Friday, April 06, 2007

The wabbit, the Witch, and the wardrobe

To you those of you for whom it has value, happy Easter weekend. (And a belated good Passover to our Jewish friends.) Although in our household we don't attach any religious significance to the occasion, Easter is always a time for special memories — my daughter was born on the Saturday before Easter. (Perhaps that explains her fondness for rabbits.)

Of course, today is Comic Art Friday, and every Friday is a Good Friday when there's comic art on display.

Wanda Maximoff — better known within the superhero community as the Scarlet Witch, even though her personal identity is not held secret — is one of my "Magnificent Seven," that storied septet of comic book characters whose images hold a special place in my collection. Paging through my Wanda archives, I found a couple of nifty items that we haven't showcased here previously. Today's as good a Friday as any to highlight them.

Like many superheroines of lengthy tenure, the Scarlet Witch has undergone several changes in costume over the years. Wanda's most familiar attire — and still my personal favorite — is the outfit she wore beginning in the late 1960s and throughout the '70s and early '80s: a pink full-body stocking, covered by a red basque-style bodysuit and accented with a red cape, boots, and opera gloves. Topping off the look is Wanda's signature M-shaped tiara, a subtle nod to her father Erik Lehnsherr, the supervillain called Magneto.

Wanda works the old-school gear like a dream in this drawing by another personal favorite of mine, veteran Green Lantern artist Darryl Banks.

Sometime in the '90s, artist George Pérez reimagined Wanda's costume to reflect her purported Romany/Gypsy heritage. (Marvel Comics vacillated for decades over whether Wanda's father Magneto is Romany or Semitic in background. I believe the current company line is that he is indeed Jewish. If you've seen the X-Men films, you know which way director Bryan Singer chose to go.) This ensemble eliminates Wanda's body stocking in favor of bare skin — because, heaven knows, we need more skin in comic books — and abbreviates her basque into a shorter, lace-up affair coupled with a flowing, bejeweled loincloth.

To me, this garb makes the Witch look less like a superheroine and more like a belly-dancing instructor, but what do I know? At any rate, artist Louis Small Jr. provides a nice representation of the Pérez look here.

Were you to ask me why Wanda merits a hallowed gallery among my Magnificent Seven, I'd say that she was the first Marvel heroine on whom I developed a crush during my boyhood comic-reading days. The Witch wasn't Marvel's first super-female; she was preceded by Susan Storm (later Richards), the Invisible Girl (later Woman), and Janet Van Dyne (later Pym), the winsome Wasp, but they were both simplistically written as either weak (Sue) or whiny (Jan) in their earliest incarnations. I preferred Wanda because she was the first Marvel superwoman with any real semblance of a complex personality, as would be reflected in her love affair with — and eventual marriage to — the mysterious android, the Vision.

Speaking of which, here's a Comic Art Friday classic worthy of a second look: Wanda and her true love Vision, powerfully penciled first by the inimitable Frank Brunner...

...and then embellished by the equally inimitable Geof Isherwood. This dynamic before-and-after pairing is, without doubt, the highlight of my Scarlet Witch collection.

And that, my little Easter bunnies, is your Comic Art Friday. Don't eat too many Peeps! (Assuming, of course, that "too many Peeps" is not an oxymoron. Which it may well be.)


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