When it comes to the Marvel films, most people have a good idea of who the characters are. However, as the MCU begins its next big phase, we as an audience are going to be introduced to a lot of new characters who are not going to get their own films to flesh them out. For viewers who have not read the comics, it can be confusing (and downright irritating when you meet those fans who have and are condescending about it). At the end of the day, you don’t have to read the comics to enjoy the films, or the Cinematic Universe as a whole. However, it can be helpful to know the comic origins of the characters who won’t be getting their own stand-alone films. Fortunately, I have read the comics and I have no qualms in helping my like-minded MCU fans fill in blanks and learn a little more about the characters they are seeing on the big screen.
This week, we’re taking a look at the overlooked founding member of the Avengers, Janet Van Dyne AKA The Wasp!
The Wasp made her first appearance in Tales to Astonish #44 in 1963, in which she appeared alongside Ant-Man Henry ‘Hank’ Pym. Janet became the Wasp after her father, Professor Vernon Van Dyne, accidentally transports a terrible monster to earth and dies of fright. Though Dr. Pym had originally intended to work with Professor van Dyne (originally writing off Janet as somewhat air-headed), he offers to make her his assistant in order to stop the rampaging monster, and implants wings in her back and gives her the ability to shrink. Thus, the dynamic duo of Ant-Man and the Wasp were born. Originally partners, Janet falls head over heels for Hank, and they eventually marry.
However, despite her more intimate origin in the Tales to Astonish run, the Wasp is best known for her appearance in The Avengers #1. This first issue, additionally starring Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Ant-Man, saw the first Avengers ensemble unite to defeat Loki and find their superhero team. It was Janet who suggested they continue to unite as a force for good, and dubbed them ‘The Avengers.’
Though not the most powerful member of the Avengers, Janet does pack her own special punch. Besides the ability to shrink, Janet can also grow (or mechanically has, depending on what source you look at) wings and shoot stinging energy beams from her hands. In some arcs, she is also capable of growing to immense sizes, like her husband Hank.
Unfortunately, despite Janet’s amazing personality and powers, she has seen her fair share of dark and gritty Marvel. Especially during The Ultimates comics run, Hank and Janet’s relationship became abusive, with her on the receiving end of some extremely brutal physical and emotional beatings. While a large portion of Hank Pym’s story arcs focus on his descent into pseudo madness abandonment of the Ant-Man and subsequent adoption of the title Yellow Jacket, Janet often gets left in the dust of a terrible relationship.
However, Janet does get to have some moments to shine, especially in the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes TV series. This show, which followed the source material very closely, saw Janet and Hank as central players to both creating and naming the Avengers, and there were plenty of episodes that allowed Janet’s heroic and optimistic personality to shine through.
Not that any of this made it into the films.
Unfortunately for Janet, much of the Wasp’s history and achievements has either been glossed over or completely omitted by the cinematic universe. Though she did briefly appear in a flashback in Ant-Man, she has since been relegated to’lost in the microverse,’ and it is unclear whether Janet herself will be featured at all in later films. However, there is a glimmer of hope for her fans, as Marvel did announce an Ant-Man and the Wasp film, but this may choose to focus on Janet’s daughter, Hope, taking on her mother’s mantle rather than the origins of Janet herself.
Sadly, even in today’s comics world, Janet rarely gets the love she deserves. Though the All-New, All-Different Avengers run does mark the return of the character by name, the Wasp’s mantle is being handed down to another new player (going with Marvel’s theme of mantle-passing). As she stands in the comics, the original Janet van Dyne is a renowned founding member, and incredible warrior, presented as a supporting character in most of Marvel’s major arcs, but still struggling to gain the attention she deserves (crosses fingers for a solo arc). Her movie status is even more uncertain, as there’s a chance she may be forever confined to the microverse. Here’s hoping her future is as incredible and remarkable as her past.