Originally the head of Williams Innovations, a munitions company competing with Stark Industries, Simon Williams was bright but inexperienced. Simon inherited the business after the death of his father, Sanford Williams. After his company's profits started to fall, Simon acted on bad advice from his brother, Eric, and was arrested for embezzlement. Eric's ties to the Maggia, an international crime syndicate, also placed Simon and his company in a bad light.
Blaming Tony Stark for his company's troubles, Simon was about to be sent to prison when his bail was paid by Amora, the Enchantress. Temporarily free, Simon was faced with a proposition from Baron Zemo, the leader of the Masters of Evil: superhuman powers in exchange for destroying the The Avengers from within. Agreeing, Simon accompanies the Masters to South America, where he was granted superhuman strength and durability via Zemo's "ionic ray" treatment. Calling his creation "Wonder Man", Zemo has Simon test his strength against Amora's companion, Skurge the Executioner. Besting Skurge, Wonder Man was informed that the treatment that gave him superpowers also altered his metabolism. Without periodic doses of a special serum, Simon would die within a week. This was intended to ensure Simon's loyalty to Zemo, the only man who could provide the serum.
Arranging a staged battle between himself and the Masters of Evil, Wonder Man was successful in winning the Avengers over. After explaining his reliance on Zemo's serum, the Avengers attempt to cure him but are unsuccessful. Left with no choice but to remain loyal to Zemo, Wonder Man leads the Avengers into an ambush by the Masters of Evil. During the battle, Simon has a change of heart and helps the Avengers defeat the Masters instead, knowing full well that he was sacrificing his lifeline in the process. Proud of his choice, Simon succumbs to the treatment's deadly side effect and falls into a coma. Unable to find any life signs, the Avengers come to the conclusion that Simon passed away. Placing his body in suspended animation for the trip back to the United States, Iron Man creates a copy of Simon's brain patterns in the hope that one day they'll be able to revive him. The brain patterns were later used by the super-villain Ultron to create a personality matrix for The Vision, a synthezoid who would turn against his master and join the Avengers. Given Simon's history of having done exactly the same thing, this wasn't one of Ultron's smartest plans.
Meanwhile, his brother Eric, blaming the Avengers for his death, became the super-villain called The Grim Reaper and allied himself with other villains to gain revenge. He even had a voodoo priest reanimate Simon's body to attack them. It turned out however, that he wasn't dead, merely in a coma while he changed into an "ionic" form. In this form he was even more powerful and didn't need the serum to survive, though his eyes now glowed red.
The revived Simon joined the Avengers as Wonder Man, and was a member for years, becoming best friends with The Beast (from The X-Men, at the time an Avenger) and later had a romantic relationship with Wanda the Scarlet Witch (who ironically had once been married to The Vision.) Simon was one of the founding members of the West Coast Avengers, and began a side career in Hollywood as an actor and stuntman. After the dismantling of the West Coast branch, he joined Iron Man's new team, Force Works, but was disintegrated on the team's first mission. Many months later, he would remanifest in a purely energy state, thanks to the Scarlet Witch subconsciously using her powers to call on him in times of need; she would later find a way to fully restore Simon to a physical body.
Simon was unwillingly drafted into the pro-registration side of the Civil War. In the wake of the Secret Invasion, he became increasingly disillusioned with the perpetual cycle of superhero-supervillain violence. After repeatedly asking the Avengers not to re-assemble, he put together a team of similar malcontents (including a new Goliath, angry over his uncle's death during Civil War) who attack Avengers Mansion and Stark Tower, demanding that the Avengers be disbanded. The Avengers lock him up without a trial, effectively proving Wonder Man's point: the Avengers are powerful without accountability.
The character (as portrayed by Nathan Fillion, a frequent member of director James Gunn's production posse) was set to appear as a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, depicting a Simon Williams film festival with various In-Universe movie posters of him on them, but it was later cut from the film. It was later announced that the character would finally be debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a solo series on Disney+, this time portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
No relationship to Wonder Woman, if you're wondering. Though they have faced each other in some crossovers. Also, he has nothing to do with an old superhero made by Will Eisner of the same name made decades before this one.
Wonder Man has appeared in the following works:
- Wonder Man vol. 1. (1986). One-shot.
- Wonder Man vol. 2 (1991-1994)
- Tales of the Marvels: Wonder Years (1995)
- Avengers Two: Wonder Man and Beast (2000)
- Wonder Man vol. 3 (2006)
- Captain America and the Avengers: Non-playable, Wonder Man appears with a hovercraft to help Captain America and Hawkeye cross large gaps.
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Non-playable, Wonder Man is a boss for the Anti-Registration side.
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance: He was winnable as a limited-time Special Operations hero.
- Lego Marvel Superheroes 2
Wonder Man's comic appearances contain the following tropes
- I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: In an issue of the '90s series, Wondy makes a list of his top ten villains. Number 2 was "everyone who's designed one of my previous costumes."