The original pencils for Agatha Harkness from Fantastic Four # 94 show a very different Agatha than the one who saw the print, and the reason is debated.
Like many characters in WandaVision, Agatha Harkness was created by Jack kirby, and its original design for her was very different from what ended up on the printed page. One of the last characters Jack created for Marvel during his tenure on The Fantastic Four, Agatha Harkness captured the imagination of readers in her first film straight out of a horror movie. Although his debut had the characteristics of a classic Jack Kirby horror comic, some of his best ideas for the problem were not used by publisher / writer Stan Lee. The only surviving clues are the original pencils and script notes from Jack, but why Agatha’s design was changed is debated to this day.
In the Marvel Universe, Agatha Harkness is one of Salem’s original witches, and she debuted in the pages of The Fantastic Four # 94, with the art and history of Jack Kirby and the dialogues of Stan Lee. The Fantastic Four # 94 is the first comic book that reveals the name of Franklin Richards, the child of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. The story revolves around their need to find a “child rearing specialist” to take care of Franklin if they had to fight criminals or stop a disaster. This leads them to Agatha, a mysterious old woman who came out of retirement as a “world famous child rearing specialist” due to the prestige of caring for the son of the Fantastic Four. Agatha’s house is attacked by the Scary Four, but Agatha uses magic to defend the house, proving to Reed and Sue that she is more than capable of taking care of their son.
The story that saw the print in The Fantastic Four # 94 was largely unchanged from what the legendary Jack Kirby wrote and drew, but with a few key changes. According to the book by Kirby historian John Morrow Stuf ‘Says, the script notes on Jack’s original pages referred to Agatha as “Aunt” throughout the script, rather than a “child rearing specialist,” with a line of dialogue implying that Agatha was the Sue’s half-aunt. While there is a lot of speculation, the likely response to Agatha’s appearance on the original Xeroxes pencil versus the printed page has to do with Lee turning Agatha into a nanny. Kirby probably changed Agatha to an older woman so as not to draw a comparison with Mary Poppins. It’s unclear if the original design was inspired by Poppins, but perhaps Lee’s change from Agatha to a nanny was one too many similarities.
Released less than a year after Jack Kirby’s imminent move from Marvel to DC, Fantastic Four # 94 debuted in October 1969, just over 8 years after the first issue with Jack Kirby as sole artist. By this point in the race, Jack was fed up with his treatment at Marvel, Stan getting more credit for the Fantastic Four than Jack thought he deserved, and Stan constantly underestimated Jack’s contributions to the press. More than any other title, The fantastic four was the heart of Jack’s comics, with speculation and anecdotal evidence citing the vast majority of Jack’s run entirely written by himself, with minimal Stan contribution compared to other Marvel titles. Many fans believe that Jack’s work The Fantastic Four # 94 being one of the last big stories Jack would draw before he moved to DC, with Jack demanding that the following issues be plotted by Stan until he left.
While helping to differentiate Marvel enough to beat DC, Stan Lee’s Marvel method of creating comics was a double-edged sword. Before Marvel, artists were rarely credited for their work, and Stan Lee helped change that. On the flip side, due to the way the credits were distributed, artists played a much larger role in writing the stories than was implied, receiving only artist credit while Stan Lee earned full writing credit. Unlike most other artists of the day, Jack Kirby also provided dialogue for stories he wrote written in the margins, which at times were ignored entirely and at times included almost verbatim. Maybe the changes of The Fantastic Four # 94 was one of the many drops that broke the camel’s back for Jack, but either way we wouldn’t have Agatha Harkness or many aspects of WandaVision without Jack kirby.
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