Welcome to this week’s Comic Character Spotlight! Last week we were able to discuss Doctor Strange in anticipation of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022). Similarly, this week we’ll be continuing that trend by looking at another character who will also play a vital role in the film: The Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff.
First, who exactly is the Scarlet Witch? The Scarlet Witch was written by Stan Lee and the artist Jack Kirby. She first debuted in 1964’s comic book series “The X-Men” with her brother, Pietro or Quicksilver, as a part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The brotherhood believed in the dominance of mutants – a unique species of humans born with supernatural abilities – over humans. However, Wanda and her brother were shown to be hesitant to partake in the schemes of the group and only sought safety from danger through their membership.
Interestingly, her origins alongside that of her brother have been altered repeatedly. In the 1960’s it was shown that Wanda and her brother were the mutant children of Django and Marya Maximoff, both Romanis. In 2015’s “Uncanny Avengers” it is revealed that the children were adopted and given to their parents by a geneticist named High Evolutionary who experimented on the children. This experimentation resulted in the siblings’ superhuman abilities rather than the previous storyline where they were born as mutants.
Wanda’s vast number of powerful abilities as a sorceress include energy and elemental manipulation alongside flight. Notably, she is able to access chaos magic, a magic so powerful it can alter existence and reality.
In 1974’s “Avengers” Wanda’s power was amplified as she honed her sorcery with the assistance of the Witch, Agatha Harkness. Wanda and Agatha also worked together in the 2015 “Scarlet Witch” series to combat and examine supernatural threats. This relationship between Wanda and Agatha calls into question if the future Disney + television series “Agatha: House of Harkness” will explore some of these older comic book storylines. Will Wanda seek out Agatha’s help in understanding her power as the Scarlet Witch?
The “Scarlet Witch” comic series also reveals that Pietro and Wanda’s adopted parents are biologically their aunt and uncle, while the previous Scarlet Witch, Natalya Maximoff, was their real mother. Immense power is shown to run in the family as Wanda and Pietro’s grandfather was the Scarlet Warlock.
The Scarlet Witch also became a member of the Avengers – a trademark band of superheroes in Marvel Comics – following her debut. Romance was in the air between Wanda and her android teammate Vision as they first kissed in the “Kree-Skrull War arc” in the “Avengers” (1971) comic book series. In 1975’s “Giant-Size Avengers,” they were wed. She later used the power of magical forces to impregnate herself and gave birth to twin sons Billy and Tommy.
Unfortunately, Wanda and Vision’s marriage saw disaster in the “Vision Quest” story arc which was a part of the “Avengers West Coast” (1984) series. Vision was disassembled and turned into an unfeeling being who denied the opportunity to feel again, ultimately ending his marriage with Wanda. Wanda’s pain and grief did not cease there as a demon lord named Mephisto absorbed her children into himself in order to link himself with Wanda’s soul. In order to destroy this dangerous bond, Agatha Harkness used sorcery to erase Wanda’s memories of her children.
In the short story “A Study in Scarlet” (1992), Agatha’s memory-blocking spell wore off and Wanda was able to mourn the loss of her children properly. She also mistakenly created an alternate timeline where she was able to see a life where her children and husband, Vision, could remain together. Although this timeline was fleeting, it comforted Wanda and aided in her ability to cope with her loss and suffering.
If any of this sounds familiar to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is because the hit television series ”WandaVision” (2021) was loosely based on a variety of these comic book storylines. In the series, Wanda created an alternate dimension where she could live in harmony with her husband who passed away in reality and eventually gave birth to twin brothers. However, one of the major themes of the series was the idea of accepting grief and all the pain that accompanies it. It was therefore important that Wanda eventually let this alternate reality go and accept her loss.
In “WandaVision (2021),” Wanda Maximoff was portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen who also appeared in films such as “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), and the upcoming “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022).
As the Scarlet Witch is one of my favorite Marvel characters, I was eager to talk about her. I’ve always been fascinated with Wanda as she has never been firmly on the side of “good” or “evil” and often would lie comfortably in-between the two.