The Marvel Cinematic Universe has emerged from a long-established comics history, utilizing decades of storylines and characters to build its weaving continuous movie multiverse.1 While the role of adaptation from comics to screens may be clear, the MCU also impacted the original comics source material, perhaps best seen in the case of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.
Image 1: the Maximoff’s discover that Magneto is not their father, from Avengers and X-men: Axis #7, published December 2014.
In 2014 the Maximoff twins (aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver) were introduced to the MCU during the credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Referred to as “miracles,” their backstory represented a break from the characters’ comics origins as the mutant children of super-villain Magneto, a character featured in multiple 20th-Century Fox released X-Men films.2The lead-up to the Maximoffs’ first full appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), however, saw a drastic rewrite of the characters’ original genesis in the comics themselves. First, in Avengers and X-men: Axis #7 (image 1), published December 2014, the twins discovered that Magneto is not their father. Then, in Uncanny Avengers #4 (image 2), published May 2015, shortly after Ultron’s release, they learned that they were never actually mutants; they instead gained their powers as children after a series of experiments, an arc more similarly aligned to the MCU.
Image 2: the Maximoff’s learn their true origin, in Uncanny Avengers #4, published May 2015.
Upon publication, many speculated that these retcons were caused by licensing conflicts between Disney and Fox studios. While we can only speculate what the Maximoffs’ origins would be had they joined the MCU post-Disney/Fox merger, the move in 2015 showcased the working synergy across Marvel’s multi-media ecosystem. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s origin rewrite more easily allowed new fans to read comics without knowing decades of continuity. Marvel also soon after launched a Scarlet Witch solo series, expanding her position in the comics.
Beyond economic functionality, the MCU’s influence highlights a transformation in how we think about comics time and history. MCU-influenced retroactive continuity showcases a complex intermedial movie-to-comics relationship. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver retcon undid decades of plotlines, some going back to the 1960s. Ultimately, as the MCU draws from history to create movie adaptations, the case of the Maximoff twins alternatively shows an erasure history, remolding comics in cinematic likeness going forward... at least until the next retcon...
1) For the purposes of this post, I am predominantly referring to the relationship between the movies and comics, not to intentionally exclude Marvel television and other media ventures.
2) The introduction of Magneto as the Maximoff’s parent was itself a retcon that first emerged in 1979; Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were originally just members of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants team and first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #4.