Monday, July 20, 2009

Scandal in Scarlet...

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby way back in X-Men #4 (Mar. 1964) the Scarlet Witch first appears as a member of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She fights the X-Men in Issues #4, #6, #7 & #11, and then Wanda and her brother reformed and joined the Avengers in Avengers #16. Confused? Me too, but most especially by the Scarlet Witch's head gear. I mean, what is that? Her strange choice of chapeau has been something artists have struggled with since she was created. At this point I have no idea what it is--a strange hood? A wrap to protect her coiffure? A misguided attempt at a crown? I'm not sure... She completes this stunning choice with a red bathing suit worn over a pink bodysuit with red gloves, boots and a cape. I suppose, considering what the rest of the Brotherhood or the X-Men were wearing at that time it can be understood why Wanda might have made some rather alarming choices. Now I know that speaking ill of Jack Kirby is like spitting on the Bible, but it's astonishing to me how many of the Marvel and DC characters I've disliked on look alone were designed by him. Seriously, does anyone else remember the original Loki? Sure now he's a she and seriously sexy but they kept the horns, I personally think to make the Scarlet Witch's head gear a little more palatable. But I digress. The Scarlet Witch became an Avengers character and for the most part remained one until the end of the Avengers series (more on that later). I guess they realized how ridiculous she looked and modified the chapeau to become more of a tiara or perhaps a headband. The bathing suit lost its straps and became more sexy but she kept the pink bodysuit and cape. This is probably her most iconic look. Her powers were simple at this point, Wanda had the mutant ability to manipulate probability via her "hexes", which usually manifested physically as "hex spheres" or "hex bolts". Wanda had a bumpy start with the Avengers, being wounded, disappearing, being kidnapped at least twice, before settling down and really joining the Avengers. Despite an attraction to Hawkeye, Wanda falls in love with Vision, an android created to destroy the Avengers but long since reformed. Despite her brother's initial objections (he couldn't accept the fact that she was in love with a robot), Wanda and Vision married. Shortly after this she finds out that Magneto is her real father and that causes her some stress. Also writer Kurt Busiek redefined Wanda's powers and maintained that they were given to her at birth by a demon named Chthon and the fluctuating levels of power she could access frustrated her further. She and Vision left for a leave of absence and then, thanks to Wanda's new upgraded powers she conceived and bore twins, Thomas and William. They decide after this to form the West Coast Avengers, needing time away from the main team due to Vision's attempt to take over the world. Confused yet? There's more... Wanda then finds out her children are actually two missing shards of the soul of the demonic entity Mephisto, and in an act of "kindness" the witch Agatha Harkness erases all trace of the children from Wanda's mind as the children had to be unmade. Wanda falls into a catatonic state and the Vision abandons her (having been reverted to an emotionless state). Now Magneto is able to take control of his daughter causing her not only to attempt to destroy the West Coast Avengers but change her costume. Wanda cuts her hair (bad choice), loses the head gear (good choice), keeps the red bathing suit (meh), changes to a black bodysuit (she is evil now), keeps the red gloves and boots (why not?) and upgrades her cape with a collar, color change to purple and a "W" front closure (big mistake). All of this must have been a side effect of becoming evil, but Wanda is defeated by her teammates and falls into a catatonic state. She is rescued from this by the Avengers and restored to sanity. She goes on to lead a break away team and Wonder Man dies, shortly thereafter the team dissolves and Wanda returns to the main Avengers team. Some wackiness happens that gets written out of continuity and an upset Wanda confronts Agatha Harkness and discovers her mutant power is actually control of chaos magic. Since the Vision rejected her Wanda uses her powers to bring Wonder Man back to life and the two become lovers. Eventually Wanda and Wonder Man break up because they realize theirs is only a relationship of passion and she returns to her true love Vision and inadvertently becomes energized with even more chaos magic due to villain wackiness. Embracing her power and gypsy roots Wanda dons a new costume. She wears a red corselet, red cape and red skirt with side slits right up to her hip. Bangles, baubles and beads adorn her in the form of earrings, bracelets, anklets and belt. Her hair flows free and she wears high strapped leather sandals, shown here in this picture by artist George Perez. She wore this outfit for some time and I think it's one of my favorite looks the Scarlet Witch has had. Enter writer Brian Michael Bendis who redefined her powers yet again, this time so as to allow the Scarlet Witch to warp reality, something Doctor Strange would later explain. A tipsy Wasp, after returning from an Avengers mission confides in Wanda about her brief pregnancy scare and mentions Wanda's own two children. This causes the Scarlet Witch to remember the children and she goes mad with power and warps reality to devastating effects reverting at some point to a variation of her most iconic look, seen below in a drawing by Adam Hughes. She kills a whole bunch of Avengers and recreates her children but Doctor Strange shuts her mind down and the Avengers and X-Men are left to decide Wanda's fate. Her brother Pietro convinces Wanda to warp reality once again as the Avengers and X-men were planning to kill her and this led to the cross over event, House of M. During this event Wanda granted all the heroes greatest wishes and her own, which was to not be a mutant and the mother of two boys, William and Thomas. I won't go into it now, but for a hilarious parody synopsis check out Wogoat's four part House of M series. Wanda is eventually defeated and punishes her Father by warping reality once again, this time robbing most of the worlds' mutants of their powers and mutations. She apparently loses her own powers and memories and lives a secluded life at the base of Wundagore mountain. Though Wanda is still living at the base of Wundagore mountain the Scarlet Witch can be seen in Mighty Avengers (though it's not really Wanda but the Evil Loki, who probably chose to keep Wanda's classic look because her tiara is more understated than Loki's own). Wanda has also appeared in several animated series, both as a main character and as a recurring character. In most cases she appeared in variations of what she was wearing in the comics, but in the animated series X-Men: Evolution they reinvent her as a goth, abandoned at a mental institute by her father Magneto. When Wanda escapes she is aided in learning to control her powers by Agatha Harkness and Mystique, eventually joining Mystique's brotherhood. She has short black hair with a shaved step cut and the shorter hairs are dyed red. She wears a red bodysuit and long red trench coat. Long black fingerless gloves, an ankh choker and ankh earrings and black boots with armoured greaves complete her look. Once again we see a powerful Wanda, driven mad by the levels of her power. It seems to be a recurring theme with the character, she possesses great power but due to her fractured emotional state of mind is continually losing control of it. To me it seems like an obvious case of misogyny, and Wanda isn't the only all-powerful female red head in the Marvel universe that has had to be repeatedly put down due to going mad because of her power. Even when reinvented in the Ultimates universe Wanda is the victim and ultimately serves as little more than a plot device to motivate her brother. Her costume in the Ultimates universe is very different from her other costumes. A red leather midriff bearing tube top with red accents and what appears to be matching leather pants. She wears no headband and lets her hair flow free, always a good choice in my books. This isn't really the purpose of my blog, but I thought I'd take a moment to get up on the soap box. The Scarlet Witch is an incredibly powerful character who is also very popular. Marvel has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for its female characters whether through overt over sexualization or through the repeated and tired overly emotional female with super powers goes mad plot line. Why can't they tell a story about a powerful woman who can control her powers? Check out Women in Refrigerators or Girl to take a look at some of the atrocities committed in the comic book world to various female characters. You can also follow the battle at Girls read comics and I always encourage people to email editors when they see women being portrayed badly in comics. Join me later this week to see a few ideas I have on what the Scarlet Witch should wear and in the meantime here's a few more pictures of Wanda in various outfits by various artists.

Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, the Avengers, the X-Men and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of Marvel Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of Marvel Comics


  1. I have to say that I like her thighs - they look like they have actual muscle in them instead of being toothpicks.

    Imagine marrying an android and then finding out that the guy who can manipulate anything magnetic is your dad! That's gotta be awkward - or at least, it would be if I was writing the stories.

  2. I like animation gothy time Wanda best of all... looking forward to seeing your take on Wanda!

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