Avengers Spotlight #40

Issue Date: 
January 1991
Story Title: 

Len Kaminski & Carrie Barre (writers), Gavin Curtis (penciler), Dan Panosian (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Renee Witterstaetter (colorist), Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFaclo (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

The android Avenger called the Vision runs a self-diagnostic – all his systems are functioning fine, but he discovers that he seems to lack a purpose. He wants to talk to his fellow Avengers about this, but they either have other plans or aren't available. Even Edwin Jarvis seems preoccupied. So, the Vision reads some “Dear Ann” help letters in a newspaper, and decides to seek out someone who understands android programming, who he thinks might be the best person for him to talk about his problems to. Miles Lipton is a wheelchair-bound man who is investigating some shady dealings by a division of Roxxon, who he blames for the death of his son. Miles is a brilliant scientist who specializes in artificial intelligence Miles Lipton seems pleased to be spending time with the Vision, and finds it fascinating when the Vision explains to him that he feels he lacks a purpose. Miles gives the Vision a holographic image inducer, which allows him to take a more human looking appearance, and suggests he get out and explore various normal human activities. One week later, calling himself “Victor Shade” the Vision meets up with Miles, and his daughter-in-law, Laura, who seems quite taken by him. The Vision relates all of his recent activities to Miles – going to church, opening a bank account, patronishing a sports bar and watching a horror film at the cinema, among others. However, Miles notices that at times when he talks, the Vision appears to get stuck in some sort of loop with his speech. They return to Miles's lab, where Miles runs some additional tests on the Vision and deduces that the lack of a human brain pattern may be responsible for this fault – and Alex has the perfect candidate – the brain patterns of his dead son. Unfortunately, Roxxon employees break into the lab, after detecting that Miles had been accessing their computer systems, investigating his son's death. They kidnap Miles and the Vision and take them to a Roxxon building, where they force Miles to work for them, while the Vision is connected to a computer system. When he has a moment where the guard is asleep, Miles downloads his son's brain patterns into the Vision. The Vision is then “re-born”. He sets out to take down the Roxxon employees, defeating them with ease, and during the fight, one of the Roxxon employees confesses to the death of Miles's son. Later, the Vision continues to use the Victor Shade alias and after Laura thanks him for saving her father-in-law, the Vision spends some more time with Miles. Later still, at Avengers Mansion, Jarvis wants to apologize to the Vision for not taking his concerns earlier more seriously, but the Vision assures Jarvis there is no issue, and uses the image inducer to change into Victor Shade as he announces that he is off to a baseball game, perplexing Jarvis as to these developments.

Full Summary: 

The synthezoid Avenger known as the Vision is conducting a self-diagnostic, and runs a systems status check. The Vision begins with motor functions, group one of the joint/musculature group, noting that articulation is type 7, aperture is 90 degrees, with no bad or missing drivers, meaning function level is at 100%. Group 2 is respiration fluid transfer, with O2 reserve status at capacity, power level is fully charged and function level is also at 100%. Group 3 is the sensory input. The sensory input buffer is active, with no bad or missing sensory devices, meaning function level is also 100%. Group 4 is data entry and retrieval. Data analysis software is loaded, with ram cache at 100 gigabytes. Function level is also at 100%, while audio visual systems and digital recording and storage take up 561 gigabytes on disc, leaving 739 gigabytes available. Interface with group 5, cognitive function, is also at optimum level.

Group 5 is data processing/cognitive function, with self-awareness emulation loaded, the logic function is loaded, creative synthesis emulation is loaded, but human emotion emulation feature is disabled, or the driver is bad or missing. Random number functions/uncertainty drive has all drivers present and functioning, with function level at 100%, and integrated group function is also at 100%. The Vision's systems status check result indicates that all systems are at the highest function level, the status of system is at nominal operation, but he has a user query – what is his purpose? The filename “purpose” is bad or missing. The Vision ends the diagnostic, and the system diagnostic is terminated.

'Resume default settings' the ghostly Vision thinks as he stalks the corridors of Avengers HQ. 'Good afternoon, Captain America' the Vision calls out when he sees his teammate. Cap greets the Vision, and the Vision tells him that if he has a moment, there is a matter he would like to discuss with him. 'It is not official Avenger business, but...' the Vision begins, but Captain America interrupts him, 'I'd love to, Vision, but at the moment, Sersi and I are running late for a charity auction at Sotheby's -'. Sersi appears and suggests the Vision try the lounge, as she saw Quasar there a few minutes ago. Sersi turns to Cap and tells him to come on, as there is a Magritte at the auction that matches her furniture perfectly.

The Vision enters the lounge, and although he decides that Quasar is inexperienced, his objective viewpoint would prove useful – but Quasar isn't in the lounge, and instead, the Vision finds a note from Quasar that says he has gone fishing and will be back on Wednesday. 'Conclusion: Insufficient data...' the Vision tells himself. 'Sir?' Edwin Jarvis asks as he enters the lounge and asks the Vision if he will be requiring anything else before he leaves for the evening. The Vision asks if there are any other off-duty Avengers on the premises. Jarvis reports that there are not – the only other Avenger here is Thor, who is helping to install the new reactor core. 'And I can't vouch for his spirits this evening – manual labor tends to make him, well, irritable...' Jarvis adds. Vision thanks Jarvis, who bids the Vision a good evening as he departs.

The Vision turns to a newspaper and picks it up, where he starts to read from a help column: “Dear Ann, recently I had a traumatic accident. Since then, although my health is now fine, I feel empty and directionless. I feel I must have been born for a reason, and yet, I have no idea what that reason is. It has gotten...” the Vision stops reading, and thinks to himself 'Data entry mode complete / transmit to cognitive function for analysis'.

Two hours later, in Morristown, New Jersey. 'Nope. Nope. Try again' a man in a wheelchair thinks to himself as he sits in front of a large computer console. 'Ah-ha! I'm in! Gotcha!' he exclaims as he taps away at the computer console, when suddenly, 'Whoops' he utters as he looks at some paper printed out from the console. The computer screen shows that he is hacking into Roxxon International's black budget, but a warning sign flashes up, indicating that the current access line is being traced, and asks him if he wants to abort. 'Heck, yes!' the man exclaims, thinking to himself that he is back to square one. Suddenly, an alarm sounds and he looks at another monitor, which depicts the Vision entering the building. 'Interesting' he thinks to himself.

A moment later, 'Sir, I presume you are Miles Lipton, researcher in artificial intelligence and consciousness theory' the Vision states as he enters the room. 'None other' Miles Lipton, the man in the wheelchair, confirms. The Vision holds up the newspaper and states that he has analyzed the “Ann Landers” column, and explains that the information Ann imparts concerning “seeking the counsel of a therapist” is appropriate to his situation. Miles looks up at the Vision and smiles, before asking him to elaborate. The Vision states that he elected to seek out the closest analogue to such an individual – one who would process the necessary skills to assist him. Miles asks the Vision what the nature of his problem is, and the Vision explains that, recently, his systems underwent a radical reconfiguration, and since that event, he finds himself experiencing a state he is unable to classify, which, in the absence of a more precise term, he is forced to call “distress”. The Vision reveals that this distress centers around an illogical yet persistent sensation of incompleteness.

The Vision continues, stating that after considerable reflection, he has determined that the foremost cause of this state is the fact that his programming does not contain a concrete, long-term objective or goal. 'In short, Dr Lipton, I am without purpose!' the Vision exclaims. 'Fascinating...' Miles Lipton utters.

Later, Miles informs the Vision that “purpose” is not some objectifiable list of instructions hardwired into an organism, but instead an illusion maintained by the ego acting in concern with the survival instinct. Miles continues, telling the Vision that what he is looking for can't be programmed in, that the sense of purpose of a drive towards a distinct goal is something every intelligent being must determine for itself. 'I follow your reasoning, Dr Lipton, however I – however, I – however, I -' the Vision stumbles, before regaining his speech and declaring that he nonetheless fails to see its application in his particular case. 'All my systems report nominal operating status. Have I displayed any behavior which would give you cause for such concern?' the Vision asks. Miles wonders what that was all about, and asks the Vision if he is experiencing any sort of malfunction, and thinks to himself that this might be more complicated than he thought.

Later still, 'Well, it's a rush job, but it should work' Miles tells the Vision as he hands him a small device, informing him that  he would like to attach this device to his chest and activate it. 'Very well' the Vision responds as he places the small device on his chest. Miles reveals that it is a holographic image inducer, which will create a three-dimensional image which will allow the Vision to pass among humans unnoticed. 'I still fail to -' the Vision begins, before activating the device, which makes him appear as a man in a white suit, with a blue tie, a small white diamond on the tie. He appears with slicked-back brown hair, graying at the temples. 'There are over eight million humans in the city, Vision. Each with his or her own personal goals, drives, ambitions and desires. Use this device to walk amongst them, pick out an average human name, interact, participate. After you've done this, we'll talk again' Miles suggests, to which the Vision finds a most intriguing proposal, and accepts the invitation.

One week later, Miles Lipton is being pushed through a park in his wheelchair by a woman he calls Laura, and tells her that he was this close to having the proof that he needs, that he had cracked the Black Budget Records, and he knows he will find a “smoking gun” - given time. Laura tells Miles that she doesn't like it, that she thinks it is too dangerous. 'You know as well as I do that they won't hesitate to kill you if you actually manage to prove they kill Alex' Laura adds. But Miles tells her that he doesn't care, and that justice for Alex is worth what is left of his life. 'Miles! It's bad enough to have lost my husband – I don't want to lose his father, too!' Laura exclaims, asking Miles to promise that he will give it up. 'I...um...hey!' Miles replies, not answering Laura's question, as a man in a white suit approaches them. 'What do you know – my “date” is here!' Miles exclaims, as he starts to introduce the man in the white suit to his daughter-in-aw, Laura Lipton. 'This is Mister...uh...' Miles' voice begins to trail off, as the new arrival announces himself as Victor Shade. 'We'll talk about this later, Miles' Laura whispers.

'Good afternoon, Miss' Victor Shade remarks. 'Howdy. You take good care of my favorite curmudgeon, Mister Shade' Laura smiles, before she walks off. Victor Shade – the Vision – takes the handles of the wheelchair and asks Dr Lipton if he has demmonstrated lack of concern for his welfare. 'Haha! No Vision – not at all!' Dr Lipton replies. 'Then why -' the Vision starts to ask, but Miles tells him 'Never mind' and asks him how his studies are going. They approach a lake, and the Vision confesses that he has found the exercise most interesting, as humans and human culture are considerably more complex than he had previously estimated. He reports that he has engaged in a number of statistically typical activities in the past seven days, notably attending a highly illogical, yet colorful ancient ritual at a local religious franchise, opening a private bank account, using funds provided by an Avengers stipend he had not previously utilized, patronized an establishment known as a “sports bar”, where, with the assistance of another patron, he acquired a working knowledge of a televised game of “baseball”, and later, he sampled contemporary American cinema entitled “Revenge of the Blood Freak, part 9”, where he found the audiences' reactions to it much more interesting than the film itself. The Vision tells Miles that, finally, he observed a large gathering of persons engaging in something called a “Festival of St Anthony” on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village.

The Vision admits that he is quite intrigued, and somewhat perplexed, at the marked variety humans exhibit, and asks if the various human personality traits are determined genetically or environmentally. Miles laughs, to which the Vision tells him that he was not conscious of engaging in humor. 'No, it's just that -' Miles starts to say, before the Vision begins repeating 'In humor – in humor -' over and over again, as if he is stuck. Miles looks up at the Vision, realizing that this is happening again, he thinks that the Vision has entered some kind of fugue state, like a feedback loop. 'This time, however, I'm prepared' he tells himself, as he holds up a portable diagnostic interface, which will let him access the Vision's internal systems, he presses a button on the device, which indicates that there is a software error, and that a reboot is in progress.

Hours later, in Dr Lipton's lab, where he has spent much time number-crunching, pouring over reports, he suddenly realizes that it is so obvious – and that he has determined the source of the Vision's problems, both physical and psychological – despite previous evidence, it has now become clear that the incorporation of human brain patterns into the Vision's original operating system was a necessary step. He looks at a print out and states that due to the system's unique self-programming nature, a standard operating system is unable to cope with the Vision's constantly-evolving complexity, and will eventually fail, but the use of human brain patterns as a template adds a non-linear element to the operating system's architecture, and prevents systemic failure. 'As it happens, there is such a template available' Miles announces, as he holds up a disc, noting that he is aware that the Vision has previously rejected the option of reinstallation of the brain patterns of Simon Williams – but he suspects that the Vision might  be more agreeable to his suggestion as the source of this template is no longer living, and therefore presents no inter-personal conflict. 'Vision?' Miles asks as the Vision enters the laboratory, 'Fatal system error... abort retry?' the Vision states in a strange voice, repeating it over and over again.

Soon, the Vision is laid on an examination table, and Miles sits next to him, where he announces that he has accessed the Vision's operating system and has assumed control of it. Several cables are connected to the Vision, as Miles has put him in “sleep” mode, in the hope that minimal activity will prevent further software damage. 'It is my hope that -' Miles begins, when suddenly, 'Well. Isn't this heartwarming?' a voice calls out. 'A boy and his android' a man in a black suit declares. Several other men in black suits are with him, all carrying guns as they rush into the lab. 'Surprised? Did you really expect to go snooping around in our mainframe without getting caught?' the man in the black suit asks, spinning Miles' wheelchair around, he warns Miles that that was stupid, real stupid – and dangerous, too. 'In fact, I heard it was that sort of stupidity that got your son killed' the thug remarks. 'I guess some people never learn' he adds. 'I oughta turn you into a stain on the pavement right now – but I've got a better idea' the thug claims, instructing the others to grab the android, as they will take them both back. 'Doc, I'm giving you a job!' the thug exclaims.

Soon, inside Roxxon Cybernetics Division headquarters, in a laboratory, the thug stands near the Vision, who is laid out on a table, while Miles sits in his wheelchair nearby. 'Here's the deal, Doc – you reprogram the Pilsbury Doughboy here to work for us, and we'll give the possibility of letting you live some serious consideration. Or, we could shoot you in the head right now. Whaddya say?' the thug asks. 'All right' Miles responds. 'Fabulous!' the thug declares, dropping some files onto Miles' lap, he tells him that they are the equipment manuals and that he can now get to work. He instructs one of the thugs to stay with the Doc, and orders another to come with him, stating that they are going to break the good news to the brass. 'I'll take good care of 'im, boss' a handsome thug with blond hair replies. 'I bet they make me a Vice-President of Extra-Legal Activities for this...!' the thug calls out as he leaves the laboratory.

Time passes, and Miles taps away at a keyboard, hoping he can reconfigure the Vision's operating system before Roxxon check the programming instructions he has given him – meaning there might be a chance. Reading a report, the thug smiles as he tells Dr Lipton that he has done nice work, and asks 'That a robot or a paperweight?' Nervously, Miles thinks to himself that he is getting close.


Finally: 'He's ready. Just one last element – human brain patterns' an unkempt, overworked Miles thinks to himself, holding up the disc, he is lucky that he had it with him. 'My God, Alex, how could we have known, when we made this record...what was to come...your death...and the Vision's rebirth?' Miles asks as he slots the disc into the console the Vision is attached to.

The Vision is conscious. He is a self-motivating anthromimetic unit, designated “Vision”, and his operating system is online. He accepts the system reconfiguration, and reads the new drive – Litpon, Alexander/brain pattern record. Metaprogramming is in progress. Biological/survival mode is installed. Cooperative/socialization mode is installed. Symbolic/tool-using mode is installed. Beurosomatic/self-programming mode is installed. Transcendental/self-metaprogramming mode is installed, but inaccessible – the drivers are bad or missing. 'I think therefore I am on line!' the Vision thinks to himself, his reconfiguration complete, system control is restored to him.

'Dr Lipton. According to my internal clock, my higher systems have been deactivated for a  significant period of time' the Vision states as he sits up on the table, before asking Dr Lipton if he could please provide him with information regarding the events which have transpired in that interval. 'Well, let me put it this way – we're hip-deep in hot water – but I've got a plan...' Miles responds.

And so, the Vision reduces the reduction of his bodily density to minimum level, rendering him nearly invisible as he floats over to where the blond guard is sleeping in a chair, and decides that this is a fortunate occurance. 'Status update: preparing for neural override...' the Vision thinks to himself as he hides himself within the guard's body. An alarm sounds, and several of the Roxxon goons rush into the room. 'All right! What's going -' one of them begins, as the leader of the group exclaims 'The android – it's gone!' He aims his gun right at Miles Lipton's head and demands 'Where is it?' Miles points at the sleeping guard and claims 'Some other guys came and took it. They paid off your guard' before asking 'What was I supposed to do?' The thug goes over to the sleeping guard, 'You worthless piece of – where is the android!' he shouts, putting a finger on the guard's head. The guard remains asleep, while the Vision, inside his body, thinks 'Cortical splice initiated – domination of motor control: 100%!' and suddenly controls the guard's body, grabbing him and punching him across the room. 'Status update: neural override successful' the Vision thinks to himself. 'Solidification of key neural linkages of unit brain, aligned with reciprocal points in host body, has allowed domination of host body's voluntary nervous system'.

The Vision leaves the guard's body and his ghostly form wafts over to another of the goons, and enters their body. 'Something weird's going on. Ice the old man' one of the goons suggests, but as he aims his gun at Dr Lipton's head, the other guard who the Vision is now controlling remarks 'I think not' as he knocks the other guard over. 'I strongly recommend cessation of all criminal activity' he states. 'Further attempts to initiate violence shall be dealt with harshly!' the Vision declares as he kicks one of the guards who attempts to trip him up. The Vision tells himself that the current body he is controlling is the sole remaining source of physical threat to Dr Lipton, and concludes that the course of action is incapacitation, so he punches the guard in the face with his own fist.

The Vision solidifies himself again and grabs the man who was acting as leader of the goons, and tells him that he is the authority figure responsible for many recent criminal actions directed at Dr Lipton. 'Explain yourself' the Vision instructs him. The thug explains that Lipton's son worked for Roxxon R&D, and found out about some super top secret weapons thing, and the order came forn from above to ice him. 'That's all I know. I just do hits, okay!' he exclaims. The Vision thanks him for his cooperation and lets him drop to the ground. 'Are you undamaged, Dr Lipton?' the Vision asks. 'Are you kidding? He just confessed to my son's murder – and your memories are admissible as evidence in a court of law! I couldn't be better!' Dr Lipton grins.

Later, at the park, the Vision stands near the lake and tells himself that the recent reconfiguration incorporating new human brain patterns has stabilized all functions, and permanent installation of holographic image inducer has greatly aided in continued study of human culture under the identity of “Victor Shade”.  He switches into his Victor Shade form, and acknowledges that continued association with Dr Miles Lipton has proven to be an ongoing rewarding experience. 'Vic!' Laura shouts as as she wheels Miles over towards him. 'Miles told me that you were instrumental in helping him bring Alex's killers to justice' Laura remarks as she hugs Victor, and thanks him. Laura adds that she thinks it is time for a certain aging hacker to get out of his lab for an evening, as she has three tickets to the Mets game tomorrow night, and she wants the two of them to come with her. 'That means no excuses, Miles, okay?' Laura adds, smiling. 'Okay!' Miles responds.

'Vic?' Laura asks. Victor Shade tells her that he would find it a most interesting experience, and that he shall attend. 'All right!' Laura grins, before walking off. Miles tells the Vision that he also wants to thank him, and hands him a book called “The Naked Ape”. 'For starters, here's something that may help you in understanding the “illogical human operating system”' Miles suggests. Victor begins to push Miles along the path that runs next to the lake, and reminds him that last week they were discussing Bell's Incompleteness Theorem....

The next day, at Avengers Mansion, Jarvis enters a living room and tells the Vision that he is so glad to find him off duty, and asks him if he can have a word with him. Jarvis walks closer to the Vision and tells him that it has been bothering him for some weeks that he was so short with him when he attempted to consult his opinion. 'I left rather abruptly due to personal business and it only occurred to me later that your problem may have been of a personal nature' Jarvis remarks, adding that he understands the Vision no longer possesses human feelings, but that is no excuse for his behavior, and asks him to forgive him. The Vision looks up from the newspaper he is reading and tells Jarvis that he has never found his behavior to be other than that of a gentleman, and so no apology is necessary. The Vision then asks Jarvis to excuse him, as he has some personal business of his own to attend to.

The Vision states that he will be attending a sports match between the Mets of New York and the Expos of Montreal. He announces that the event begins at 7:30, and he has prearranged to meet his companions at 6:00. 'If anyone asks – just say that you did not see me leave' the Vision asks Jarvis as he switches to Victor Shade guise. A perplexed Jarvis drops down onto the sofa, 'A baseball game? Vision? And what about the...?'

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Vision, Sersi (all Avengers)

Edwin Jarvis


Dr Miles Lipton

Laura Lipton


Roxxon Cybernetics thugs


(in photograph)

Alex & Laura Lipton


Story Notes: 

Final issue of Avengers Spotlight. An editor's note reveals that the series was canceled due to poor sales.

When the Vision tells Miles Lipton that his systems recently underwent a reconfiguration, he is underselling what actually happened – his entire body was taken apart and rebuilt, with no memories of his life prior to this happening. This classic storyline took place in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #42-45.

First appearances of Dr Miles Lipton and Laura Lipton. They return in Avengers (1st series) #348, where Miles passes away, and Laura later appears in Vision (1st series) #3-4. 

It appears that there were some problems with characters' names this issue, as Laura is called “Nancy” at times, and Alex's name is sometimes hard to decipher, as if it was lettered over another name (possibly Philip, as seen in panel 4 of page 13).

First appearance of the Vision's “Victor Shade” identity, which the Vision will use occasionally following this issue.

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