Ant-Man and the Wasp movie

The movie poster, featuring a couple whose romance….is not the one in the Marvel stories.

The Ant-Man and the Wasp romance that will shortly play out on-screen is, like many of the Marvel movie stories, a mosh of several different characters and stories, with some added original stuff.

Which means that attempting to understand the Ant-Man and the Wasp movie story by looking at the comics version is a lost cause.

How much of a lost cause?

For one, the original Ant-Man and the Wasp comic book romance featured Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. Totally different people than the movie version, which features Scott Lang (Ant-Man II) and Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank and Janet (well, the movie version of Hank and Janet.)

Scott is mostly lifted straight from the comics–though apparently without his short romance with Jessica Jones–but Hope was created as part of an alternate Marvel continuity and she was a villain in those stories. Not so with movie Hope, who really should have been the hero of Ant-Man, the first movie, but…I digress.

Back to the romance.

Hank is alive and well in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and Janet is, well, mostly dead (but a little bit alive) though that should, hopefully, be resolved in the new movie as Michelle Pfeiffer rocks her poster. Perhaps we’ll get two happy endings from the upcoming movie.

That would be a helluva change from the comics.

The Defining Moment of the Comic Book Ant-Man and Wasp Romance Is Not The Least Bit Romantic

Hank and Janet are in Ant-Man and the Wasp as older versions of the characters but it’s practically guaranteed that Hank/Janet romance plays out entirely differently than in the comics. In the movies, they were a team sent out by SHIELD to stop threats. Janet was lost/killed on a mission and Hank blamed himself, turning inward, becoming emotionally distant to his daughter.

In the comics, the couple still fought together, were still married, but they went on to have a violent break-up and never quite managed to get back together completely after that. (Is Janet currently dead, maybe….runs off to check….ah, no, it appears she’s back from the dead again and Hank is maybe…dead? In any case, there’s a recap of their romance in the new Ant-Man and the Wasp #1 comic.)

The defining moment of their comics romance? This panel of domestic violence.

Hank Pym hits Janet

That punch from YEAR. Image copyright Marvel Entertainment

Yes, that’s Hank in his Yellowjacket costume and that looks bad. Very Bad.

But even though this took place in 1981, even though Hank was in the middle of a psychiatric breakdown, even he never hit Janet again, even though Janet divorced him but eventually forgave him and they got back together (if not married) to have some sexytimes (in a graphic scene written by current DC scribe Geoff Johns), it seems every time Hank Pym is mentioned in the comics, it’s still as a wife-beater.

I don’t mean to downplay domestic violence but, hey, we forgive murder and genocide by comic book characters all the time. (Hello, Loki.) But, all these years later, a sad sack of a wife-beater Hank Pym via one-panel-punch mostly remains, Snark might have me mention that this is because this backhand was the most interesting thing Yellowjacket has ever done and that is a sad commentary on the character.

But let’s go back to the beginning:

Ant-Man and Wasp Came As a Pair

Hank Pym was created by editor and plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber and penciler Jack Kirby. (What this likely means is that Lee had a general idea and Lieber and Kirby executed it.) Hank’s first appearance was in Tales to Astonish #27 (Jan. 1962)

Janet Van Dyne was created by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart, and Jack Kirby, and she first appeared in Tales to Astonish #44 (June 1963). Her personality was a product of the time period (Lee’s women are mostly not progressive at all) While Janet held her own in battles, her personality was closer to a non-feminist version of Elle Woods and her intelligence (unlike Elle’s) was rarely acknowledged. This would change in the 1980s comics but early comics featuring Janet are wince-worthy.

However, Janet’s origin is solid: she sought out Hank Pym in order to gain the power to avenge her murdered scientist father.

After that, Hank and Janet worked as a pair. They were founding members of the comic-book Avengers (yes, even before Captain America was thawed out), Janet even named the team. (Something that was taken away from her in the MCU.)

Meanwhile, Hank was busy trying on different identities, like Giant-Man and Goliath. The dude suffered from some series self-esteem issues and thought growing super-tall was the answer. Okay, there, Hank.

And then there was Yellowjacket…

Their eventual marriage was a bit weird. The lead-up featured a villain called Yellowjacket kidnapping Janet, claiming to have killed Hank but…it’s really Hank himself. (The man was not the most mentally stable person in Marvel Comics.) Yet Janet marries Hank while he still doesn’t know he’s Yellowjacket.

I know…WTF!!

Apparently, the Yellowjacket personality was the result of an experiment gone wrong and Hank’s deteriorating mental health. Eventually, Hank reintegrated himself and the marriage seemed to work, at least for a while.

In a nod to the comics, there are hints of mental instability for Yellowjacket (this time with another person in the armor) in the original Ant-Man movie.

The Ant-Man and Wasp Divorce, Die, And…Well, It’s Comics

Few superhero marriages last and Hank and Janet’s marriage had more problems than most, not only with that one lap, but with Hank’s mental illness and his continuing problems with self-esteem. Plus, the guilt he felt in creating the evil A.I., Ultron. (A burden Hank does not have to carry in the MCU.)

Eventually, Janet and Hank were able to shift to friendly terms.

Sometimes more.

Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne.

Turns out there are interesting bedroom uses for those shrinking powers. From Avengers vol 3 no 71, fall 2003

This comic page was too much back in the day for some fanboys, though I doubt many romance readers would bat an eye over the creative sexual use of powers. I’m sure there’s erotica out there with shrinking people, right? There must be.

Anyway, this story was in 2003, and so it seemed Hank and Janet might get their happily ever after.

Alas, Hank got taken over by Ultron (again?). Janet led the Avengers and became awesome. He was replaced by a Skrull. She died. He came back to life, she came back to life. He died. Their current status is definitely apart, because one is dead again, though there is a fine comic called The Unstoppable Wasp, featuring Nadia Pym, the daughter of Hank Pym by another woman. Nadia is good friends with Janet. (Hank being dead currently, Janet being alive.)

So goes comics.

The New Ant-Man and Wasp

Scott Lang was basically the second Ant-Man and his origin is much the same as in the Marvel cinematic universe. Scott was a thief given a second chance, he became an Avenger. In the comics, he retired and his daughter Cassie became the superhero known as Stature, Scott even dated Jessica Jones for a while. (Seriously.)

Hope Pym is much more of a new creation for the cinematic universe, having only appeared briefly in the comics as an alternate history daughter of Hank and Janet.

Still, all these changes to the MCU have benefited Hank. He’s obviously no longer guilty of domestic abuse, he’s no longer guilt-ridden at the creation of Ultron (Tony and Bruce are guilty of that one in the MCU). He did, however, become a widower, which made him a cranky old dude, but that may change given Michelle Pfeiffer will be playing Janet in the movie.

With all that crazy history jettisoned for the movies, this Ant-Man and the Wasp might have a fighting chance at happiness.

Click here to read the first installment of my superhero romance series, featuring Vision and the Scarlet Witch.