Character Assassination: The Scarlet Witch and Monica Rambeau

No, I’m not talking about WandaVision )though that was the inspiration for this post), but about how both Wanda and Monica were derailed and lessened in the comics by bad creative decisions.

By the time John Byrne started writing the Avengers at the end of the 1980s, the Scarlet Witch had 25 years of history. Starting as one of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, joining the Avengers, taking up witchcraft as a way to enhance her natural mutant abilities, falling in love with the Vision, marrying him. She’d also learned she and Quicksilver were Magneto’s children and developed an awkward, tentative relationship with her father (he’d been an abusive leader as head of the Brotherhood). For several years they’d been Avengers only occasionally, living in suburbia and trying to make a go of normal life.

Byrne, for whatever reason, decided to undo most of this. He declared that the Vision was clearly a machine, “a toaster” who couldn’t really feel emotion; Wanda, therefore, must be insane to be in a relationship with him. On a flimsy rationale, he has the government disassemble the Vision (which made no sense — it was established Vizh was an organic, living being of synthetic materials, not composed of parts you can unscrew), rebuild him with his emotions gone. Their kids turn out to be an illusion created by Wanda’s magic. The Scarlet Witch understandably snaps under the strain and goes psycho. The marriage was gone and the idea of Wanda as the crazy lady was canon. Brian Michael Bendis made it worse by having Wanda go even crazier and destroy the team in his Avengers Disassembled arc; later she wiped out all of reality to set up Marvel’s House of M event. Marvel also wiped out her Child of Magneto status to break her ties to the X-Men mythos (back when Disney didn’t have access to the X-Men for the movies).

Since Byrne started the ball rolling, writers have either written the Scarlet Witch as insane or struggled to remake her into a sane character again. I hope by now that may have changed (I haven’t been following comics as closely since moving to Durham) but that’s a lot of wasted years.

Monica Rambeau took it on the chin too. A New Orleans cop who acquired the power to turn herself into any form of electromagnetic energy, Monica became Captain Marvel — Marvel keeps the trademark as long as they have a character with the name, which is why the Golden Age Captain Marvel is now Shazam — and joined the Avengers. Creator Roger Stern had her grow in confidence and capability with an eye to eventually making her the Avengers’ new leader.

Editor Mark Gruenwald, however, overruled him, wanting Captain America, as a more high-profile character, to return to the team and become leader instead (this may have been in hopes of boosting Cap’s own sales). But first, Stern should have Monica become leader, then screw up massively, so everyone would see Cap was the right choice (I assume that was to show race and gender weren’t an issue, though as she’s the first black woman on the team that’s now how it comes across). Stern balked at mangling his character that way; Gruenwald fired him. Captain Marvel did become leader, did screw up massively and faded to a much lower profile for a long while (as well as losing the Captain Marvel title in favor of Spectrum, then eventually Photon). I imagine that will change now, which is good.

#SFWApro. Covers by Rick Leonardi (top) and Tom Palmer, all rights remain with current holders.

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