Skip to main content

Who is Agatha Harkness? The MCU star's comic book history explained

Agatha: House of Harkness
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

WandaVision had its share of memorable moments, but almost nothing remains in our minds as much as the reveal of Kathryn Hahn's nosey neighbor Agnes Harkness, complete with that earworm 'Agatha All Along!' theme song and a subsequent Emmy nomination for Hahn's performance. 

It seems Marvel Studios caught the Agatha bug as well, as on November 12 it officially announced a Disney Plus streaming series Agatha: House of Harkness starring Hahn with WandaVision head writer Jac Shaeffer at the helm.

While it's not yet clear whether House of Harkness will be a prequel to WandaVision or a follow-up (or both), there's plenty of comic book lore to draw from when exploring the character further - including her surprising connections to the Fantastic Four.

Still from WandaVision episode 7

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As for Wanda, when last we saw her, Wanda was studying the power of the Darkhold in an apparent attempt to save the souls of her magically created twin sons Billy and Tommy - an interesting development considering that Wanda will play a role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness herself.

Could Agatha also make the leap to the film ahead of her spin-off show?

With all of these questions now swirling in the MCU, here's your refresher on what you need to know about Agatha Harkness's comic book history, and how it has been adapted so far.

Who is Agatha Harkness?

Page from Vision & Scarlet Witch (Vol. 2) #3

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In comic books, Agatha Harkness is the very picture of an old lady with a witchy secret – but the truth about Agatha's nature is even weirder than it appears from the outside.

Though she looks like an elderly woman (and technically she is), Agatha is even older, having lived since the time before the sinking of Atlantis tens of thousands of years in Marvel's past. Prolonging her life through magical means by way of her primal, often darkly influenced witchcraft, Harkness has lived countless lifetimes, constantly honing her abilities.

In the 1700s, Harkness settled in Salem, Massachusetts, starting a witch coven that became the targets of the Salem Witch Trials in the Marvel Universe's version of those historical events – an occurrence that Harkness later described as a "culling" of the weaker practitioners from her coven, showing the dark side that Harkness has occasionally displayed, despite being a usual ally to Marvel's heroes.

Agatha's history is rife with attempts to form new covens and consolidate power among women in her circle. Following the Salem Witch Trials, during the American Revolutionary War, Harkness even formed a group known as the Daughters of Liberty who she trained in the magical arts – a practice she would continue at least through World War II when she was recruited by the US Army to help take down Nazi sorcerers.

Oddly enough, as in WandaVision, Agatha has an unseen husband who plays a key role in her history. Little is known about her long-dead husband – including his name, which may have been Harkness. They had one son, named Nicholas Scratch (more on him momentarily), who has been a key part of many of Agatha's stories over the years.

The rest of Agatha's family is somewhat mysterious. Weirdly, she's been shown to have connections to a French magical dynasty known as Clan D'Arqness, which has a penchant for summoning demons.

Agatha Harkness came into contact with the modern Marvel Universe in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four #94, when Reed and Sue Richards contacted Harkness, who had spent most of the mid-to-late 20th century as a governess for children, to watch over their son Franklin. Though she initially hesitated, Harkness became Franklin's permanent governess.

Panel from Fantastic Four #94

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Harkness often watched over Franklin while the Fantastic Four were on missions, which often led her to get involved in their adventures, eventually leading her to help Franklin control and harness his own burgeoning superpowers.

It's as Franklin's governess, alongside the Fantastic Four, that Harkness first met Wanda Maximoff. During an adventure in which Vision and Scarlet Witch faced off with a group of demonic entities known as Salem's Seven (in Vision & Scarlet Witch Vol. 2 #3), led by Harkness's son Nicholas Scratch who was technically the demons' father, Scratch managed to capture and actually kill Agatha by burning her at the stake. 

However, her astral form survived, and recognizing the magic potential in Wanda Maximoff thanks to her connections to the ancient Marvel deity of chaos Chthon, she became a mentor to Wanda. When Salem's Seven used their own magical abilities to duel Wanda, she absorbed a large portion of Harkness's magical power to defeat them.

Later, Wanda used this power to create her twin sons William and Thomas, though they were ultimately revealed to be the products of the demon Mephisto, who was channeling his own dark magic through Harkness's witchcraft.

Harkness later returned to life and continued her mentorship of Wanda and other Marvel magic users, even sequestering and protecting Wanda after she created the House of M reality and cause the mutant decimation.

In one interesting twist – especially considering her role in WandaVision – Harkness was the narrator of Tom King and Gabriel Walta's The Vision limited series, which lends some influence to WandaVision.

Harkness has died and returned to life several times since first being burned by Salem's Seven, with her fate apparently being directly entwined with Wanda's. She's currently alive, though she's rarely been seen for the last few years.

Agatha Harkness in the MCU

WandaVision episode 2

(Image credit: Marvel Studios / Disney+)

In the MCU, Agatha Harkness's history is somewhat different from the comic book origins we just laid out.

She's ancient, but not quite as ancient as her Marvel Comics inspiration (MCU Agatha was by all indications a young woman in 1693 Salem). She's also significantly more sinister and manipulative in her pursuit of possessing Wanda Maximoff's intrinsic magical potential, gaining her immortality by magically absorbing the life force of her coven all the way back in the era of the Salem Witch Trials.

Though Agatha seems to be captured following WandaVision, her words to Wanda at the series' end, that Wanda will need her help, ring out to potentially inform her MCU future, which may lie in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Agatha's basement, seen in several WandaVision episodes, is its own treasure trove of mysteries - but it may also be part of what connects Wanda and possibly Agatha to Multiverse of Madness.

Given the WandaVision commercial for Nexus ("Because the world doesn't revolve around you!") and the reality-warping nature of WandaVision, there's some potential that the basement is connected to Marvel's Nexus of Realities, a place where the worlds in its Multiverse touch – especially considering the viney, plantlike overgrowth in the basement, which bears some visual similarity to certain versions of the comic book Nexus.

Still from WandaVision

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Then there's Agatha's false resurrection of Wanda's brother Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver by enchanting a Westview resident named Ralph Bohner to take on his powers - if not his original movie appearance. 

That last bit is particularly interesting considering the concept of 'variants' which was introduced in Loki, alt-universe versions of known characters and events which are often remarkably different from their original counterparts. Could Ralph Bohner wind up actually being a Quicksilver variant, both as a way to bring Pietro back and somewhat surreptitiously connect the MCU back to Fox's X-Men franchise, where Pietro was played by Ralph Bohner actor Even Peters? 

With Loki now placing even more pieces on the board for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, some of the ways Wanda and her enemy Agatha Harkness could show back up are starting to become clear - and it's looking more and more like Agatha herself could show up in the Doctor Strange sequel.

Since she's the one who inadvertently helped Wanda level up into the role of the reality-altering Scarlet Witch, and since Multiverse of Madness seems to be building toward a threat that could destroy or warp reality itself across multiple timelines, could Agatha wind up being the key to helping Wanda use her newfound power to save the Multiverse?

We'll likely find out on May 6, 2022, when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrives in theaters - or at the very least when Agatha: House of Harkness debuts on Disney Plus in 2022 or 2023.

Agatha Harkness is a key player in some of the best Wanda Maximoff Scarlet Witch stories of all time.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)