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Sunday, January 24, 2021 

Still more failures by the MSM to do justice for Scarlet Witch

I've been finding yet more examples of mainstream outlets taking a superficial, unobective viewpoint to the history of Wanda Maximoff. And I'm probably doing this as a favor for Stan Lee, her creator, because I am, after all, an Avengers fan, but one who does his best to make distinctions between good and bad, unlike these phony news outlets. Here's Rolling Stone, garbage magazine it's become, taking these know-nothing approaches, and recommending the worst of modern stories for anyone interested in WandaVision to read before turning on the set. Again, wouldn't you know it, Brian Bendis' writing make the top of the list:
House of M, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Olivier Coipel, takes place after the legendary events of Avengers Disassembled.

What you need to know: after Scarlet Witch (Maximoff) suffers a mental breakdown, she uses her powers to create an alternate reality where each character can experience their ideal life. Sound familiar? This storyline served as part of the inspiration for WandaVision, while the further inspiration came from the following series on our list.
Wow, what's so "legendary" about Disassembled? They don't even ask whether the premise of Wanda suffering mental breakdowns is in good taste, let alone cliched. Funny, isn't it, how the same people who today would complain about sexism and "toxic masculinity" suddenly have no issue when a lady in fiction is put through such a nasty, sensationalistic wringer as Disassembled turned out to be. Nor do they find it the least bit disappointing when an established cast member substitutes for actual villains. Next comes the Tom King-penned Vision miniseries:
In an interview with Variety, Vision actor Bettany spoke about how the events of the mini-series The Visions was one of the main inspirations for WandaVision. “[It’s] a story about Vision trying to build a family in suburbia and it was sort of a mash-up between them, and also with a sort of loving look at American sitcoms throughout the American century,” he says.

In the comic, writer Tom King and artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s explore Vision’s quest to become a fully-actualized human, which includes building himself the perfect a wife and two daughters out of an “unrelenting need to be ordinary,” according to the series synopsis. Hilarity (and existential crises) ensue.
And what's so hilarious about murders occurring? Or depressing moments? This is even sicker than some of the previous news items. They even mention a miniseries called Vote Loki:
After the events of Avengers: Endgame, the God of Mischief himself is getting his own series, Loki, in which he’s brought to the Time Variance Authority after stealing the Tesseract. While the plot for this show seems mostly original for now, there are a few clear comic tie-ins: Owen Wilson’s character of Mobius M. Mobius shows up the most in the Marvel comic versions of the TVA. However, the clear inspiration for Loki’s look in the TV series comes from the mini-series Vote Loki, in which the trickster runs for the highest office in the land…the President of the United States. His campaign takes off with a surprising amount of support after claims he’s the only politician with “the guts” to lie to the American people. Some things, even across multiverses, never change.
And what are the odds this tale was another anti-Trump/conservative metaphor? Of course, since this is coming under the modern editorial, which approves of far too much in terms of politics, that's why this is bound to be another something to avoid.

Now, here's Polygon looking over Wanda's history as a character, ditto Vision's, and they even have the gall to call their onetime marriage a whole mess:
If it’s possible to suffer physical pain from trying to catch up on a comic book character’s fictional history, The Vision and Scarlet Witch would absolutely cause it. Even in a world where keeping up with entertainment news increasingly demands the skills of an amateur copyright lawyer, the marriage of Wanda Maximoff and her synthetic partner is a uniquely confounding morass, a chore for even the most dedicated fan. But they’re also unique among comic book characters, because in spite of that convoluted history, their ill-fated marriage has remained such a definitive aspect of their histories that it’s the basis of WandaVision, the first Disney Plus show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this, they’re something unusual in comics: a set of characters largely defined by their marriage.
I think anybody who considers such characters' histories "convoluted" has got to be somebody who doesn't have the courage or the energy to do any research and see how it all went along, or what might've gone wrong as time went by. That's certainly the case with Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman, whose descent into a shambles can be traced back to 1989 rather easily, when they were rebooted following Tim Truman's Hawkworld miniseries, and writers assigned as the 90s dawned found it difficult to write convincing reconciliations with the rest of continuity. Yet did anybody in DC editorial think to just try and quietly undo that whole screwup and restore Katal Hol and Shayera Thal as were originally introduced in the early 60s? Nope. Because in their selfish minds, that would've been taking up a challenge far too positive. Let's remember the people in charge at the time were entirely sold out to the concept of universe-wide crossovers. As for Wanda and Vision's marriage from the 70s and 80s, it coasted along well enough, and it's decidedly regrettable at this point that John Byrne had to go out of his way to make Wanda go nuts, however briefly. If Agatha Harkness wiped her memories at the time, it's clear Bendis was using that element as the excuse to make it seem as though her "spell" didn't last, and make Wanda out to look ludicrously vindictive. But all it does it turn Scarlet Witch into a stereotype of a woman becoming violent because her desire for motherhood failed. And that's a mighty ugly direction to take.
Comic books share a maxim with television, another serial medium: married characters don’t work. (Editors frequently mandate that flagship characters stay single, no matter how ridiculous the reasoning might be.) Good long-term storytelling requires sustained dramatic tension, and a romantic will-they/won’t-they dynamic is a source of all sorts of potential conflicts. Marry off characters, the logic goes, and you effectively cut off a well of possible stories, and the audience’s interest as well.

A marriage is rarely an iconic aspect of comics characters’ histories, and yet here’s WandaVision, a show that fantasizes about a happily married life for Wanda Maximoff and The Vision through the lens of classic sitcoms. Their marriage, it seems, is an essential part of their history, a unique circumstance given that WandaVision is the first adaptation dedicated solely to the stories of these two characters. [...]
Ah, so here, they're lecturing us about marriage writing everything into a corner, despite Reed Richards and Sue Storm leading so many entertaining adventures as a married couple in the Fantastic Four, among other Marvel titles, in better years. Why, by the logic they're going by, all those sitcoms from the years gone by starring married characters (Brady Bunch, Family Ties, Growing Pains, etc) didn't work either. Notice that they linked with almost no critical comment to a protracted interview with Joe Quesada from 2007, at the time he forcibly broke up Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson's marriage, using every excuse he could think of to justify the deal with Mephisto in the process. The columnist admits it's absurd, yet remains non-committal to the issue. And if this is supposed to be a parody of old sitcoms, what's so funny when the comic wellsprings are not?
In order to appreciate how much room there is for a compelling TV relationship, it helps to understand the comic book mess these characters come from. The origins of their romance are hilariously perfunctory: Wanda Maximoff, who joined the team with her brother Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff in 1965’s Avengers #16, was the first female character to join the team without any romantic entanglements. (Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp, a founding Avenger and the only other woman on the team at the time, was in a troubled romance with Hank Pym/Ant-Man.)

Because it was the 1960s and women in superhero comics were mostly considered fodder for romantic subplots, Wanda eventually settled into one with The Vision — one of the few Avengers who, like Wanda, didn’t already have a comic book series of his own — and the two eventually married in 1975’s Giant-Size Avengers #4. The marriage of a (super)human woman and an artificial life-form naturally launched all manner of storytelling chicanery.

The comics don’t really supply consistent backstories for either Wanda Maximoff or The Vision. Wanda’s early stories revolve around her search for her true, mostly unknown origins. Her powers weren’t well-defined — she could mostly “hex” things, an ill-defined power that meant many different things over the character’s long history. (Including in the MCU.) As writers came and went, Wanda’s history and abilities were elaborated on and walked back to varying degrees.

The Vision’s history is clearer, but no less convoluted — he’s a self-described synthezoid created by the evil robot Ultron, who was in turn the accidental creation of Hank Pym. You could say he’s Frankenstein’s Monster’s monster, but, to everyone’s surprise, he’s a friendly creature. Given his status as an artificial life-form, most of Vision’s stories revolve around his potential humanity or lack thereof. These themes come to a head as his marriage with the Scarlet Witch is put through the gauntlet of superhero comics: Memories are erased, realities are warped, stunning revelations occur and are overturned, and ultimately, it all ends in tears, with The Vision and Scarlet Witch mostly operating independently.
And this is little more than an attempt to make it sound like the comics are inferior in their storytelling, while obscuring what was established about Wanda's powers: they affect probabilities. They don't even consider how Wonder Woman would be joined by the revived use of Black Canary in the Silver Age, Supergirl and Donna Troy making their debuts at the time, the ladies of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or Hawkwoman in her 2nd incarnation, or even Zatanna debuting in the latter's mid-60s book in the 4th issue. Why, what about the aforementioned Sue Storm, Janet Van Dyne from Avengers, Jean Grey in X-Men, and even Black Widow? They don't count in any way? In the eyes of these propagandists, of course not. Nor do they question why Wanda simply must be plunged into the role of a nasty villainess for real. What they do instead is drop in a phony, definitely exaggerated claim about realities warped.
Few inspirations were cited ahead of WandaVision’s premiere, beyond the classic sitcoms of decades past. But the week of the show’s release, Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige brought up one comic in particular: 2015’s The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Walta. It’s a Stepford Wives-esque suburban satire where The Vision, having purged all emotions from his system, creates the perfect family for himself. Naturally, it slowly begins to implode, because its patriarch cannot run from his past — the most significant event in it being his failed marriage.
Will the sugarcoatings of King's idea for storytelling never end? Tragically, no. Nor will the pick of source material to draw from, and how awful it really is.
While comic book characters have iconic pairings — Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson — these couples’ marital status rarely matters. It isn’t vital to Spider-Man stories that Pete and MJ be married, but they were for 20 years, and in a few more years, it will have been another 20 since 2007’s bizarre One More Day wiped their marriage from their shared history. (The main exception to the no-marriage rule seems to be characters built around family: Reed and Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four, or the found family DC’s Scott Free and Big Barda built their marriage on in the hell-world of Apokolips.) But the way Vision and Scarlet Witch’s marriage keeps coming up in stories about them underlines how defining the writers consider it. For many people, their relationship is a nightmare scenario: a marriage that’s swallowed them whole, leaving little else for the rest of the world to acknowledge.
The way they discuss the marriage of whom I've been calling the Beauty and the Synthezoid in a few prior posts is strangely reminiscent of how the Hank Pym-as-spousal-abuser storyline from 1981 kept getting referenced over the years (though not in this article, even if they mention a troubled relation), when it would've been far better to just put it to rest for a change. Even though Scarlet Witch and Vision's marriage was far from portrayed as abusive, why must they be defined almost entirely by something that lasted nearly 15 years? It does remind me though, that for many years, it seems like Wanda for one never had an affair with a "civilian" character. Some time after the marriage with Vision dissolved, IIRC, she had an affair with Wonder Man, after whose brain patterns the Vision was first built. But one of the biggest weaknesses with team titles over the years is overreliance on affairs between members, and Scarlet Witch-Vision were some of those kind of characters, ditto Jean Grey and Cyclops, and even Green Arrow-Black Canary in Justice League. Certainly most of those relations were well written in hindsight. But it's still a sign of weakness when you're writing team titles and can only think to pair one hero up with another. Something Marv Wolfman changed when he paired Donna Troy with college professor Terry Long in New Teen Titans, and then that was later ruined when editorial forced a breakup. At least, as I've said at times, Terry's demise, and that of their son, was depicted as the result of an auto accident, rather than by murder as has become a sad staple in modern times.

And SW/Vision's marriage is a nightmare? Excuse me? Is that supposed to mean we WANT it to be a horror story? I'm afraid this too is insulting to the intellect. Especially given the writer seems to have no interest in arguing for better scenarios. Maybe it's not vital for Spidey and MJ to remain married, but the way they were broken up, that was offensive as it was rushed. What's more, anybody who thinks a couple being married is the most absolute flat out worst thing that could happen - worse than all the Islamic terrorism and Antifa anarchism occurring in real life - clearly isn't a realist, but a petty jerk who considers optimism and brightness abominations. And then, to show how slapdash their understanding of Scarlet Witch is, they go on to parrot the following propaganda narrative:
In the Marvel comics, Wanda Maximoff has frequently been depicted as one of the most powerful beings alive, capable of rewriting reality itself with a whisper, or even a repressed, unarticulated desire. The world changes at her will, and to those around her, this makes her dangerous. The writers of stories like 2004’s Avengers Disassembled or 2005’s House of M limit her defining character beats to the artificial man she once loved, and the disastrous effects of her unmet desire for children. In the Marvel Universe, the Scarlet Witch is a loaded gun, and her marriage to Vision is the hand pulling back on the slide to feed a round into the chamber. She came to the dance, desperately tried to learn the steps, and got punished anyway.
Yes, tell us about it. If she were truly a most powerful being, she'd be close to immortality, firepower would deflect upon energy shields, the globe would turn square, and time as we know it would've been altered drastically. But there were quite a few times in past history where she had difficulty using her powers without feeling stunned by the pressure, or she was vulnerable to being subdued by villains, and certainly wasn't immortal as they come close to making her sound like. Nor was reality-warping on her part conceived till the early 2000s. If Dr. Strange wasn't portrayed doing it, why must she be? Above all, this sounds more like the writings of somebody who sees Wanda the same way Bendis did - as expendable. Ditto her twin brother Quicksilver.
Married comic book characters rarely stay married. Frequently, a wedding doesn’t even happen, in spite of months of teasing — Tom King’s 2016-2019 tenure on Batman was built around a romance with Catwoman that left the Dark Knight alone at the altar in an arc called The Wedding, and X-Men comics teased the wedding of Kitty Pryde and Colossus in 2017’s X-Men: Gold #30, only for cold feet to strike there too, ultimately leading to the surprise wedding of their friends Rogue and Gambit.
Even if it's not a big deal whether there's a marriage, this obscures how poor King's writing happens to be. Or how Kitty Pryde was later momentarily put in death limbo just so she could be depicted as bisexual upon her return. And then, adding insult to injury, the writer later says:
And here’s where there’s opportunity for a work like WandaVision to reconstruct a disastrously messy comic book marriage in ways that make sense for characters who audiences frankly don’t know on a particularly deep level. A good marriage can help define two people further, but so can a failed one — and given the way WandaVision is likely playing with viewers’ perception, there’s no guarantee any of this will work out. But the show could be a terrific opportunity to build a connection with these characters that’s unlike the glancing ones we’ve formed from the MCU’s busy, overstuffed movies.

Reading the comics won’t bring any clarity. It’s impossible to overstress how much the past execution around Wanda and Vision’s marriage has previously been a minefield of confounding and often sexist storytelling. One of Wanda’s most prominent stories involves her ultimately committing genocide, unstable at the end of a disastrous grief spiral because she couldn’t have children. They may have interesting-sounding histories, but even before WandaVision, they were stuck in an endless loop of classic sitcom tropes — where, ironically, a lot of our cultural ideas of marriage are reinforced.
Wow, it's not often I've been so disgusted as this makes me feel. No distinctions or clarifications for what he thinks is "sexist" (he doesn't say whether he considers 1990's "Darker Than Scarlet" to qualify, even though it probably could), and by now, this lecture is enough to drive one up the wall with its putdowns of past storytelling, regardless of the merit, or lack thereof. Most grating is how unlikely it is he'll acknowledge, let alone question, whether Bendis' Disassembled is built on sexism. Or whether the mid-2000s marks a time when storytelling collapsed, and if that's where you'd do well to avoid reading a particular story for alleged clarity, which Bendis' writings most certainly won't provide. The storyline about Wanda committing mass murder may have come more recently, in Jonathan Hickman's X-Men stories, but no matter when and who wrote it, it's abominable in the eyes of anybody who's a true Marvel fan, and Stan Lee/Jack Kirby fan.

I think I'll also add this item on Newsbytes for good measure, to show just how stupid their recommendations for reading are too:
Avengers Disassembled #500-503 has many stories coming together but at the center of it lies Wanda's descent into madness.

Triggered by the sudden memories of her lost children, which Agatha Harkness initially removes from her mind, Scarlet Witch secretly proceeds to destroy the Avengers.

The result sees Vision getting killed by an enraged She-Hulk, and Doctor Strange noticing the chaos Wanda has created.
And we're presumably supposed to read this roach of a tale, and accept it as though it were real life, to either be "admired" as classic storytelling, or hate Wanda for something forced upon her by uncaring writers, and worst, possibly wish she'd be sent to hell for something repellent real fans don't want even minor characters to have to be put through. UGH. At its worst, this story is a slap in the face to mothers. And then, what next do they say?
House of M is Wanda's most important story.

This particular one starts with Wanda using her powers to create a reality where everyone's dream comes true in a world ruled by her father Magneto.

When this false reality is revealed, Wanda disappears after de-powering every mutant on earth and ensuring that no mutant is ever born again.
So, is this important because there's literally too many mutants in the MCU, and they just have to be cut down? I'm sorry, but this a very hysterical way to deal with something that, because it's in a fictional world, is really a petty issue. If it's really such a big deal, all they had to do was quietly drop them from any further mention, and didn't have to go miles out of their way to do it in a company wide crossover. Finally:
2010's Avengers: The Children's Crusade is Scarlet Witch's redemption arc.

The story starts with the Young Avengers looking for her. Eventually, this quest reveals that team members, Wiccan and Speed, are reincarnations of Wanda and Vision's children.

Furthermore, it is revealed that Wanda's actions during Disassembled and House of M were actually influenced by Doctor Doom, who wanted Wanda's abilities for himself.
Still no excuse for the shoddy story from at least 6 years earlier. In better times, such a tale would've been concluded much sooner, within several issues of a series. But here, they took quite a few years to actually address it as they did, and are we supposed to believe Doom wanted no more mutants, or the editors? And even then, if Wanda's been tarnished in Hickman's writings, doesn't that diminish whatever impact we're supposed to find in Children's Crusade? I can guess though, where the idea for Doom coveting Wanda's powers came from: Mark Waid's Fantastic Four run, where Doom tried to destroy the quartet and son Franklin using magic. So what was an otherwise overrated story served as an ends to justify the means in Bendis' work, which must include the idea Doom was opposed to more mutants. Again, the redemption came awfully late, and the overall story did not need to be concocted at all.

It continues to be hugely disappointing how only so many news outlets sugarcoat some of the worst storylines post-2000 not worth reading at all, and it's ludicrous such bad stories are actually considered perfect wellsprings for film and TV adaptations. All they do is make me decide I'd rather not get a cable subscription to watch something that appears to take a comedic approach to material that wasn't a laughing matter to begin with, and never respected the characters in focus.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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