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Thursday, January 15, 2015 

No mention of Hank Pym's technically abusive behavior from 1981 in this Bellingham Herald piece

The Bellingham Herald published a piece about upcoming comics movies, including Ant-Man, but whatever they have to say about Hank Pym and Janet VanDyne does not include the story from 1981 where Hank lost his rationale and smacked Jan to the floor when his career in the Avengers proper was on the rocks:
"Ant-Man," premiering July 17, is something of a mystery. The narrative Marvel Films established for the Avengers movies negates much of the Marvel Comics character's background, so how they'll play the Master of Many Sizes will be a surprise even to those who know a lot about him.

In the comics, Ant-Man premiered in the early 1960s, Marvel's breakout era, alongside Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Debuting in 1962, Ant-Man was Dr. Henry Pym (the name was a nod to an Edgar Allan Poe story), a multi-tasking sort of scientist who invented not only a shrinking serum but a way to talk to ants. After launching a career as the superhero Ant-Man, Pym recruited his girlfriend, socialite and heiress Janet van Dyne, as The Wasp, giving her the power to shrink and grow tiny wings, plus a compressed-air, wrist-mounted weapon called "The Wasp's Sting." Shortly thereafter, in 1963, the two of them helped found the Avengers, along with Hulk, Iron Man and Thor.

"What's that?" you say. You don't remember Hank and Jan from the "Avengers" movie? Maybe they were too small to see ....

Actually, they were completely left out. Which means that all of the things that happened to Henry Pym as an Avenger in the comics haven't happened in the movies. Including the Ant-Man powers being used by two successors, Scott Lang and Eric O'Grady. Including the invention of a growth serum, resulting in characters (some of them Pym) named Giant-Man and Goliath. Including Hank's evil turn (and later good one) as the character Yellowjacket. Or Pym's invention of Ultron, the evil artificial intelligence, and his subsequent invention, the synthezoid (and future Avenger) The Vision.

Hank Pym does make it into the movie, as an elderly scientist who may have already have had a very quiet career as Ant-Man (played by Michael Douglas). No character named Janet van Dyne is in the credits, but daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) debuts, and let's hope she gets small and grows wings. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), makes the cut, as does Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll).

How all this fits together is anyone's guess. However, given that Rudd is mostly known for comedies, we have an idea as to tone. Plus, there's the first trailer Marvel released ... which was deliberately too small to see.
Interesting that no mention is made of that frustrating moment in the early 80s, preceding Hank and Jan's divorce, when Hank tried to build a robot with a secret weak point that would attack his fellow Avengers and he'd pretend to save the day, and when Jan found out, she tried to protest, but he just slapped her down, insisted she keep quiet about his idea and stomped out of the laboratory, leaving her lying on the floor. I wonder why the writer doesn't have the courage to bring that up and let everybody form an opinion whether that makes it difficult to appreciate Hank or not? I'd argued before that I don't think the possible mistakes of past writers/editors should keep the screenwriters from making Hank the main star. In fact, the more I've thought about it and looked at some of the past material, the more I wonder if this whole "Hank Pym was a spousal abuser" perception was blown out of proportion. It certainly should be blamed on the past writers, whether it's Jim Shooter or whoever else was involved in the scriptwriting. It wasn't even the first time something like that was seen - in 1971, just prior to the Kree-Skrull War, there was a story by Roy Thomas where Ronan the Accuser hypnotized Hank under his control, and he slugged Jan so she'd stay behind. In the 1981 story (issues 213 and 214), by which time Hank had been set up to look like he was going nuts over aggravation at failures in his research, he hit her again, but from what I can tell, it wasn't set up to make him look like he assaulted her on a fully regular, casual basis, and like many other superheroines in a surreal world, Jan was written as a girl who wasn't afraid of being punched/kicked, even if she did find assault offensive. After all, in a superhero world, that kind of stuff comes with the territory.

Interestingly enough, while Tom Brevoort refused to admit writers/artists are accountable, artist Bob Hall, who drew the 1981 story, was willing to do so, and spoke about it in this Bleeding Cool entry (via Comics Should be Good), telling that, after all these years, he wasn't happy how the story was arranged, and wished he could've done better. Well if that's a fact, then I have to congratulate Hall for owning up to causing a lot of annoyance that's dogged the Hank Pym history for over 3 decades. Though as this guy - who's got pictures from the issues in question - argues, it's not so easy to buy Shooter's defense.

And back to Brevoort: his argument is not only laughable, it's shameful, how he refuses to admit the writing and art staff have to take responsibility, and says readers refuse to forgive Hank for cross-cutting on Jan. *Ahem* I'd feel peculiar blaming an imaginary character for something that wasn't his fault. I guess if the Berenstain Bears had an abusive relationship I should be mad at daddy bear for using his Kodiak claws to assault mommy bear, and just let whomever wrote Jan, Stan and Mike Berenstain's creation off the hook? Or if Snoopy ran over the Peanuts gang with a Volkswagen Amarok, I should damn the Beagle to the pits of hell, all while turning my back to whomever wrote a bad story out of Charles Schultz's creations? Brevoort effectively proved himself one of the dumbest people in the biz, who insults the audience by making all readers out to be mentally impaired across the board. It's this kind of dumbed-down blabber that's letting many writers, both decent and awful, get away with really crappy steps.

And none of Hank Pym's character history turns up in the newspaper article; that's the real mystery. It's appalling as it shows the mainstream has no interest in letting people form an opinion and decide for themselves whether they should go with Hank while skirting around past history, or whether they should go with the casting as chosen. All they're doing is hiding their shame and inability to admit they're capable of erring. Just another superficial, uninformative mainstream take on classic creations.

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Actually, when Hank whacked Jan prior to the Kree-Skrull War, it was to protect her from being affected by Ronan's "devolve rays" -- to which Hank quickly succumbed.

They were both flying on a devolved dragonfly when Hank noticed what was happening, and a thought balloon clearly says that he "has no time to explain" to Jan. So he just smacks her off the back of the dragonfly ... to safety.

You're right, I misremembered the exact scene from issue 90. It's been several years since I last read a paperback I have of the Kree-Skrull War, so I had difficulty recalling it clearly.

I, also, had the impression that when Hank "slugged Jan so she'd stay behind" in that 1971 story, it was to keep her out of harm's way.

To be honest, I really believe Jim Shooter is trying to backpedal, and wants to gloss over the 1981 "wife beater" sequence. It does not look like the artist misinterpreted the script; Pym slaps Jan with a backhanded blow, hard enough to knock her to the floor. Then, instead of apologizing and helping her up, he threatens her. It does not look like he accidentally slapped her while gesturing with his hands.

There are no inherently bad characters, just bad writers who don't know how to portray them in an interesting way. Or, if there are fundamentally bad characters, it's the fault of bad writers who created them.

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