When Ant-Man entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015 it provided plenty of humor by illustrating what it would be like for a relatively average person to become a superhero. Based on the trailers and early reviews, that humor is present in the sequel, which will surely be needed after the dramatic events that took place earlier this summer in Avengers: Infinity War.
As Ant-Man and the Wasp premieres in U.S. theaters on July 6, 2018, now is the perfect time to learn more about the original Wasp. Created by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart, and Jack Kirby, Janet van Dyne is among the Silver Age treasures, having debuted in Tales to Astonish #44 (June 1963). Over her 55-year history, The Wasp has appeared in several Marvel titles, including Avengers books, Marvel Feature, Captain America, Iron Man, and Fantastic Four.
Her significance within the Avengers cannot be overstated. The Wasp was a founding member, even giving the team its heroic and now iconic name. She has served as a regular and recurring teammate, and following Captain America, she has been the leader of the team for longer than any other member.
Like Ant-Man, Janet uses sub-atomic Pym particles to shrink to a very small size. When small, her strength level increases as her body mass is compacted; conversely, she can grow to several hundred feet and then her strength grows with her size. After using the Pym particles so many times, her body had absorbed enough particles that she could mutate her cells at will.
While in the smaller Wasp size, she can fly at up to 40 miles per hour. She can fire bioelectric energy blasts called stinger blasts, stingers, or wasp’s stings, and she can communicate and control insects telepathically. In addition to her Wasp powers, Janet is a skilled hand to hand fighter.
Janet was born in New Jersey to wealthy scientist Vernon van Dyne, who was killed by an alien entity from one of his experiments. Once she started working with Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym, Janet convinced him to help her avenge her father’s death. She underwent a biochemical procedure that gave her the Wasp abilities and together with Pym, a/k/a Ant-Man, she defeated the alien that killed her father.
Although her thirst for vengeance was complete, Janet decided to continue being The Wasp, while also quicklly falling in love with Hank. Among their heroic exploits as partners, the two took on villains like Porcupine, Egghead, and Whirlwind. After the founding members of the Avengers came together to fight Loki, Janet and Hank suggested creating a team of superheroes. Though she didn’t wield the level of power that some of her teammates did, Wasp was brave and resilient in battles. During an early battle she was shot and suffered a collapsed lung, which led to her departure from the team for a period.
She spent a long time interested in Hank before they finally got together. But, then he became the vigilante Yellowjacket after accidently inhaling chemicals that warped his personality. As Yellowjacket, he kidnapped Janet from Avengers Mansion and it was then that she discovered it was Hank. He was finally able to recover from the chemicals during a fight at their wedding.
For a short period in the ’70s, Janet joined the original Lady Liberators team. She was temporarily stuck at insect size and fought Whirlwind, Dr. Nemesis, and Para-Man, then helped Spider-Man and Yellowjacket fight Equinox. When Hank was captured by Ultron, Janet sought the Avengers’ help, but was kidnapped by a brainwashed Hank to serve as a basis for the robotic Jocasta. But when Jocasta told the Avengers where Janet and Hank were, Black Panther pointed out that the robot’s compassion was due to using Janet’s personality for its makeup.
Around this time, Hank became paranoid, controlling, and verbally abusive, going so far as to create a scenario where he saved the day in front of the Avengers. When Janet tried to convince him not to go through with it, Hank hit her. She divorced him soon after that and took a break from being in the Avengers.
Upon returning to the team in the 1980s, Wasp was elected Chairperson and proved to be a smart, efficient leader. She appointed more women to the team, including Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and She-Hulk. Outside of super-heroics, she also worked as a fashion designer and had romances with Tony Stark and Paladin.
During Secret War she was captured by Magneto, but craftily pretended to be seduced by him in order to learn his plans, and then defeated him. In the Under Siege event she defeated Titania and Absorbing Man, leading a team against Baron Zemo to rescue Captain America and other team members. Following the conflict, she left the team again and joined the West Coast Avengers, though she clashed with others who wanted the leadership role. After years of separation, she restarted a romantic relationship with Hank.
In the ’90s, The Wasp returned to the Avengers following a years-long absence. Throughout the Destiny War she led the present Avengers team, which was assembled from different time periods. She spearheaded the Avengers through various conflicts, including Kang the Conqueror’s invasion.
Under her leadership in the 2000s, the Avengers saw more women on the team than men for the first time in Avengers history. While facing the Wrecking Crew, Wasp utilized her giant size ability and proved strong enough to take down a jet. In the JLA/Avengers crossover she gave Iron Man the idea to create a dimensional alarm, rallied with the team against Krona, and she and Hank became friends with the Justice League’s Elongated Man and his wife Sue. As part of Mighty Avengers, she determined that Ultron had taken over Iron Man’s body and used a refined growth formula to battle alien symbiotes in New York.
Later Janet used her private funds to keep the Avengers Unity Squad in business to avoid government sponsorship and the problems that it could create. In the 2010s, she defeated Banshee and Sentry during a fight with the Horsemen of Death, using both her ability to shrink and grow. After their defeat, she had a relationship with Alex Summers/Havok and had a daughter, named Katie. Years later, Wasp and Havok destroyed a tachyon dam, preventing time travel to their era. By aligning with Kang, they were able to undo Earth’s destruction by letting Kang project their minds into their past selves.
The Wasp has certainly been busy saving the day as a solo act, duo, and Avenger. As Marvel fans look forward to new stories with Janet van Dyne, they can see Michelle Pfeiffer portray the character in Ant-Man and the Wasp and see Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne, the current Wasp.
Given the character’s great history and big screen potential, we’re hoping the movie will offer the promise of future appearances with a nice post-credits stinger.