What is a witch?
It seems like an easy question. Pointy hat. Black cat. Casts spells. Might have warts. You know—a witch.
But is “witch” just a catch-all term for female magic users? What’s the difference between a witch and a sorceress or a mage? Is the flying broom absolutely necessary?
Lots of superheroes have magic-based powers. Many of them get called witches, but I’m going to nitpick that definition and argue that most of them actually aren’t. Let’s see who makes the cut.
I know she’s pretty much the top magic-user in the DC Universe, but I don’t think “witch” is the right word to describe her. “Magician” seems more accurate given the top hat and tuxedo, and I’d also accept “sorceress.” Though if you want to be technical about it, she’s a member of the magical species “Homo Magi.”
She’s not associated with any of the typical witchy imagery like bubbling cauldrons or black cats. Pretty much 99% of the time she’s speaking backwards to cast magic; you rarely see her use any different techniques.
Bottom line, her aesthetic just doesn’t say “witch” to me.
Verdict: not a witch.
But aesthetic alone isn’t enough. Black Alice has some A+ witchy goth style, but I wouldn’t call her a witch either. She can “borrow” the superpowers of any other magic-user in the DC Universe temporarily (complete with a cute gothy version of their costumes), which is a cool power but not witchcraft.
Verdict: not a witch.
Traci 13 is a BAMF and I love her, but when it comes to witches, I have the same problem that I do with Zatanna. She leans more toward “sorceress” or the generic “magic-user” than “witch.”
Verdict: not a witch. (Still awesome, though.)
Nico’s introduction to magic came from the Staff of One, a magical item that lets her cast any spell exactly one time and one time only. To me, this wouldn’t necessarily make her a witch—just a person who lucked into a magical McGuffin.
But, she eventually goes on to learn more magic and gains the ability to cast spells without the staff. Combine this with her witchy wardrobe (Black ruffles! Fishnets! Striped stockings!), and I think she qualifies.
The Scarlet Witch
This one should be simple, right? Of course she’s a witch. It’s right there in her name.
But nothing about the Scarlet Witch is simple. She has a comic book origin story so ridiculously complicated that it will hurt your brain. I’m not going to turn this post into a thousand-word article about all the rewrites, retcons, and revelations that have occurred during her 50-plus years of history. Let’s just say she didn’t start out as a witch.
She’s a mutant. She worked for Magneto and could cast “hexes” that affected probability. These hexes weren’t magic, just an effect of her mutant abilities.
Later, she tapped into chaos magic and began studying witchcraft. After that…
Let’s just stop there. Suffice it to say the Scarlet Witch’s powers have leaned toward magic or science depending on who’s writing her. Sometimes both. It’s complicated.
Verdict: sometimes a witch.
I’m going to talk about the comic book version here. The live-action interpretation in WandaVision is amazing but so drastically different than comic book Agatha that she may as well be a different character.
Comic book Agatha:
- Lived through the Salem Witch Trials
- Owns a black cat
- Leads a coven of witches
- Taught the Scarlet Witch magic
- Has a super scary scowl
Verdict: definitely a witch.
Am I being too rigid in my definition of a witch? What characters should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments!