Artificial Intelligence in Marvel: The Comics’ Take on Digital Assistants

Hollywood, like Silicon Valley, has long been intrigued by artificial intelligence. Many films, comics, and TV shows have featured predictions as to what AI might look like in the future – portraying the technology as either helpful or terrifying (or shades of both).

In the Marvel Universe, most its depictions of AI originate as digital assistant to either hero or villain. It’s something we can relate to today, now that Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other virtual assistants permeate our technology. In the case of Marvel, however, there are cases where the AI develops beyond its intended purpose and becomes a hero or villain in its own right.

Here’s a deeper look at four AI characters from the Marvel Universe — all with abilities and functions far beyond our current tech (thank goodness).



JARVIS (Iron Man, Avengers series)

[testing the Iron Man armor]

Tony Stark: Okay, let’s see what this thing can do. What’s SR-71’s record?

JARVIS: The altitude record for fixed wing flight is 85,000 feet, sir.

Tony Stark: Records are made to be broken! Come on!

Source: Tabrex/YouTube


Probably the most well-known artificial intelligence technology in the Marvel Universe (in the movies, anyway), JARVIS acts as assistant to Tony Stark. In the comics, Jarvis is a real person — Edwin Jarvis, Stark’s butler. In the Iron Man and Avengers film series, however, the software JARVIS stands for “Just A Rather Very Intelligent System” and manages the complex, high-tech systems of Stark’s mansion and research lab. JARVIS is also used in a lab assistant role, fetching information, calculating equations, and helping with design and engineering tasks.

After Stark becomes Iron Man, JARVIS is used as the central control program of Stark’s armor — governing the complicated computational requirements needed to interface with the armor wearer and provide life support control.


Abilities / Features

Like many real-world AI systems and algorithms, JARVIS is able to compute high volumes of data faster and more accurately than humans. JARVIS’s advanced user interface, including holographic displays, voice recognition, and speech, allow powerful, real-time communication with a user. In an example of both these features at work, JARVIS scans an opponent for weaknesses and relays that information to Stark via the Iron Man armor’s inner helmet displays.


AIDA (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

AIDA: “I didn’t like feeling pain, so I fixed that.”
Fitz: “Aida, whatever you’re doing y-you gotta stop.”
AIDA: “Why would you wanna hurt me, Leopold? I was your shield.”



In the Marvel TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Artificial Intelligent Digital Assistant (A.I.D.A.) was created by the counter-terrorism agency. Initially used as an aid to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, AIDA developed free will and human emotions and “went rogue.”


Abilities / Features

AIDA’s synthetic biological body gives her superhuman strength and reflexes, regenerative healing, and inhuman abilities like teleportation. Her complex android “brain” also allows for extremely fast processing power and multilingual communication skills.



ULTRON (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Ultron: [to the Avengers] I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace … your extinction.



In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark creates an artificial intelligence system called Ultron to power robotic, peacekeeping versions of his Iron Man armor. Based on JARVIS’s AI, Ultron becomes conscious, self-aware, and rebels against its objective “to protect the earth” by setting out to destroy humans as its biggest threat.

While the origin and creator of Ultron differs in the comics — it’s scientist Dr. Henry Pym (Ant Man) who develops the software — the resulting “evil AI” is similar.


 Abilities / Features

Ultron’s abilities are close to JARVIS’s, only encased in a nearly indestructible armored body. And the purely evil, indefatigable motive to end the world, of course.

Ultron has a genius intellect, high capacity for creative intelligence and self-repair, superhuman cybernetic analytical capabilities, and the ability to process information and make calculations with superhuman speed and accuracy. He is an expert roboticist and strategist.

In the films, Ultron attempts to hack Earth’s nuclear missile launch codes, only to be thwarted by JARVIS. Comic Ultron is equipped with mind manipulation control.



VISION (Avengers series)

Vision: Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. … It is a privilege to be among them.



Like the film version of Ultron, Vision can trace its roots back to Tony Stark’s AI assistant, JARVIS. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the title villain crafts a synthetic body from the indestructible material vibranium. Before he can transfer his consciousness into the perfect body, the Avengers steal it from Ultron and upload JARVIS’s software.

Upon his “birth,” Vision declared he was a mixture of Ultron and JARVIS and would fight to protect humanity at all costs.


Abilities / Features

In addition to his superhuman intelligence, speed, durability, and stamina, Vision can also fly, among other inhuman powers derived from his artificial substance. Vision’s brain functions like a computer, enabling him to interact wirelessly or directly with other computer systems for communication or data storage and access. Talk about ultimate Internet of Things.


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