Since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the Scarlet Witch (AKA Wanda Maximoff) back in 1964’s “X-Men” #4 she’s played a number of roles including hero, villain, Avenger, wife, sister, and even movie star in two of Marvel Studios’ recent films, but one thing she hasn’t often been is the star of her own story. For years the Witch’s most prominent adventures have involved her relationships to other characters including her former husband the Vision; her brother Quicksilver; Magneto, the man she believed was her father for many years; her former lover, Simon Williams; and her teammates in the Avengers.
That all started to change late last year when writer James Robinson kicked off the first ongoing “Scarlet Witch” series, which features a different artist every issue. Robinson and his collaborators proceeded to send their protagonist on a globe hopping mission to investigate the mystery of what’s gone wrong with witchcraft in the Marvel Universe, and while she’s been doing that she’s also begun to discover where she came from and her larger place in the occult corner of the Marvel Universe.
CBR News spoke with Robinson about his mission statement for the “Scarlet Witch,” his decision to do the book as an accessible series of done-in-one stories that feed into a larger plot, and the coming payoff to Wanda’s investigation of her roots.
CBR News: When “Scarlet Witch” began you introduced a larger plot mystery in that something was wrong with witchcraft in the Marvel Universe, but it feels like you’ve also been investigating a character-based mystery with the book — who Wanda Maximoff is on her own and not in relation to any of the characters she’s often paired with like her brother, the Vision or even other Avengers. Was that part of your mission statement for the book?
James Robinson: This book really came about because I stood up at a Marvel summit and pitched to do a Wanda book. This initially wasn’t part of Marvel’s game plan. It was me pointing out that she was in the Avengers movies and everything else, and I really believed people might respond to a Wanda solo book at this time.
However, even there I made some choices. For instance, I see people asking things on message boards like, “What about the Vision? What about all the stuff that’s happened to her in the past?”
I’ve tried to refer and allude to aspects of that stuff in some stories, but in so many of the Scarlet Witch’s appearances in the Avengers books, her personality seemed to be her back story. She really hasn’t had much of a personal journey on her own. Who’s the Scarlet Witch? She was Magneto’s daughter. She was Quicksilver’s sister. She was married to the Vision. She’s an Avenger. If you ask comic fans what’s the personality of characters like Janet Van Dyne, Tony Stark, or She-Hulk they don’t have to give you those characters’ back stories. They can just tell you what their personalities are like. I felt Wanda deserved more of that, too.
On top of that, I was trying to do a book that was very new reader friendly. I’ve spoken to a lot of comics fans who don’t like or are turned of by lots of back story. That’s why they like Image books because it’s relatively easy to get caught up to date on any Image book. You buy a couple of trade paperbacks and you’re off to the races. Whereas you get into some of these Marvel books and they’re so dense with continuity that they’re appealing for a certain kind of comic fan, but they sometimes run the risk of alienating new readers.
Conversely, I think that’s why a book like “Ms. Marvel” has done so well. Apart from the great storytelling of G. Willow Wilson and artists like Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa, the fact is that book stars a very easy to get into character and starting point. There isn’t a great deal of back story you need to know to get into that character. So I was trying to do that with the Scarlet Witch, and the other problem was finding a great artist that could draw the whole series.
That can happen. Gabriel Hernandez Walta has done all but one issue of “The Vision,” and he’s fantastic. With “Scarlet Witch,” though, the idea was to do “one and done” stories,” and obviously now, too, it’s fantastic that there are more female creators working in comics. So, yeah, I’m a guy, obviously, and I’m the one who came up with the idea to do a “Scarlet Witch” comic. But at the same time we (Marvel and I) wanted to bring in as much female talent as we could. It was edited by Emily Shaw and now Christina Harrington and we’ve tried to include as many female creators as we could, and some you wouldn’t necessarily expect; ones who don’t do a whole lot of work for the Big Two.
That gives us some really great looks at Wanda and some different styles and feels. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing over the years starting with all the “Times Past” stories I did in “Starman,” which were sort of organic fill-in issues. The idea for those issues is that we’d come up with a story that played to the strength of the artists. With Wanda I had a lot of fun doing that and have continued to do that as this series has unfolded. It’s only now with “Scarlet Witch” issues #11-14 that we are seeing a multi-part storyline and even there I’ve found natural break points in terms of the feel of the story and the tone of each issue so that even there we can accommodate the changing artistic style.
So I’d love to involve the Vision and Simon Williams, who is one of my favorite characters, but I wanted to limit all the confusing and contradicting continuity. I’ve had to deal with some of that in my exploration of Wanda’s roots and hopefully they were clear elements so new readers weren’t completely alienated by stuff they didn’t understand. I hopefully made it so they could understand what happened so far. I’ve tried to keep the ties to the past very simple so we can move on with the actual plot and mechanics of the storyline.
The “one and done” model you’ve been using for “Scarlet Witch” feels a lot like Matt Fraction’s “Hawkeye” run and even some more classic Marvel Comics which featured shorter stories that fed into larger plots.
It is classic storytelling. I’ve been on both sides of that. I did the last run on the “Fantastic Four,” which was 18 issues and an Annual, and honestly that’s some of the work I’m most proud of. I rank it up there with “Starman” and “Leave it to Chance.” I think Leonard Kirk’s work is gorgeous and so are Karl Kesel’s inks. Everybody’s work on the book was brilliant, but it was one long storyline and it alienated some readers. They weren’t able to get into something like that.
Now on a book like “Scarlet Witch” I can give our most recent issue, #10, which was set in Japan, to anybody and they can read it and understand it. Many of the issues are like that. You can pick them up and enjoy them and you don’t need to know all of the convoluted aspects of the Scarlet Witch’s history.
The other thing I enjoyed about the book is the role you built for Wanda. It felt like she had become a classic occult detective in that she intervened and helped people with mystical problems that may not be on the radar of someone who has to focus on big picture magical problems like Doctor Strange.
That’s the other thing I’ve been trying to do with the book. Wanda’s powers have changed and evolved over the years. There was chaos magic, Agatha Harkness was brought in, and now they’re based in actual witchcraft as opposed to this sort of mutant ability to zap people, which is kind of what they were when she was in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and her early days with the Avengers.
So I wanted to give her this piece of the occult universe and at some point if another writer decides to do more with her it’s kind of set up that this is who she is. That was my intention and I think I’ve been at least moderately successful in accomplishing that.
Earlier you mentioned the story you’ve been developing about Wanda’s roots and family and what I’ve seen and read about upcoming issues suggests that story is about to have a major payoff, correct?
Yes, there’s been this B plot running through the series. At times it was way off in the background, and at other times it’s been a little more in the fore. Now issues #11-14 will payoff all these larger questions, explain the lineage of the Scarlet Witch, and will make sense of everything that’s happened.
I think it will all make sense, even to long time obsessive continuity based Wanda fans. They can take all the knowledge that they have and fold this into that. They don’t have to throw anything out for this to make sense.
What can you tell us about the artists you have lined up for these upcoming issues?
For issue #11 Leila Del Duca is doing pencils and inks, and Felipe Sobreiro is on colors. #12 features pencils and inks by Annapaola Martello and colors by Matt Yackey. Jonathan Marks is doing the pencils and inks for issue #13, and Rachelle Rosenberg is on colors. And the art team for #14 is Shawn Crystal on pencils and inks and Chris Brunner on colors.
We try to feature different artists on the book. That’s one of the things about “Scarlet Witch.” You can have fun with artists you don’t normally expect to see in a Marvel book. We had Joelle Jones, Tula Lotay, and all these different people coming in and showing what they can do. It’s been really exciting to be able to do that.
Finally, the nature of the comic market means it’s not always possible to tell long form stories, but it feels like the larger story you’ve been telling with Wanda in “Scarlet Witch” has a beginning, middle, and end. Is the end of that story in sight?
The end of the big story is in sight, and then I have a little more to tell after that. So be on the lookout for the return of one of the artists who’s worked on the book in the past.
If you haven’t had a chance yet to read “Scarlet Witch” and you’re a fan of the character I think you’ll really get into the book. As long as you’re not myopically focused on one version of the character you’ll have a lot of fun following Wanda’s adventures. As I said, I’m not turning my back on her past or all the things that have happened to her in the book I’m trying to present a slightly different view of her for new readers and people who perhaps want something fresh.
“Scarlet Witch” #12 is scheduled for release November 2 from Marvel Comics.
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