With Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania out this coming Thursday it is a good time to catch up on the character’s comic book history leading into their latest Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure. We previously did a starter guide for Ant-Man now it is time to look at the must-read Wasp stories. Janet Van Dyne is one of the oldest heroes at Marvel, having debuted back in 1963, while Nadia Van Dyne, the comic book counterpart of MCU’s Hope Van Dyne, is part of Marvel’s new generation of heroes after debuting in 2016.
Unlike most other characters there is honestly not one key Wasp storyline. Even as a founding member of the Avengers Janet Van Dyne’s history has her either in a supporting character or sidekick role. That said there are key parts in Janet’s history that make many comic books must-read that showcase why Wasp is a key part of the Marvel Universe. This also includes more recent stories that have established Nadia as Wasp alongside Janet, with both starring in the new Wasp series.
HONORABLE MENTION – AVENGERS ORIGINS: ANT-MAN & THE WASP
Comic Book: Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp #1
Date Release: November 2011
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Dave Lanpher
While the title of Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp would have you believe that this issue is dedicated to both Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne’s origins that is not the case. This is largely a Hank Pym story that details his origin and early days as Ant-Man. Even when Janet Van Dyne does enter the story in the final seven pages of a thirty-page comic book, this one-shot is all told through Hank’s perspective.
While Janet takes a backseat to Hank what makes Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp get an “Honorable Mention” is how it modernizes Hank’s first marriage to Maria Trovaya. That is incredibly important as Maria Trovaya is the mother of Nadia Van Dyne. Even with that status Maria Trovaya only had three appearances, all in flashback form, before Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp. With how extremely rare Maria’s appearances are, Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp is an important comic book to get more information about Nadia’s family from her mother’s side.
5) ANT-MAN & THE WASP VS THE CREATURE FROM KOSMOS
Comic Book: Tales To Astonish #44
Release Date: June 1963
Writers: Stan Lee and Ernie Hart (credited as H.E. Huntley)
Artist: Jack Kirby (main story); Steve Ditko (backup story)
Inker: Don Heck
Letterer: Art Simek (main story); Terry Szenics (backup story)
Tales To Astonish #44 is notable for multiple reasons. The biggest by far is that it is the issue where Janet Van Dyne makes her debut. Introduced as the daughter of a wealthy scientist Vernon Van Dyne, who happened to be friends with Hank Pym, we get Janet’s full origin. As is told, Janet’s superhero journey comes out of having a sense of revenge after an alien from Kosmos kills her father.
With Hank’s help, Janet gains superpowers and has wings attached to her back that turn her into the superhero known as the Wasp. With Hank’s help, Janet is able to defeat the creature from Kosmos. Afterward, Janet would continue as Wasp and became Ant-Man’s partner, beginning her romance with Hank, as you can see from the image above Janet just about instantly falls for Hank.
In addition to telling Janet Van Dyne’s origin story, Tales To Astonish #44 is the first appearance of Hank’s first wife, Maria Trovaya. Told as a flashback, the prelude is dedicated to giving further insight into Hank Pym’s character since Maria appears only in four total panels. This is much more than the small half-panel cameo Maria would have in Tales To Astonish #60, marking her second total appearance. While never getting respect, Hank’s memory of Maria is notable as it unknowingly is where future Wasp and daughter of Maria and Hank Pym, Nadia Van Dyne’s origin begins.
4) AVENGERS FOREVER
Comic Book: Avengers Forever #1 to Avengers Forever #12
Date Released: December 1998 to November 1999
Writers: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Carlos Pacheco
Inkers: Jesus Merino
Colorists: Steve Oliff, Tony Kelly, Paul Mounts
Letterers: Albert Deschesne and Richard Starkings
A running theme for Janet Van Dyne once she was given her own character arc is her leadership. It’s certainly something we saw throughout the 80s. It is that leadership experience that proved invaluable in the late-90s Avengers Forever 12 issue series. Avengers Forever wasn’t a normal Avengers team book. This series featured versions of previous Avengers from all over the Marvel Multiverse. That included a government-disillusioned Captain America, multiple versions of Hank Pym, Hawkeye post-Kree-Skrull War, and distant future versions of Songbird and Captain Marvel Genis-Vell.
With this eclectic group of Avengers, it is once again Janet Van Dyne, who was the present-day version of the character, that stepped up to lead the team. Janet isn’t a constant presence in every issue like other characters are but she is a key character. Maximizing the screen time she was in the story Wasp drove the story forward as she made sure the time-displaced Avengers didn’t go solo and this was still a team.
Whether it’s her dealing with Kang or being the one the others turn to for leadership, Wasp was a key driver of Avengers Forever. She even had to put up with the worst version of Hank Pym, from his Yellow Jacket days, being on the team. Dealing with that alone makes Janet Van Dyne unquestionably one of the best leaders the Marvel Universe has.
3) AVENGERS CHAIRWOMAN
Comic Book: Avengers #217 to Avengers #222; Avengers #224 to Avengers #242
Years Released: March 1982 to April 1984
Writers: Jim Shooter, J.M. Dematteis, David Michelinie, Steven Grant, Alan Zelenetz, Roger Stern, and Ann Nocenti
Artists: Bob Hall, Don Perlin, Greg LaRocque, Mark Bright, Sal Buscema, Al Milgrom, John Byrne, and Bob Budiansky
Inkers: Brett Breeding, Chic Stone, Joe Sinnott, Andy Mushinsky, andJoe Rubinstein
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Letterers: Janice Chiang, Joe Rosen, Jim Novak, and Diana Albers
Janet didn’t have a great end to 1981 as she dealt with Hank’s mental instability leading to marital abuse and Hank being court-marshaled. Before this event, Janet’s history was mostly as a sidekick and supporting character, even as an Avengers founder. After taking some much-needed time off Janet returned in early 1982 in Avengers #217 with a new outlook. Her first order of business was to call a meeting with Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor to hold a long-overdue election for the position of Chairperson of the Avengers. Nominating herself, Janet was unanimously elected as the new Avengers Chairwoman and leader.
What would emblematic of her original two-year run as Avengers’ Chairwoman, in that same issue Janet would be tested right away. That test comes from none other than Hank Pym, then going by Yellow Jacket, being blackmailed to take a villainous turn. Not turning a blind eye to this Wasp was the one that ultimately defeated Hank and turned him over to the authorities.
Things would not get easier from there as on top of dealing with the Trial of Hank Pym there was also heavy roster turnover that included Tony Stark leaving the team, due to all the problems with his alcoholism and other events in his life. Even with the roster turnover, showing her true leadership abilities, Janet successfully leads the team against the Masters of Evil, Morgan Le Fay, Sinister Six, and other villains.
But the biggest mark that Janet would leave on the Avengers during her time as Chairwoman was her recruiting efforts. Janet specifically addressed the lack of diversity, especially when it came to female heroes on the team. Janet would bring on She-Hulk and Monica Rambeau, then known as Captain Marvel, to help stabilize the team. In the process, Janet became respected for the leadership, mentorship, and empathy shown to her teammates as the constant the team needed. This gave the Avengers a sense of stability when they needed it most.
2) AVENGERS: UNDER SIEGE
Comic Book: Avengers #270 to Avengers #277
Release Date: August 1986 to March 1987
Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: John Buscema, Tom Palmer
Colorists: Christie Scheele and Julianna Ferriter
Letterers: Jim Novak
After Secret Wars the Avengers were led by Vision. Vision’s run as Chairman and team leader did not last long with the Avengers, at that time only made up of Captain America, Hercules, Black Knight, and Starfox, unanimously re-electing Janet Van Dyne as the Chairwoman and team leader. Like before Wasp led the Avengers in overcoming many cosmic and Earth-based threats. One of the biggest tests of Wasp’s leadership abilities this time around was the “Under Siege” storyline that took place from Avengers #270 to Avengers #277.
Coming directly off the “Council of Kangs” storyline Baron Zemo led the Masters of Evil to take advantage of the beaten-down Avengers. The Masters of Evil were successful in taking out most of the Avengers by utilizing Baron Zemo’s game plan. While they captured or took out Captain America and others Wasp was still left standing. Which was the biggest miscalculation Baron Zemo made.
Once again proving herself as a leader and superhero Wasp quickly brought in Scott Lang’s Ant-Man and Thor to help save the rest of the team. This again highlights the strength of Wasp as a superhero who understands how to take on every threat imaginable. She could’ve gone out to save her teammates alone but to save her teammates and defeat the Masters of Evil most effectively Wasp brought in trusted allies to help. Like her previous run as Avengers leader, there was no question that she was the one in charge. And even when Hercules tried in Avengers #271 she quickly shut that down.
1) THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP: A.I.M. ESCAPE!
Comic Book: The Unstoppable Wasp (2018) #1 to The Unstoppable Wasp (2018) #10
Release Date: October 2018 to July 2019
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artists: Gurihiru and Alti Firmansyah
Colorist: Espen Grundetjern
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
While the first Unstoppable Wasp does a lot to set up Nadia’s direction with G.I.R.L. Enterprise it is the second maxiseries in 2018 that really gets into her character direction. Throughout the second Unstoppable Wasp series Nadia dealt with all the business and superhero aspects. This includes expanding her superhero circle as she built stronger relationships with the likes of Mockingbird, Winter Soldier, Viv Vision, Ironheart, and others. In the process, Nadia showed her own leadership abilities as she face A.I.M.
But maybe most importantly we saw Nadia dealing with her own mental health throughout this Unstoppable Wasp series. At various points in the series, Nadia was seen going to therapy to address her mental health. Even now that is not something we see superheroes do as the majority still either handle things alone or ask advice from other heroes. Nadia goes to therapy along with talking with her peers and older heroes.
This also opened Janet Van Dyne to further build out her own role in Nadia’s life as both a stepmother and mentor figure. Janet is largely a supporting character in the series but still plays an important role as a constant in Nadia’s life. Taking her own experience in mentoring others Janet helps Nadia both in her Wasp adventure and attending therapy sessions along with Nadia as a show of support. This helps further strengthen the bond between the two Wasps as Janet is both a mentor and mother figure to Nadia.