Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, is quickly becoming one of the top current stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to her well-received starring show WandaVision, which was even nominated for several Emmy Awards.
But before Wanda was the growing center of the MCU, she was the heart-and-soul of the Avengers in comic books for years, with her long narrative sowing the seeds of some of the greatest - and most tragic - Marvel Comics stories ever.
In comics, Wanda is considered a Nexus Being, an entity of unique Multiversal power. But in a more metatextual sense, she's something of a nexus being for the Marvel Universe's larger narrative thanks to the vast, wide-reaching array of characters to whom she is directly related - and whose lives she's had influence over.
Since her earliest days, Wanda Maximoff has been one of the backbones of the Marvel Universe, and the evidence is all right there on the page.
Mutant and Proud
Wanda Maximoff debuted right alongside her brother Pietro in Uncanny X-Men #4 as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the two young powerhouse members of Magneto's first incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Right off the bat, the family connection between Wanda and Pietro was an integral part of their combined narrative. Though the idea that Magneto was secretly their father wasn't introduced till years later, the twins' love for each other became their defining trait. Quicksilver was overprotective of Scarlet Witch, whose growing power often made her the primary target of Magneto's manipulations - a concept that would continue throughout Wanda's history.
Before Magneto's eventual assertion that he was Wanda and Pietro's father (which was itself later retconned, more on that in a moment), the twins had several different theories about their parentage, though they always believed they were mutants.
First off, they believed themselves to be the children of Django Maximoff, a Romani sorcerer who was actually their biological uncle, the brother of their mother Natalya Maximoff - who was the original magic-user to go by the name Scarlet Witch. Likewise, Wanda's grandfather was once known as the Scarlet Warlock - though little else has been revealed about him.
Natalya's spirit was later briefly resurrected in Scarlet Witch: The Witch's Path, leading Wanda to learn that her mother was killed by Wanda's own still-unnamed father.
Then they believed they were the children of Golden Age heroes the Whizzer and Miss America, though this was also proven false. After this notion was dispelled, Magneto confessed to Wanda and Pietro that he was their father and that this was the reason he coerced them into joining his original Brotherhood. By accepting Magneto as their father, Wanda and Pietro gained a half-sister, Lorna Dane/Polaris.
Oddly enough, like Wanda and Pietro, Lorna Dane's parentage has often been called into question - though she was fully confirmed as being Magneto's actual daughter not long before Wanda and Pietro's history was rewritten.
Magneto's fatherhood of Wanda and Pietro was later contradicted by the High Evolutionary, who revealed that the twins were born as regular human children on Mount Wundagore to Natalya Maximoff and a still-unnamed father. The High Evolutionary (who made his home on Wundagore at the time) kidnapped the infant twins, performing genetic experiments that gave them superpowers.
Despite the development of their powers, the High Evolutionary considered the twins failed experiments. But before he could return them to their parents, their mother Natalya was murdered by their still unidentified biological father, leading the High Evolutionary to leave them with Django Maximoff and his wife, the couple that eventually raised them.
When Wanda and Pietro finally escaped Magneto's manipulation, they set out to reform as heroes, quickly joining the second incarnation of the Avengers when many of the founding members departed the team.
Though both Wanda and Pietro remained Avengers for some time, it was Wanda whose personality and powers best gelled with Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Scarlet Witch became one of the team's strongest members both in terms of powers and narrative, with her developing relationship with the Vision growing into one of the central subplots in Avengers comics for years.
And it's through the Vision that Wanda's family tree added an entirely new branch thanks to the Synthezoid Avenger's own complex ancestry. Vision was built by the villainous android Ultron, who considers his own creator, Hank Pym, to be his 'father.' This makes Pym and his ex-wife Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp Vision's ersatz grandparents.
Meanwhile, Ultron built Vision's body from parts of one of the android bodies of the original Golden Age Human Torch, while programming his mind based on the brain patterns of then-deceased-now-resurrected Avenger Simon Williams/Wonder Man, who Vision considers his brother. Unfortunately, this means that Vision has another brother, the villainous Eric Williams/Grim Reaper.
These family ties, which became the basis of the first Vision and Scarlet Witch limited series, bled into the events of Avengers as a title with a long string of adventures in which Magneto and Grim Reaper separately involved themselves with the team.
Wanda and Vision's position as the heart-and-soul of the Avengers established the pair as a power couple whose combined associations bridged the gap between the Avengers and X-Men in a substantial way for the first time in Marvel Comics history - a web of connections that was only about to grow with one of Scarlet Witch's earliest defining tales.
In the story Avengers: Nights of Wundagore, Wanda was kidnapped back to her birthplace of Mount Wundagore by the villainous sorcerer Mordred. There she learned that, as an infant, the demonic chaos entity known as Chthon imbued her with a portion of his power (this was later slightly retconned as occurring after the High Evolutionary experimented on Wanda and Pietro as infants).
The knowledge and experience Wanda gained from fighting Mordred and Chthon quickly boosted her own magical power - but it also drew the attention of even more malevolent entities who wished to possess Wanda's power over chaos and reality. Wanda's revelations on Mount Wundagore planted the seeds for not just the darkest moments of Scarlet Witch's life, but also for yet another branch of her family tree with the farthest-reaching roots yet.
It's Magic, You Know
As Wanda and Vision, who slowly took on the role of Wanda's main counterpart as Quicksilver's presence on the Avengers waned, became the stars of the Avengers, they also became fan favorites, with the complexities of their relationships leading to some of the most interesting stories of the era.
They soon landed a second Vision and Scarlet Witch limited series, this time focusing more strongly on Wanda's growing power levels as a magic user and mutant (as she was then still believed to be). The story threads laid out in this limited series would grow into the spine of a saga that would define the Avengers titles, and eventually the entire Marvel Universe as a whole, for decades.
Wanda's increase in potency with the Marvel Comics magical disciplines of 'Chaos Magic' and 'Witchcraft,' passed down to her by her mother the original Scarlet Witch, and the chaos entity Cthon, drew the attention of Agatha Harkness, a powerful, ancient witch who was also the governess of Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four.
Harkness had been killed by her own devilish descendants the Salem's Seven (more family drama, amirite!) as part of a ritual to claim her magical power.
With their own grandmother's essence now devoured and her power absorbed, the Salem's Seven set their sights on Wanda - the next font of the magical energy they desired.
However, Agatha's spirit intervened, manifesting from the Astral Plane to imbue Wanda with a new level of magical potential and allowing her to defeat the Salem's Seven. Then, when Agatha later returned to life, she became Wanda's mentor.
But Agatha's tutelage and borrowed power came with its own price, and it all revolved around - what else? - Wanda's family, this time in a more devastating way than ever. Along with increased control over her Chaos Magic, Agatha's power boosted Wanda's reality-altering abilities to the point where she could almost literally grant her deepest wish: to have children of her own.
Following the wedding of Scarlet Witch and Vision, Wanda announced that she had become pregnant with the Vision's twin children (through the power of her own magic, rather than Vision's Synthezoid biology).
At first, Scarlet Witch was ecstatic with the birth of her twin sons William and Thomas. And around the same time, Wanda was getting married and having twins, her brother Quicksilver married Crystal of the Inhuman Royal Family with the pair having a daughter named Luna.
This led to a brief moment of familial for Wanda surrounded by her growing family and countless allies. But things were about to get bad for the burgeoning family. Really, really bad.
Blood Runs Deep
On a larger level, this web of extended family members (each of whom brought their own connections to characters like the Fantastic Four and Inhumans) meant that the story of the Maximoff/Vision family was quickly blossoming out of Avengers and into other Marvel titles - and into the larger narrative of the Marvel Universe itself.
Cruelly though, this increased profile for Wanda as the de facto center of the Marvel Universe brought the attention of not just Marvel Comics readers, but the most manipulative, evil beings of her own reality - all of whom were clamoring for a taste of Scarlet Witch's nearly limitless (though largely still untapped) power.
First, it was revealed that Wanda's twin sons were in fact not real at all (even in a magically conjured way), but merely an illusion partially created by Mephisto, who had piggybacked his influence into Wanda's life when Agatha Harkness imbued her with her own magical power.
Wanda's children disappeared following Mephisto's defeat. And to make matters worse, Wanda couldn't even rely on her husband the Vision for support thanks to the events of the story VisionQuest.
In VisionQuest, Vision is possessed by an evil AI who wishes to use his power and access as an Avenger to take over the world (an experience more or less shared multiple times over by Wanda, with other villains). Following the AI's defeat, Vision's body is dismantled and rebuilt without his personality or capacity for emotion - effectively erasing his love for and marriage to Wanda in the process.
Quicksilver's family wasn't immune to its own destructive drama, either. As Crystal's wandering heart and Quicksilver's brash anger clashed, the pair became estranged. Crystal began a relationship with her fellow Avenger the Black Knight, while Quicksilver joined the team X-Factor.
Quicksilver's own family feud came to a head in the story Avengers/X-Men: Bloodties, in which Crystal and Quicksilver are briefly reunited when the X-Men (and their associates) and the Avengers come together to defeat the villainous mutant Exodus as he kidnaps Quicksilver and Crystal's daughter Luna and attempts to seize the legacy of Magneto for himself.
Bloodties led to the end of the West Coast Avengers (of which Wanda was a long-running and then-current member) and major status quo changes for Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and their families, taking them out of the spotlight of the Marvel Universe through much of the '90s, as the X-Men ascended to become Marvel's number one franchise.
But only a few short years later, Wanda's family trauma would result in a massive shift for the whole Marvel Universe which still resonates to this day - and which is currently making waves.
In 1998, writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez launched a new volume of Avengers, returning the team to its classic roots, and putting Scarlet Witch front-and-center once again. In their opening arc, sorceress Morgan le Fay kidnaps Wanda and steals her magic to remake reality in her medieval image.
Wanda's eventual escape, by summoning the essence of her then-dead former brother-in-law Wonder Man, led to an increase in her power to the point where, with access to the right spells and magical resources, Wanda was even able to bridge the gap between life and death and fully resurrect Wonder Man.
The two began a romantic relationship, which somewhat complicated things for the Avengers when the Vision's personality was restored - though he and Wanda resolved to move on, with Wanda remaining with Wonder Man.
But once again, Wanda's short-lived happiness came crashing down around her in the story Avengers: Disassembled. Under the secret magical influence of Doctor Doom, Wanda unleashes her powers on her allies, killing Clint Barton, Scott Lang, and even the Vision, and causing the final downfall of the team.
Wanda then snapped even further, remaking all of reality into the world of House of M, where mutants reigned over humans. But when reality was returned to normal, it was mutants who suffered the most.
Directly blaming the X-Men and Avengers for all the tragedy she'd suffered to that point, Wanda cast one more spell - "No more mutants" - removing the powers of all but a handful of mutants (including, somehow, Quicksilver - though he was later revealed not to be a mutant at all), putting mutantkind in danger of extinction.
But in the ashes of the Avengers, Wanda's true legacy emerged in Billy Kaplan/Wiccan and Tommy Shepherd/Speed of the Young Avengers, teen heroes inspired by their elder Avenger counterparts to become a new team in the wake of the Avengers' dissolution.
As it turns out, rather than simply being mutants born with powers that resemble those of Scarlet Witch (Wiccan's spellcasting) and Quicksilver (Speed's, uh, speed), Billy and Tommy are actually the reincarnated essence of the twin sons Wanda once conjured, born into true physical form.
Leading the Young Avengers on a quest to find their missing mother in the story Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Wiccan and Speed track down Scarlet Witch, who is still being manipulated by Doctor Doom years after Avengers: Disassembled.
Wanda is freed from Doom's influence and returns to the Avengers and X-Men - although deep wounds and tensions among her fellow heroes remain all around, to the point that Wanda and most of her former allies still have yet to make amends.
In recent years, Wanda's extended family has once again branched into the larger story of the Marvel Universe. Following Avengers: Disassembled, the Marvel Universe entered a long period of fluctuation, in which the fallout of Scarlet Witch's actions led to a long string of major events like Civil War, Secret Invasion, and Avengers Vs. X-Men.
Most recently, Wanda's family became the central characters in Empyre, in which Wanda's son Wiccan marries his Young Avengers teammate Teddy Altman/Hulkling, the Emperor of the combined Kree/Skrull Alliance, and the son of legendary Avenger Captain Mar-Vell and the Skrull Princess Anelle.
In an odd connection, Teddy was secretly conceived during the story Avengers: The Kree/Skrull War, in which Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Mar-Vell were all captured by the Skrull army. This ties Scarlet Witch's lineage even further to the history of the Marvel Universe, directly connecting her by marriage to one of Marvel's other most important legacies.
Scarlet Witch Ascendant
Right now, Marvel Comics is digging even deeper into the lore of Wanda Maximoff and her family tree in the story The Trial of Magneto, in which Magneto, who was in the process of reconciling with Wanda when she died, is put on trial for her apparent murder. The events of that story seem to be leading directly to Jonathan Hickman's upcoming X-Men swansong, Inferno, which will shake the mutant nation of Krakoa to its core.
And of course, the Maximoff family's influence is rapidly threading itself into movies and TV as well, with WandaVision forming the first loop in a knot around the Marvel Cinematic Universe, tied by the magical, Multiversal forces at play in Wanda's ascent to becoming the Scarlet Witch.
The MCU Wanda will next appear in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness - which coincidentally lines up with comic books thanks to her potential involvement in the current Death of Doctor Strange limited series, and her role in the upcoming Darkhold event, which brings in the book of dark magic introduced in WandaVision.
Whether it's on the page or on-screen, any time Wanda Maximoff shows up, she has a way of magnetically drawing in all the subplots around her directly into her own complex story and bringing the characters involved into her ever-growing family.
Whether Marvel is ready to admit it or not, we'll say it: Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, is one of the most important characters in Marvel Comics history.
Discover more of Wanda Maximoff's Marvel Comics legacy with the best Scarlet Witch stories of all time.