This article is part of The Reading List, a monthly column in which we encourage you to take your enthusiasm for a particularly groovy TV show and direct it into a wide array of extracurricular studies. This entry explores the tumultuous romance behind ‘WandaVision’ and suggests several comics to explore if you want more of their steamy action.
The romance between Marvel’s The Vision and Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, is not at all comparable to most comic book relationships. They are not Lois and Clark. They’re not Peter Parker and Mary Jane. At the core of their connection is an unbearable pain, and since its introduction within the comics’ pages, these two characters have shattered many times over. Their saga is one of psychological torment and repair. Survival is victory.
What’s their pain? Their kids. Since The Vision is an artificial creation, born from the bad brain of Ultron, he could not grant the Scarlet Witch the biological family they both desired. Her gifts as a mutant (or a genetic experiment, for those keeping tabs on the current Marvel Cinematic Universe-placating continuity) granted her the reality-altering ability to manifest a set of twins into existence…using the fragments of a certain diabolical supervillain’s soul (psst: Mephisto, Marvel’s spin on Mephistopheles). Comics, man, gotta love them.
It’s a lot, and most of their comic book story doesn’t appear to jive with what we know about these characters as depicted within the films. Although, when we last saw The Vision, he was very much shattered, torn asunder at the hands of the Mad Titan, Thanos. The Scarlet Witch left Avengers: Endgame heartbroken, and based on how she viciously obliterated Thanos’ minions using her “hex powers,” healing that rage is a process that must continue even after Tony Stark snapped his fingers.
How is The Vision walking, talking, and dancing in the sunny sitcom setting of WandaVision? The Scarlet Witch snapped her own set of fingers. She has the power; she has the will. The Disney+ show promises an agonizing confrontation with loss. While the MCU will never allow itself to wallow in despair, 2021’s first foray into our beloved, live-action Marvel universe will stay true to the comics by embracing the tragedy beating at The Vision and the Scarlet Witch’s center.
Their heroism rests in their continual resurrection. Every day is a fresh start. Each morning is a gift inviting a chance for change. If you string enough do-overs together, happiness might eventually find you. We wish this for Wanda as we wait for the first episode to drop this Friday.
This month’s Reading List is designed as a CliffsNotes tour for those looking to understand their bizarre but mesmerizing match. The comics you’ll find below hit the many cataclysms and triumphs they’ve experienced, and they imply the possible trajectory that their cinematic counterparts could be navigating. These stories reveal a couple full of magic and wonder, struggling to rise above the worst aspects of themselves.
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch: Volume 2 (1985 – 1986)
Too often, The Vision and the Scarlet Witch played second fiddle to The Avengers‘ more popular members. It’s in this limited twelve-issue series, orchestrated by writer Steve Englehart, where the two freed themselves from the plot mechanics of other characters and struck out to form a family of their own. Here is where Wanda becomes pregnant with their twins. Much of the series is spent preparing for their arrival while also fending off villains like the Grim Reaper, Enchantress, their bill collector, and various bigoted next-door neighbors.
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch is about as blissful a tale featuring these two lovebirds as you’re going to get. This is where you hang if you want to soak up their warm flirtations. The mundane problems they face are as equally compelling as the typical bad guy shenanigans. How they maneuver holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving coat the comic in a domestic glow. Another suburban tradition heavily lifted for WandaVision.
Avengers: Disassembled (2004 – 2005)
When Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis first took over The Avengers, he wanted to alter the team’s lineup radically. To do so, the OG members either had to die or face deep humiliation and shame. The root of their destruction? The Scarlet Witch.
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch’s good times ended long before this Marvel comic event ever erupted. When it’s revealed in the pages of Avengers West Coast that Wanda created her children from Mephisto’s fragmented soul, she goes a little mad, and Fantastic Four supporting player Agatha Harkness must eradicate the memory of her non-existent babies from her mind. A simple fix? Yeah, right. #52
Throughout Avengers: Disassembled, we learn how the loss of her children mentally fractured the Scarlet Witch. With no big bad to funnel her rage against, Wanda broke her bottled anger upon her teammates. Using her nearly limitless powers, Wanda concocts a scenario that leaves The Vision torn limb from limb by She-Hulk and Avengers Mansion a smoking ruin. Doctor Strange swoops in last minute with a diagnosis and a coma-bomb. When Wanda’s Papa Magneto floats down from the sky, Captain America can’t think of a good reason to deny him access to his daughter. The comic ends with father and child drifting off to parts unknown. See the next comic selection.
House of M (2005)
Magneto asks Professor X to restrain his daughter psychically, but it’s a task simply too large for the X-Men’s patriarch. Wolverine proceeds to Plan B: Wanda’s decapitation. However, before he can do so, the Scarlet Witch reaches out with her full-force and recreates the universe in her vision (pun intended).
Initially, House of M reveals a realm where every Marvel character gets their wish granted. Spider-Man is adored by all and marries his sweetheart Gwen Stacy. Mutants dominate the population, no longer persecuted or feared. Steve Rogers enjoys the small moments that life offers him as an elderly veteran. Only Wolverine remembers the world as it once was, and it’s on him to make it all right again. Sigh. Of course.
The clawed mutant convinces the usual suspects to turn away from this false reality. When Magneto accidentally kills Quicksilver in an attempt to halt his daughter’s vision, the Scarlet Witch utters the sinful words “no more mutants.” Her final spell returning reality to how it was before, minus most of its mutant population. Only a handful remain to champion Professor X’s dream, and for her part in this holocaust, the Scarlet With is forever labeled a traitor and a monster.
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade (2010)
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch’s children live! What?! How?!
After Mephisto reabsorbed their souls, somehow they were resurrected in the bodies of teenagers Billy Kaplan and Tommy Shepherd, a.k.a. Wiccan and Speed from the Young Avengers. Scott Lang, the Ant-Man, was one of several Avengers to perish during Avengers: Disassembled. His daughter Cassie, now a teammate of Billy and Tommy, seeks out the Scarlet Witch under the hope that Wanda can restore her father to life.
In their quest to find Wanda, the Young Avengers stumble into Magneto, who is also on the hunt for his daughter. Together, they discover that the Scarlet Witch is under the care of Doctor Doom. Not only that, the supervillain manipulated her into causing both Avengers: Disassembled and House of M. We got ourselves another glorious retcon!
Relieved of her great sin, Scarlet Witch strikes forth on her own. She wants no part with Magneto, the X-Men, or the Avengers. Doctor Doom? Sure, she stomps that dude before she bounces. What about Cassie and her dad? Uh, well, let’s say that she does not have her wish granted. It’s all one big mess of sadness.
All-New All-Different Avengers (2015 – 2016)
So, what’s The Vision been up to? Long story short, Tony Stark rebuilt the android hero. His only big beef: wherever he looks, The Vision is haunted by apparitions of the Scarlet Witch. Mark Waid‘s All-New All-Different Avengers begins with The Vision explaining to his ex-wife that he’s purged all emotions so that he may continue to function as an effective Avenger. You wanted a robot, you got a robot.
As far as Avengers teams go, this iteration might be the most fun. Joining The Vision is Tony Stark as Iron Man, Sam Wilson as Captain America, Jane Foster as Thor, Miles Morales as Spider-Man, Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, and Sam Alexander as Nova. That’s right: if you want a seriously radical peek at the MCU’s next phase, go grab this book asap. Any one of these characters could cameo-sneak their way into WandaVision.
As the Scarlet Witch found herself the villain at the center of House of M, The Vision is similarly positioned in this fifteen-issue arc. The time-traveling despot Kang the Conqueror invades The Vision’s programming, reworking his circuits so he may turn hero against hero. The violation forces The Vision to reconsider his function on the team and the growing emotional hole festering inside. He needs more than bad buys to punch.
The Vision (2015)
In a universe of sad comics, The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel H. Walta is the god damn saddest. Our android friend is desperate to reach the domestic bliss he once had alongside Wanda. So much so that he constructs a wife using her brainwaves and two children featuring an amalgam of their thought patterns. The Vision attempts an ordinary life behind Arlington, Virginia’s white picket fences, but psychopaths, those damn bigoted neighbors again, and human Avengers who think they know better, won’t leave well enough alone.
From what we’ve seen so far from WandaVision, the television series seems to be borrowing heavily from this book’s imagery. Behind every smile is an ache. As David Lynch’s Blue Velvet exposed, well-manicured lawns merely mask the corpses we stack polite society upon.
The Vision and his family deserve happiness; we all do. The problem is you, me, and us. We’re too damn busy holding onto what was; we can’t see what is. Get out the way. Live in the moment.
The Scarlet Witch (2015)
As The Vision wrestles with domesticity, Wanda investigates her family history while uncovering and eradicating supernatural threats. James Robinson‘s fifteen-issue series leans heavily into horror, partnering the Scarlet Witch with the ghost of Agatha Harkness, as they seek the mom Wanda never knew. In this pursuit, Wanda finds respite in her power and her person. By the story’s climax, she’s ready to reengage with the Avengers. Not necessarily The Vision.
Will The Vision and the Scarlet Witch ever return to each other’s arms within the comics? We’re looking to WandaVision to make that happen. If the mainstream determines they’re a forever-couple a la Lois and Clark, then unification is possible for their comic book doubles. Until then, the romance between the two, as seen in these comics, is one fraught with agony and regret, but the Marvel writer’s bullpen always ends on a note of hope. These two are healing. That’s their journey, and that’s worth celebrating.
WandaVision premieres on Disney+ this Friday.