The “Origin of the Scarlet Witch” retcon made Dr. Strange look like an idiot


With all that fans have learned about the Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange’s attempts to reject Wanda’s own explanation of why her powers are so out of control look like nothing more than a magical mansplane. While much of her character has fluctuated over the years, with valid questions about whether she is a mutant or not, whether she is Magneto’s biological daughter or not, and even whether she is a hero or not, some things are becoming crystal clear. She is a prolific conduit of chaos magic and comes from a long line of chaos magic users, which means there are other Scarlet Witches and Warlocks.

Scarlet Witch was introduced in X-Men #4 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a villainess who joined Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants after he saved her from the mob. Wanda Maximoff eventually came to the conclusion that she was a mutant and the biological daughter of the Master of Magnetism. These beliefs were turned upside down when another chapter in her chaotic backstory revealed that she was neither a mutant nor the offspring of Magneto. Instead, she and her brother Pietro (aka Mercury) turned out to be “unsuccessful” experiments of a Higher Evolutionist, an unscrupulous scientist obsessed with genetic manipulation. It was later revealed that this villain was only indirectly responsible for Wanda’s abilities, as his schemes simply awakened the powers she inherited from her mother, the preceding Scarlet Witch. With a family legacy of chaos magic, Dr. Strange’s attempts to discredit the Scarlet Witch and her fundamental understanding of her own powers are ill-informed at best.

Related: Marvel Explained the Big Magical Difference between Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch

The nerdy Strange’s response was provoked by an argument with Wanda’s friends in “Avengers #504” by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, some of whom defended her character after she caused damage to the team. Dr. Strange, agreeing with the idea that her magical abilities are a mutation, made his own diagnosis. In short, he hinted that her power “wasn’t earned by spirituality. It was given to her without understanding the consequences.” In an even bolder statement, he said there was no such thing as “chaos magic.”

For a master of the mystical arts, this turns out to be a stupid statement, meaning that it was Stephen Strange who ultimately did not understand one of the fundamental magical forces of reality. This is a glaring weakness in his perception as the Supreme Wizard and another reason why the Avengers hate Doctor Strange, given that he has long been a part of the history of Earth 616. Chaos magic is something that many Marvel magicians use, such as Chthon, Agatha Harkness and the earliest magicians who were acutely aware of it — either fearing it, or longing to use it for their own use.

When it comes to Wanda, she has the ability to elicit the strongest comic book reactions. To determine where Dr. Strange’s hostility and denial may have come from, it seems that his own failure as her teacher influenced his opinion. He also made it clear that he believes she has not “earned” her powers. Having gained the benefit of the doubt, Stephen ends up looking like a blockhead in his area of expertise, joining countless Marvel characters who have a negative attitude towards the Scarlet Witch. In a scenario where instead he is deliberately misinformed, Dr. Strange’s internal reaction to feeling threatened by a powerful woman has done her a serious disservice by intervening to suggest that the Scarlet Witch may not be aware of her powers.