The latest in our series of portraits of Obscure Marvel Women from the Original Marvel Universe brings us a unique female whose lifetime of selfless devotion to serving others gives new meaning to “the milk of human kindness.”
Bova began her life as an ordinary Guernsey cow. In 1948, she was purchased by an armor-wearing scientist calling himself the High Evolutionary and taken to his Citadel of Science high on Wundagore Mountain in the tiny Balkan nation of Transia. There, she was placed in a machine of his own invention, a Genetic Accelerator, and transformed into an intelligent humanoid creature capable of speech. The High Evolutionary intended to take advantage of Bova’s maternal instincts by using her as a midwife and nanny for the race of “New Men” he was creating out of various animals.
As Bova adjusted to her new existence, she met the High Evolutionary’s two human associates, Baron Gregor Russoff, a werewolf, and Dr. Jonathan Drew, who claimed to be possessed by an ancient wizard named Magnus. Bova found them both to be a bit intimidating and tended to avoid them. She was chilled by Drew’s tales of a mighty demon named Chthon who was trying to break out of the mountain and destroy the world. Bova was pleased, then, when Drew convinced her master to train the growing numbers of New Men as gallant knights to combat this evil.
During a fierce winter storm in February 1950, a pregnant Gypsy woman named Magda arrived at the Citadel suffering from exhaustion. Bova nursed her back to health over the course of several weeks, and soon determined that Magda was carrying twins. As they got to know each other, Magda told Bova that she had fled from her husband when he suddenly developed supernatural powers and murdered dozens of people. Though he had been unaware that she was pregnant, Magda remained terrified that he would hunt her down and hurt the children she was carrying. Bova vowed she would never let that happen.
In March, just as Magda went into labor, the High Evolutionary led his Knights of Wundagore into battle with the demon Chthon on the mountaintop outside the Citadel. Bova nervously watched the lights from their supernatural warfare through the windows of the birthing suite as she helped Magda deliver her babies. She was startled when the female infant seemed to glow with the same mysterious light that danced across the sky, but when it faded, the child seemed normal. Bova gave the twins to their mother and, with tears of joy, Magda named them Wanda and Pietro.
After a few hours, the Knights of Wundagore returned in triumph, although the battle cost the lives of almost a third of the New Men as well as Baron Russoff. Convinced that the threat from Chthon had been ended, Dr. Drew bid farewell to the High Evolutionary and departed from the Citadel. A few days later, Bova was saddened to discover that Magda had vanished into the night, leaving her children behind. She sought the advice of her master, and the High Evolutionary promised to find a proper home for the infants. He summoned a traveling couple, Robert and Madeline Frank, from a nearby village, knowing that the wife was experiencing severe complications with her own pregnancy. The High Evolutionary planned to have the Franks raise the twins alongside their own child.
Unfortunately, despite Bova’s great skill as a midwife, Madeline Frank died after a grueling labor that lasted over 20 hours. Her child was horribly deformed and stillborn. Hoping to make the best of the situation, Bova presented Robert Frank with Wanda and Pietro, claiming they were his children. She said Madeline named them with her dying breath. However, overwhelmed with grief at the loss of his wife, Robert Frank fled from the Citadel with astonishing speed. Disappointed, the High Evolutionary developed a new plan upon learning that the shaman of a local Gypsy tribe had lost his own twin children some years previously. Thus, Bova and her master took Wanda and Pietro to the Gypsy encampment and charged Django and Marya Maximoff with raising them. The astonished couple gratefully agreed to do so. Bova was satisfied that the babies’ monstrous father would never find them.
A year later, the High Evolutionary revealed to Bova that he had been keeping Dr. Drew’s daughter Jessica in suspended animation while treating her for severe radiation poisoning. Every four years, he would revive her for several months so she could undergo experimental treatments in the Genetic Accelerator. During this time, he explained, Bova was to act as her nanny. But, for reasons he could not determine, the cryogenic process completely erased Jessica’s memory every time. Bova agreed to do whatever she could for the poor child, who had the body of an eight-year-old but a mind that was a blank slate. Bova grew very attached to Jessica and was heartbroken when, four years later, the girl emerged from stasis with no idea who Bova was. In this way, Bova came to understand why the High Evolutionary remained so aloof toward Jessica Drew.
Another four years passed, but this time, when Jessica was brought out of suspended animation, the High Evolutionary declared that she had finally been cured of the radiation poisoning. Bova was delighted that Jessica, now physically a ten-year-old, could truly begin her life at last. But, despite having no memory of her previous existence, Jessica soon realized she was unique among the New Men of Wundagore and began to feel isolated and lonely. Bova did her best to care for Jessica and educate her, but was frustrated that the High Evolutionary still kept Jessica at arm’s length. Bova knew that what Jessica really needed was to live among other humans.
Therefore, when the High Evolutionary eventually decided to launch his Citadel of Science into outer space and remove the New Men to another planet, Bova elected to stay behind with Jessica. The pair took up residence in a small cottage on the slopes of Mount Wundagore. Almost immediately, Bova learned to her delight that Wanda and Pietro had become famous heroes known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and were at that moment vacationing in one of the villages near the mountain. Given the circumstances of their birth, she was not surprised that the twins had developed superhuman powers, and she felt proud they had chosen to use those powers to serve humanity. Despite keeping her distance from the people of the village, Bova nevertheless learned all she could about the twins’ career in the Avengers.
When spring came, Jessica decided the time had come for her to live among her own kind, so she left Bova and took up residence in one of the nearby villages. Bova was saddened as she soon lost touch with Jessica Drew, and wondered what became of her. As the years passed, Bova dedicated herself to doing good deeds for wayfarers and orphans, and many local legends spread about “the old woman on the hill” who kept her face hidden with a thick shawl.
Then, in October 1969, Bova encountered Wanda and Pietro again when Chthon attempted to use the Scarlet Witch as a conduit to Earth’s dimension. With the help of their teammates, Captain America, Wasp, Wonder Man, Beast, Ms. Marvel, and Falcon, the twins prevented Chthon from escaping the mountain, though their foster-father, Django Maximoff, died during the battle. Learning from Pietro that the twins had not yet discovered the truth about their biological father, Bova warned them against searching for his identity. As Chthon’s scheme had left his hapless pawn, known as Modred the Mystic, with the mentality of a small child, Bova volunteered to care for Modred. The Avengers then returned to America, leaving Bova wishing she’d had the chance to get to know Wanda and Pietro better.
Two months passed, and then Bova and Modred received a visit from the Thing, a famous member of the Fantastic Four, and his girlfriend, the blind artist Alicia Masters. They were searching for Alicia’s father, who had disappeared in the area the night before, but a bad storm descended on the mountain, forcing them to seek shelter. Bova revealed herself to the unusual couple and told them something of her history. She was delighted to learn that both the Thing and Alicia had recently met the High Evolutionary, having often wondered about the fate of her former master. That night, they found that Modred had magically shrunk Alicia’s father to doll-size and trapped him in his toy box. He attempted to do the same to the Thing, but Bova and Alicia convinced Modred to return the two men to normal size. When the three travelers left in the morning, Bova gave them some Christmas cookies to take with them.
Two years later, during another fierce snowstorm, Bova’s worst fears were finally realized. A mysterious stranger she welcomed into her cottage turned out to be Wanda and Pietro’s biological father, still searching for what had become of his lost wife. Unwittingly telling the man about Magda and the twins, Bova realized her mistake when the man suddenly grew angry and demanded to know the twins’ names. She tried to honor her promise to Magda to protect the children from their father, but he unleashed his terrible power, completely destroying her cabin. When Bova still refused to name the children, the stranger used his power to torture her. Unable to stand the excruciating pain, she revealed they were called Wanda and Pietro. Exultant, the stranger rose into the sky and disappeared into the storm. Terrified, Bova told Modred to cast a spell to warn the twins. She watched with confusion as he sent a bolt of magical energy lancing upwards towards the moon. Bova then tried to create a crude shelter against the storm out of the wreckage of her home, but suddenly suffered a severe stroke and collapsed. As she lay helplessly, Modred wandered off into the mountains.
Bova was found days later, partially paralyzed and suffering from exposure, and taken to an elderly doctor in a nearby village. The doctor realized this strange creature must be “the old woman of the hill” who was so renowned for her kindness, and, not wanting to make a spectacle of her, treated Bova in a back bedroom of his own house. As her condition stabilized, Bova learned that the twins’ father, whose power had directly caused her stroke, was none other than the infamous mutant terrorist known as Magneto.
After nine months, the bedridden Bova was visited by Pietro, who had tracked her down after discovering the shattered remains of her cottage. He was infuriated when he learned what his father had done to Bova and vowed to make Magneto pay for his crime. Quicksilver promised to return soon with a plan to restore Bova to health, but before he managed to do so, she suffered another massive stroke and died.
First Appearance: Giant-Size Avengers #1
Final Appearance: Avengers #245