cast as the titular lead. However, this seemingly obscure character is closely related to key members of the Avengers in various capacities, which will probably be explored further in the upcoming Disney+ series. We will briefly discuss Wonder Man’s comic origins and progression as a character and how he fits into the larger MCU landscape.
Comic Origins: Wonder Man
Despite being identified with a name that might sound derivative, Wonder Man, aka Simon Williams, shares no similarities with the Amazonian warrior princess. One of Marvel’s first silver age characters, Wonder Man made his first appearance in “The Avengers” #9 in 1964, created by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Don Heck. In comics, Simon inherited his multimillionaire father Sanford Williams ammunition business after his demise. A promising scientist himself, Simon lacked the business-minded approach required and lost half of his company’s fortune to rival Stark Industries. To add to his miseries, his brother Eric advised him to embezzle money which, unbeknownst to him, was used in illegal racketeering. This bankrupts his company, and Simon ends up in prison, all the while blaming Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, for his downfall for reasons unknown.
His hatred for Tony Stark led him to shake hands with the villainous Baron Zemo, who offered him powers to match the Avengers in exchange for infiltrating the superteam on his behalf. Zemo imbued him with ionic energy and gave him the moniker “Wonder Man.” Simon gained superhuman strength, powers of ionic energy manipulation, and invulnerability, to name a few. To ensure Simon’s loyalty, he blackmails him by saying his excessive ionic energies, which might kill him, can only be nullified by Zemo. Simon earned the Avenger’s trust and joined them, but as Zemo’s plan came closer to fruition, Simon had a change of heart and sacrificed his life to save the team in their battle against Zemo. His brain patterns were recorded by Avengers teammate Hank Pym, which were later stolen by Pym’s creation Ultron, and the brain patterns were then used by Ultron as a blueprint to give the synthezoid Vision intellectual and psychological profile.
Distraught over his brother’s death, Eric Williams takes on the alias of the villainous Grim Reaper and attacks the Avengers multiple times as a form of revenge. Meanwhile, Simon’s body was not truly dead; it remained in suspended animation for a long time and was resurrected by supervillains on multiple occasions (once by Kang) in order to beat the Avengers. After being resurrected for the third time, Simon fully came back to life as his ionic energy sustained him to the point where he became an ionic being himself. He was officially inducted into the Avengers, and throughout his career as Wonder Man, he led or joined various incarnations of the Avengers, like “The West Coast Avengers,” “The Mighty Avengers,” and even an “Anti-Avengers” team like “The Revengers.” Due to multiple deaths and rebirths, Simon fears dying again and suffers from low esteem due to his past failures. After his tenure as an Avenger was over, Simon pursued a career in Hollywood and turned into an overnight star after starting as a stuntman. He also shares a complicated relationship with Vision, whom he first considered a fake version of himself (as his brain pattern constituted Vision’s mind) and later accepted as a brother. He also shared a brief romance with Scarlet Witch, and yeah, it’s complicated with Vision thrown into the mix. All of these storylines and character traits have significant potential to be explored in the current MCU.
Wonder Man In MCU
This isn’t the first time that Wonder Man has been considered for use in a Marvel Cinematic Universe project. Previously, director James Gunn had almost casted Nathan Fillion to play the part in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The many deaths and rebirths of Simon Williams will give the showrunners an interesting prospect. MCU has previously worked extensively on character psyche and exploring issues related to a troubled mental state in Disney plus series like “WandaVision” and “MoonKnight.” The “Wonder Man” series will offer a unique perspective on a character who is a reluctant hero at times, has serious trauma instilled in him due to repeated deaths, and considers himself a failure due to extremely low self-esteem. Again, the series can also act as a meta-narrative, with Simon being an actor in the series itself. MCU’s venture into Hollywood will allow for some pretty clever self-deprecating humor. Especially as MCU occasionally finds itself in hot waters in interviews with several directors, addressing those problems in a self-aware tone like “The Boys” will be a possibility in the series.
As for the connection to the larger MCU, Wonder Man has a lot of strings it can pull, but it still has some limitations. For starters, a character’s origin is related to the Stark fortune is not the first to be seen in the MCU; in fact, it has been overused to the point of being a cliché and a joke (Vanko, Hammer, Vulture, Killian, Mysterio and the list just goes on). Therefore, beating a dead horse—I mean, dead Stark—for yet another character’s background will probably not be the right way to do things. Perhaps they will rather focus on the character’s scientist background or pair up the character with Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, who will make a return to the MCU in the upcoming series “Armor Wars.” Ben Kingsley’s full-time actor and part-time fake Mandarin character Trevor Slattery will appear in the series, so it can be confirmed that the Hollywood/actor route for Simon Williams will be taken in the series too. The relationship with Vision and Wanda is another rocky road to traverse for Simon Williams, as Vision is dead in the MCU, and presumably, so is Wanda. However, Wanda’s death is not confirmed, and according to rumors, she will indeed return in the Disney+ Agatha series or in “Visionquest.” Also, White Vision is still on the loose after gaining consciousness from Hex Vision in the “WandaVision” finale and might come into contact with Simon. Kang might play an important role in bringing White Vision and Wonder Man together, as in the comics, he resurrected Wonder Man for the first time. Yahya Abdul-Mateen is almost an expert in superhero gigs, as he has already played the villainous Black Manta in DC’s Aquaman movie franchise and won his first Emmy for his portrayal of the near-omnipotent God complex-afflicted Doctor Manhattan in DC and HBO’s Watchmen series. It will be exciting to see him command a significant role in the MCU as a character that has multiple options to be explored.