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The Untold Truth Of The Wasp

It's a shame it's taken so long for the Wasp to get the attention she deserves.

To any Marvel fan paying attention, certainly to any fan of female superheroes in particular, it has to seem like the Wasp has been criminally ignored while talking raccoons and redheaded Russian spies have become household names. The Wasp was one of the first Avengers, one of the first of its female heroes, and one of the first of its Silver Age heroes who helped build the foundation for what we now know as the Marvel Universe.

First appearing in 1963's Tales to Astonish #44, the Wasp has an interesting and landmark-filled history. You can't say she really started off breaking any stereotypes, but ironically, as a character known for shrinking, one could argue she's grown more than just about any costumed hero in Marvel's pantheons (and she has more costumes than most).

Here's the untold truth of the Wasp.

Avenger assembler

It's taken a long time to see a Wasp on the big screen, not counting the flashback we saw in 2015's Ant-Man. But regardless of how long it's taken for the Wasp to get her due in the MCU, when it comes to the comics, she was there in the beginning. Along with Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Ant-Man, The Wasp was one of the original five Avengers appearing in 1963's Avengers #1. 

When Loki used his magic to fool the world into thinking the Hulk was causing more havoc, Hulk sidekick Rick Jones sent out a radio signal to try to contact the Fantastic Four. The FF didn't get the call; instead, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp did. While Thor sought out Loki himself, the Wasp joined Ant-Man and Iron Man to battle the falsely accused Hulk in a Detroit auto factory. 

The Wasp's founding Avengers status was almost given proper tribute in the first Avengers. In a 2012 Q & A, Avengers director Joss Whedon revealed he'd written a second Avengers script because he was worried Scarlett Johansson wouldn't be appearing as Black Widow. 

"So, there was a very Wasp-y draft I wrote," Whedon said. "But it was way too Wasp-y.  I was like, 'She's adorable! I just want to write her!'"

A knack for names

The Wasp not only helped found the coalition of Earth's mightiest heroes, she named them. 

At the end of Avengers #1, in the now iconic image of the founding five members agreeing to unite for common cause, the panel opens with the Wasp suggesting a team name. She's responding to the Hulk, who in the previous panel asked what the new group would call themselves. The Wasp suggests "Avengers," and Ant-Man has approved the name before she even gets to finish the sentence. The rest of the team seems to be fine with the choice, not arguing at all with their action-figure-sized allies. They pose heroically and take up their new team name with pride. 

Considering more contemporary portrayals of the characters, it seems a little surprising that Tony Stark didn't suggest "Iron Man's Avengers" or "The Stark International Avengers" or "Iron Man & His Amazing Friends" — or, more succinctly, "Iron Man, etc."

The first Chairwoman

Along with being a founding Avenger and the one to name her home team, the Wasp is a landmark Avenger in that she was the team's first female chairperson, keeping her job through a healthy chunk of the '80s.

In 1982's Avengers #217, freshly divorced from Hank Pym, Wasp called for elections for a new chairperson, nominated herself, and won. Wasp was a popular and effective leader, and remains one of the few Marvel heroes who can give Captain America marching orders without making you wonder why he'd follow them. Save for a brief leave of absence when the android Vision took over the team, the Wasp remained chairperson for five years until Avengers #278, when she stepped down after the traumatic "Under Siege" storyline that saw the Masters of Evil successfully invade Avengers Mansion and — among other things — hospitalize butler Edwin Jarvis and put the heavy hitter Hercules in a coma.

She started a lamb and grew to be a lion

The Wasp didn't enter the Marvel Universe looking anything like a symbol of female empowerment. She was flirty and silly, changing costume designs more often than her future husband Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, etc.) changed names. She often seemed more concerned about getting Pym to propose than saving the world, and overall came off like a stereotypical helpless comic book female, minus quite so much swooning.

In fact, it's often forgotten that Marvel thought little enough of Janet van Dyne that she was written as tricking her husband into marriage. When a chemically induced mental breakdown caused Pym's splintered identity of Yellowjacket to emerge, Wasp used the opportunity to finally get Pym (even though he didn't know he was Hank Pym) to agree to marriage. Pym's identity eventually emerged, but the Wasp was adamant that a marriage is a marriage is a marriage.

But Janet van Dyne proved to possess a quality rare in superhero comics: without the added motivation of a more popular Hollywood adaptation, the Wasp evolved. She went from a damsel in distress who forgot she wasn't supposed to also to be a hero, to a landmark Marvel character and one of the most important Avengers. As a leader of the Avengers, she went from flirting with thunder gods just so she could make her scientist boyfriend jealous to standing toe-to-toe with drunken Greek gods and rulers of aquatic kingdoms without moving an inch. 

The Girl who was The Wasp

Stieg Larsson didn't live long enough to see his Millenium series become a publishing, television, and film success. The novels that made the antisocial Lisbeth Salander so famous were published posthumously, but were popular enough that author David Lagercrantz was tapped to continue the late Larsson's series. In the first of Lagercrantz's Millenium additions — 2015's The Girl in the Spider's Web — Lagercrantz reveals that it's Marvel's Wasp who inspired Lisbeth to give herself the hacker ID of "Wasp," as well as inspiring the wasp tattoo on the back of Lisbeth's neck.

At first glance, it would be easy to assume that Lagercrantz is simply an old Marvel fan who threw his own childhood baggage onto Larsson's narrative. Or possibly he's just using the popularity of Marvel's movies to help sell books. The idea gains steam when you find out The Girl in the Spider's Web included villains using codenames like Thanos and Zemo.

But Lagercrantz insists this isn't the case. Speaking with The Verge in 2015, Lagercrantz claimed he hadn't read Marvel comics as a child and that he discovered Marvel's Wasp while trying to figure out exactly why Larsson assigned the codename to Lisbeth.

"I was Googling "Wasp,"" Lagercrantz said, "and suddenly, bam, there's this figure from Marvel Comics looking exactly like Lisbeth Salander." 

Lagercrantz said he asked Larsson's brother Joakim about the possibility Marvel's Wasp was the inspiration, and that the brother did confirm they had read Marvel comics a lot as children. "I think I'm right about the inspiration," Lagercrantz added, "but who knows?"

If there's anything that would make a Marvel fan raise an eyebrow at Lagercrantz's story, it's the notion that he was able to find any picture of the Wasp that looked anything like Lisbeth Salander. If there was a goth or punk phase to Janet van Dyne's career, it isn't well documented.

Really dude? You didn't have enough names already?

The 2008-2009 line-wide Marvel event Secret Invasion concluded with, among other things, the apparent death of Janet van Dyne. It would be revealed in 2013's Avengers #32-#34 that the Wasp never died, but instead was transported to the Microverse: a universe that exists microscopically. 

In the meantime Hank Pym — Janet van Dyne's ex-husband and on-again/off-again lover — paid tribute to Janet by taking up the name of "The Wasp," complete with wings allowing him to fly, just like his (not really) deceased lover. As the new Wasp, Pym led a new lineup of Earth's mightiest heroes including Hercules, Hulk, Iron Man, Jocasta, Scarlet Witch, and more in Mighty Avengers

Pym's Wasp identity would be one of many he's given himself. Over the years Pym has been Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and at times simply "Doctor Pym." It's enough to make you wonder if the guy was just waiting for Janet to die so he could add one more superhero name to his keychain. 

In what any fan of female superheroes could understandably consider a cruel irony, the Hank Pym Wasp starred in the 2011 miniseries Ant-Man and The Wasp opposite the Eric O'Grady Ant-Man. Before Mark Waid and Javier Garron's upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp comic book that joins Marvel's "Fresh Start" initiative, there were only two Marvel mini or regular series with the name "Wasp" in the title. And in one of them, Wasp was a dude.

Darkest Hope

One of the most interesting things about the character who has been chosen for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of the Wasp is her name — Hope van Dyne. In spite of the positivity inherent in the first name, it could actually hint towards a dark future for the MCU's Wasp.

A handful of different characters have gone by the name the Wasp in Marvel's comics, including Janet van Dyne, Nadia van Dyne, and Hank Pym. But Hope? There's no Wasp named Hope, but there is a Hope Pym.

One of Marvel's many alternative universes is what's become known as the "MC2" timeline, spinning out of 1998's What If #105. MC2 is one of the few alternate Marvel timelines that isn't quite so dystopian, but simply shows a possible future for those surviving Marvel heroes and their children.

One of those children is Hope Pym. Daughter to Janet van Dyne and Henry Pym, Hope and her brother Henry were traumatized by the deaths of their parents. When a new, younger team of heroes called A-Next emerge and are seen as the natural successors to the Avengers, the Pyms take violent issue with it. Naming herself the Red Queen, Hope formed the Revengers and attempted to kill A-Next. She was stopped only by her brother, whose conscience started to sting.

The Unstoppable Wasp

The most recent her to take up the mantle of the Wasp is Nadia van Dyne — daughter of Hank Pym and Hungarian scientist Maria Travoya. The new Wasp first appeared in a 2016 Free Comic Book Day Civil War II comic and soon was a regular member of Mark Waid's All-New, All-Different Avengers.

Nadia is an interesting fusion of her father, her namesake, and the Black Widow. Raised in the same infamous Red Room that produced hero/spy/assassin Black Widow, she escaped only when she was able to get her hands on one of the Pym particles that fueled the powers of both her father and Janet van Dyne.

After All-New, All-Different Avengers concluded with a reboot of Avengers, Nadia stayed on the team. She enjoyed a brief shot at her own ongoing title (the only solo Marvel Wasp title ever), the eight-issue series Unstoppable Wasp. She doesn't appear to be a regular member of Marvel's new "Fresh Start" Avengers lineup, but she stars opposite Ant-Man in Marvel's Ant-Man and The Wasp series written by Mark Waid with art by Javier Garron.