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Wednesday, June 13, 2018 

Is the Hank Pym-as-abuser story being retconned away?

It's a shame that Mark Waid, after all the harm he's caused of recent, has to be the writer of this new Ant-Man & the Wasp story, because anybody in-the-know about his potential illegality could feel rightly discouraged from bothering. But here's an interesting development Marvel's taken of recent, though I realize it's probably not as impressive as it might sound to anybody who thought Jim Shooter's 1981 Avengers story was in poor taste despite that it may be a good idea. The problem is that the writer of the piece is putting words in the mouths of fans:
...Marvel has launched a new Ant-Man and the Wasp comic miniseries by the creative team of Mark Waid and Javi Garron. While the series stars legacy versions of the insect-sized heroes in the form of Scott Lang and Nadia Van Dyne, the original duo of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne cast their inspiring shadows over the new pair’s adventure, but as the first issue of the series re-tells the story of the original Ant-Man and the Wasp duo, longtime fans might realize that Marvel is has chosen to ignore, or perhaps even retcon, a rather controversial aspect of their relationship.

The very first page of Waid and Garron’s Ant-Man and the Wasp #1 brings readers up to speed on the epic love story of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, a legendary crime-fighting duo and passionate lovers. The caption offers a quick recap about how the two started working together as a team, how “they shared a love so bright it shamed the stars” and… that’s it. To readers who are picking up their first Ant-Man and the Wasp comic in order to get hyped for the MCU movie, the story of Hank and Janet is presented an epic tale of mythological proportions.

However, there is one big asterix next to the love story of the original Wasp and Ant-Man. Yes, the two were a longtime married couple, fighting crime together as husband and wife, and yes, they loved each other. But their relationship reached a mighty — and quite controversial — crucible when Hank (during his Yellowjacket) days, infamously slapped Janet in 1981. At that moment, Hank’s character was cast in a much darker light considering that he had hit his wife, an irredeemable act to many of his and Jan’s fans.
Tsk tsk tsk. Almost immediately, they set out to make the fans sound like mental patients who blame a fictional character instead of the writers/editors responsible. Why not state it was an irredeemable example of writing from the pen of Shooter? Why doesn't he get the criticism he'll have to shoulder?
Now, the moment was not intended to be the turning point in Hank’s character that it became. Jim Shooter, who scripted the issue, is on the record as stating there was a miscommunication between him and artist Bob Hall, resulting in a scene that plays out different than planned. Shooter maintains that he wanted Hank to accidentally hit Jan as he flailed his arms about wildly, but Hall drew it in such a way it was clear Hank deliberately struck his wife. That’s how it was published, and the damage was done: Hank Pym became an in-canon domestic abuser.
First off, that's what Shooter claims, but Hall, IIRC, said he never raised any objections, and if the original script read as visualized, then why deny a mistake was made? It's ridiculous. Second, I figure the notion they couldn't ignore the storyline's specific writeup in later years and just retcon it away is precisely the weakness past administrations at Marvel bore. Third, the damage to a fictional character is only done so far as anybody wants it to be. What if there could've been a fan movement formed to demand the violent attitude Hank was written with be de-canonized? Well that's what should've been done to begin with - if DC could do it, then by the same token of logic, so could Marvel.
But none of that matters; on paper, Hank hit Jan, and it fundamentally changed the way fans looked at the hero. Tom Brevoort once told CBR that despite Marvel’s attempts to “fix” it in the years that followed, the publisher realized it was stuck with the interpretation because “that was the most interesting thing that had ever happened to that character, and so that really cemented it.”
Oh please! What about the background written for Hank in the mid-60s in Tales to Astonish, where it was revealed he was a widower whose first wife had been killed by commies while visiting her native Hungary? It could even be updated as a fictional country just to keep the basics effective. And what about that he was the inventor of Ultron, the robot that overpowered him and erased his memories so that it could continue developing itself into a monster unnoticed? In fact, what about the fact he'd been the inventor of the Giant-Man role to boot? And above all, can we be clear about something? If they wanted Hank to have what they call a "most interesting thing", I'd think they could conceive something more effective and memorable than Hank as abusive husband, which he did not have to be, and even fandom could prove they'd rather that not be the case. Brevoort's only looking for cheap excuses to justify continuation of an unfortunate storyline.
Now, some believe that the character has more than earned redemption after decades of heroism, but for most readers, Hank Pym’s big defining traits remain that he’s the inventor of the Pym Particles, the creator of Ultron, and a man who beat his wife. Though Hank has been given moment of heroic redemption after moment of heroic redemption over the years, fans remained vocal in reminding people of his darkest act. The moment has long remained an important one in Marvel history, and now it appears that the company wants to discreetly sweep it under the rug.
Sigh. What a disgrace the CBR columnist is. I don't think Hank should be stigmatized by something that was the fault of the writers like Shooter, and if I don't, there's bound to be more fans who think the same. The real life writers are those who must be held accountable, not the fictional characters. Most Spider-fans recognize writers like deFalco and Kavanaugh were responsible for the embarrassment of the Clone Saga where Peter Parker assaults Ben Reilly and then accidentally bruises Mary Jane when she tried to get him to cut it out, culminating in his fleeing from the lab where it took place rather than check her condition and apologize on the spot. We know Peter's a fictional character and not at fault, so let's get our facts straight about Hank Pym too.
...With such a title, people will be looking to learn more about the superhero duo and of their adventures together, and perhaps Marvel doesn’t want new readers to stumble upon a much darker period of the couple. It appears that, for better or worse, Marvel Comics’ love story between Hank and Janet is being quietly retconned into something less controversial.
To be fair, the idea itself may be a good idea, and for the best. If it's tasteless, let's not think a bad idea has to remain solidly canon till the bitter end of time. The bad news is that Waid as the writer has recently done all he could to cripple his career (and even shut down his social media accounts), so we can't blame anybody who'd feel discouraged based on that. If Waid's on his way out of the medium, it's probably for the best, because if he's going to interfere in other people's work and be potentially defamatory to his critics, then he's reduced himself to a liability for his employers. It's a terrible shame, of course, because he was the writer who retconned away Richard Bruning's horrendous Adam Strange storyline where Alanna was killed in 1990 a decade after it went to press. But if Waid's going to commit PR embarrassments in real life, then he's only scuttling what could've been a chance to do something creative for a change. Apparently, he's not even promoting the book, which should give an idea how far his reputation's fallen.

In the end, I think discarding the Hank Pym-as-abusive story from 1981 is okay in itself, but chances are Waid, in his modern mentality, has still botched the story, rendering it a disappointment regardless, and I can only conclude it's best for him to retire from writing, for at least several years. A worthy idea has been damaged by an ill-advised choice of writer.

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So, you want someone being negative to the writer rather than the written character? Here's plenty of negative cracks against Shooter: https://samquixote.blogspot.com/2015/08/marvel-comics-untold-story-by-sean-howe.html#more

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