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Julia Wros

Bobby Drake – Out and Proud

Written by Julia Wros
SDSU History Master’s Student, 2021

In the world of X-men, mutants face social stigma for their mutations. Some of these “mutants” banded together to create the X-men, a team of superheroes to combat this discrimination. One of the original X-men was Iceman, Bobby Drake, who joined when he was a teen and became a core member of the X-men and a popular superhero. 

In the 2017 run of Iceman, Bobby’s struggles with being a mutant are more family-oriented, with his father not supporting his career as a superhero and his mother backing his father up on that.  We can see this dynamic on the page shown, where Bobby’s dad tells him not to discuss mutant business at the table, saying that mutants are allowed to be themselves all the time, and that no one was angry about mutants anymore, while also suggesting that mutantism is not “normal.”

Iceman Vol 1: Thawing Out. Published by Marvel comics Dec 27, 2017. Author: Sina Grace. Illustrator/Artist: Alessandro Vitti

This line from Bobby’s father resonates in my mind with how queerness is treated in families, and with the way that dialogue can take place over the dinner table. The way that his dad discusses how mutants can be “out” in public, without anyone being mad about it, is similar to discussions that may be had around the dinner table when it comes to discussions that can happen around pride.  

The scene also takes place at the dinner table, with Bobby’s parents on one side with the food spread in between them. They present a united front against Bobby, all framed as a family discussion around the dinner table, with Bobby on one side alone.

Reinforcing this connection is Bobby’s parents’ reaction to his coming out, shown later in the volume, where their first reaction is to blame each other. His mom blames his dad’s side of the family, both for passing on mutant genes and gayness. Everyone and everything around Bobby is blamed for his sexuality – his ex-girlfriend, genetics, mutantism – without considering that it is as much a part of Bobby as his powers over ice.

Iceman Vol 1: Thawing Out. Published by Marvel comics Dec 27, 2017. Author: Sina Grace. Illustrator/Artist: Alessandro Vitti

They also talk about him as if he is not there, as the argument devolves into the two of them trying to pass the blame. It becomes a fight as Kitty Pryde tries to stand up for him, but only devolves further, ending with Bobby’s father saying that Bobby is dead and that Iceman wins. This dual sense of identity and pronunciation of death is something that many LGBT+ readers may be familiar with as a common thing that parents have said to their children upon their coming out.

Bobby’s experience is a real one, even as a superhero this part of normal life is strikingly familiar to many readers and helps to give an even further human element to one of the most well-known X-men.

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Fawaz Qashat

How To Start Collecting Comics For Beginners

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

When I first started collecting comics, I wasn’t sure where to start and I wanted someone to tell me all the secrets. Here’s my advice, gained through trial-and-error, to anyone who might want to start collecting comics.

Pick a character, find a shop: To start off, think of your favorite character. Choose any character you really love. Once you’ve found that character, go to your nearest comic book shop. Just ask Siri or Google where the nearest comic shop is and that’ll lead you there. Once at the shop, ask about any comics that relate to the character you want. Comic shops sometimes have bins in the middle of the store that have comics organized by comic event and superhero names. I always find myself drifting to the Scarlet Witch section. Once you’ve found your desired comics, it’s only a matter of purchasing them and then taking them home to be read. Another way of finding the comics that relate to your favorite character is to look them up on Amazon. This is not a sponsored message, but I always find myself going to Amazon for collected versions of stories that have my favorite character. Another great place to get your single-issue floppy comics is Things From Another World. It’s a site that sells comics so you can shop without having to leave the comfort of your home!

Explore comics online: There are also ways to collect comics digitally. Comixology, a company owned by Amazon, has many digital comics that can be purchased and read. Marvel Unlimited is a monthly subscription that allows you access to tons of comics arranged by superhero name, event title, published date, and release date. Furthermore, both Comixology and Marvel Unlimited upload comics every week so you always have something new to read. I still have not finished the Scarlet Witch section so that should tell you how vast the selection is.

Create a Pull list: Once you’ve started your collection by getting stories related to your favorite heroes, you can explore ongoing storylines. You can still collect the older comics, but some new ones that are constantly being released may interest you or even include your favorite character. The best way to keep up and ensure you get the new comics as they release is to start a pull list at your local comics shop. A pull list is a file that is opened under your name. The comic shop will ask you what stories you want to follow and all you have to do is tell them the name of the story. Then, everytime a new issue releases, they will automatically hold the comic in your file until you pick it up from the shop.If you do this, remember to pick up your comics as frequently as possible, preferably every week, as comic shop owners often assume a financial risk by ordering additional copies to accommodate your pull list. What’s cool is that if you start a pull list, which is free of charge, you will pay the cover price of the comic rather than shelf price which is usually more than cover price. For instance, I’ve paid $3.99 for a Black Widow comic rather than $9.99 because I had started a pull list for her story.

Preserve your collection: After you have collected several comics and find yourself wanting more, you’ll want to think about investing in storage and preservation supplies. Pam Jackson (SDSU Popular Culture Librarian | Comic Arts Curator) offered me some guidance on how to preserve my comics. First off, you need the comic boxes that will hold your comics so you can flip through them while making sure they are contained and don’t spill all over the place. You can find these at your local comic shop and they usually go for about $5 unless you get the larger ones or ones that have art on them (which might run to $20). Second, you want to consider buying polyethylene comic bags. These will preserve your comic and prevent the ink from coming off the pages. For collected editions that are thicker books, you’ll only need a bag to preserve them. However, for single issue, floppy comics, you will also need boards which are the third essential item for a collector of comics. Boards should be acid free so they preserve your comic but they also prevent it from bending and creasing so that it maintains its perfect shape and condition. Comic shops will usually have older comics already bagged & boarded, but the bags are always dusty and have a price sticker on them, so I end up buying my own set of bags and boards to keep all my comics the same. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginners guide to collecting comics. I would love to see your comics collection so post a photo on twitter of your collection and tag me in it! My twitter handle is @fawaz_qashat. Keep calm and read comics!

Fawaz Qashat’s growing comic collection!
Fawaz building his comics collection and having a great time at Comics-N-Stuff on El Cajon Blvd in San Diego, CA. Follow the store on twitter @ComicsNStuff 

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Luke Heine

Comics, Students, and a Collaborative Timeline

Written by Luke Heine
SDSU History Major / Weber Honors College, 2021

Comics are making big waves in academia, and students are beginning to see exciting new opportunities opened to them to interact with comics in original ways. One of these avenues is through HIST 157 – Comics and History, a course dedicated to understanding what comics are, the historical role they’ve played, and the ways in which they have been used as a vehicle for examining themes of social justice. In HIST 157, students become more and more proficient at analyzing the techniques used by comics writers and artists to convey their themes in an impactful manner. And, HIST 157 students learn to produce a graphic presentation of their findings: annotated comic pages. If you’ve had the opportunity to check out Comics@SDSU on Twitter, you may have already seen some examples of these annotations created by myself and fellow student researcher Fawaz Qashat. If not, here’s an example of what these annotations look like:

Also, check out my blog “The Bayeux Tapestry – A Medieval Comics” (June 1, 2021) and Fawaz’s blog “Comics and History Annotation Process” (June 1, 2021) for more discussion about annotating comics.

Annotations such as these, however, were only a foundation for a class-wide collaboration: a timeline following social justice themes in comics across the medium’s history. To create this timeline, students found representative or significant works from the various eras of the medium (from “Stone and Thread” Age to the Modern Era), dividing up both themes and time periods among themselves. Using the knowledge about comics they had built up across ten weeks of the course, and the annotation skills they had honed, each student created a single annotation which encapsulated the key aspects of their chosen work. From there, the collaboration continued, as students submitted their creations to be brought together in a cohesive timeline. The annotations all focused on observing the depiction of specific social justice-related themes, which were grouped together on the timeline. These themes included wealth inequality, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, immigration, and other topics of the students’ choice. Through these students’ work, trends in the contents of comics spanning thousands of years were charted, and the past century examined in greater detail. It’s clear that the timeline is an impressive undertaking, one which sheds light on the long and storied history of comics. You can check out the completed timeline here: https://tinyurl.com/hist157-03-timeline or check out the embedded version below.

The timeline was made possible through the research materials shared with the class by Pamela Jackson (SDSU Pop Culture Librarian and Comic Arts Curator) and the timeline tutorial and work-flow set up by Dr. Pam Lach (Digital Humanities Librarian), both of whom visited with our class and collaborated with the professor to make the assignment work for the students. With collaborations like this among SDSU faculty and between CSU faculty occurring across our many campuses (see my earlier blog post, “Comics in the CSUs: Cooperation and Collaboration to Come!” April 22, 2021) and students on those campuses working together to create products of graphic history with skills and knowledge newly acquired, it is clear that a new appreciation and understanding of comics as an academic tool and scholarly medium is being reached. As a student myself who was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in the timeline project, I’m excited to see how this trend continues, and proud of the accomplishment we achieved as a class. As each semester passes, new students will come together to experience comics in a new and collaborative way, and create their own visual depictions of the history of comics and the themes they cover. Needless to say, go check out the timeline yourself, and see what we’ve been up to – you’re sure to see comics in a way you haven’t before. 

Categories
Fawaz Qashat

Comics and History Annotation Process

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

HIST-157 will always hold its place as my favorite class that I have ever taken. Taught by Professor Elizabeth Pollard, the class focuses on comics and their roles and significance in history. In Fall 2020, we specifically focused on social justice in comics and read a variety of graphic novels and comics: from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, to even Steve Englehart’s Avengers #128 (a comic that focused specifically on Scarlet Witch, so you know I have to include it!). One of my favorite assignments that we did for HIST-157 was annotation. At the end of each week, we selected a specific page from our favorite comic that week and annotated it using the comic vocabulary established by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics

A walk through the steps of how to annotate a comics page shows just how much you can learn from a close analysis of how text and image work together. I liked to start my annotation process with a page that has a really captivating graphic weight, or something (an image, a color, an action) that draws your eye to it first. From there, I looked at the list of comic terms that Prof. Pollard helped us understand and I thought about how they apply to the page I’m looking at. The comic terms include: panel; frame; bleed; gutter; closure; icon; text; splash pages; time; motion; synaesthetics; word/image combinations; fore/mid/background; figures; color; and graphic weight. If you want to learn more about what these are, you can take HIST-157 or get started with skimming one of many discussions online about how-to-read-comics, like Alex Abad-Santos’s, “How to Read a Comic Book” in Vox (2015) or CBLDF’s Raising a Reader! (2015).

After thinking about how the comics terms apply to the page I’ve chosen, I would begin to mark the comic page using an annotation tool. Prof. Pollard invited Dr. Pam Lach (Digital Humanist librarian at SDSU Library) to our class to explain the variety of tools we could use to annotate directly on the page (from making a .png of a googleslide to using a more advanced tool like Adobe Illustrator). I chose to use Apple’s draw feature on a screenshot to apply text boxes and type in the annotations. I color-coded each term to ensure that each annotation stood out. After each annotation, I asked myself, “Why did the creator of this comic use this comic device and how does it apply to the message they wanted to convey?” Then I typed into the text box my explanation of the author’s process and thinking in using that specific comic term for that moment. Once I did this for all of my terms, it was only a matter of uploading the annotated page in the correct format to my assignments folder and pressing “submit”. 

Here are a few examples of comics pages I annotated for HIST-157 in Fall 2020. These span history and go as far back as Mesopotamian civilization and as recent as comics from the 1980s.  Across almost three thousand years, the same steps for annotating can help viewers “read” the story.

My annotation, from early in the semester, of a Neo-Assyrian relief from the first millennium BCE. Even though I can’t read the words on the relief, I could annotate the relief with comics terminology to analyze what might be going on in this sequential art.

From mid-way through the semester, my annotation of Maus, by Art Spiegleman. My understanding of how to apply the terms had come a long way; plus the graphic novel is in English so the combination of word and image is easier to analyze.

My annotation of Vision and the Scarlet Witch #4 (1983), by Steve Englehart, from the end of the semester. After fifteen weeks of practice, my annotations not only point out features but connect the story to a social justice theme (in this case, treatment of inter-racial relationships).

Categories
Luke Heine

The Bayeux Tapestry – A Medieval Comic?

Written by Luke Heine
SDSU History Major / Weber Honors College, 2021

It might surprise you that some of the same techniques used in comics today were employed in centuries-old works. An example of this is the Bayeux Tapestry, a 70-meter long embroidered masterpiece telling the story of William of Normandy’s conquest of England in 1066. The tapestry was crafted in the 11th century (probably by women!). Despite the materials used and its medieval conception, it may very well be considered a comic. Let’s take a closer look. 

On a basic level, comics are a storytelling medium which use sequential art, often accompanied by text. While this definition is far from comprehensive, it provides a solid baseline for looking at the Bayeux Tapestry as a comic. Take, for example, this section here:


Image from Lindybeige, “The Bayeux Tapestry – all of it, from start to finish,” Timestamp 2:14; available on Youtube @ https://youtu.be/KnieUa2-22o  (Posted October 18, 2017); accessed May 27, 2021.

In this section alone, many elements of comics are present. To begin, throughout the tapestry, text is integrated as an explanation for what the images depict. This is common practice in comics; imagine, for example, that a text box encompasses the lettering:

Or word balloons:

Right out of a comic book page, isn’t it? Perhaps not quite, but the similarities are quite clear. However, there are even more parallels to be drawn between the Bayeux Tapestry and modern comics. Look to the tree at the edge of the image:

Trees such as these create breaks between scenes, and combined with the borders framing the scene they divide the tapestry into panels. Using this format, the tapestry tells a long and complex story with clear delineation between its parts, just as comics would. 

 Organizational methods are not the only similarities that the Bayeux Tapestry holds to comics, however. There are also parallels to be drawn on an artistic level, in regards to the comics technique of graphic weight. Graphic weight refers to the quality of drawing the viewers’ eyes, commanding their attention towards a particular aspect of the work through various techniques. One of the primary ways that the tapestry creates this graphic weight is through color. Out of all the figures in this section, the figures who draw the most attention are the central characters, clad in vibrant orange and blue. These bright colors make the two stand out, and intentionally so; they are nobility and notable figures in the story the tapestry tells. This technique is one seen throughout modern comics, and is perhaps one of its hallmarks. Would Spider-Man, Superman, and the myriad other characters the medium is known for stand out quite as much without their vibrant costumes of bright reds, blues, and other colors? Because of this aspect of their design, they draw the eye to them, lending them graphic weight; the Bayeux Tapestry does the same. 

Whether one considers the Bayeux Tapestry a historic comic or not, it uses many of the techniques employed today in the graphic medium. Additionally, the terms for talking about modern comics help us see in the Bayeux Tapestry what we might otherwise miss. Through the integration of text and image to tell a story, the division of time through the usage of a panel-like structure, and the graphic weight attributed to important figures in the work, a strong case can be made to say that the tapestry is, in fact, a comic. If that’s so, it certainly goes to show how impactful the medium has been, how it stood the test of time, and how the formal vocabulary helps us to more fully read the work. 

Fully annotated panel from Bayeux Tapestry submitted for Prof. Pollard’s HIST 157 in Fall 2020
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Julia Wros

Televisual Assassination, Virtual Subjectivity, and Digital Alienation

Written by Julia Wros
SDSU History Master’s Student, 2021

In the information age, one of the biggest concerns that we all have is privacy. Exactly who is keeping an eye on our messages, phone calls, and internet browsing habits? And what exactly are they doing with that information? From Amazon and Google looking at your search history, to the US intelligence agencies that have sparked debate in the news in the past decade, threats to personal privacy have cropped up in recent years, often with explosive reveals in news media. In his special lecture “Televisual Assassination, Virtual Subjectivity, and Digital Alienation” (April 20, 2021), co-sponsored by Comics@SDSU, Professor William A Nericcio explored both how governmental intelligence agencies have caused controversies by violating the privacy of citizens and the storm that a newsstory about them can cause.

Nericcio talked about government surveillance, particularly drones and how they are used in intelligence and warfare. In the discussion he used a graphic novel, Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance (2017) by Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil, to highlight the way that drones and other military equipment are used to spy on people, as well as the death that they can cause. 

Nericcio described how the graphic novel opens with a drone doing a flyover of a village, where we see the perspective shift from the drone to the person behind the screen. The people playing are framed first by the screen and targeting, and then by the eye of the drone operator. Not surprising for someone whose Twitter handle is @eyegiene, Nericcio points out the multiple ways that eyes are used as a framing device in the graphic novel, from the screen, the physical eye, and things like the moon framing the sight of the drone in the air. 

Drones not only keep an eye on people, but commodify humans. Information can be gathered, categorized, and sold; all monitored and kept in records by the government. This collection of information by the government is another part of Verax. Verax is not only a discussion of drones and surveillance, but also a tool of investigative journalism. 


Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance: A graphic novel. By Pratap Chatterjee & Khalil. Metropolitan books. Oct 24, 2017.

Focusing on journalist Pratap Chatterjee, Verax contains the struggle to get information, and then to sell stories that contain the breaking news of government surveillance when the government does not want the stories to be released. Figures like Snowden and Assange populate the pages and the struggle to keep all of the information about information gathering secret promotes an interesting irony and strong story. 

Nericcio’s talk brought Verax into communication with another book, Drone Visions: a Brief Cyberpunk History of Killing Machines (2020) by Naief Yehya, and discussed how there is a voyeuristic element to the drones; no one being watched by drones or surveillance is aware that they are being watched even while their lives are being recorded… bringing us full circle to that village flyover in Verax with which the lecture began. Nericcio’s layered juxtapositioning of Verax and Drone Visions was a great lesson in how graphic media can tell a powerful story.

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Fawaz Qashat

So Long, Darling

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

The finale was a spectacular ending to an amazing show. Not only did it establish its own story and style, but it also drew heavily from the comics and gave us fans so many Easter eggs to enjoy. Starting with the scene where Wanda is in the town square and the citizens are all awakened and remember their past life. This is a reference to House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis where the people who were trapped in Wanda’s new reality started remembering their past life.


House of M #2 (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

Later on, when Vision and the twins were starting to fade because the Hex was being taken down, the use of building blocks as the particles that they are made of is a direct reference to the style of Wanda’s reality in House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis.


House of M #7 (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

When Wanda casts runes on the walls of the Hex, she tells Agatha, “Thanks for the lesson,” which is a reference to the comics since Agatha was Wanda’s mentor and helped her learn about her powers.


Image of Wanda and Agatha

When the Hex was disappearing around Wanda and Vision, Vision can be seen tearing up which is a nod to a famous line he says in the comics and something that he uses to validate his humanity. “Even an android can cry.”


Image of Vision

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Fawaz Qashat

The Scarlet Witch

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

This episode was what you would call an amplified throwback Thursday. Wanda goes on a journey looking at her past in order for Agatha to determine how the Hex came to be. The comic references still persisted and did not disappoint this episode. When Agatha learns about Wanda’s childhood and the shell that landed in their apartment, she asks Wanda if she used a probability hex. This is a reference to what Wanda’s ability was in the comics as she first started off. She did not know she had any other powers at the time.

Later on, when Hayward is dismantling Vision and Wanda sees it all, this is a direct reference to West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #43 (1985) by John Byrne when Wanda sees Vision dismantled on a table by a corporation that wanted to render him defective. Furthermore, when Vision is seen in the after credits as being completely white, this is also a reference to West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #45 (1985) by John Byrne in which Hank Pym rebuilds Vision but he is now completely white and has lost all emotions.


West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #43 (1985) by John Byrne


West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #45 (1985) by John Byrne

Towards the end of the episode we see Agatha in her witchy suit floating in the middle of the street. This is a comic reference to her color scheme and outfit in the comics. She wears a dress and a shawl with her infamous brooch.


Marvel Studios WandaVision Image.


Avengers #128 (1963) by Stan Lee

Last but certainly not least, Wanda Maximoff is finally given her superhero name from the comics, the Scarlet Witch!


Image of Scarlet Witch

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Fawaz Qashat

It Was Agatha All Along!

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

Everything is falling apart and Wanda can’t fix it. Episode 7 was one of the most chaotic yet entertaining episodes of the show. Despite this, comic references still managed to make their way onto the screen. Starting off with Monica’s transformation through the Hex into Photon. Her powers were officially revealed and they are a reference to the comic version in that both are blue. Not only that, but the outfit Monica can be seen wearing in Westview, the black and white S.W.O.R.D. outfit, is a nod to her superhero outfit in the comics as well!


Image of Monica Rambeau


Marvel Studios WandaVision Image

Later on, we see Vision trying to make sense of Westview and who he is. This is a reference to Vision in the comics who spends a majority of his life trying to figure out who or what he is. Especially in Avengers #57 (1963) by Roy Thomas in which Vision joins the Avengers, but not before questioning what his true nature is.


Avengers #57 (1963) by Roy Thomas

When Monica tries to warn Wanda of the true intentions of Hayward, Wanda attacks her. Monica tries to convince Wanda to stop the Hex so as to not become a villain. Wanda’s reply of, “Maybe I already am,” is a reference to the comics because after House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis, Wanda is seen as a hero by some but also as a villain by others. 


House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

Finally, towards the very end, Agnes is revealed to be Agatha all along. See what I did there? Agatha’s pose when she is cradling the bunny is a reference to her most famous pose in her first appearance, Fantastic Four #94 (1970) by Stan Lee, where she can be seen cradling her cat, Ebony.


Fantastic Four #94 (1970) by Stan Lee

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Fawaz Qashat

Happy Halloweenie!

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

This episode of WandaVision was as close to the comics as it gets. This is due to the incredible costumes that were made which are taken directly from the pages of the comics. Wanda is wearing her classic Scarlet Witch outfit even with the iconic wimple! Yes, the official name for her headpiece is wimple and you can quote me on that. Vision is dressed up in all the classic colors of the comic version of himself with the accurate collared cape. Billy is wearing his comic accurate costume with the red cape and headband as well as “Pietro” who is rocking the accurate hair-do of the comic book Pietro. The only character not dressed in comic accurate clothing that is true to his character is Tommy. He is dressed up as his uncle because it is a way to foreshadow their connected powers of super speed.


Image of Wanda and Vision


Image of Pietro and Tommy Maximoff


Image of Billy Maximoff

The commercial in this episode is of a boy being told by a shark that Yo-Magic is what the shark has been feeding off of which is a reference to the plot later down the line. We see that Agatha is the shark who is feeding off of Wanda’s magic as Wanda disintegrates slowly in the last episode.

The twins’ abilities in the show are a reference to their comic counterparts. Billy has abilities that are similar to his mother’s yet they are blue which is true to his comic version. Tommy has super speed as he does in the comics. This is also a larger reference to Young Avengers coming in the future which is the line-up of the Avengers’ kids who take on their parents’ mantles and defend the world.


Young Avengers Presents #3(2008) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Last but not least, Agatha can be seen wearing a witch’s outfit which is a reference to her being a witch later on in the show but also in the comics. The gray hair is a nice touch as well because that is what her hair color is in the comics.


Image of Agatha Harkness

Not only did this episode offer a great plot and some hilarious jokes, it was also a love letter to comic fans because of how true to the comics and accurate the outfits were. Not only that, but they allowed this to take place through Halloween which in and of itself is another reference to the comics because the first ever comic of Wanda and Vision going off and living together in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #1 (1982) by Bill Mantlo. In this comic, it took place during Halloween and Wanda and Vision went out trick or treating in their costumes.