Friday, August 5, 2011

What I Never Knew About Avengers History and Janet Van Dyne

I consider myself a pretty big Avengers fan. Sure, there's a lot of holes in my team/continuity expertise, but I'd fare pretty well in any trivia challenges. One of my best NY Comic Con moments was finding the entire Under Siege story arc, where the Masters of Evil attack the Mansion. Pretty good stuff.

And naturally I knew the origin story; Loki tries to mess with Thor, Rick Jones uses his nifty teen radio skills to assemble some heroes, they realize the whole team thing is a pretty cool idea, and then a couple issues later they discover Captain America frozen in ice and BLAMMO! they're an enduring, essential entity in the Marvel Universe.

What I didn't know was how they got their name.

Janet van Dyne, Ant-Man's hanger-on, floozy, able to shrink down to an even more vulnerable size, maker of moon-eyes at Thor, glutton for Hank Pym's punishment, the Wasp is the one who comes up with the name:

That was...unexpected. Janet isn't taken seriously at all in the beginning, and honestly considering the crap that comes out of her mouth I don't blame them, yet there she is, at the very start of all this history, with some of the biggest heroes in the universe, and she's the one who names them, who creates the iconic, legendary franchise.

It certainly makes sense later on in Avengers history. Post-domestic-slap-abuse, Janet kinda grew up, put herself forward to be Chairwoman, and eventually became a successful team leader. Despite many marriage-related hiatuses, and temporary retirements in which she focused on her (really abysmal and talentless) fashion design career, she was one of the originals and probably clocked almost as much field time as Cap himself.

Eventually the Wasp became known for her clever strategy, leadership abilities, and her unflagging bravery. Some of these mature, solid qualities were overshadowed in Brian Michael Bendis' recent tenure on the Avengers books, returning her to a somewhat snarky and shallow dialogue and thought process, though still a warrior in her own right. Through the treachery of the Skrulls, who had posed as her ex-husband Hank, she was poisoned and turned into biochemical weapon in the final Skrull battle and despite her noble attempts, Thor was forced to really, seriously kill her. With his magic hammer.

Later, Hercules sees her in a kind of limbo realm, attempting to gamble her way back to life at a slot machine. And then Hank Pym, honoring her memory by taking up the mantle of the Wasp, cross dressing, making out with Jocasta the robot built with Janet's brain powers (but also kind of his granddaughter since she was made by Ultron who Hank created) re-formed his own team of Avengers and built something called the Avengers Infinite Mansion, which is just what it sounds like.

Where did Hank find the room for an Infinite Mansion? Why, in the Underspace of course. A realm he discovered that he suspected is where Thor sent the dying Janet, who then became a celestial entity of some kind whose eye was the perfect place to build his new headquarters.

Unfortunately, it recently turned out that wasn't Jan at all, but Carina Walters of the Korvac saga, which was a bummer for Hank, but Hercules' sighting still gives up hope.

The Wasp was never one of my favorites, it's true. But I can see how she may have got a bad reputation, and clearly there's plenty I don't know about her history and courage and triumphs and contributions to the Avengers family. And anyway, I'm one of those comic fans who will bitch and moan about how often they kill characters and how death doesn't really mean anything in these universe, and then go buy every issue that features the death and wait eagerly, excitedly, with great hope, for the character's resurrection.

So let's go ahead and bring Jan back already. 'Cause Spider Woman's really not cutting it as the only female on the marquis Avengers team. She's getting a bit better but is just far too whiny and brooding and ineffectual and surprisingly girly all of the sudden.

At least, in the end, Janet van Dyne was a true Avenger, and one of the best...

...except for that time she got really drunk in the middle of the day at the mansion, revealed how she slept with Hawkeye (man, he gets around) and had a pregnancy scare, and then started talking to Wanda about her mystically aborted kids, the memory of whom had been previously erased, thus triggering a complete mental breakdown in the Scarlet Witch leading to the death of several Avengers, the dissolution of the team, and the near-total eradication of an entire species....

...and also some of those outfits were just plain bad. But otherwise she's a keeper.


  1. What's really annoying is how she was killed off in the Ultimate universe at around the same time as she was in 'regular' Marvel, and has also stopped appearing in the Marvel Adventures series.

    Despite her being a high-profile character in their latest cartoon series,Marvel does not have any version of her currently appearing in comics. Their loss.

  2. Thanks for the comment Laurence. I totally agree, she could definitely be useful on one of the many current Avengers teams (though I have to say the news from NYCC that Storm will be an Avenger has me over the moon.)

    Not only is it annoying that her Ultimate version was killed off at a similar time, but HOW it was done. Granted her Ultimate version, in my opinion, was a combination of all her least endearing qualities, but seriously--gruesomely bit in half and eaten by the Blob? I'll never understand why people love the Ultimate Universe. It's simply violent, no holds barred, shock-value, lazy writing that does no justice to the strength of these characters.

    But hey, people always come back right? Cable, Sabretooth, Psylocke...maybe even Jean Grey next year, though I bet the Phoenix teasers are mostly Hope-related.

    Thanks again for the comment! Have a great one.

  3. What a way to go :P
    (loving that epic last paragraph)

    I've just started loving both Wasp and Pym. 'been reading Antman & Wasp and just finished the last volume of Mighty Avengers (Hank Pym!Wasp & his team of misfits :P)