Scarlet Witch’s Merlin Variant Explained: Who Is 1602 Wanda?

wanda 1602 merlin 2
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Just recently, the trailer for the second season of the MCU animated series ‘What If…?’ dropped, showing us glimpses of the nine episodes that’ll arrive on Disney+ over nine days, from December 22 to December 30. In the trailer, we’ve also seen a glimpse of what will likely be an early 17th-century version of the Scarlet Witch that’s a variant of Merlin. So, who is 1602 Wanda, and does she appear in the comics? Here’s everything you need to know.

  • Article breakdown
  • 1602 Wanda is a variant of Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch that will appear in the second season of ‘What If…?’ on Disney+.
  • Scarlet Witch’s Merlin variant will appear in a cameo role in Episode 5 and a full appearance in the next episode titled ‘What If… The Avengers Assembled in 1602?’
  • A similar version of Wanda appears in the comics as well. Neil Gaiman had a limited 8-issue run for Marvel titled ‘Marvel 1602,’ where he created a reality in which our favorite superheroes existed in the early 17th century.

Who is 1602 Wanda?

‘What If…?’ – both the TV show and the Marvel comics of the same name – is a cool part of Marvel focusing on alternative realities where things are different yet similar to the reality we consider Marvel’s (or the MCU’s) ‘main’ one. 

The second season of the TV show is coming in late December, and it’ll be another nine episodes of posed questions such as, ‘What If… Ultron Won?’ or ‘What If… Thor Were an Only Child?’. We still don’t have all the episode names for season two, but we do have a couple and also a trailer giving us a great look into what’s coming.

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One of the alternative characters that has been shown in the trailer is once again Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch. And, if reports from Hollywood insiders are correct – it will be a Merlin variant of Scarlet Witch from the 17th century.

“Wanda-Merlin will appear in the following episodes of ‘WHAT IF’ Season 2: 

• Episode 205: What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?

• Episode 206: What If… The Avengers Assembled in 1602?”

Now, to be clear – although Wanda-Merlin, or 1602 Wanda, if you will, appears in both episodes, it was later elaborated that the first appearance in Episode 205 is only a cameo in which 1602 Wanda will go forward in time to recruit Captain Carter to return to the 17th century and help Wanda and her 1602 team fight whatever threat is presented to them.

“As I previously reported, Wanda-Merlin will appear in the following episodes of ‘WHAT IF’ Season 2:

Episode 5: What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper? (Dec. 26)

Episode 6: What If… The Avengers Assembled in 1602? (Dec. 27)

Wanda-Merlin and 1602 Fury will cameo in episode 5 to recruit Captain Carter for the 1602 episode.”

This sounds totally amazing if you ask me. The Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Making her a variant of Merlin – one of the most well-known sorcerers in fictional history – will make her that much more epic.

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Take everything with a grain of salt, though, as none of these reports were officially confirmed – including the names of the episodes themselves. However, the sources from which the reports came are very reliable, so you can rest assured that this is happening.

We’ve also gotten the names of several other episodes. For instance, the first episode is supposedly titled: ‘What If… Nebula Joined The Nova Corps?’, and it has a 31-minute runtime. There will also be an episode titled ‘What If… Peter Quill Attacked Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?’ in which Quill was brought to Ego as a kid and was corrupted, attacking Earth alongside his dad.

wanda 1602 peter quill

As for our 1602 Wanda, this won’t be the first time that a version of Wanda from 1602 will appear – albeit it will be the first time that we see her as a Merlin variant. I’ll explain in the following subheading.

Does 1602 Wanda appear in the comics?

The ‘What If…?’ episode that will revolve around a 1602 version of the Avengers is actually an homage to a very cool limited series of Marvel comics, conveniently titled ‘Marvel 1602.’

It was written by the popular author Neil Gaiman, best known for ‘The Sandman’ comics in DC. This particular piece of Marvel comics is similarly odd and clever, much like all of Gaiman’s work, and it ran for eight issues. As the title itself might suggest, it posed a new reality where superheroes we know and love already existed in 1602.

Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, was one of the mutants living in this alternative reality, where the likes of her and other mutants were called the ‘witchbreeds’ and were subjected to scrutiny and hunted like the witches of old.

Wanda was not a Merlin variant in this reality, per se, but rather a nun who had superhuman abilities. The superheroes fought the same enemies we met in ‘regular’ Marvel comics, but each encounter had a twist, and the characters were slightly different.

wanda 1602 comics

Now, I particularly like the fact that ‘What If…?’ chose to make Wanda a variant of Merlin because it just works on many different levels. The story of the Arthurian wizard was told and retold a million times and slightly changed so many times that it created countless versions of Merlin, depending on the story you’re telling or reading.

That gives the showrunners a lot to play with because they can use Merlin’s vast mythology to make it fit the narrative they want to tell. For instance, Merlin had many faces that he used as disguises, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively.

It makes perfect sense that Wanda actually used the face of a man – Merlin – to assert authority in an era where women practically had none.

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Also, as I’ve mentioned before, the 1602 Wanda was a nun. Why is that a cool piece of information, you might ask?

Well, according to some versions of the story of Merlin, the famous wizard lived in celibacy and lost his powers after sleeping with a woman. Nuns live in celibacy as well, so it makes sense that Wanda chose to pose as a nun to retain her powers. Bear in mind, this might not play any part in the show’s version of 1602 Wanda, but I do believe it’s a cool piece of trivia to know.

In the end, I think that the more likely scenario in the ‘1602’ episode of ‘What If…?’ will be some form of time travel instead of the characters actually living in the 17th century. Keep in mind, reports suggest that Wanda and Fury will recruit Captain Carter in the episode before the one happening in 1602, so it’ll clearly involve some form of time travel.

wanda 1602 merlin 3

I reckon the Avengers will travel back in time for some reason to deal with some larger threat early, and that Wanda’s powers, seen by the people of 1602, will be interpreted as magic, and that it’ll lead to the creation of the legend of Merlin.

I guess we’ll have to wait until December 26 and 27, when the two episodes involving Scarlet Witch’s Merlin variant come out on Disney+. And personally, it’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about an MCU show.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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