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Spell Check: The 17 Best Comic Book Witches

by  in Lists, Comic News Comment
Spell Check: The 17 Best Comic Book Witches

Of the classic monster templates — vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc. — none has been with us longer than the witch. Gathering with her coven at midnight to commune with dark powers, the witch has been a source of terror for millennia. The ancient Greeks feared the Thessalian witches, the English blamed Joan of Arc’s victories on “witchcraft,” and the infamous moral panic of the Salem Witch Trials resonates to this day.

RELATED: Doctor Strange: A Look At His Greatest Enemies

So it’s no surprise that witches have been showing up in comics since the Golden Age. Sometimes they are villains, intent on using dark magics to conquer the world. Sometimes they are heroes, using their powers to hold infernal forces at bay. And sometimes they are a bit of both, conflicted individuals torn between their humanity and the demonic, shifting back-and-forth between good and evil like the tides. CBR has dug deep into the archives to present you the 17 best witches in comic book history.

17. The Weird Sisters

weird-sisters

The three Weird Sisters first appeared as the hosts of DC Comics’ 1970s horror anthology “The Witching Hour” by Alex Toth, where they were named Mordred, Mildred and Cynthia (yes, Cynthia). The trio were inspired by the witches from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by way of Robert Graves’ triple goddess, with Cynthia playing the hip “maiden” to Mildred and Mordred’s “mother” and “crone.” In “The Witching Hour,” the three competed to tell the most horrifying tales, with Cynthia’s often dealing with more contemporary issues.

Most comic readers, however, know the Weird Sisters not from “The Witching Hour,” but from Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman.” Gaiman and his company of incredible artists  (most prominently Marc Hempel), reimagined the Sisters as an aspect of the Greek Fates, and they appeared periodically throughout the series to help, hinder and ultimately destroy Dream. Gaiman filled the Dreaming with a number of DC’s old horror anthology hosts — Cain, Abel, Eve, even Lucien — but the Weird Sisters may have played the most important role of all of them. They even had two 3-issue miniseries in the late 1990s: “WitchCraft” by James Robinson, Teddy Kristiansen and Michael Zulli, and its sequel “WitchCraft: Le Terreur,” again by Robinson and Zulli.

 

16. Satana

satana

The sister of Daimon Hellstrom, Satana was created by Roy Thomas and John Romita, Sr. as the daughter of Satan… or at least, that’s what she thought for years before learning her father was merely a demon posing as Satan. While her brother was raised on Earth and came to reject his demonic heritage, Satana was raised in hell, where she learned black magic. She did make it to Earth eventually, where she served hell as a succubus until a run-in with Doctor Strange resulted in her death. Of course, it’s hard to keep a good (or bad, depending on your perspective) witch down, so soon enough Satana was back in action.

When she returned from the dead, Satana joined a coven alongside Jennifer Kale (from “Man-Thing”) and Topaz (from “Werewolf by Night”). It wasn’t long, though, before she fell back to her evil ways and Satana found herself thrust amongst the Thunderbolts. She bolted during the “Hell on Earth” War, but her efforts to ascend as the new lord of hell failed when the mantle unexpectedly fell on X-Factor’s Strong Guy.

15. Wendy the Good Little Witch

wendy-the-good-little-witch

Created by artist Steve Mufatti, Wendy the Good Little Witch is most famous as longtime pal of Casper the Friendly Ghost, but during the 1960s and early 1970s, she had not one, but two solo series from Harvey Comics: “Wendy the Good Little Witch” and “Wendy Witchworld.” As a baby, Wendy was left on the doorstep of her “aunties” Thelma, Velma and Zelma, who were evil green-skinned witches living deep in a haunted forest. The trio tried to teach Wendy black magic, but it never took. Instead, Wendy regularly called on good spirits to use white magic to help people.

In addition to multiple comic series over the years, Wendy also appeared regularly on the Saturday morning “Casper” cartoon. She was also played by a young Hilary Duff in the 1998 direct-to-video movie, “Casper and Wendy.” (Christina Ricci’s character in the 1995 “Casper” movie was originally intended to be Wendy, but her name was changed due to rights issues.) Alas, the most interesting Wendy story was never told: Wendy and Casper once almost appeared in an inter-company crossover with Marvel’s Ghost Rider.

14. Tarot

tarot

Created by Jim Balent of 1990s “Catwoman” fame, Tarot is a witch of the Black Rose coven and Swordmaiden of the Goddess. Her name (she was originally named Rowan) comes from her deep connection with tarot cards, through which she receives premonitions of events to come and can connect with her family and loved ones. As Swordmaiden of the Goddess, Tarot is tasked with protecting the balance between mankind and the realms of magick, as well as encouraging humanity to accept, rather than reject, magick. She is sometimes helped, sometimes hindered by her older sister Raven, who holds a deep grudge against mankind due to childhood bullying.

Tarot first appeared in March 2000, and her eponymous series “Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose” recently celebrated its 100th issue. The book is heavily influenced by modern Wiccan belief and practices, and each issue features Wiccan back matter, including interviews with practitioners and guides for casting fan-submitted spells. Be warned, though, “Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose” is unapologetically NSFW. (That banner image required some extreme cropping.)

13. Gemma Masters

gemma-masters

Being John Constantine’s niece, it was probably inevitable that Gemma Masters would take up witchcraft. The first time we meet Gemma (before we even know she’s related to John), she manages to get recruited by a trio of ghost girls who want her to become their satanic sister-wife, but Constantine rescues her at the last possible second. From there, it was all downhill, as Gemma became fascinated by her uncle’s magical lifestyle, which of course seems oh-so-appealing from a distance.

Getting involved in witchcraft hasn’t always worked out well for Gemma, and more than once she’s renounced magic, only later to be dragged back into the game, Michael Corleone-style. Along the way, she’s fought both against and alongside her uncle, helping to save the world at least once, but also suffering innumerable tragedies, including the deaths of pretty much everyone she ever loved. Magic might have saved Gemma’s life, but it came at quite the cost.

12. The Wytches

wytches

Horror comics are often gruesome, grisly and downright provocative, but rarely are they truly terrifying. That, however, is not the case in Scott Snyder and Jock’s “Wytches,” a comic you should definitely not read before bed, especially if you find yourself anywhere near woods (or, let’s be real, a single tree).

The book centers on the Rook family — Charlie, Lucy, and daughter Sailor — who have recently moved to rural New Hampshire for a fresh start after an incident involving Sailor and a school bully who went missing. Things in the small town are not as they seem, however, and the book soon has you questioning whether you can ever really trust anyone.

Snyder and Jock’s witches are unlike anything we’ve seen, at least in comics. They are horrific, disfigured monsters living in the woods, offering favors to the townfolk who serve them. In fact, Snyder and Jock started from the question, “What if the people we think are witches were just their human servants?” After reading “Wytches,” you’ll never want to go anywhere near the woods again, especially when you find out it’s somewhat based on a true story from Snyder’s past. 

“Wytches” is currently on hiatus. A second arc was teased last year, but has not yet been solicited.

11. Morgan Le Fay

morgan-le-fay

The half-fairy sister of King Arthur, Morgan Le Fay is a frequent foe of the Avengers. Despite living in the sixth century, Morgan uses her magic to manifest in the present to plague Earth’s Mightiest Heroes from across the time. She has been a dangerous opponent, willing to use the Avengers’ powers against them, as when she manipulated the Scarlet Witch in order to create a modern Middle Ages in which Morgan was the undisputed leader.

In addition to being a formidable opponent, Morgan Le Fay has also been a key figure in the history and development of magic in the Marvel universe. She was the leader of a sixth-century cult of the Darkhold, ancient scrolls of evil magic set down by the elder god Chthon. Morgan gathered the Darkhold scrolls and had them bound together for the first time. She then used the collected Darkhold to summon Chthon, but when she found him beyond her ability to control, she and her fellow cultists locked him away inside Wundagore Mountain, which to this day remains a major magical site.

Morgan has also been a frequent ally — and lover — of Victor von Doom. Morgan taught Doom much of what he knows about magic, and the two had a daughter, Caroline Le Fay, a powerful magical being in her own right.

10. Thessaly

thessaly

Born thousands of years ago, “Thessaly” takes her current name from the region of what is now Greece, where she was one of the Thessalian Witches, who were so powerful that even the gods feared them. Over the years, however, the Thessalian Witches slowly died off, until only Thessaly herself remained. She lived beneath the radar, trying not to draw too much attention to herself, until the early 1990s, when she became entangled with Morpheus and the Dreaming during the “A Game of You” arc of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman.”

Of course, there were downsides to being out in the open again, especially since the Fates had never looked kindly on the Thessalian Witches. So, Thessaly made a difficult choice: she agreed to help the Fates destroy Morpheus in exchange for forgiving some old scores (along with a few thousand additional years of life). But, the deal only protected Thessaly from the fates themselves, and she was soon being hunted again by agents of gods and dark powers with grudges against her.

In addition to appearing in “The Sandman,” Thessaly also starred in two minis, both written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Shawn McManus (who pencilled most of the “A Game of You” arc where she first appeared). 

9. Clea

clea

Though her appearance can be deceiving, Clea is not exactly human: she’s the daughter of Prince Orini, the sorcerous heir of the Dark Dimension, and Umar, sister of the dread Dormammu, so magic is literally in her blood. Her life changed dramatically when Doctor Strange entered the Dark Dimension to battle Dormammu. Clea and Strange fell in love, and eventually she returned with him to Earth, where he trained her in magic in his Sanctum Sanctorum.

But Clea’s been much more than a sidekick/love interest. After a time on Earth, Clea returned to the Dark Dimension, where she battled her mother Umar one-on-one for the throne. Victorious, Clea claimed her birthright, becoming ruler of the Dark Dimension (at least until Dormammu returned). Though she and Strange married, she remained fiercely independent, and the two eventually split up. Clea has also been a frequent ally to the various Defenders teams, most recently helping Valkyrie’s Fearless Defenders defeat the schemes of Caroline Le Fay.

8. Magica de Spell

magica-de-spell

Magica De Spell is one part Sophia Loren, one part Morticia Addams, and all duck. From her lair on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius in Italy, Magica De Spell plots how to steal what she believes to be one of the most powerful magical artefacts in existence: Uncle Scrooge McDuck’s Number One Dime, the first coin Scrooge ever earned. Magica hopes to melt the Dime in the fires of Mount Vesuvius, creating a powerful amulet that will grant its wearer the Midas Touch (and with it, endless wealth).

Magica De Spell first appeared in Carl Barks’ “Uncle Scrooge” in 1961, and made repeated appearances over the next several years of Barks’ classic run. Many now, however, are more likely to remember Magica from her numerous appearances on “DuckTales” (as well as a cameo in “Darkwing Duck”), where she served not only as one of the series’ key villains, but also as a frequent source of comedy relief. Magica De Spell will next appear in the “DuckTales” relaunch, set to premiere on Disney XD in 2017.

7. Circe

circe

An immortal witch of immense power, Circe is a devotee of the goddess Hecate, and through her, is able to channel godlike abilities, not the least of which are mind control and turning people into animals (as she once did to Odysseus’ crew). Circe has plagued Wonder Woman since the Golden Age, though she only became an A-list villain during George Perez’s post-Crisis run, which culminated in “The War of the Gods,” in which she incited a war between the various pantheons of the DC universe. It wouldn’t be the last time Circe manipulated things behind the scenes; she also notably instigated the Themysciran assault on Washington, DC, in “Amazons Attack!”

Circe has a particular dislike for Wonder Woman, in large part because of a prophecy she believes to mean Diana would inherit Hecate’s powers. More recently, her enmity has also been justified as a response to what she sees as Diana’s naïveté and hypocrisy, especially her failure to save women from the oppression of men.

6. Raven

raven

Born half-demon, Raven was raised in the extra-dimensional Temple of Azarath, where she was taught to keep her demon side in check. When she learned her father, the demon Trigon, was planning to invade Azarath, Raven came to Earth for help, leading to the reformation of the Teen Titans. Since then, Raven has occasionally tried to live a normal life as a teenager, but inevitably her father (or one of his minions) catches up to her, pushing her back to the Teen Titans and the cause of good, at least until her demonic side breaks free again.

Raven’s powers include the ability to sense and control emotions; astrally projecting her soul-self, a manifestation of dark energy often taking the form of a bird; and manipulating darkness and energy. Raven gained new attention and popularity after appearing in the “Teen Titans” and “Teen Titans Go!” animated series, where she was a fan-favorite character voiced by Tara Strong. Most recently, Raven has appeared in her own self-titled series as part of “Rebirth.”

5. Nico Minoru

nico-minoru

Nico Minoru lived a relatively normal life until she discovered that her parents, who she thought to be boring antique dealers, were secretly part of an evil group plotting to wipe out humanity. Freaked out about their supervillain (and murderous) parents, Nico and pals fled, becoming the Runaways.

During their escape, Nico’s mother tried to kill her with the mystical Staff of One. Instead of dying, Nico’s body absorbed the staff and she can now use the staff to do practically anything… with just one catch: each spell can only be used once, requiring Nico to get increasingly creative with her magic. Nico has also learned to cast a number of spells without the use of the Staff of One.

More recently, Nico was one of 16 teen heroes kidnapped by Arcade and put in his latest version of Murderworld. Nico was able to survive because of the power of the Staff of One, and has most recently been seen as part of “A-Force.” Hulu recently picked up a series based on “Runaways,” but no release date has been set.

4. Magik

magik

Illyana Nikolaevna Rasputina grew up on a collective farm near Lake Baikal in the former Soviet Union, the younger sister of Piotr Rasputin, better known to the world as Colossus. While her big brother was travelling the world getting into adventures, Illyana lived a relatively normal life back on the farm — at least when she wasn’t getting kidnapped by supervillains like Arcade. All of that changed, though, when she was sucked into Limbo by the evil sorcerer Belasco, who wanted to use Illyana to bring forth the Elder Gods to destroy the world. In Limbo, Belasco schooled Illyana in the dark arts, which probably wasn’t a great choice on his part, as she became the Darkchylde, seizing control of Limbo with the help of her Soulsword (literally her soul in sword form) and her mutant power to create teleportation discs.

Back on Earth, Illyana took up the name Magik, joined the New Mutants, and helped stop a demonic invasion by teleporting everyone back to Limbo. She lost most of her powers (including her Soulsword) and de-aged back to a child in the process. She later died of the Legacy Virus, but you can’t keep a good witch (or X-Man) down, so she of course later reappeared in Limbo, where she helped a group of young mutants escape, helping Pixie craft her own Souldagger in the process. Since then, Magik has been an integral part of the X-Men, including her role as one of the Phoenix Five.

3. Frau Totenkinder

frau-totenkinder

Fairy tales are full of witches, so it should be no surprise that so is Bill Willingham’s “Fables.” In fact, Fabletown has so many witches, they have their own floor (the 13th, of course) in the Woodland Luxury Apartments building. Of course, one witch reigns supreme: Frau Totenkinder, the Fable equivalent of every unnamed fairy tale witch. Her name, which roughly translates as “Mrs. Childkiller,” should come as no surprise, since she’s the witch who tried to eat Hansel and Gretel.

Since coming to the Mundane and signing the Fabletown Compact, though, Frau Totenkinder has mended her ways, becoming Fabletown’s most powerful asset in the battle against the Adversary and Mr. Dark. She might look like a harmless old granny quietly knitting in the corner, but over the centuries she’s amassed enough power to nearly become a Great Power herself; a sort of archetype of witches. Without her magic and clever strategic thinking, Fabletown would have been destroyed many times over.

2. Wanda Maximoff

wanda-maximoff

Whether Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, is actually a witch has been hotly contested for years. Initially, she had the mutant ability to manipulate probability through her “hexes,” which could cause an opponent to trip, a gun to misfire or an object to break. Over the years, though, her powers have grown substantially, becoming truly magical, and extraordinarily dangerous. She has brought people back from the dead, single-handedly defeated the Avengers (killing a few in the process), and with three words committed a mutant genocide. But hey, it wasn’t her fault — during “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade,” it was revealed that Doctor Doom had been manipulating Wanda all along to gain ultimate power for himself.

Recently, Wanda has been trying to get her life back in order, which has been complicated by the revelation that she’s not actually Magneto’s daughter. Her reality bending powers are once more down to reasonable levels (no more accidentally destroying the world with a fleeting thought), but she’s more than made up for it by focusing heavily on actual witchcraft. Outside of comics, Elizabeth Olson has portrayed Wanda in three films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with at least two more to come.

1. Sabrina Spellman

sabrina-spellman

There’s one comics witch whose conjury game reigns supreme:  Sabrina Spellman, the so-called “Teenage Witch.” Sabrina first appeared in “Archie’s Mad House” #22 in October 1962, and in the 50+ years since, she’s appeared in over 200 issues of her self-titled comic. She’s also been the star of four TV series, including the 1996-2003 series starring Melissa Joan Hart. As of this writing, she’s appearing in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” which is widely regarded as one of the best (and creepiest) comics on the market today.

What makes Sabrina so compelling? She’s an otherwise ordinary teenager who finds herself with extraordinary power. It’s a classic setup, used everywhere from “Harry Potter” to “The Uncanny X-Men,” but the Archie Comics team (including creators Dan DeCarlo and George Gladir) expertly intermingled Sabrina’s struggle to learn how to use her powers with everyday teenage problems. It’s a great setup, and Sabrina’s magic (and magical family, including Aunts Hilda and Zelda and cat familiar Salem) allowed for an almost unlimited variety of stories.

Who are your favorite witches in comics? Let us know by conjuring up a magical debate in the comments section!

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