Ever since WandaVision was first revealed, Marvel fans have been asking one big question: What the heck is this show even about? Unlike a typical smash-and-bash superhero series, the new Disney+ series pays homage to television sitcoms like Leave It to Beaver and I Love Lucy while hinting at a darker plot lurking beneath the surface.
In a new interview, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige finally reveals not only why WandaVision looks so... strange, but that its primary inspiration is one of Marvel's most acclaimed (and weirdest) comics of the last decade.
What Happened? — In a January 11 interview with Variety, Kevin Feige expressed his admiration for classic TV sitcoms he watched via reruns on the boomer-targeted cable block Nick at Nite. "The way we made it is in large part because I spent an inordinate amount of time as a child watching TV and syndicated repeats of lots of sitcoms," Feige said. "I really became psychologically attached to a lot of these pretend TV characters."
But Feige never before had an opportunity to pay homage to sitcoms in a massive superhero film franchise. "My love of all sorts of movies and genre movies has absolutely been poured into all 23 movies you’ve seen us make," he said, "but that aspect of my past, I hadn’t even considered necessarily being able to do anything with."
And Then Came a Vision — Feige finally found an opportunity when he read the Eisner Award-winning 2015-2016 comic book series The Vision, by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The comic, about Vision attempting to have a "normal" life in a Washington D.C. suburb, had a specific imagery of mid-century Americana that inspired Feige to pursue a sitcom-style series with a dark, eerie tone underneath the veneer.
"The two things that changed that was seeing the comic miniseries The Vision end up on my desk," Feige said. "Those covers in particular of Vision standing in the doorway of a suburban home with a white picket fence and a mailbox that says 'The Visions' on it — that almost Leave It to Beaver-type imagery — and what it was like when he was in that environment is what led me to say, 'Let's look at putting these two things together.'"
What is The Vision? — The Variety interview is perhaps the first time Feige formally mentioned the award-winning The Vision as an inspiration for WandaVision. First published in November 2015, the 12-issue comic saw the Vision create an artificial family — wife Virginia, son Vin, and daughter Viv — and take up residence in an idyllic suburb.
While things look pleasant, there is darkness lying in wait. Vision's life unravels when a murder takes place in the Vision household, pushing the synthetic Avenger to extreme lengths to prevent losing his perfect family. All the while, the Vision family wrestles with their artificial nature as they desperately learn what it means to be human.
Visually like a Norman Rockwell painting and tonally like David Lynch movie (1986's Blue Velvet feels like a titanic influence), The Vision was unlike anything Marvel published before or since. In a 2015 review of the first issue, io9 wrote that The Vision was "unsettling."
"From the get go, we get to experience the emotional plight of the family — but through void-laden eyes, barely emoted faces, and artificial mannerisms of The Visions it becomes something weirdly sinister," wrote io9's James Whitbrook. "Like Vision and his family, you see the emotive core of the story, but aren’t quite sure how to react seeing it play out across this not-quite-human group of characters."
In an April 2016 piece, Matt Kim celebrated The Vision right here on Inverse, saying:
"The beauty of stories starring robots, or A.I. programs, or androids is that these stories tend to be examinations on the divide between nature and science, creation vs “creation”, etc. Only by looking at these tragic mechanical creations can we get a glimpse as to what makes our humanity unique. Vision isn’t that kind of story.
"Instead, it offers the reader a chance to sympathize with the programmed mind of a machine. We are given Vision’s logical perspective throughout the whole book, but we also see the ways in which the emotional fallout and the drama of the events around him force him to illogically change how he reacts to the given situations. We are introduced to Vision as a typical machine, one who favors normality. But as the murder and the blackmail mount, we see him twist those same principals so that he can protect his family. It’s one of the smartest, darkest, most interesting narratives for any book currently in print."
In 2017, The Vision was crowned "Best Limited Series" at the Eisner Awards, the Oscars for comic books. In a 2018 interview with Pop Mythology, Tom King simply said, “I’m a guy who deals with family every day. It comes out in my work. I wish I could be more original than that.”
The Inverse Analysis — While the 2005 comic House of M has as much influence on WandaVision, it's been interesting that Marvel has only now mentioned The Vision. When Marvel revealed the concept art of WandaVision way back in 2019, my gut told me the Disney+ series was loosely adapting one of the best comics of the 2010s. Yet no one at Marvel has talked about King and Walta's comic in interviews until recently.
Perhaps because the comic plays a more tonal influence on WandaVision than it is an adaptation. Everything we know about WandaVision indicates the show is mainly about Wanda, who isn't a main character in King and Walta's comic. The show also isn't about Vision living in D.C. as a defense analyst (maybe?) with two children (maybe?) and who covers up a murder. (...Maybe?) WandaVision is very much its own thing as it spoofs the decades of popular television. But when there's something dark and off-putting about Wanda and Vision's artificial domestic life, you don't have to look far to see where they got that from.
WandaVision begin streaming on Disney+ on January 15.