Well it’s time again for my Guest Poster while I’m once again distracted by health issues, this time Tony from the Net’s sole bastion for the Original Marvel Universe, The Wastebasket, who has graciously prepared the following exceptional fix about the Scarlet Witch. Over to Tony…
Since at least 2004, when Marvel published its “Avengers Disassembled” storyline, the Scarlet Witch has been consistently portrayed as being mentally ill and dangerously unstable. Her psychosis generally seems to be traced back to the loss of the children she conceived, through highly unorthodox means, with her husband at the time, the artificial man known as the Vision. However, this cannot account for the craziest thing the Scarlet Witch ever did, which was marrying the Vision in the first place. I’ve always felt there must be some deeper, underlying trauma that motivated Wanda Maximoff to make the bizarre life-choices that she did. While looking through the character’s early appearances for clues as to what this might have been, a single panel in her debut issue, Uncanny X-Men #4, inspired an answer. I believe that Wanda was sexually abused by Magneto during the time she and her brother Quicksilver were under the arch-villain’s power. The Scarlet Witch was left with a pathological aversion to sex that only the Vision, by the very nature of his artificiality, was able to circumvent.
When we first meet the Scarlet Witch, she is at Magneto’s island fortress, watching her fellow members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants eat dinner. The Toad is stuffing his face like a pig and Mastermind is making lewd comments about Wanda. She is disgusted with both of them, and says so. She is proud, even haughty, and shows complete confidence in her own power and in her brother Quicksilver. A fight nearly breaks out, but Mastermind clearly fears being punished by Magneto. Later, after Magneto returns, he storms in demanding the twins’ attention. Quicksilver remains defiant, but Wanda’s confident façade crumbles as soon as Magneto touches her. With her shoulders hunched, her arms hanging stiffly at her sides, her head bowed, she looks like a total victim. She meekly agrees with Magneto that she must remain in his service until her debt to him (for saving her from an angry mob) is repaid. But it doesn’t look like gratitude that keeps her there. Her body language says it all.
During the early years, before she falls in love with the Vision, we see glimpses of Wanda’s emerging sexuality. As early as Uncanny X-Men #6, she is ogling the Sub-Mariner’s physique. Magneto sends her to basically seduce Namor into joining the Brotherhood. Looking at the Speedo-wearing Prince of Atlantis, Wanda thinks, “How noble he looks… how slim, yet muscular! He’s fascinating!” She goes on to wonder why someone so “fine” and “masterful” would ally himself with a villain like Magneto.
Later, after breaking away from Magneto and joining the Avengers, Wanda develops a crush on Captain America. Right away, on page 2 of Avengers #17, Wanda thinks, “Captain America is no weakling! I shall enjoy being an Avenger!” During a training session in Avengers #21, Cap puts a hand on Wanda’s shoulder while lecturing her, prompting her to think, “His touch! So strong—and yet, so gentle…!” And after Cap angrily quits the team in Avengers #23, a tearful Wanda pines for him, thinking, “How I miss the sight of him working out in our private gymnasium! So confident… so handsome! To me, he was every inch an Avenger!” Sounds like she’s got it pretty bad. And yet, even after Cap returns to the team, Wanda never really pursues a relationship with him. In fact, in Avengers #25, she seems to be trying to talk herself out of it. She muses, “What is it about Steve Rogers that makes him so appealing to me? Is it the fact that he seems to harbor some tragic secret… some hidden sorrow? Or am I just confusing pity with the dawning of love?” Wanda never acts on her feelings for Cap and soon loses him to the blonde S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter.
Wanda appears to have a brief crush on Hercules, for in Avengers #46, she seems almost giddy when the Lion of Olympus asks her on a double-date with Hawkeye and the Black Widow. However, almost immediately afterwards, she and Quicksilver once more fall into Magneto’s clutches, and they stay away from the Avengers for quite a while. By the time the twins return, the Vision has joined up, and Wanda falls for her android teammate pretty quickly. At that point, Wanda drops all pretense of trying to establish a normal, healthy sexuality. As time goes on, she becomes more visibly uncomfortable around virile men. On page 2 of Avengers #242, Wanda looks like she’s been goosed when Starfox puts his hand on her shoulder and intimates that he finds her attractive. She-Hulk, who’s sitting right next to them, takes it in stride and chalks Wanda’s silence up to being worried about the Vision, who was paralyzed at the time. Once again, Wanda’s body language tells the tale, this time showing alarm rather than concern. Wanda looks rather shocked and alarmed again in Avengers #252 when Hercules’ costume is completely destroyed while battling the Blood Brothers, exposing his manhood for all to see (all except the reader, of course). She lends him her cape, but doesn’t seem to find any humor in the situation. After the Vision’s personality is erased, his marriage to Wanda rapidly falls apart. Wonder Man, on whose brain patterns the Vision’s mind had been based, has also fallen in love with Wanda and sees an opportunity to try to win her for himself. But in Avengers West Coast #69, Wanda tries to let him down gently, hoping they can “just be friends.” Perhaps Simon Williams was just a little too real for her.
Wanda’s first serious suitor is actually the semi-barbaric Arkon, ruler of the extradimensional realm of Polemachus, in a story that spans Avengers #75–76. In this tale, Wanda’s behavior can only be described as bizarre. Arkon is a Conan-type who seeks to cause a nuclear catastrophe on Earth in order to save his own world in a parallel universe. He spent years observing the Earth, seeking some means to cross the dimensional boundary, and in the course of his research he became enamored of the Scarlet Witch. Being of the hit-‘em-with-a-club-and-drag-‘em-by-the-hair school of romance, he decides to kidnap Wanda and make her his bride. Though he is pretty ruthless in achieving his objectives, he is not malicious toward Wanda, and seems to have a genuine desire to marry her. Wanda, of course, resists at first, but, strangely, he seems to wear her resolve down pretty fast. At one point, he shows her a sacred flower, telling her it is to be picked by the betrothed of the Imperion and worn on the day of her wedding. So what does Wanda do? She picks the flower. Instead of fighting with Arkon or trying to escape from the palace, she recites to him a poem by Lord Tennyson. Then she says, “Perhaps I could love you… could be happy as queen of your world… if only you weren’t so cold… as distant as the stars…!” Arkon seems willing to give it a go, so Wanda moves in to kiss him. Suddenly, the moment is spoiled as the Avengers storm in to rescue Wanda, which seems to shock her back to her senses. Still, even after Arkon is defeated, Wanda looks almost disappointed as she clutches the fabled flower. It was an intense, surreal situation that clearly messed with Wanda’s head. Having “no choice” in the matter may have been a major contributing factor, as she was bereft of her mutant powers and had given up hope of being rescued. Yielding to Arkon may have been a form of self-preservation. But Arkon did possess the grim, unsmiling demeanor that Wanda seems to respond to. And he was hypermasculine to such an absurd degree that he may have seemed, in his own way, as “unreal” as an android.
Wanda barely notices the Vision when they first meet, during the battle with Arkon. It was hardly a case of love at first sight. She pays scant attention to him at all until Avengers #81, when he surrenders to some heavily-armed crooks to save her life. But over the next ten issues, she slowly comes to realize he is the perfect man for her. In Avengers #91, they nearly kiss while held captive by Ronan the Accuser, though the Vision chickens out—again. (I believe that when the Vision suddenly quit the team at the end of Avengers #79, it was because he realized he was falling in love with Wanda and didn’t know how to handle it.) The Vision would continually be plagued by self-doubt and fears about the worth of his artificial existence. It would prove to be the major stumbling block to their relationship. But in Avengers #102, when Hawkeye finally makes a play for Wanda, she admits for the first time that she’s in love with the Vision. Hawkeye responds with shock and confusion, and the rest of their teammates see the relationship as something to worry about rather than celebrate. (Even a hopeless romantic like the Wasp finally admits, in Avengers West Coast Annual #4, that she never knew what “poor Wanda” saw in the Vision, likens their relationship to a woman marrying a toaster, and says the Vision gives her the “heebie-jeebies.”) When Quicksilver finally finds out in Avengers #110, he is outraged and disgusted. His sentiments are echoed by the general public when the news finally leaks out in Avengers #113. Still, the unlikely couple perseveres through all troubles and setbacks and finally gets married in Giant-Size Avengers #4. The happy event was made possible primarily through the intervention of Immortus, who convinced the Vision that he had been built out of the remains of the original Human Torch. Once the Vision considered himself to have been created by a man (Phineas T. Horton) and to have been a hero of World War II, rather than constructed by a robot (Ultron) to be a weapon against the Avengers, he was able to overcome his self-image problems and finally ask Wanda to marry him. Naturally, the conniving Immortus had reasons of his own and was hardly being beneficent. Eventually, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch retire from the Avengers, move to suburban New Jersey, and try to live a normal life.
Wanda’s dream of domestic bliss is first seriously undermined when she finally discovers that Magneto is her father. As early as Uncanny X-Men #62, Neal Adams revealed that Magneto, without his helmet, bears a striking resemblance to Quicksilver. When we first see Wanda’s mother, in a flashback in Avengers #186, she looks just like her daughter. We learn that Magda’s husband “had gained strange abilities, powers that had sent him raving with a desire to rule the world.” Fearful, Magda fled from this man without even telling him she was pregnant. One month later, in Uncanny X-Men #125, we see Magda again and learn that her husband was none other than Magneto. The true parentage of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver had been revealed at last, though only for the benefit of sharp-eyed readers. The characters themselves did not learn of their familial bond until the last issue of the first Vision and the Scarlet Witch limited series about three and a half years later. In that tale, Magneto comes upon the midwife who delivered the twins and learns from her of Magda’s fate. Magneto then tracks his unsuspecting children down and informs them that he is their father. Wanda is nearly overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. The scene is continued in a flashback in Avengers #234, where Quicksilver rails against Magneto while Wanda looks on silently. In the present, she confides to the Wasp and Captain Marvel that “I barely left the house for days, so chilled was I by the thought that I was Magneto’s daughter. Even now I can hardly begin to express the horror, the shame! It’s as if I suddenly discovered Hitler lurking in my family tree!” Noting Magneto’s claims to be reassessing his war against homo sapiens, Wanda says, “that can never excuse his past crimes… nothing can!”
While it is never suggested outright that Magneto molested Wanda, it would not have been out of character for him during the days of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Magneto is frequently depicted as being physically abusive to his lackeys, and is often threatening them with punishment for disobedience. In Uncanny X-Men #6, we see Magneto hurting Mastermind on two separate occasions, and he also threatens Wanda. In the following issue, Magneto roughs up Mastermind again after the illusionist tries to rape Wanda. In Avengers #53, the Toad becomes so sick of Magneto’s abuse that he finally turns against him, causing Magneto to seemingly fall to his death. While Magneto is shown to be ruthless and cruel in his first few appearances, as time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that he is completely insane. By the time he faces off against Black Bolt and the Royal Family of the Inhumans in Amazing Adventures #9–10, Magneto is practically a gibbering lunatic. He only begins to reclaim a measure of sanity after being reduced to infancy and then restored to adulthood, and it is shortly after that that he starts to seek redemption for his past crimes. It is eventually suggested in Classic X-Men #19 that Magneto’s use of his mutant powers negatively impacts his own body; and that they will slowly, inevitably drive him mad is finally explained in Chris Claremont & Jim Lee’s X-Men #2. In the heat of such madness, it is not hard to believe that Magneto would see Wanda, the spitting image of his lost wife, as a target for his sexual urges. As revealed in the Classic X-Men back-up story, Magneto’s last lover was brutally murdered, apparently by the CIA. He would certainly have some sexual frustrations built up by the time he found Wanda and dressed her up in a skintight costume with opera gloves.
In the second Vision and the Scarlet Witch limited series, Wanda and the Vision decide to try to have children, even though Wanda is convinced it is impossible for the Vision to be a father. In the third issue, during an encounter with Salem’s Seven, Wanda channels the rampant arcane energies of the witches of New Salem, coupled with her own mutant power to alter probabilities, to apparently achieve this impossible feat. After a normal pregnancy, Wanda gives birth to twin boys. At this point, Magneto attempts to rebuild his relationship with Wanda, though she wants nothing to do with him. However, things take a darker turn after the new family moves out to California to join the Avengers’ west coast contingent. Wanda fires a succession of nannies who claim her babies vanish into thin air from time to time when their mother is away. Finally, Agatha Harkness resurfaces to get to the bottom of it, and in Avengers West Coast #51, she informs Wanda that her children are anything but normal. In the following issue we discover that the boys were basically magical constructs containing fragments of Mephisto’s being, ripped from him when he was blasted to smithereens by Franklin Richards in Fantastic Four #277. Mephisto reclaims the missing pieces of his essence, forcing Agatha Harkness to erase all memory of the children from Wanda’s mind. Almost immediately afterward, Wanda slips into a catatonic state.
At this point, Magneto re-enters the picture, abducting the unresponsive Wanda from the Avengers Compound in the middle of Loki’s “Acts of Vengeance” scheme. When she comes to, her powers have been amplified to an astonishing degree, giving her almost complete control over probabilities, and therefore, reality itself. Unfortunately, her mind has snapped and she takes on a villainous persona to rival Magneto at his worst. She chops off her hair, adopts a new costume, and attacks the Avengers. Magneto accompanies her, seeing this change in his daughter as an opportunity to gain her powers for his side in the inevitable war between humans and mutants. Though he is curious about Wanda’s heightened powers, Magneto doesn’t seem overly concerned about the radical change in her personality. As long as he can use her to further his goals, he doesn’t seem to care about her mental health, as he basically admits in Avengers West Coast #60. With a little help from Quicksilver, the Avengers manage to separate Magneto and the Scarlet Witch, only to have Immortus finally play his hand.
Over the next two issues, Immortus finally reveals his grand master plan, which he’s apparently been working on since his first appearance way back in Avengers #10. Not content with being the ruler of Limbo, Immortus intends to use Wanda’s ability to control probabilities to give him complete mastery over the timeline of Earth, allowing him to direct what path reality will take at moments of divergence. In order to prepare Wanda for her role as his puppet, Immortus has been manipulating her life since even before she joined the Avengers. This is why he lied to the Vision about the origins of his android body, to ensure that they would get married. He obviously believed such a marriage would make Wanda more emotionally vulnerable. Immortus claims to have been subtly influencing nearly everything that’s happened to the Scarlet Witch since the start of her career, and his chief aim was to “undermine her confidence by making her fear she was doomed, always to be a victim of circumstances beyond her control.” If we also take into account Quicksilver’s thoughts on the subject, that “for once in his life, my father was being manipulated by one even more powerful than himself,” it’s not a stretch to say that Immortus had been manipulating Magneto into making Wanda feel like a helpless victim, and what could accomplish that evil aim better than sexual abuse?
Interestingly, it’s soon after this that Magneto goes into a profound depression. We should remember that Hank Pym was careful not to discuss their strategy against Magneto with the Wasp at their headquarters, as he was convinced Magneto had the place bugged. Thus, it stands to reason that Magneto may have overheard Immortus’ shade explaining his master plan to Agatha Harkness, and he may also have heard the Avengers discussing what happened in Limbo after the fact. We can assume, then, that Magneto became aware of Immortus’ manipulations of Wanda’s life, including whatever manipulations involved Magneto himself. So what does Magneto do? He retreats to one of his hidden bases in the Savage Land, and before long, he hooks up with another beautiful young auburn-haired mutant girl—Rogue, barely out of her teens at this point. Magneto senses a sexual “spark” between them. Rogue is definitely interested, but Magneto is too depressed to pursue it. After murdering Zaladane for trying to steal his magnetic powers, Magneto returns to Asteroid M alone. When we next see him, in X-Men #1, he has become a recluse, a disillusioned shell of a man, and a shadow of his former self. He is again manipulated into what appears to be a “final confrontation” with the X-Men, which leaves him practically suicidal. We could attribute all this to Magneto struggling to deal with what he did—or perhaps was made to do—to Wanda many years before.
At any rate, if we accept that Wanda was sexually abused by Magneto, it is clear she kept this trauma a secret from everyone, including her twin brother and, later, her husband. Thus, she never got the help she needed to recover from the emotional scars that resulted, leaving her unprepared for the later ordeals she would endure. She was on a downward spiral that, it would seem, led her to become the totally insane mass-murderer of “Avengers Disassembled,” “House of M,” and subsequent stories set in Marvel’s current continuity. I can think of no better explanation.