The Nerdiest Herstorical Review of Agatha Harkness
Have you been wondering who “Agnes the Nosy Neighbor” was since the first episode of WandaVision on Disney+? We’ve certainly been curious, and after the seventh episode of WandaVision – check out Marvel Blog’s wonderful, witch-y recap here – we finally have some answers.
And well, it turns out that Agnes was actually the wonderfully devilish,
Aunt Agatha Harkness, all along.
Double, double, toil and trouble! It looks like something is brewing in the witches cauldrons of Westview, New Jersey. Here, to offer some insight on what those mystical happenings might be is Marvel Blog, serving you a herstory of Agatha Harkness in Marvel Comics!
Before Her First Appearance: Who Was Agatha Harkness?
According to Marvel Comics lore, Agatha Harkness was born centuries ago in Salem, Massachusetts, during a time when practitioners of the mystic arts were viewed as witches and warlocks, then sentenced to death.
Hence, after the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, many of these occult practitioners decided to rebuild in unsettled portions of the United States, creating a community in New Salem, Colorado.
Understandably, the residents of New Salem vow to never involve themselves with humanity again – for the adventurous, check out the first look at the witch’s village in Fantastic Four #185 by Len and Glynis Wein, Joe Sinnott, Joe Rosen, and George Pérez.
By law, in New Salem, witches who violate the ancient agreement and contact the outside world are sentenced to death. However, as far as readers know, before New Salem’s former Grand Dame Agatha broke her deadly agreement with its mystical residents, this rule was never enforced.
Some relevant early herstory, Agatha has a child, a warlock known as Nicholas Scratch (both “Nicholas” and “Scratch” are names given to the devil, and hence, Agatha’s son’s name may be an assumed alias). And eventually, he becomes the mayor of New Salem.
VERY IMPORTANT SIDE BAR: I doubt it’s a coincidence that Agatha’s pet bunny/familiar is named Señor Scratchy, a name the bunny shares with several other of Old Scratch’s namesakes – including Agatha’s comic book son and the like-named character on Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Thomas Leatherwood).
More on Scratch later. His character deserves a whole article, just know that his story is relatively unexplored in the comics (something Marvel Studios likes, think Iron Man) and it’s intimately tied to Mephisto, Dormammu, and Hellcat!
Fantastic Four #94: Agatha’s First (Living) Appearance
Agatha Harkness first appears in Fantastic Four #94 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, and Sam Rosen – this issue is the first appearance of her familiar in the comics a cat-demon named “Ebony,” as well.
After Reed Richards (A.K.A. Mister Fantastic) and Sue Storm (A.K.A. Invisible Woman) have their son, the couple takes him to an up-state child care specialist in Whisper Hill – Agatha Harkness.
In fact, Agatha comes out of magical retirement just to protect and care for the little tot, Franklin Benjamin Richards, despite the protests of his Uncle Benjy.
Good thing too, because when the Wizard and Sand-Man arrive at the dim-lit house, only Agatha’s familiar, Ebony, is powerful enough to protect the infant from harm.
By the end of the issue, even Ben Grimm must admit that Agatha was the perfect choice after all – yup, she was the perfect caregiver all along.
Agatha Saves the Fantastic Four (More than Once)
Then, in Fantastic Four #110 by Stan Lee, John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, and M. Stevens, Agatha is forced to reveal her mystical powers to save Reed Richard’s life.
After the surviving members of the Fantastic Four fail to bring Reed home, Agatha uses her witchcraft, a candle, and a piece of chalk to summon the powers that be. To help, she summons millions of Reed figures, creating a deception and giving the real Reed an opportunity to escape the negative zone.
From here on, Agatha appears regularly in the FF comics to help the team when science cannot provide all the answers, or she helps the team out of tough spots. She also continues to care for the young Franklin B. Richards, so that she can protect him from super villains.
In #112 by Lee, Buscema, Sinnott, and Stevens, Agatha Harkness teaches Sue Storm how to use a crystal ball (in one of my favorite story arcs, but for the Thing versus Hulk showdown).
Then, in #116 by Archie Goodwin, Buscema, Sinnott, and Artie Simek, after each “typical” super hero fails to save the day, Agatha reminds Sue that there is one ally she hasn’t considered yet, Doctor Doom, because of prejudice.
After this, Agatha officially becomes Franklin’s governess for the rest of his early years. However, although he eventually becomes powerful enough to care for himself, she never truly stops looking after Little Franklin.
Agatha Meets Vision and the Scarlet Witch
Agatha Harkness’s story is also linked to the Scarlet Witch’s story in the comics. Instead of selecting one of the residents of New Salem to be her magical apprentice, Agatha asks Wanda Maximoff to take on the role, teaching her to control and utilize her powers more effectively.
In 1985’s Vision and the Scarlet Witch #3 by Steve Englehart, Richard Howell, Jim Mooney, L. Lois Buhalis, and Janet Jackson, Agatha is summoned back to New Salem to pay for her “crimes” against it’s residents (e.g., sending her son back to hell).
To save the day, Agatha, who was already burned at the stake, communicates with Wanda and Vision to save the possessed residents of New Salem (and interrupting the newlywed’s baby planning).
Luckily, after Vision battles all 666 New Salemites, the magical forces threatening the town’s mystical residents are defeated by literally moving mountains. Then, somehow, the power that Wanda used to destroy the mountain causes her to become pregnant with Billy and Tommy…
Say what? The saga ended with a vote on the Scarlet Witch’s mutant status.
The Saga of Agatha and the Scarlet Witch Continues…
After brief recounting of how Agatha became a nanny for Wanda and Vision’s children in West Coast Avengers, but told through the story of the Wundagore Everbloom, in 2015’s Vision #3 by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles, readers get the story of the death of Agatha’s familiar, Ebony.
To be honest, King’s story about the sacrifice of Ebony isn’t a story that needed to be written, but it’s essential back story to the separate sagas of Vision and the Scarlet Witch after 2015. Plus, in a nice twist of tidy writing, the issue ends with the same lines that started 2015’s Vision run by King.
However, for understanding the MCU’s vision of the character, this isn’t an essential issue because it fundamentally fails to grasp the established core of Agatha’s character.
In Scarlet Witch #13 by James Robinson, Jonathan Marks-Barravecchia, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Cory Petit, with gorgeous covers by David Aja, Wanda and Agatha reunite to search to for answers about the Scarlet Witch’s mother and her past.
Once again, Agatha’s astral form returns from the land of the dead to wander the witches’ road Wanda. This time, however, Agatha returns with a sense of humor, and good thing too, as the Scarlet Witch needs her guidance to withstand the perils and horrors of the witches’ road.
Agatha also offers spiritual guidance, reminding Wanda that “no one is without their mistakes” and that all you can do is learn from them and not make the same one twice.
She reminds the Scarlet Witch that although it’s important to atone for past mistakes, she must continue to look ahead, “one step or one day at a time.”
Next, in Scarlet Witch #14, the witches three go on a mission to save witchcraft across the Marvel Multiverse. First, the team must battle the instruments of chaos who are trying to age the Scarlet Witch out of existence – because chaos is tired of being witchcraft’s consort.
For Wanda, it’s a good thing that Agatha’s ghost is there is to save the day, as she is not powerful enough to take down the chaos being by herself. However, with the Scarlet Witch, Nexus Being, acting as the fulcrum, the witches three summon the power of Shakespeare to find order over chaos (and summon Pietro) and save witchcraft.
They also save Agatha’s life.
After she’s resurrected (again), Agatha signs a contract to become one of the teachers at Strange Academy, teaching the course “Infiltrating Magically Secured Locations.”
Fluctuating between the land of the dead and the land of the living is exactly where Agatha has been all along, which seems fitting for Hahn’s interpretation of the character. Plus, with rumors swirling of Marvel Studios introducing New Salem to the Multiverse, it seems likely that Agatha is the key to everything (just not in the ways everyone is guessing). What do you think?