Sarah Rees Brennan Enters The Scarlet Witch’s House For Women Of Marvel: “A Little Bit Of Magic”

Scarlet Witch women of marvel sarah rees brennan interview

Sarah Rees Brennan is a prolific writer known for her epic fantasy series and licensed adaptations like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Fate: The Winx Saga. But when she had a chance to tackle her first comic book work for this year’s Women of Marvel anthology, there was really only one choice: Scarlet Witch.

“No offense to the other ladies, all amazing, but I seized Scarlet Witch immediately,” Brennan told Comic Book Club over email. “It had to be the witch. But why this particular witch? Because she’s one of the reasons I love witches.”

The story, titled “Witch House,” pairs Brennan with artist Arielle Jovellanos, tackling interior work for the first time for Marvel, and colorist Brittany Peer. The short follows Wanda and her human companion Darcy Lewis to the titular house, a mysterious cottage that sits at the Nexus of All Realities. Throw in some mythology building, a little horror, and perhaps more than one Scarlet Witch, and you have a wildly dreamlike story that leans into Brennan’s strengths as a writer while allowing Jovellanos’ art to soar.

To find out more about the inspiration behind the story — which is in stores everywhere right now — including the very personal reason this means so much to Brennan, read on.

Comic Book Club: Scarlet Witch has really had a resurgence of late… I know you’re into the witchy world anyway with your other work, but what draws you to the character in particular?

Sarah Rees Brennan: When my amazing Marvel editor Sarah Brunstad reached out to ask if I’d take part in Women of Marvel, she offered me a choice of characters. No offense to the other ladies, all amazing, but I seized Scarlet Witch immediately. It had to be the witch. But why this particular witch? Because she’s one of the reasons I love witches.

When it comes to witches, I always think of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.” As you say, my writing has always been witch-adjacent–when working with Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina I went full witch, and I explored whether a woman telling people stories they don’t want to hear transforms her from oracle to witch (and what makes villains so much fun!) in my new fantasy novel Long Live Evil. But Wanda’s one of the most complex and complete witch characters of our age. Officially declared a witch in 1974, we’ve seen her as maiden, mother and (in a way) crone, as hero and villain, empathetic and vengeful, perceived as fragile while enormously resilient. We’ve seen her as full of hope and full of rage. Witches are emblems of chaos, and she wields Chaos magic. It had to be Wanda.

You pack a ton of new mythology, weave through the Scarlet Witch’s current continuity, and even fit in some action in five pages. First of all: impressive. Second of all, given all those elements, what did you start with when you were tackling this story?

First of all, thank you! I was terrified, as while I’ve written books and scripts before, this would be my first comic, and I would be alongside the legendary Gail Simone! Several of my writer friends have written comic scripts before, and I’d critiqued or simply admired them – let me shout out the fabulous Zoraida Córdova here, who showed me her 2021 Women of Marvel story for Gamora—and become very aware of the brevity required. I’m a loquacious creature by nature, but I knew I mustn’t use too many words and must choose the right ones! Much like with a poem.

I was fascinated by the direction Steve Orlando was taking Wanda in, with the magic shop and the friendship with Darcy Lewis, and it made me consider that a shop is still a professional place, where one has to be outward-facing. There would be danger, because danger is an intrinsic part of a witch’s life, but I wanted to continue the current continuity where she’s finding a place of healing—though that’s never a smooth path.

Given the nature of the anthology, I felt I wanted to showcase Wanda before all else, and that made me think of the case in which I wanted to show her. So I wanted to give the witch a witch house – a stage that felt particular and almost private.

Women Of Marvel (2024) #1 page 4

What was the emotional core of the story for you? What was important to say about Wanda?

I really wanted to celebrate the whole of her rather than dwelling on one aspect, to have her be powerful and in need of protection, loving and terrifying.

We all present different sides of ourselves in different situations. I’ve been asked myself “which is the real you” – but to me, that’s asking which of the colors in a kaleidoscope is the true colour. It’s a kaleidoscope, a word which means “look upon beautiful forms.”

That seemed especially fitting for Wanda, who we’ve seen in so many forms and for whom fans have traced the common thread of her character through many incarnations. I wanted to say: Embrace the kaleidoscope.

Darcy Lewis is an important part of the story, even if – spoiler – it isn’t always her. When you’re writing the character, are you hearing Kat Dennings’ voice? Or do you think the comic Darcy has already delineated herself?

I don’t hear Kat Dennings’ voice, but I did come to Darcy through the screen. I always really liked her and that will always be one of the filters through which I see her. I love a character who, whether among gods or academics, witches or aliens, will always provide the funny, down-to-earth viewpoint. There’s a different softness and a differently filtered intellectual curiosity to the comics Darcy, I think, that makes her stand apart and makes her fit in with Wanda’s warmth and empathy.

What was it like working with Arielle Jovellanos? Her art seems a perfect fit for your dreamlike story.

I think so too. Talk about beautiful forms. I got really lucky! My editor said she’d wanted Arielle’s art for Marvel for a long time, so I feel privileged she chose Arielle for me, and that we got to make our Marvel debut together. It was an instinctive fit right away—Arielle produced exactly the witch house I envisioned! Arielle and I have already talked about how we’d love to work together again. I said earlier that writing a comic script is like writing a poem, but maybe it’s more like writing lyrics. Arielle’s art is the music. Together, we made the song.  

The concept of the Witch’s House is riffing off the Nexus of all Realities, but it almost feels like it’s an annex of the magic shop in the main Scarlet Witch title. Do you have more ideas for the location bubbling in your cauldron/head?

Witch houses speak to me, a gothic little corner made for magic on the edge of the woods… or the worlds. I love the magic shop, and I think it was Steve Orlando who suggested the Nexus of all Realities as tying them all together.

Witch houses exist in folklore and horror stories and cozy cartoons, so they’re resilient and ever-changing like Wanda herself, and they seem like places where you can be independent, and where you can have very interesting encounters. I do have some ideas! And I’d be thrilled to see another Marvel writer use the witch house as well.

You’re dealing with multiple Wandas here, and even giving us a touch of horror at the end… Do you have a favorite version of the Scarlet Witch, since she’s transformed so much throughout the years?

I don’t think I can pick a favourite. I’m loving Steve Orlando’s run obviously, and the idea of Scarlet Witch with Loki, with Darcy, having her as the focal point for many encounters. House of M Wanda is a classic for her complexity, the Silver Witch is intriguing due to the thought of her having her brother’s super speed. I’m really looking forward to the What If? Spiderman and Scarlet Witch were siblings book by Seanan McGuire. I do love me some horror. Recent horror loves are Stephen Graham Jones’s book My Heart Is A Chainsaw and in comics, Something Is Killing the Children. I love that in one comic, Wanda fought Dracula!

I will say one quote of Wanda’s from Jim Shooter’s run is “The Scarlet Witch is free and angry. And unlike your bride, the Scarlet Witch can hurt you” and that’s such a powerful idea, that of being free and angry and wanting to help someone else—another woman.  I really love Wanda in all her incarnations, whether darkly villainous or radiantly heroic, and I think Wanda and everyone else should too.

Broad question to end here, but what does it mean to you to be part of this year’s Women of Marvel anthology?

I’ll get personal. I was a fairly prolific author of young adult fiction long ago, until I stopped being able to write and was diagnosed with late stage cancer. Coming back, when I didn’t know if I could do it or if anyone even wanted me to, has been a long painful process. To have Marvel reach out, to get a chance to be part of modern myth-making, in the year my own first book in seven years comes out… It was a sign I might be in one of the kinder universes. Honestly, it feels a little bit magic.

Women of Marvel #1 is currently available at comic book stores everywhere.

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