The Wasp is one of the fictional characters of Marvel Comics. A product of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby partnership, she was a founding member of The Avengers, and first appeared in Tales to Astonish in June 1963. Also known as Janet van Dyne, The Wasp is known for her ability to shrink to a height of several centimeters or grow to a height of several meters, and firing energy blasts as the major part of her armory.
The ‘Tales to Astonish’ series, again the work of Lee and Kirby, was the platform from which the character was launched. Initially, she was introduced as the partner of Henry “Hank” Pym, with the original motive of avenging the death of her scientist father, Vernon van Dyne. She fell in love with Henry so she decided to stay with him. However, it took some time for Henry to accept the fact that he too was in love with Janet, initially rejecting her because he was afraid to once more suffer the sorrow he felt when his first wife died.
The story went that Hank was an associate of Janetâs father. He created the “Pym particles” which allows the user to grow or shrink in size, and by using these particles he became the Ant-Man. He was able to convince Janet to join him after her fatherâs death. Using the “Pym particles”, he subjected Janet to a biochemical procedure, giving birth to The Wasp. Both Ant-Man and The Wasp henceforth worked as a team.
When only a few centimeters tall, The Wasp’s body mass is compacted with a resultant increase in her strength level – like a wasp with the strength of a human. When she is of the giant size her strength and endurance increase to superhuman levels. However, Janet would prefer to be the small âThe Waspâ, and tends to use her ‘giant’ form only when appropriate in times of emergency.
One peculiar thing about The Wasp is the pair of translucent wings that grow from her back. This is one of the results of a mutation created by Pym. With this pair of wings, The Wasp is able to fly at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, although only the small version could fly.
Using her body’s natural bioelectric energy, she can release from her hands a powerful electrical force called âstinger blasts”. Although not very prominently used, this superheroine has also the capability to grow antennae from her temple. She uses these both to communicate with and to control insects by meads of telepathy.
During her ‘Tales to Astonish’ period, The Wasp help create the Avengers along with Hank Pym as a partner, and she soon became popular and well known to the public. In fact, to many she was considered one of the Avengers’ craftiest and smartest members, displaying remarkable qualities of leadership and strategy. Her popularity earned her one of the more prominent places in the team, but as time passed she felt tired of playing the superhero and planned to leave. She ultimately left the scene, together with Hank, but quickly realizing that she missed being a superhero, both The Wasp and Hank returned after some issues with the comic book had been resolved.
Initially, the pair was too preoccupied to do much about their relationship because of Janet’s wealth and his chemical research, although they did eventually start dating when Hank realized that his feelings for Janet were growing stronger. It came to a head when a new superhero known as ‘Yellowjacket’ entered the Avengers’ HQ stating that he had kidnapped Janet and disposed of Hank.
What was even more appalling is that Janet married Yellowjacket, but it soon became evident that Janet knew all along that the new character was Pym in disguise, and that he was suffering a dissociative identity disorder through exposure to his chemicals. Janet took advantage of this and married him. There followed a few periods when The Wasp and Hank as Ant-Man were part of the Avengers and left again, but they were always in the shadows, waiting to take center stage when needed. Over time Hank’s condition worsened through over-exposure to chemicals and also because of too-frequent changes to his body shape and the marriage became strained.
There was a period when Ultron, an early creation of Pym, kidnapped Janet and used her brain patterns to create a wife for himself, Jocasta. Pym was brainwashed into giving Janet’s life force to Jocasta. However, knowing that this would result in Janet’s death, Jocasta informed the Avengers who then defeated Ultron. Janet got her life force back, at the expense of Jocasta who was left a robotic shell. Jocasta is another story, and she was later resurrected as a member of the Avengers.
Hank’s condition continued to deteriorate to the stage that he once struck Janet during an argument. This ultimately led to divorce of the couple. She rejoined the Avengers, The Wasp becoming the group’s chairman – another role she left and rejoined a few times. Janet eventually left to join the West Coast Avengers shortly after Pym had joined the same team. It is here that their romantic relationship reignites, and the once-again happy couple leaves the West Coast to rejoin the regular Avengers.
Although Hank proposed to her again, she refused him, but after a short relationship with Hawkeye she once again returned to Hank since she found she could not do without him. Pym was later presented as her ex-husband in the miniseries ‘Beyond’, and The Wasp and Ant-Man, or Janet and Hank, became good friends but never remarried.
Apart from assume the personality of the superheroine The Wasp, Janet van Dyne was also portrayed as being very fashionable. She wore an amazingly wide range of costumes, which is unusual for superheroes, whose costume tends to represent the actual character. It was presumed that she made her own costumes, and was regarded as an accomplished fashion designer in her own right and also a skilled amateur screenwriter – though as Janet van Dyne or as The Wasp, who knows?
Finally, there seems a great deal of allegory and suggestion in this character. Her name, for example, is Dyne, the Greek for ‘power’ or ‘force’, and is also the cgs unit of force. ‘Jocasta’ was the mother of Oedipus, the latter being famous for being obsessed with his mother, or ‘creator’, in the same way that Ultron was obsessed with Pym. It was not needed, however, to be aware of these and other hidden meanings in order to enjoy The Wasp and Ant-Man as they battled as superheroes and loved each other in their human forms.