Marvel Comics fans may already be familiar with the Wasp, but this heroine is finally headlining her own MCU movie thanks to Ant-Man and the Wasp. No longer will Hope Van Dyne play second fiddle to a goofball like Scott Lang!
To help prepare you for this new Marvel movie, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about The Wasp’s comic book background and the difference between original Wasp Janet Van Dyne and her successor Hope Van Dyne.
Avengers don’t come with stronger bona fides than the Wasp. She was one of the five original founding members of the team, and she’s been a fairly consistent presence in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ever since. Janet Van Dyne’s powers not only make her an asset in the field, but her years of experience also make her a role model to younger generations of heroes. And despite some fairly dark periods in her personal life and even a spell where the world believed her to be dead, Janet has never lost that heroic spark.
The Wasp’s abilities are fueled by Pym Particles, the same substance used by size-changing heroes like Ant-Man, Giant-Man and Goliath. She can both shrink her body to heights smaller than an inch or grow to as much as several hundred feet tall. Whether big or small, Wasp’s strength grows to superhuman levels when she uses her powers.
Wasp also has several latent abilities that set her apart from her Pym Particle brethren. When shrunk, she grows a pair of translucent, insect-like wings that allow her to fly at great speeds. She can also fire bio-electric stinging blasts at her enemies (hence the Wasp name). And though she rarely taps into this ability, she can also manifest antennae that allow her to telepathically communicate with and control insects in a sort of biological equivalent of Ant-Man’s helmet.
Like so many classic Marvel heroes, the Wasp was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, She made her debut in 1963’s Tales to Astonish #44 as a sidekick to Hank Pym’s Ant-Man. The two characters remained regular players in the series for several years. They also made the jump over to The Avengers, becoming founding members of the team in 1964’s The Avengers #1.
Wasp was initially fairly subservient to her partner/boyfriend, with her primary concern being convincing Hank to marry her (this was the ’60s, after all). Fortunately, Janet slowly came into her own as a hero. She came and went from the Avengers frequently during the ’60s and ’70s, with her status quo changing nearly as often as her costumes. The Hank/Janet relationship was dealt a serious blow in the 1980s, thanks to a controversial storyline where a paranoid, unstable Hank struck his wife and forever earned the ire of his fellow Avengers and Marvel readers alike.
If Hank’s reputation never quite recovered from that incident, Wasp continued to be an integral player in the Avengers. She even has the distinction of being the team’s second-longest-serving leader after Captain America. Her time as an Avenger was cut tragically short in the 2008 storyline Secret Invasion, however, where she was apparently killed during a massive Skrull invasion. Fortunately, it was later revealed that she had merely become trapped in the Microverse, and she’s since returned to active superhero duty.
While the history of the Wasp mantle isn’t nearly as convoluted as that of Ant-Man and Hank Pym’s various other costumed identities, there is some confusion as to how the MCU character Hope Van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly) is connected to the Janet Van Dyne of the comics. Thanks to 2015’s Ant-Man and a handful of comic book tie-ins, we know that Hope is the daughter of Hank and Janet, choosing to take her mother’s surname after becoming estranged from her father. In the MCU, Hank and Janet were active as Ant-Man and the Wasp in the ’70s until Janet became lost in the Microverse.
Even as Hope takes up the mantle of Wasp for the first time in Ant-Man and the Wasp, the new movie will capitalize on this back-story by introducing Janet (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), who presumably manages to escape the Microverse and reunite with her family at long last.
For now, at least, Hope Van Dyne doesn’t exist in Marvel’s comic book universe (though there was a minor character named Hope Pym in the alternate universe/What If? MC2 imprint from the late ’90s). Instead, Marvel recently introduced a new, younger heir to the Wasp mantle in the form of Nadia Van Dyne. Nadia is the long-lost daughter of Hank and his first wife, Maria Trovaya, and a product of the same Soviet training facility that spawned Black Widow. With her father currently merged with Ultron (long story), Nadia has instead found a surrogate mother figure in Janet.
Befitting a founding Avenger, Wasp has a long history of appearing in Marvel’s multimedia Avengers spinoffs. She made her animated debut in 1966’s The Marvel Super Heroes, a series notable for pulling panels directly from Marvel’s comics and giving them rudimentary animation. Wasp has appeared in a number of Avengers cartoons over the decades, including The Avengers: United They Stand and The Super Hero Squad Show. However, her most significant role came in 2010’s Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, where she served as a core team member throughout both seasons.
The Wasp also featured prominently in the 2006 direct-to-video animated movie Ultimate Avengers and its sequel, both of which are loosely based on the comic book series The Ultimates.
She’s also appeared in a number of Marvel video games, including Marvel Future Fight, Marvel Heroes, Marvel: Avengers Alliance and Disney Infinity 2.0.
Janet Van Dyne technically made her MCU debut in 2015’s Ant-Man, with Hayley Lovitt briefly portraying the character via flashback while Evangeline Lilly played her daughter, Hope. However, fans will get their first real look at the original Wasp when Michelle Pfeiffer takes on the role in Ant-Man and the Wasp later this year.