Witchcraft, Redemption and Family Ties: James Robinson Talks Scarlet Witch [Interview]
James Robinson's anthology-style Scarlet Witch series has taken the often maligned mutant witch and spun her into the center of a spellbinding occult detective narrative. ComicsAlliance caught up with Robinson to talk about what makes Wanda's adventures so different this time around, and how this story separates her from her traditional Marvel settings.
ComicsAlliance: Scarlet Witch's arc has evolved from relative self-contained issues to an overarching occult detective book. Was this your original plan for Wanda?
James Robinson: Yes, actually it was. Going in, I decided that this series would be about Wanda in the present with a series that centered on her as a person, and less about her (somewhat convoluted) history. I wanted to hopefully attract new readers, and I think super-complicated continuity can sometimes alienate them.
CA: One thing that fascinates me about this arc is the portrayal of witches, and how witchcraft runs parallel to the plight of a powerful/knowledgeable women. How integral was that to your vision for the book?
JR: Absolutely integral. It was my idea to do a Wanda book, I pushed for it. However, I was obviously aware that she's a woman, and I'm not. I wanted it to speak to the female energy that exists in the world of magic (and indeed was worshipped in earlier points in time).
That was also why we (myself and Emily Shaw, the book's editor for most of the run) got as many female artists on the book. We wanted female energy both in the narrative and in the art on the page too.
CA: One of the most powerful issues in this run is the Civil War II issue, and seeing the abuse in Wanda's relationship with Pietro. Was it inevitable for Wanda to confront this head on? Has her road to redemption created more confidence? She has interesting power dynamics with the men in her life, including Doctor Doom, Magneto, and even Vision.
JR: I think her road is moving on from all the "Magneto's Daughter or not/Avengers Disassembled events" and stepping out into a future.
The idea of her dealing with Pietro, came out of me wondering what would be an organic Civil War II tie-in that didn't take away from the series, and true to the feel of our book. Wanda confronting her brother (a war at home, so to speak), with more dialogue than fighting, seemed right. And some of the questions and statements about their relationship are things I wish she'd said to Pietro a long time ago. I didn't want to delve too deeply into the men in her past, but I do feel she's always been in their shadow. This series was about her stepping into the light.
CA: Family seems to have taken a central role in the next leg of this arc. Is it safe to assume the payoff for this build-up regarding Wanda's lineage will happen in the next few issues? Will there be a change in the art to support this?
JR: Yes, you'll see more about her lineage. In fact issues #11-14 are all about that (among other things). However, I think we also did a great job of finding breaks in the story, that the change in art still works, with each varied artist's style suiting the feel whatever part of Wanda's journey they're drawing.
CA: You've established a new role for Wanda, in which she tackles occult mysteries that might evade the eyes of someone like Doctor Strange. Is there a distinction between the witchcraft Wanda partakes in versus the sorcery we've seen in some other titles, like Doctor Strange's book, or Illyana's magic in the X-Men titles?
JR: Well, yes, somewhat. Wanda's magic (witchcraft) has more female energy in it and also draws from real/historic spells and magic. It's more grounded than Strange or Illyana.
CA: Part of the strength in the storytelling here is the lack of supporting characters/roles. Outside brief appearances from Agatha, Wanda's truly on this road alone, which makes her quest seem all the more personal. How does this sense of alienation tie in with the plight of a witch?
JR: You can say that, if you want. It certainly works in hindsight. The many witches features in the series certainly feel that. The main reason to give Wanda such a solitary path is so I could really try to draw on her personality and who she was.
Writing Agatha as this pithy old broad was a lot of fun, though, I have to say.
CA: Wanda's journey has taken her from Paris to Japan; is there a reason you've taken a global approach instead of keeping Wanda stationary in either New York or in Transia?
JR: I sent her out into the world, because it suits the story I was telling, and it also allowed me to draw on the nationalities of the artists we were using. I also love to dream up foreign characters.
CA: It almost seems that this is as powerful as Wanda's been. She has a mastery over her abilities that's made her a more confident witch. Was this a necessary evolution after the events of House of M and Children's Crusade?
JR: I think so. I think she's gone through everything she's gone through, but her problem has always been she's more about her past and continuity than she has been [about her] personality. I wanted a series that would set her on a path, when the book is done, that was clean, new and positive.
CA: Where do we see this journey ending for Wanda? Will her adventures lead her back to her fellow Avengers, or do you imagine her stronger as a solitary heroine?
JR: Wait and see.