The Ominous Octopus

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Wonderful Wasp

I always thought the Wasp was wonderful, myself.

The Wasp's first appearence was in TALES TO ASTONISH #44 in an "Ant-Man" story in which she was introduced as Janet Van Dyne, the daughter of a scientist who was killed by a fantastic monster. She becomes a superhero herself to help Ant-Man in this story and would continue on as his partner afterwords.
Ant-Man is secretly biochemist Henry Pym, who has invented a means of shriking himself down to a tiny size and communicating with ants. He enables the Wasp to not only shrink, but to fly, like her namesake. Being small enabled them to do all sorts of things people aren't ordinarily able to.

 Being teeny did have it's downside.
But the Wasp bravely fought no matter how great the odds.

Although the Ant-Man and the Wasp series was not one of Marvel's biggest sellers, in the world of the comics the Wasp was a smash hit.
And the character was in fact popular, even if not one of the biggest successes in comics.
Although she never got her own comic book, the Wasp did have some of her own stories where she told what amounted to fairy stories.
Which seems appropriate as the Wasp looks like a character out of a fairy tale anyway.
Throughout all the stories, the Wasp was supposed to be in love with Ant-Man. As for Ant-Man,
it wasn't always clear. Sometimes he acted like he didn't even like her very much.
Not that that kept him from getting jealous if she should show interest in someone else.
That's kind of posessive for a guy that hadn't even been showing much interest in her. Could be he didn't have much time for anything else after playing with ants and trying to figure out a more successful super-identity. Here ( AVENGERS #3 ) he's already given up "Ant-Man" for being "Giant-Man.
Ant-Man/Giant Man never married the Wasp in his right mind, he only did it after some kind of schitzophrenic problem that resulted in him and everyone else believing him to be someone called "Yellowjacket", who wore a different costume. Nobody recognized him, despite the fact that he had already been noticeably preoccupied with bugs. You might say he was bugs all along.
And the marriage still looked strange even after it was revealed that "Yellowjacket" was still the same guy after all and it was said that everything was supposed to be all right.
The membership of the Avengers tended to change over time, and Yellowjacket and the Wasp came and went over the years. Eventually it got to where it was mostly just the Wasp. Presumably this was because she was the more popular character, but it also made it look as if Ant-Man by any name couldn't really cut it.
Eventually there was another story arc in the Avengers that had to do with Henry Pym's schizophrenia, and he again began to show eratic behavior. In issue #213 he beat up the Wasp.
I thought this was awful, and I took my copy back to where I got it and returned it. I also quit reading the Avengers because of that, although I do have a few issues after that, one of which shows the Wasp hitting Ant-Man back, which more or less represents justice in the world of comic book superheroics.
I don't happen to have a copy of that panel handy, so here's a panel my brother Dale did to illustrate this act of retribution.

I found out later on that a lot of fans didn't like the Wasp-beating incident, and that the character of Henry Pym by any name was pretty much ruined by the whole thing. While the Wasp continued to be popular and in the comics became the leader of the Avengers.
It had also been the Wasp that had originally made the suggestion that their group be called the Avengers in the first issue.
 Eventually I found out the notorious incident in Avengers #213 wasn't even the first time they had Ant-Man hitting the Wasp. When I read a book that reprinted the Avengers Kree-Skrull war story, there it was again. They had Ant-Man hit the Wasp in issue #90.
The incident interrupts a scene with Ant-Man and the Wasp flying around on a dragonfly that looks like something right out of a fairytale. I thought it was pretty darn jarring.
Not only that, but this time none of the other characters in this story even said anything about it. The incident that took place in Avenger's #213 at least was followed by reactions of outrage from some of the other characters in the story. Here it seems that everyone is supposed to go along with it. The readers, too.
And as if hitting the Wasp wasn't bad enough, in this story Ant-Man also turns into a "cave man" and threatens to kill her. Which is the cliffhanger, and then he doesn't actually do it, but the Wasp also somehow doesn't take part in the story again afterwords, although Ant-Man manages to crawl back into the story in time to crawl around inside the vision's carcass along with a couple of his ant buddies.

 Altogether awful, and something to cause me to think it might be just as well that I didn't read a lot of other Avengers stories from this period.
 The Wasp can be seen as similar to the character of  "Tinkerbelle" in Disney's PETER PAN, herself a charachter that belongs more or less in the category of the fairy tale.

Tinkerbelle as the Wasp.
The Wasp as an animated cartoon character.
The Wasp can also be seen as similar to Susan Cabot, who played THE WASP WOMAN in the 1959 movie.

Susan Cabot

Cartoon based on story with the Wasp in Avengers #2



This last one isn't really the Wasp, but I thought it looked like her. And that monster could be Ant-Man.


Jim Shooter Says:

The Wasp ( Comic Vine ):

Wasp- The Avengers Wiki:

Wasp- Earth's Mightiest Heroines:

The Wonder Wasp Tells A Tale Review:

Special thanks to my brother Dale for his collage showing the triumph of justice.


  1. Benny,
    Very interesting! It's too bad you couldn't find that panel depicting Jan striking Hank, for comparison. Uncovering that incident similar to #213 in #90 was a revelation. (That script was from Roy Thomas, with art from Sal Buscema.) Following the link to Jim Shooter's recollections (and the reply from artist Bob Hall) was interesting too. Did you see Charles Knight's mention of Superboy #215 (March 1976), with a similar incident between Cosmic Boy and Light Lass? (That script was also from Jim Shooter, with art from Mike Grell and Bill Draut.)

    The ISFDB reveals that "The Adventure of Wyndham Smith" was in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in June 1950. The entire story is available online (the cover scene is in the section beginning at Chapter Thirty-One at http://www.sfw.org/wyndham.shtml ). Speaking of similar characters, have you seen Midge, from Quality Comics' Feature Comics #77 (April 1944)?

    Finally, it would be nice if you cited the books you used to source your illustrations. In particular, I tried to figure out 43.jpg (A wasp -- attacking me!) using http://www.whiterocketbooks.com/avengers/riverawasp.html but couldn't.

  2. I didn't know about Cosmic Boy hitting Light Lass, but I remember Doll Girl ( "Midge" ) who was similar to the Wasp.

    The panel with the bad wasp chasing the superheroine Wasp was from Avengers #3. The Hulk cartoon with the Wasp in it ( which is embedded in the blog ) is based on the same story.