How Did Wanda Get Her Powers in the MCU? Scarlet Witch Backstory, Explained.
A lot has been said about Wanda Maximoff in recent years with the release of WandaVision (my beloved) and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness post-Endgame—some good, some bad, but almost all of it, somehow and to some extent, has been sympathetic. She has, of course, gone through immense pain, which has fueled her motivations throughout most of her arc.
When we first met her onscreen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she was already working through years worth of trauma, only for her to lose her twin brother Pietro by the end of the film. Back then, comic book fans were quick to note that the two were the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, but it wasn’t until six years later, in 2021, that we actually heard her called by her superhero monicker—or as Peter Parker would say, her “made-up name.” All this being said begs the question: How did she get her powers in the first place? And why is she called the Scarlet Witch?
Wanda Maximoff origin story
During the events of Ultron, we learned of Wanda and Pietro’s deep-seated hatred towards Tony Stark—and the Avengers in general—after a bomb with the Stark Industries logo detonated in their home when they were just ten years old, leaving both their parents dead. Since then, the two twins blamed Tony, which led them to join protests against superheroes. This eventually led them to the hands of HYDRA’s Baron von Strucker, who had been conducting tests on willing people around town to give them powers through Loki’s Scepter, which also happened to contain the Mind Stone. The Maximoff twins were, unfortunately, the only successful products of the experiment, and its only survivors.
In Episode Eight of WandaVision, we were given more details about this established backstory. We watched as Agatha quite literally opened the doors to Wanda’s repressed memories and trauma and saw her family learn English in their old apartment in Sokovia by watching sitcoms. (I can actually relate to this.) When we saw how the shell that killed her parents landed from her point of view as a young girl, we watched how she and Pietro hid under a piece of furniture for two whole days, worried and scared as another bomb found its way into their living room, they waited in anticipation for it to detonate, but it never did.
When Agatha asked her how they survived, Wanda simply shrugged and credited it to luck: The bomb was defective. Agatha said that wasn’t the case, and the children were spared because of the presence of a young and scared witch—Wanda had hexed the bomb without her knowing it. In other words, she’d been born with her powers.
This backstory is a slight deviation—but a good one, in my opinion—from the comics, which have retconned a few details through the years. First introduced in the ‘60s by original Marvel bosses and titans Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Maximoff twins were first known as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before they eventually switched sides and joined the Avengers.
Later on, in a retcon, they would be known as Magneto’s long-lost children. For most of their comic book run, their arcs involved their infamous father and their connections with the X-Men, which was the primary issue the Marvel Cinematic Universe had to work around when they brought in Wanda and Pietro. An explainer regarding this issue probably deserves its own post, but the gist of it is that two entirely separate studios then owned the rights to the Avengers and the X-Men. Because of this, Wanda and Pietro couldn’t be considered mutants for the MCU’s narrative. The studios have since reconciled, but we have yet to that affect Wanda’s storyline.
Anyway, in another retcon in the comics, Natalya Maximoff is introduced to the narrative and is revealed to be the Maximoff twins’ mother. I’m making mention of her here briefly because in that arc, it’s shown that the Scarlet Witch is a title that passes from one person to another in the Maximoff family, which now leads us to our next point.
Who is the Scarlet Witch?
When Agatha realizes Wanda’s impressive ability to wield Chaos Magic—a very rare form of magic—she tells Wanda of a prophecy of the Scarlet Witch: “‘The Scarlet Witch is not born; she is forged. She has no coven. No need for incantation’…Your power exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s your destiny to destroy the world.” In other words, Wanda is literally the stuff of legends and is, canonically, more powerful than Stephen Strange himself. (Which I am sure the Doctor disagrees with.)
But given that the name does seem to be a title, does this mean we’ll actually be seeing other Scarlet Witches in MCU canon? Wanda did see that vision (pun unintended) of a woman who appeared to be the Scarlet Witch in episode eight, from Loki’s scepter. Was that a glimpse into her future self or a flashback to a previous holder of the title?
WandaVision showrunner Jac Schaeffer seemingly has an answer to this. In an interview Vanity Fair after WandaVision’s penultimate episode aired, she touched on the subject of the mentioned prophecy: “One of the things that Marvel says is that with some of the mythology definitions, it is best to leave things a little bit loose. Because when you pass the ball forward, it gives the next team more to work with. We loved the idea that we would land her knowing some, but not all. That would be part of her trajectory and the next piece of her story.”
With this in mind, together with the events that transpired during the end of Multiverse of Madness, this may be a possible setup for Earth-838 Wanda (the one still alive and living with Billy and Tommy in another universe) to take up the mantle of the Scarlet Witch after *Spoiler* Earth-616 Wanda destroyed the Darkhold together with herself up on Mount Wundagore. Just a theory—and well, possibly, wishful thinking.
(featured image: Disney+)
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