Marvel's scarlet sorceress has been around for over 50 years now, and -- like most superpowered comic book characters -- she's been through a huge amount of change in that time. Debuting in Uncanny X-Men #4 in 1964 alongside her twin brother, Quicksilver, the pair faced persecution early on in life in their native home of Serbia, partly for their Romani heritage, and partly for their strange abilities. It was thanks to Pietro's superhuman speed that they were able to flee from an angry mob of villagers that besieged the camp where they lived with their parents, and their lives were never the same again. After nomadically drifting through Europe for much of their young lives, they found a new unconventional family in Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
After crossing paths with the Brotherhood's sworn enemies, the X-Men, a few times, Wanda and Pietro eventually broke free of Magneto's emotional hold on them -- a bond that, in a very soap opera-style twist was later revealed to be a fatherly one -- and started batting for the good guys: the Avengers. The twins would continue to struggle to find a permanent home, often choosing to depend on nobody but each other -- a relationship that crossed a very taboo line in the Ultimate universe. Of the two, Wanda -- whose powers are on par with some of the Marvel Universe's best -- has struggled the most to maintain any kind of stability in her life. And, with the number of contradictory retcons that her history has undergone over the decades, we can kind of see why.
For 51 years of Scarlet Witch's existence, we all knew her and Quicksilver as mutants. And then the "Counter-Evolutionary" storyline came along and changed everything we thought we knew about the Maximoff twins. The revelation happened in 2015's Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 2 #3, which reopened the messy history of their parentage.
After going in search of answers about their birth at Wundagore Mountain, Wanda and Pietro were informed by the god-like High Evolutionary that his formative experiments with their genetics mean they are actually vastly enhanced humans who merely "masquerade" as mutants. So for now at least, Wanda has more in common with her MCU iteration than you think.
She may no longer be technically part of the mutant population, but one thing the Scarlet Witch has always been is a real sorceress. With her (formerly) mutant blood and the High Evolutionary's tampering with her genetic code, it's easy to assume that the "witch" part of her name relates to her powers acting like magic.
But, make no mistake, Wanda's magic is legit. Originally, her powers were given a supernatural boost by the demon Chthon, allowing her to access and manipulate chaos magic. And even if the High Evolutionary now lays claim to all of her abilities, she can still cast a spell on you the old fashioned way thanks to her witchcraft mentor, Agatha Harkness.
Given how closely associated she and her brother are to the merry mutant community, you'd be forgiven for assuming that Wanda must have signed up for an X squad at some point. But, despite first appearing in an X book and once being the daughter of their arch enemy, Scarlet Witch has never officially been on an X-Men team.
She has served on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (and the New Brotherhood), the Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Defenders, Scarlet Defenders, Force Works and -- in true Stan Lee alliterative style -- Lady Liberators. Now that her mutant status has been completely stripped away, the chances of seeing her on an X crew seem even slimmer.
Obviously, Scarlet Witch's greatest strengths are non-physical. When you can break down and remake the very fabric of reality with just a few magic-laced words, why bother learning how to throw a proper punch? Well, if the occasion calls for it, Wanda actually can throw a proper punch. (You'll just never manage to get that close to her to find out.)
You don't become an Avenger without Captain America putting you through your paces, and when Wanda and Pietro assembled for the team's new line-up in 1965, Steve Rogers put them through their paces. Fellow new recruit Hawkeye also whipped them into fighting shape, transforming Wanda into an expert physical combatant.
Scarlet Witch's unpredictability is one of the most appealing things about her character -- a trait that is, of course, mirrored and amplified by her ability to tinker with the laws of probability. Although she's gained a reputation as one of the most destructive forces in the Marvel Universe, Wanda has never been truly "evil."
Magical interventions from the likes of Chthon and Doctor Doom may have corrupted her body, while spells of insanity may have clouded her mind, but Wanda has always been a superhero at heart. This was woven into her character from the start. Though she batted for Magneto's team initially, co-creator Stan Lee always intended for her to join the good guys.
Wanda and Pietro are the most notorious twins in the Marvel Universe, but they're not the only Maximoff siblings. 1988's Web of Spider-Man #1, which was part of the "Evolutionary War" event that heavily featured the High Evolutionary, revealed that their adoptive parents had another set of twins, Ana and Mateo -- their step-siblings.
Sadly, the Transian pair didn't survive WWII. More well-known is the "sister" that the High Evolutionary cooked up from a batch of Wanda and Pietro's genes, Luminous. (Though, doesn't that make her more like their... daughter?) She'd fit in well in the Ultimate stories, that's for sure!) Of the three, Luminous was scarily superior with both twins' abilities.
Most Marvel comics readers will be well aware of Wanda Maximoff's ethnic identity as a Roma, a group of people who are thought to be Indian in origin, but became dispersed to live in clusters around Europe and the US. In the MCU, however, this heritage was replaced with a fictionalized one.
Making Wanda and Pietro Sokovian with vaguely Eastern European accents might have fitted in better with the story in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it -- and the casting of Caucasian actors to play them -- stirred up whitewashing accusations. It also costs Wanda a key part of her backstory as someone victimized for their race as well as their powers.
Twins are famous for having an intimate bond that goes beyond the one that other siblings usually share. Some even believe in "twin ESP," claiming that one twin can "sense" when the other needs them even from long distances. Wanda and Pietro, for all their closeness, couldn't be more different.
It seems to be a case of opposites attract, with Pietro being the irritable speedster and Wanda relying on calm concentration to access her abilities. But, their powers are -- by design -- are more like two sides of the same coin. They both possess what the other lacks, which is what makes them such a great team. For more proof, just look at how formidable Luminous is with their powers combined.
One of the things the MCU gets right about Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver is how quickly they were recruited to the Avengers. Marvel's flagship crossover team were formed in 1963 with Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Hulk as founding members. Captain America joined them in the fourth issue, which is when the group began to look like the one we know today.
But by #16, Cap found the team slowly falling apart as most of the original team departed for separate adventures. It was then that he took a chance on Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who were looking to switch careers. Again, given they had stronger ties to the X-Men, it's weird to think that they were the second wave of Avengers.
You might remember an animated Scarlet Witch from X-Men: Evolution where, like the rest of the cast, she was given an early '00s makeover as an angsty goth girl. You might remember even further back that she had a cameo in the "Family Ties" episode of X-Men: The Animated Series.
More recently, she was Nightcrawler's witchy crush in Wolverine and the X-Men. But on TV, Wanda has been X-Men independent for decades. Her first animated appearance was in the short-lived The Marvel Super Heroes show; she then had a recurring part in the 1994 Iron Man series in the Force Works team and has been used in Avengers: United They Stand and The Super Hero Squad Show.
To describe Scarlet Witch as having the power over good and bad luck isn't wholly inaccurate but vastly simplistic today. Though the constantly shifting lore makes it hard to nail down the specificity of how her powers work sometimes, it's long been the case that she can manipulate probability using a combination of chaos magic and genetic enhancement.
That means she can do as little as increasing the likelihood of someone tripping over to as much as bending all of reality. She's so adept at this skill that she can actually negate the powers of others with probability warping capabilities, like Domino and Longshot. So, if you were ever going to place bets on a brawl between them -- bet on red.
Despite Quicksilver being the more outspoken one of the pair, Scarlet Witch is actually the one that calls the shots -- even if unintentionally. In essence, wherever she goes, Pietro goes. In the original Uncanny X-Men run, they pledge loyalty to Magneto out of gratitude for him saving them from persecution.
Since they were never through-and-through villains, the siblings didn't feel comfortable in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but Wanda always succumbed to Magneto's guilt trips when they tried to leave, and Quicksilver always begrudgingly agreed to stay to "watch over" her. History repeated itself years later when Wanda formed the New Brotherhood and Pietro again reluctantly stuck by her side.
Proving that nothing in the Scarlet Witch's life is simple, she has two sons who are both hers and not hers at once. Confused? You should be. The two boys, Billy, and Tommy Maximoff, were "born" to Scarlet Witch and Vision in 1986's Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Vol. 2 #12. Just a couple of years later though, the brothers were snatched from existence by Mephisto.
It turned out that Scarlet Witch had unconsciously hexed them into being using fragments of Mephisto's soul, and when he recovered his scattered essence, the kids were erased. Even stranger, the brothers were reincarnated as Billy Kaplan and Tommy Shepard -- Wiccan and Speed -- in 2005's Young Avengers #1, mirroring hers and Quicksilver's abilities.
It's not unusual for characters with as long of a history as Scarlet Witch's to go through a lot of changes. These changes came to affect both her strengths and her weaknesses. Like DC's Green Lantern, Wanda used to have a lot of odd faults, ones that her MCU counterpart seems to have picked up.
In Captain America: Civil War, we see her overexerting herself and messing up pretty disastrously, something her past comic book version used to do. Similarly, MCU Wanda also appears to only be able to affect things she can see, something that her Marvel comics template has overcome to become one of the universe's greatest multi-dimensional reality warpers.
Though we can't imagine anyone else in her place, Wanda Maximoff is far from the first person to hold the Scarlet Witch mantle. After some seismic retconning that will be discussed later on this list, Wanda came into contact with her birth mother, Natalya Maximoff, for the first time in the spiritual realm of Witches Road during Scarlet Witch, Vol. 2 #3.
The Serbian woman was dressed in a very familiar all-red outfit and it was revealed that she had bore the Scarlet Witch name before her daughter did, a name that had been passed down her maternal family line for generations -- including her grandfather, the Scarlet Warlock -- as had Wanda's affinity with sorcery.
In the MCU, Scarlet Witch's powers are frustratingly unclear. Is she actually doing magic? Is she telekinetic? Or is she like a living Mind Stone? Whatever her powers are, she mainly uses them to just fling people around or change the properties of a material. In the comics, her hex bolts were initially quite vague, too.
Once limited to just inciting "bad luck," Wanda can now do practically anything with them, including: spontaneous combustion, energy manipulation, creating force fields, instant decay, healing, deflecting magic, controlling matter, unlocking doors, taking apart machines... You name it and she can probably do it.
What is that thing that Scarlet Witch wears on her head? Is it a crown? Is it a non-descript headdress? Is it an avant-garde spin on a witch's pointed hat? That last one might well be true, but the others aren't. The answer is: it's a wimple. You might not know the name but you've definitely seen one of these elsewhere.
Wimples are the traditional head coverings that nuns wear, a practice that dates back to medieval Europe when it was considered a big no-no for married Christian women to flaunt their hair in public. As the "Scarlet Witch" who directly preceded Wanda also wore one, we could guess that the original creator of the costume was around in that era.
This fact won't have escaped you if you've been keeping up with Marvel comics continuity, but, once again, MCU-only fans haven't been shown the true raw strength of Scarlet Witch yet. In the power rankings, she's possibly on par with cosmic entities like the Phoenix Force and Dormammu.
Even the combined efforts of Professor X and Doctor Strange can't completely neuter her powers when she needs pacifying. She can both resurrect and destroy at will -- proven to devastating effect in the "House of M" storyline when she almost wiped out every mutant with just a few words. All in a day's work for Earth-616's "reality anchor" (otherwise known as a Nexus Being.)
Before he became the Master of Magnetism, Magneto went by his birth name, Max Eisenhardt. In 1930s Germany, he became besotted with a young Romani woman, Magda. Sadly, early into their courtship, Magda and her community were incarcerated at Auschwitz, until Max managed to smuggle his way in and escape with her.
The couple fled to the Carpathian Mountains and had a daughter, Anya. Once again, their happiness didn't last. After Max fatally lost control of his powers trying to save Magda and Anya from a burning building, a terrified Magda was said to have run away to Wundagore Mountain where she gave birth to Wanda and Pietro -- a detail that has since been retconned out of continuity.
Is Scarlet Witch Magneto's daughter? Well... it's complicated. Originally, she and Pietro were presented to us as the offspring of Django and Marya Maximoff. Then, in 1974's Giant-Size Avengers #1, Miss America and The Whizzer were revealed as their actual parents.
This stuck until 1984, when Magneto stepped in to deliver his big Empire Strikes Back moment, making him and his since-deceased wife Magda the twins' birth parents. For years, we all accepted this as canon, until 2014's Avengers & X-Men: Axis #7 reverted their parentage back to the Maximoff family. So, until the next retcon, Scarlet Witch has no blood relation to Magneto.