Who is Lilia Calderu? Meet the mysterious witch who may be key to Agatha: Coven of Chaos

Lilia Calderu talks to Dr Strange.
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Patti LuPone revealed yesterday that she will be playing Lilia Calderu in the upcoming Agatha: Coven on Chaos, but even if you're a veteran comics reader that name might not ring any bells. The character has appeared in just four comics over the last 50 years – and one of those was a single-panel flashback! Still, it could be that this little-known character is key to the plot of the new show...

Calderu was first introduced in 1973's Marvel Premiere #12, which, in that issue, starred Dr. Strange. Premiere was a peculiar book, an anthology series designed as a way to test out characters to see if they were popular enough to dedicate entire titles to. The comic ran for 61 issues between April 1972 and August 1981 and included stories featuring everyone from Ant-Man and Iron Fist to Doctor Who (who has numerous surprisingly strong connections to Marvel continuity) and, uh, Alice Cooper.

Despite the seemingly throwaway nature of Premiere, some quite big events happen within its pages. In #10, Strange is forced to kill his master, the Ancient One, after he is possessed by the demon Shuma-Gorath. He's still feeling the pain of that when we catch up with Strange at the start of #12, as well as a greater sense of responsibility. With the Ancient One gone, he is now Sorcerer Supreme of the cosmos! After instructing Clea that she will become his new apprentice, Strange takes off on a mission to try and make peace with Baron Mordo.

Unfortunately, he's waylaid along his journey and ends up in Transylvania. Attacked by the locals, he is rescued by a man named Stavros who leads Strange back to his camp and introduces him to Lilia, the self-proclaimed witch queen.

Lilia and Dr Strange talk

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

This is an old comic and its portrayal of the Romani community is not the most nuanced by today's standards. "Gypsies live only for pleasure," declares Stavros, slightly randomly, and Lilia's characterization is fairly thin - she's basically there to tempt and then hypnotize Strange. 

Once Lilia has mesmerized the sorcerer, she tasks him with recovering the magical Book of Cagliostro, which was stolen by Mordo after he had seduced her. The two travel to Mordo's flying castle to try and recover the magical tome, but Lilia is immediately killed by a living gargoyle. 

And... that's about it, at least as far as the character's original conception goes. She appears in a brief flashback in the following issue, but was largely forgotten about until 1989's Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #8, where she appears for a few pages in the issue's backup story, The Book of the Vishanti: The Mordo Chronicles, written by Roy Thomas and RJM Lofficier, and drawn by Tom Sutton. This explores Mordo and Lilia's first meeting, their brief courtship, and his inevitable betrayal. It's only a short piece and while it gives Lilia a little more dialogue, it doesn't add much to our understanding of her.

Baron Mordo and Lilia Calderu

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

So why is Lilia appearing in Coven of Chaos at all, if she's such a negligible character? The answer might lie in the artifacts she keeps with her.

First off, the Book of Cagliostro – does that sound familiar? It should – the magical tome appeared in the first Dr. Strange film, where it was stolen by Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius, in part of his attempt to bring Dormammu to Earth. In the comics, the book also contains passages of the Darkhold, the grimoire that first taught Wanda of the multiverse, which of course led to the events of Wandavision.

Speaking of Wanda, Lilia has had one final comics appearance to date, in 2007's Mystic Arcana Scarlet Witch #1. 

In this one-shot, written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Juan Santacruz, we learn that Wanda Maximoff was summoned before Lilia as a child. She explains that her family has been tasked with keeping the Book of Cagliostro safe. She also reveals that she is the current bearer of the Serpent Crown, an item forged in ancient Lemuria to hold the powers of Set, the great god of Chaos. 

During this encounter, Lilia and her coven realize that Wanda is brimming with magical potential and foretell that one day she will become an incredible witch. 

Lilia and Wanda talk.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Does that suggest that Wanda will make an appearance in the new show? Perhaps. Elizabeth Olsen's absence from the cast list is notable, but let's be honest, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if she made an unannounced return. 

Then again, given that Wanda's MCU backstory is quite different from her comics history, perhaps it's more likely that Lilia will show up to fulfill a similar role in Agatha's life. We don't know much about her history, just that she was a member of the Salem coven and that she has lived for hundreds of years. Perhaps, at some point, she crossed paths with the witch queen and that encounter was instrumental in setting her on her current path of chaos. And if the show needs a useful MacGuffin to drive the plot, then either the Book of Cagliostro or the Serpent Crown could be just the thing...

Whatever the truth of the matter, we'll find out more about Lilia Calderu when Agatha: Coven of Chaos arrives on Disney Plus later this year.

These are the best Dr Strange stories of all time.

Will Salmon
Comics Editor

Will Salmon is the Comics Editor for GamesRadar/Newsarama. He has been writing about comics, film, TV, and music for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time if you stop and think about it. At Future he has previously launched scary movie magazine Horrorville, relaunched Comic Heroes, and has written for every issue of SFX magazine for over a decade. He sometimes feels very old, like Guy Pearce in Prometheus. His music writing has appeared in The Quietus, MOJO, Electronic Sound, Clash, and loads of other places and he runs the micro-label Modern Aviation, which puts out experimental music on cassette tape.