WARNING: The following contains minor spoilers for WandaVision Episode 7, “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” now streaming on Disney+.
Agatha Harkness is well-known for her connection to the Scarlet Witch. As the occasional mentor to Wanda Maxmimoff, Agatha played a vital part within the Avengers’ world in comics, and, as WandaVision just revealed, she secretly played a crucial role in the Scarlet Witch’s world all along, too.
While that might be her claim to fame today, Agatha was originally part of the Fantastic Four’s world when she became Franklin Richards’ nanny and played a formative role in shaping the early days of the character who’s often been called marvel’s strongest Omega-Level mutant, even if he’s not feeling like that right now.
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In 1970’s Fantastic Four #94, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Agatha Harkness was introduced as a caretaker for the young Franklin. After Franklin was born, his parents, Reed Richards and Sue Storm, realized that their lives were too dangerous for a child. The Fantastic Four made arrangements to meet a potential nanny for Franklin in upstate New York. Agatha had been retired for years at this point, but, she couldn’t refuse the FF’s offer after realizing who the FF were. The team was invited to stay with Agatha at her house, where the Frightful Four ambushed Marvel’s First Family.
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With the FF incapacitated, it was up to Agatha to protect Franklin. Agatha used the magic at her command to scare the villains away, tormenting them until the Fantastic Four freed themselves. When Reed and Sue saw that Franklin was safe with Agatha, they decided to hire her as his new nanny. At this time, the Fantastic Four were not aware of Agatha’s power, although their suspicions were aroused.
Agatha didn’t reveal her mystic abilities to the Fantastic Four until 1971’s Fantastic Four #110, by Lee and John Buscema. Reed was caught in the Negative Zone and threatened by Annihilus. As a result, Agatha arrived and used her magic to help Reed escape. Throughout the rest of her time with the Fantastic Four, Agatha kept the team aware of incoming dangers, such as Overmind and Air-Walker.
Agatha also acted as a means of communications for the Fantastic Four, putting them in touch with important figures such as The Watcher and the President of the United States. Perhaps Agatha’s most important contribution to the team was helping Franklin control his newly emerging powers, in Fantastic Four #140, by Gerry Conway and John Buscema.
Agatha’s training Franklin became especially useful in the pages of Fantastic Four #150, by Conway and Rich Buckler. During this storyline, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the Inhumans were all at the mercy of Ultron. In the midst of this climactic battle, Agatha teleported a comatose Franklin to the scene. Once there, Franklin awoke and used his powers to utterly destroy Ultron.
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Of course, Agatha’s time with the Fantastic Four wasn’t meant to last. In Fantastic Four #185, by Len Wein and George Perez, Agatha and Franklin were captured by the residents of New Salem. This town was led by Nicholas Scratch, Agatha’s devilish son. Luckily, the Fantastic Four arrived to defeat the supervillain group known as Salem’s Seven and convince New Salem that Scratch was trying to turn them against Agatha for his own purposes. Agatha banished Scratch into the dark realm, where he remained.
Unfortunately, in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #3, by Steve Englehart and Richard Howell, Salem’s Seven returned to power. This sinister group burned Agatha at the stake, taking over New Salem. In a battle between the Scarlet Witch, the Vision and Salem’s Seven, New Salem was decimated and its denizens vanished. Wanda channeled the energies of New Salem, apparently causing her original pregnancy.
Agatha revealed otherwise, however, in Avengers West Coast #51, by John Byrne. Returning alive and well, Agatha disclosed that Wanda’s children were actually created through stolen fragments of Mephisto. After the demon reabsorbed Wanda’s children into himself, Agatha removed The Scarlet Witch’s memory of her children altogether. Agatha would go on to train Wanda to use her powers, even helping her resurrect Wonder Man in Avengers #11, by Kurt Busiek and George Perez.
Although she was far more concerned with the Avengers in her later years, Agatha has remained on friendly terms with the Fantastic Four and many other Marvel heroes. In last year’s Fantastic Four: Antithesis #4, by Mark Waid and Neal Adams, Agatha returned to help pull Reed back to Earth when he possessed the power of Galactus, and she recently helped out the Peggy Carter and the Daughters of Liberty in Captain America.
While Agatha has been a legitimate help to figures throughout the Marvel Universe, her first purpose was to watch over Franklin Richards, a task that put her in charge of a figure who’s destined to stand as one of its greatest heroes and most powerful beings. While Franklin’s story might last until the last embers of the Marvel Universe flame out, Agatha Harkness was a big part of its beginning.
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