The 1950s horror comic character Ralph Halley is obsessed with magic, making him a useful bait in Agnes’s plans at WandaVision.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for WandaVision Episode 7, “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, now airing on Disney +.
By WandaVision Agnes, or rather Mrs. Agatha Harkness, has made several references to a man named Ralph. Ralph is her husband, supposedly; a boring and slightly rude figure, and theories about who will be revealed have ranged from the sensible to the truly wild. But there is a possibility worth considering alongside the revelation of Agnes’ true identity and evil intent, and that is that Ralph is a man named Ralph Halley, a pre-Marvel-era character who came into conflict with the magic that wanted to dominate.
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Before Marvel became today’s media giant, it was called Atlas Comics. Atlas, a mainstay of magazine shelves in the 1950s, published a wealth of content across various genres. Incredible detective comics‘The suspenseful cases often turned to horror, capitalizing on the genre’s boom spearheaded by its EC competition. 1952 Amazing detective comicThe n. 12 featured “The Cat’s Meow,” a story drawn in pencil by Mike Sekowsky and whose writer is unknown. The story presents Ralph halley, a man obsessed with using his new wife’s money to buy magic books.
Ralph’s dominating ways prevent his young wife, Helen, from getting the help she needs to stop her desire for forbidden knowledge. The books she finds are terrifying enough that she begins to worry about her sanity and, worse, begins to act abusively towards cats. Helen believes Ralph has succeeded in his demonic rituals when a mouse triggers her fear of vermin, a detail Ralph knows, and seems to deliberately corner her until a servant appears. However, it is still not enough to have a doctor friend believe your story.
Helen invents a way to protect herself, but doesn’t tell her friend what it is. The next morning, the police are called to Halley’s home to examine Ralph Halley’s body. Somehow he died of a broken neck, although he is not near the stairs, and under his body is a mousetrap. Helen is ruled out as the murderer for common sexist reasons in 1950s fiction, but her doctor friend begins to realize that Helen’s stories of Ralph’s magical abilities might be real after all. On Ralph’s shelves are the grimoires Helen feared, and the doctor sees that one of them is the Necronomicon itself.
It is a part of the dark history of comics, but it is also not the first part of the history of the Atlas era in WandaVision. That honor goes to Agent Jimmy Woo, featured on the pages of Yellow claw. A connection to Agatha Harkness and the sight of what appears to be the Necronomicon In his underground lair there is much to attribute to a unique character who fell victim to his own dark ambitions, yet that darkness can lead to another logical conclusion. Poor Ralph is just another of Agatha’s distractions, an armed trivia piece meant to derail an audience Agatha knows she’s watching.
Invisible and unnecessary for WandaVisionRalph’s ambitions may be putting him in Agatha’s sights long before Wanda’s journey begins. It could be a prisoner in Westview, trapped in animal form. Even a rabbit, maybe. Or is he sealed in magical torment, suffering from his attempt to dominate the Necronomicon without her or her master’s permission. If Agatha is using it for the benefits of the comedy trope, it’s not certain that the audience will ever meet him.
Whoever Agatha is serving is fun to speculate, but maybe they’re not as likely to hide behind a name like Ralph. WandaVisionThe most absurd moments always make sense in context, so a character named Ralph will surely just be a guy named Ralph. Whether he’s actually Jimmy Woo’s witness protection target, or he’s an obscure pretender to sorcery, Ralph is nothing more than Agatha Harkness’ helpful victim.
Written by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman, WandaVision stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany as Vision, Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Kathryn Hahn like Agnes. New episodes airing Fridays on Disney +.
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