Quicksilver and the Scarlet Wtch

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Wtch

(pop culture)

Longstanding Avengers members the Scarlet Witch and her twin brother Quicksilver have gone through as convoluted and protracted an origin as any characters in comics, and have endured many indignities in the process. Despite, or perhaps because of this, the Scarlet Witch is one of the longest-lived female supporting characters in the Marvel universe. The twins first appeared as members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in X-Men #4 (in 1964), but were almost from the start reluctant villains. After a year of regular battles with the X-Men, their creators, writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, evidently felt that the pair deserved a chance at the big time, and after a speedy renunciation of their criminal past, they were duly inducted into the Avengers (Avengers #16, 1965).

As Avengers, the twins were a cornerstone of the group’s glory years through the 1960s and 1970s, while never quite building up enough of a following to encourage Marvel to launch them into solo careers. Initially, all that was known about them was that they were mutants. Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, possessed a form of magic (“hex power”), while her brother Pietro, known as Quicksilver, was (as his name suggests) a super-speedster with a short-fused temper to match. Their first origin involved them fleeing persecution in their native Transia (one of Marvel’s all-purpose Balkan backwaters) into the arms of Magneto, but there was much, much more to come.

In 1975, editors suggested (in Giant-Size Avengers #1) that Wanda and Pietro’s parents were 1940s heroes the Whizzer and Miss America, who had given birth after a nuclear accident. Miss America died and the Whizzer fled in grief, leaving the twins to be brought up by a highly evolved cow (one of the Island of Dr. Moreau-like characters from Marvel’s mythical complex called Wundagore). Some years later, however, this explanation was superseded by an even more startling revelation. This newer version (in Avengers #185) suggested that Miss America’s twins had died, and that Wanda and Pietro were actually born to a gypsy named Magda, who had subsequently killed herself rather than reveal their whereabouts to their father Magnus, later known as … Magneto. The cow-lady midwife later gave the children to a gypsy family, the Maximoffs, who brought Wanda and Pietro up until they were killed by a mob, whereupon the twins were rescued by Magneto—which is where readers came into the storyline with X-Men #4.

The 1970s were a romantic decade for the twins, as the Scarlet Witch fell in love with her android teammate, the Vision, and Quicksilver fell for Crystal, of the Inhumans. Both couples married, and Quicksilver went off to live in the Inhumans’ Himalayan refuge (and later on the moon), while his sister settled down to cozy domesticity in Leonia, New Jersey. (The Vision and the Witch starred in a couple of mid-1980s limited series, Vision and Scarlet Witch, one by writer Steve Englehart and artist Richard Howell.) But whereas Quicksilver gained a child, Luna, and was largely written out of the Avengers, Marvel writers had a different fate in store for the Scarlet Witch. During the company’s Secret Wars series, the Vision was controlled by aliens, and a while later the couple left the Avengers for their West Coast branch. There Wanda became pregnant and gave birth to twins, William and Thomas; it later transpired that these were demon offshoots of the evil Mephisto. Then an increasingly unbalanced Vision was dismantled before being reconstructed without any emotion, and the couple tragically divorced; although the Vision’s “halfbrother” Wonder Man (on whose brain patterns the android’s mind was based) unhelpfully declared his undying love for Wanda.

Things got even worse for Wanda in the 1980s, as she was reclaimed by Magneto, after becoming a bride of Set, and went over to the “dark side.” Quicksilver returned to rescue her, but she was soon claimed by another Marvel bad-die, Immortus, who had been influencing her actions for years. Confusingly, it seems that she was in fact not a garden-variety mutant but a nexus being—”someone who belongs to all realities.” In later issues of West Coast Avengers she became the group’s leader, a position she continued to hold in Force Works, a team of former West Coast Avengers (1994)—but there was more upheaval to come. In the “Onslaught” storyline, she died along with the other Avengers but was resurrected soon after. Wonder Man died, came back, died, came back as an energy being, and died again, still proffering his undying love, even though it was his robotic half-brother who was Wanda’s most enduring paramour.

Wanda had an affair with Wonder Man, but then reunited with the Vision, who had regained his full range of emotions. Later, out of anguish over the loss of her children, Wanda underwent a nervous breakdown with dire results. Unleashing her chaos magic, she caused the (temporary) deaths of Hawkeye and the Vision. Subsequently, Quicksilver persuaded her to use her powers to reshape reality, transforming Earth into a planet ruled by Magneto, as shown in the series House of M (2005–2006). Thereafter, Wanda returned the world to normal, but deprived most of its mutants of their superhuman powers, herself included, it seems. Since then, Quicksilver has become a teacher in the new series Avengers Academy. Somehow, Wanda’s children William and Thomas have become the members of the Young Avengers, and are known as Wiccan and Speed. —DAR & PS

The Superhero Book: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Icons and Hollywood Heroes © 2012 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.