HEAT VISION

'WandaVision' and Marvel's Next Big Villain

Woman holding toy in 'WandaVision.'
Marvel Studios
There are countless clues in the Disney+ show that a bad guy who rivals Thanos is just waiting in the wings.

[This story contains spoilers for the first three episodes of WandaVision.]

Marvel Studios appears to be courting the devil. While the studio’s head honcho, Kevin Feige, has been typically reticent to give away too many of the MCU’s future plans, it would seem an arc is starting to take shape, if not throughout the entirety of Phase 4’s film and Disney+ streaming projects, then at least through the MCU’s magic-tinged projects: WandaVision, Loki, the untitled Spider-Man 3 and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Within that arc, a new threat seems to be on the rise, one whose villainy could rival that of Thanos, or maybe even surpass it.

If the apparent clues in WandaVision are to be believed, then the Marvel Universe’s very own version of the devil, Mephisto, may be right around the corner.

A little background: Mephisto, created by Stan Lee and John Buscema, first appeared in The Silver Surfer No. 3 (1968). Much like his literary namesake, Mephistopheles, the demon served as a tempter, and made the bargaining rounds with nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe at one point or another, vying for their desires in exchange for a piece of themselves. When it comes to the MCU, Mephisto fits perfectly into a post-Infinity Saga landscape, given that his comic book origins have strong ties to the Infinity Gems. According to Mephisto, as told in The Silver Surfer Vol. 3 No. 45 (1991), the being of pure evil was born when the One-Above-All, a supreme cosmic being, died by suicide. That act resulted in the creation of the Marvel multiverse, the Infinity Gems and Mephisto. During the iconic storyline The Infinity Gauntlet (1991), Mephisto guides Thanos in the use of the Infinity Gems as part of his plan to acquire them for himself. It’s later revealed, in Avengers Vol. 8 No. 38 (2020), that Mephisto has been whispering in Thanos’ ear since the Mad Titan was young, setting his sights on Earth in prehistoric times and starting Thanos’ ongoing war against humanity’s greatest heroes. While Mephisto’s attempt to claim the stones in The Infinity Gauntlet failed, he has recently acquired the Time Stone, as of Avengers Vol. 8 No. 31 (2020), allowing him to travel through time, and change certain events, such as pitting Thanos against Earth earlier than the previously established continuity. To further complicate matters, Mephisto’s possession of the Time Stone has allowed him to cheat death more efficiently than ever before. His travels through time have created alternate universe versions of himself that can supplant his deceased form. Talk about a multiverse of madness.

Given that Mephisto and the stones are comprised of the same energy in the comics, it’s conceivable that in the MCU, the stones’ cycle of use and destruction awoke Mephisto to the goings on of Earth. While it’s unlikely that the MCU would find Mephisto undergoing the same quest as Thanos, to collect all the stones, it does seem that not all of the Infinity Stones are entirely out of the picture. In fact, the audition synopsis for Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness makes reference to the fact that Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will still be researching the Time Stone following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019). While the Doctor Strange sequel seems to be the culmination of the MCU’s magic-focused arc, WandaVision is its beginning. And even with only three of the nine episodes having premiered so far, Mephisto’s shadow is already growing.

The shape of a hexagon has been a reoccurring motif in the first batch of WandaVision episodes, the shape is prevalent in the three different theme songs that set that stage for the series’ shifting timeline. The root word for hexagon is hex, which in Greek means six, but in German means witchcraft. Six, of course has significance in the MCU, with there being six Infinity Stones. Biblically, it took the Judeo-Christian God six days to create the world. And, as all horror-loving fans know from The Omen (1976) and various demon-centric movies, 666 is the number of the beast, the devil, and yes, Mephisto. Interestingly enough, subsequent translations of the New Testament, in Arabic and Greek, note the number of the beast as 616, which is the designation of Marvel’s main comic book continuity. The number six is notably absent from all the clocks, radios, and dials in WandaVision. Additionally, six promotional posters were released for the show, each pertaining to a decade of television the show would reference — the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s.

Not to go entirely into LOST territory, but there’s definitely a significance to the use of that number in the show and larger MCU. And as for hex, as in witchcraft, Feige revealed that WandaVision would see Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) earn her moniker, Scarlet Witch. During the theme song of the second episode, six stars are shown around the moon. The moon is known as the symbol of the witch goddess Hecate in Greek mythology. And in Egyptian mythology, Khonshu is the God of the moon. So at this point we might as well go full-LOST.

In Marvel Comics, Khonshu’s avatar on Earth is Moon Knight, set to be introduced in the MCU and played by Oscar Isaac next year. Recently, in Jason Aaron’s Avengers run, Khonshu has been pitted against Mephisto, but has found him unbeatable as the demon has used the Time Stone to create an army of versions of himself from across the multiverse. This wouldn’t be the first time Marvel Comics has sought to synchronize itself with the MCU in advance, and Aaron’s run, in which Mephisto is the big bad, may hold quite a few clues about the character’s cinematic future.

In the comics, Wanda’s mutation gave her “hex powers,” but she learned to achieve greater control of these through actual magic, taught to her by her mentor Agatha Harkness. A contraction of the name Agatha Harkness is Agnes, which of course is the name of Kathryn Hahn’s nosy neighbor in WandaVision. Agnes seems to know more than she’s letting on, and that’s become increasingly apparent in the most recent episode. There’s a reoccurring mention of her husband, Ralph, who is never seen. Agnes, if the theory about her truly being Agatha Harkness is correct — and I can’t imagine it isn’t — has delivered a few lines that lead me to believe she has quite the intimate relationship with Mephisto. Wanda’s snobby neighbor, Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford) says, “the devil’s in the details.” To which Agnes responds, “that’s not the only place he is,” with a wink. And in the third episode, Agnes says that her husband Ralph “looks better in the dark.”

Obviously, these are meant to be possibly innocuous sitcom lines, but given the whole mystery approach to the show, there seems to be something sinister at play. While Agnes isn’t married to Mephisto in the comics, and she isn’t a villain, she does have a long history of secret agendas, and is very familiar with the devil and the darker aspects of magic. And Harkness played a crucial role in altering Wanda’s memories when she discovered that her children, Billy and Tommy, were fragments of Mephisto’s soul in John Byrne’s controversial “Vision Quest” and “Darker Than Scarlet” arcs in Avengers West Coast in 1989 and 1990. As for more evidence that Agnes is not who she seems? If you look closely at her brooch, which she’s worn in every episode, there is what appears to be a scythe-wielding figure. While this may conjure up thoughts of Thanos’ paramour, Death, who stood with Mephisto against the Mad Titan in The Infinity Gauntlet, the truth may lie in a more obscure figure, but one that holds great importance to the history of Wanda and Vision.

Feige has mentioned that Bill Mantlo and Rick Leonardi’s four-issue miniseries, Vision and the Scarlet Witch (1982), which saw the couple move to the suburbs, served as a primary inspiration for WandaVision. In the first issue of that series, Wanda faces off against “He Who Would Live,” also known as Samhain, a scythe-wielding demonic druid who captured Agatha Harkness’ soul and sought to use Wanda’s powers to give him dominion over Earth’s magical forces once again. Samhain also serves as an ally to Salem’s Seven, a group of evil sorcerers who tempted Wanda to join their coven. They also happen to be the grandchildren of Agatha Harkness. It’s possible that some of the denizens of Westview are practitioners of magic as well, working in the service of Samhain, who in turn is a disciple of Mephisto. All signs point to the sixth episode of WandaVision, that’s right sixth, being set on Halloween, also known as Samhain Day, and the date in the comics in which Wanda encountered the druid. While it seems Wanda is responsible for much of the reality-altering in WandaVision, as she searches for a perfect life, one born of the imported American TV shows she was raised on, Mephisto could be pulling the strings.

The bargain for Vision’s (Paul Bettany) resurrection could have dire consequences, especially if it’s a means for Mephisto to open the multiverse and escape from one into another. But Wanda’s powers might not be enough. If Mephisto has grand plans for the multiverse, then time would be a way to open up further universes or even erase others from existence. And this brings us to Loki. The series, set to debut on Disney+ in May, will introduce the Time Variance Authority, an organization that monitors the multiverse and erases those they deem too dangerous to remain in existence, perhaps realities overrun by Mephisto. The teaser trailer for the series contained a curious-looking stained glass window, one that depicted a figure who looks strikingly similar to Mephisto. There are also two images of the moon in that image — perhaps one symbolizes Khonshu and the other Hecate. And with two moons and three stars in the image, Mephisto himself is the sixth cosmic creation in that picture.

The third MCU Spider-Man film, starring Tom Holland and what could be a conceivably huge cast if rumors hold true, appears to be laying some groundwork for the multiverse. The casting of Jamie Foxx as Electro and Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius points in that direction. But beyond the multiverse, there’s also the threat of Peter Parker’s exposed identity hanging over his head. As discussed in October, there’s a chance that the upcoming film will take cues from the Spider-Man storylines One More Day (2007) and One Moment in Time (2010), and will find Spider-Man denied help in restoring his identity from Doctor Strange and turning to the devil in disguise, Mephisto. Given the “Parker Luck,” there’s a likelihood that Peter’s meddling in the world of magic have severe consequences. But what Peter might not know is that Mephisto’s plan was already long set in motion.

These threads will likely culminate in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is set to feature Wanda in a substantial role. The logline for the film mentions a friend-turned-enemy, leading to speculation that the returning Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) will be fulfilling that role, much as he does in the comics. But it’s possible that is a misdirect, with Scarlet Witch being the friend-turned-enemy, especially if Strange is partly responsible for ending her domestic bliss in Westview. There’s a decent chance that Wanda’s communion with Mephisto doesn’t end with WandaVision, and her earning the mantle of Scarlet Witch has just as much to do with her coming into her own as it does her with ties to the red devil, Mephisto.

Beyond the Multiverse of Madness, Mephisto presents an opportunity to expand the MCU even further, given his ties to both the cosmic and supernatural side of the MCU. From his creation of Ghost Rider and his torment of the Silver Surfer to his claim over the soul of Cynthia Von Doom, setting her son, Victor, on the path to becoming Doctor Doom, Mephisto may be the Marvel multiverse’s most well-traveled villain. And, if even half of these theories are correct, he may entirely change the landscape of the MCU and open up more possibilities than were ever anticipated when the franchise began in 2008.

Oh, and if we’re still playing the numbers game and WandaVision is indeed set a year after the events of Avengers: Endgame, than means it’s six years following Thanos’ snap, and the “blip” that may have sent a signal out to the demon waiting in the dark cosmos.

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