Wanda Maximoff is back. LGBTQ fans have been waiting.

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Before D’Manda Martini ever watched a movie at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, before she knew much about a superhero named Scarlet Witch, before she wore the original character costume with a head covering and leggings, she bought a package of trading cards.

Martini has been working on comics and superhero cards for several years, but in this Marvel Universe Series 3 package she saw a character she didn’t know it well: Wanda Maximoff.

Hungry for more, she read about Wanda, a superhero who distorts reality under the name Scarlet Witch. She researched the character in her comic book shop, read one of her stories, and fell deeply in love.

“Wanda tried so hard to be normal,” she said Martini, a 40-year-old state contractor and dear contractor at La Plata, Md. “I think that’s very connected, too.”

The popularity of the Scarlet Witch rose sharply after her in 2021 solo television series “WandaVision” – especially among LGBTQ fans. In interviews with The Washington Post, many they say Wanda’s experiences with loss, her non-traditional romance (with an android) and her search for family resonate with their travels. As he returns to Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” studio this week, many are hoping and fearing what he will face next.

“From a strange and trans lens, when we look at Wanda, we can see ourselves in her story,” said E. Tejada III, a 37-year-old equality and inclusion educator in Burdett, NY. Despite her difficulties, “You can see that resilience, that it’s still moving forward.”

“WandaVision” as a whole was a special landmark for LGBTQ fans. Video essays about their love for the series have garnered thousands of views on YouTube. There are numerous articles covering the MCU debut of Wanda’s son Billy, who is gay in comics. The supporting character Agatha Harkness became not only the theme of the song at the top of the charts, but also a queer icon in itself.

Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda, told The Post she was unaware of the LGBTQ fans’ connection to the character. “It’s really amazing. I think these stories have an impact on the way I am, and I somehow don’t [realize]”she said.” I’m so into them I can’t really get out. “

Through films and series, Wanda suffers the loss of a parent, brother and romantic partner. The character then she distorts reality to create a fictional life complemented by the magical manifestations of her late lover and their children, but later demolishes it after realizing that she has held the city hostage in the process.

Wanda has no more luck in comics. Eleven years after her debut in 1964, she married Vision and has two children, but through magic and old-fashioned supercrime, she loses her family and memories of motherhood. When those memories surface again, an outburst of grief leads Wanda to kill some of his teammates, as well as a number of mutants – a marginalized, superpowered race. The character has since been on a long journey of redemption and healing.

“She’s going through all this trauma,” said Michaela McFarland, a 21-year-old social media content creator from Detroit. “It builds up and just keeps creating where you can connect with it on such a deeper level.”

Wanda works go ahead finding your loved ones in superhero teams. But given her previous closeness to supervillains in early Marvel comics and her recent attacks on her teammates and mutants, her loyalty to the good guys is often questioned.

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Joseph Kim, a 24-year-old social media content producer from New York, said it reminds him of biphobia, transphobia and racism within the LGBTQ community. In Wanda’s story, he said, “you have the same kind of metaphorical guarding of the door: ‘You’re one of us, and yet you’re not one of us.'”

In comics and movies, Wanda gets little support from other characters. MCU portrays her grief alone, and in the “House M” comic book story, other characters reflect on Wanda’s murder while experiencing a mental health crisis.

For Brandon Bush, a comic book journalist, this lack of support also reflects systemic injustices. “When you see people like Wanda who don’t get the resources they need, you agree with that because you see your own communities and they don’t get the resources they need,” Bush said.

Yet many LGBTQ fans generally don’t see the kind of representation they want at MCU. Yes, more LGBTQ superheroes – including Wanda’s own children – have graced the pages of comics in recent years, and same-sex relationships are appearing on screen in “Eternal.” Olsen was excited about the new “Dr. “Strange” is a sequel that presents the superhero America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who is a lesbian in comics and whose same-sex parents are briefly alluded to in the film. “We have to reflect the world in these films,” she said. “We have such a platform. It would be foolish not to use it that way. ”

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But many fans still feel that such depictions are too rare. That is why reading fills the gap LGBTQ topics and relationships in Marvel movies and series – sometimes in ways that deviate from the creator’s vision. Aside from Wanda’s difficulties, some viewers interpreted interactions in “WandaVision” between Wanda and Agatha as a flirtation. In other MCU titles, fans see sparks flying between super-soldier Steve Rogers and his best friend Bucky Barnes. And the stories in which the X-Men appear – the team of superheroes Wanda fought against in her comic book debut – are widely read as queer allegories. Noticing signs of romance between likely heterosexual characters expressing affection for each other has become key to their enjoyment of superhero media, they said.

The portrayal of Wanda’s identity also met with a negative reaction. She has long been portrayed in comics as a Jew – for decades it was believed that her father was the X-Men antihero Magneto, a Holocaust survivor. But Marvel later found out that Wanda’s father was someone else, which actually took away her Jewish heritage, which angered some fans. She was too raised in a Roma family, but it has has not yet entered the MCU.

Two LGBTQ Roma fans told The Post that Wanda’s appearances in comics were formed for their love of the media. But they were less enthusiastic about the particular choices the creators made in presenting her heritage. Jayjay Colley, a 26-year-old teacher outside of Boston, said linking the Roma character to magic seems to be a continuation of stereotypes, and found some past Scarlet Witch costumes offensive. He worries that the MCU has simply erased Wanda’s Roma identity for fear of repeating those tropes.

But those frustrations won’t stop Colley from the cinema.

“The things you love will always have problems with them,” they said. “The way we should deal with the media is still able to criticize it, but also recognize that nothing is completely good or completely bad.”

David Betancourt contributed to this report.

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