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What Darkness Lurks Behind WANDAVISION’s Sitcom Shtick?

Marvel’s most unlikely lovers have never had an easy path. From the onset, Scarlet Witch and the Vision’s shared outsider status drew them together. In the classic Marvel comics, Wanda Maximoff was the daughter of Magneto. She grew up on Mount Wundagore among the High Evolutionary’s New Men, a secret society of half-human, half-animal creatures. Meanwhile, the villainous Ultron created The Vision by combining the android body of the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, with the brain patterns of the deceased Simon Williams, also known as the super-powered Wonder Man.

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Marvel Comics. Steve Englehart, Don Heck, John Tartaglione, Petra Goldberg, and Charlotte Jetter

Their unusual origins and struggle to fit in have long made them a fan favorite pairing. Who doesn’t want to find love with someone that understands you in spite of it all? But Wanda and Vision’s differences—from society and from each other—also fuel their biggest conflicts. That juxtaposition of romance against all odds and brutal tragedy looks to be at the heart of the upcoming Disney+ TV series WandaVision. All of the teasers, posters, images, and trailers have played on a dual reality—one that reflects the sweetness and nostalgia of American sitcoms while hiding something darker and more dangerous.

This tone suits the titular pair. Fans of the Vision have already seen his stories subvert the idyllic American dream. In 2015, Tom King, Gabriel Walta, and Jordie Bellaire shook up the shelves with their take on the android. In The Vision, Walta and Bellaire crafted a delightful visual landscape that screamed suburban safety; this of course, made it all the more unsettling that a family of androids lived there. While this story was critically lauded as incredibly original, it was really just a modern riff on the classic Vision and the Scarlet Witch miniseries from 1982, which saw the pair leave the Avengers and start a home together.

Like much of King’s work, the emotionally driven The Vision had a few problems. For one thing, the series featured an ill-thought-out “joke” using a slur against indigenous people to reference the red metal of Vision’s “skin. Additionally, the story leaned heavily on the burden that family life laid on the Vision. Though Vision himself created his family, it was often played as if they were making his life worse. Vision and Virginia’s relationship dripped with issues of agency, consent, and misogynist tropes about hysterical women. But promisingly, the WandaVision team seems to understand that any story about the two needs to begin and end with the powerful mutant mother.

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Marvel Comics. Tom King, Michael Walsh, Jordie Bellaire, Clayton Cowles

Wanda isn’t a major character in the 2015 comic, at least not as Scarlet Witch. One issue reveals that Vision used Wanda’s brain imprint to create his wife Virginia. This echoes his own creation, and serves a dark reversal of the fact that Wanda once left Vision for the real person his consciousness was based on, Wonder Man. But it’s interesting that WandaVision seems to reimagine this dark exploration of family and love with Wanda at the center.

The MCU has struggled to build out Wanda’s powers, life, and loves. WandaVision offers up a chance to rectify that. It’s clearly also what drew Olsen to the project as she revealed in a recent interview with EW. The actress told the magazine that Feige showed her some story arcs that the show might explore; while she didn’t name any specific titles, some options come to mind. In a short story within Giant-Size Avengers #4, Wanda and Vision confessed their feelings to each other. Vision proposed to Wanda after she explained that “love is for souls, not bodies.”

During the massive House of M (2005) event, Wanda created an entirely new world under the manipulation of her brother and father. The pair utilized Wanda’s struggles to craft a universe where mutants rule and Magneto leads them all. It shook up the Marvel Universe, and offers up a potential angle for the MCU to reinvent itself. And both iterations of (The) Vision and the Scarlet Witch (1982-83/1985-86) feature key explorations of Wanda, her powers, and how her love for Vision shapes her and her future.

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Marvel Comics. Steve Englehart and Richard Howell

That latter arc will likely be key. It’s another example of the duality of Wanda and Vision, a superhero comic more concerned with family drama than heroics. We first met the pair’s twins here—whom we know will be in the series—as well as Agatha Harkness—who is probably the character that Kathryn Hahn is playing. There’s also the connection to the wider Marvel Universe; characters like the Fantastic Four appear and we know that they’ll be turning up soon in the MCU. There’s a chance for WandaVision to utilize these lesser read stories and take their unexpected tone to shift our idea of what a superhero story can be. Wanda’s history is steeped in gothic high-fantasy, Vision’s in hard sci-fi. The fact that the team behind the show wants to play with genre, tone, and format shouldn’t surprise us as it’s always been key to the heroes at its core.

Featured Image: Marvel Studios