The Wild Comic Book Backstory Of Agatha Harkness, The Witch Behind It All On 'WandaVision'

Agatha Harkness may have made her MCU debut in WandaVision - complete with her own theme song - but fans of Marvel Comics have spent more than 50 years reading about the witch's two-faced ways. Similar to Scarlet Witch, Agatha Harkness's powers have changed and evolved over the years, but one thing's for sure: She's one of the most experienced magic users in the comics. Also, when it comes to Agatha Harkness, Mephisto and other mystical villains are rarely far behind.

In her first appearance (1970’s Fantastic Four #94), Harkness started out as a nanny for the FF with a dark, magical secret. Since then, she’s evolved into a supporting character for many mystical Marvel heroes, and the Scarlet Witch in particular. Whether it be the sudden appearance and disappearance of Wanda Maximoff’s children, her eventual mastery of chaos magic, or her tragic descent into madness, Agatha has been there for Scarlet Witch's entire journey. Dead or alive (and she’s been both with great regularity), Harkness has built a reputation as a generally benevolent individual with little more than a touch of moral ambiguity - a sharp contrast to the strong villainous undertones of Kathryn Hahn’s portrayal in the MCU. 

  • Agatha Harkness Was Born More Than 13,000 Years Ago, And Remembers The Day Atlantis Sank

    No one really knows how old Agatha Harkness is, but the answer can best be measured in millennia. At the very least, she’s ancient enough to remember the several centuries leading up to the sinking of Atlantis, an event that occurred in approximately 10,500 BC in the Marvel Universe. That makes her 13,000 years old at a bare minimum, though she’s happy not to elaborate past that.

    With more than 130 centuries under her belt, Harkness is easily one of the oldest beings still active in the Marvel Universe, especially once gods and cosmic entities are removed from consideration. She’s older than Thor, older than Loki, and older than Apocalypse, whose origins in ancient Egypt look downright recent in comparison to Agatha. 

    All that, and she doesn’t look a day past 110.

  • Harkness Was The Reason For The Salem Witch Trials

    After spending several millennia building up her magical abilities in the Old World, Agatha Harkness migrated to North America in the 17th century and settled down in the colony town of Salem, MA. There, she founded a coven of witches, hoping they would be free to practice their arcane art without persecution - but anyone familiar with the history of Salem knows that wasn’t meant to be.

    Unlike in real-world history, the Marvel Universe’s Salem witch trials were significantly more legitimate since local Puritans were spurred into action by actual witches in the form of Agatha and her coven. Surprisingly, Harkness welcomed the trials, believing them to be a method through which her coven could grow stronger, and she even betrayed some of her own to the Puritans when she deemed them too weak. 

    Eventually, an encounter with the time-traveling mutant hero Firestar convinced Agatha of the error of her ways, so she moved her coven to a new, hidden community where they could be safe, and called it New Salem.

  • Agatha Helped Found A Secret Women’s Superhero Team That Spanned Centuries And Was Once Led By Harriet Tubman

    As the American Revolution broke out in the late 1700s, Agatha Harkness ventured forth from New Salem to get involved in the politics of the non-magical world once again. She joined up with a secretive, all-women team of heroes known as the Daughters of Liberty and began training its members in the mystic arts, helping them fight back against British rule.

    Even when America achieved its independence, the Daughters of Liberty did not disband, sticking around until the modern era. Harkness stuck with them, continuing to train new generations of women warriors to combat all manner of injustice. Through the centuries, the Daughters would be led by a series of “Dryads,” one of whom was Harriet Tubman, though she and Agatha’s interactions have yet to be portrayed on page. These days, Harkness takes her orders from the resurrected Dryad Peggy Carter.

  • She Joined The US Army As An Enlisted Sorceress

    Plenty of Marvel Comics heroes are veterans of the US Army, but one probably wouldn’t assume that Agatha Harkness was one of them. Still, she enlisted following WWII, joining the Department of the Uncanny to hunt down escaped Third Reich sorcerers. 

    Harkness made her way into the Department of the Uncanny alongside fellow magic-users the Emerald Warlock and Ghost Dancer, under the command of Major Alan Dakor. And though the Emerald Warlock would also survive into the modern Marvel era and become a supervillain, it was clearly Agatha who was the department’s most powerful member.

  • Harkness Had A WWII-Era Archnemesis Named Hilda von Hate

    As one of the most powerful sorceresses to ever live, Agatha Harkness developed her fair share of enemies over the centuries. Her first true archnemesis came in the wake of WWII in the form of an escaped war criminal and genuinely evil witch named Hilda von Hate, which is the sort of moniker that leaves one with few career options outside of evil witchery.

    Von Hate had been a member of the SS and used her magical abilities to perform arcane experiments on the prisoners in concentration camps, an endeavor she hoped to continue even after Germany’s defeat. Instead, however, Harkness and the Department of the Uncanny hunted her down and put an end to her malice for good, after which Agatha retired from active military duty.

  • Agatha Harkness First Showed Up As The Fantastic Four’s Nanny

    Though her character history stretches back thousands of years, Agatha Harkness didn’t make her actual on-page debut until 1970’s Fantastic Four #94. Having left active duty to become a governess for needy children, Harkness was hired by Reed and Susan Richards to take care of their young son Franklin while they were busy saving the world. At the time, they had no idea of her mystical might, but that wouldn’t stay a secret for long.

    Not only did Agatha prove more than capable of keeping Franklin safe from the FF’s many enemies, but she was also the first to recognize the young mutant’s nigh-unlimited potential. In time, Franklin Richards would become one of the most powerful beings in the entire Marvel Universe, and his early childhood education with “Auntie Agatha” played an important role. 

    In time, Harkness would reveal her own powers to the Fantastic Four, after which she was accepted as her true self with open arms - despite the Thing’s initial terror at sharing a home with a genuine witch.