Hello again! Marvel’s Ant-Man comes to theatres this week. The highly anticipated movie will feature Paul Rudd as the titular hero and also stars Michael Douglas as his mentor-of-sorts Hank Pym. Tragically, the film does not feature Janet van Dyne, also known as Wasp, in any capacity other than backstory. In order to compensate, here’s an introduction to Wasp.
Full Name: Janet van Dyne
Species: Human (biochemically modified human)
Home: New Jersey, United States
Abilities: As Wasp, Janet can increase or decrease in size, she has the power of flight due to her ability to physically grow wings, she can generate energy blasts, and can telepathically control insects.
Debut: Tales to Astonish #44 (June 1963)
Motivators: Janet underwent the biochemical procedure that turned her into Wasp solely to avenge her father’s murder. Once the alien entity that killed her father was defeated, she opted to remain the Wasp and fight evil.
There isn’t really any continuity confusion with respect to Wasp, there’s just a lot of backstory. Wasp began as Janet van Dyne, a wealthy socialite daughter of a brilliant scientist. After her father was killed by an alien in a lab accident, Janet sought out his partner Hank Pym (also known as the first Ant-Man). Janet then underwent a procedure giving her the ability to grow wings and alter her size. As Wasp, she and Ant-Man were able to defeat the alien. Janet had fallen in love with Hank, and decided to remain as Wasp and his partner.
Janet and Hank were two of the founding members of the Avengers, with Janet even coming up with the name. Vision also derived his name from a comment she made up on seeing him for the first time. Wasp is one of the longest active members of the Avengers, and next to Captain America, has lead the team the longest as well. It was while she was their leader in the 2000s that the Avengers first had more female members than male. She has taken several leaves from active duty throughout the years, and was presumed dead for a time. Janet made her return to continuity in 2012.
Good/Bad/Morals for Hire?
Wasp is a true superhero. She’s often depicted as being resourceful and confident, and thankfully uses those qualities for good.
Janet is quite friendly and has made connections, both platonic and romantic, with several other heroes. For a time she was a fashion designer, and often designed She-Hulk’s attire.
What About Hank?
Like many other female characters, Janet was a victim of partner abuse. Janet spent most of the early part of her comics existence either chasing after Hank to date her or trying to convince him to marry her. They eventually did get married, but at a time when Hank was suffering from a mental breakdown. His disintegrating mental health made him uncharacteristically paranoid and violent. During this time, Hank hit Janet. She divorced him shortly after, but does eventually resume their relationship.
Another uncomfortable aspect of the relationship Janet has with Hank relates to the circumstances under which they married. Hank had lost touch with reality by that point, causing Janet to be concerned enough to seek help from fellow Avengers. The wedding still went ahead as scheduled.
Some writers do opt to ignore those unsettling pieces of Marvel history when writing stories containing Janet and Hank.
What to Read:
Parts of Janet’s first run as the leader of the Avengers have been collected and released as a trade paperback. The story is set after Hank’s act of partner violence and his removal from the team. Under Siege is one of the most renowned Avengers story arcs and sees the team go up against an impressive team of villains in impossible odds, with Janet as their leader.
The Mighty Avengers (2007)
Wasp joins Iron Man, Aries, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers version), Black Widow, Wonder Man, and the Sentry in this series set after the events of Marvel’s Civil War.
Avengers, volume 4, “End Times”
Janet’s return to continuity after having spent the prior 4 years presumed dead. The arc contemplates the end of the Avengers, and helps to usher in a new status quo for the team of heroes.
See Her Now:
Sadly, nowhere. Wasp was a member of the Uncanny Avengers during the series’ 2012-2014 run, but left the title when it was relaunched in 2015. Earlier this year, Marvel announced 45 new titles, but Wasp is still among the heroes missing from the new Marvel Universe.