Comic Book Storytelling: The Curse of Hank Pym

Welcome everyone to Comic Book Storytelling where we review comic books and talk about comic book related subjects.  I am The Original DJRM (Daniel to my friends) and I will now be bringing you this feature on a weekly basis.

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We all know that there is another Avengers movie on the way and that the sequel will be called Avengers: the Age of Ultron.  The story will have nothing in common with the recent comic book event but will instead be about the origin of Ultron, the artificial intelligence robot that becomes evil and tries to take over the world.  In the comics Ultron was created by Hank Pym aka Ant-Man, Yellowjacket, Giant Man and a few other things, however Joss Whedon has said that Hank Pym will not be in the movie.  This is probably for the best because Hank Pym is cursed.

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Hank Pym has been a member of the Avengers since their debut.  He has appeared in two different animated series and continues to play a major part in the Marvel Universe.  However he is most famously remembered for this.

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That is an image of Hank Pym in his Yellowjacket costume slapping his wife Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, while he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown.  Later on there were claims that this was never supposed to happen, that the artist misinterpreted the script and that they did not have time to make a correction.  This has become one of the most infamous images in the history of the Avengers.  Whether it was intended to be there no longer matters, it is part of the team’s history now.  Because of this Hank Pym has become on of the most toxic characters in the Marvel universe, at least some of the time.

For a long time no one cared that Hank Pym hit his wife.  It was an obscure bit of continuity no one remembered.  Then for whatever reason someone took notice of it and brought it up, then it was brought up again and again and again.  Even today comic book writers will call Hank Pym a wife beater in the pages of Marvel Comics, sometimes for cheap drama, other times for a cheap joke.  Soon Marvel had to go out of their way to make Hank Pym look heroic and redeemed because it was no longer assumed.  But for all their attempts to redeem Hank Pym’s image they never stopped letting him get slammed all over again as a domestic abuser.  This reached its height in The Ultimates written by Mark Millar.  The Hank Pym of the Ultimate universe was a weak little man who was indeed verbally and physically abusive to his wife.

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After that it seemed Marvel could not decide whether there was a difference between regular universe Hank Pym and ultimate universe Hank Pym.  Hank Pym is cursed to walk a line between at best a flawed hero and at worst a wretched pariah because so far Marvel can’t make a decision about how he should be portrayed without undermining it soon after.  The best thing in terms of the Marvel cinematic universe is for Hank Pym to be relegated to supporting character status.  Someday the mainstream media will take notice of Hank Pym’s wife beater reputation and if he is the main heroic character of a movie there will be backlash.  Marvel has earned a lot of goodwill with mainstream audiences and they will not let that be threatened by Hank Pym and his curse, even if they are the ones who cursed him.

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