The many names of Hank PymPosted: 05/27/2014
For all his scientific brilliance (the top biochemist in the Marvel universe), Hank Pym’s genius gets overshadows by his indecisiveness. Within the first six years of his premiere, he took on four different superhero names, all of which stem from his naming philosophy of, “Eh, I could do better.” So today we’ll take a look at all his different identities, starting from his premiere in Tales to Astonish #27, written by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber and drawn by Jack Kirby:
Before he became a superhero, his adventures started the normal way: accidentally shrinking himself and fleeing from killer ants. Though if you’ll notice, his self-esteem issues and mental instability seeds are thoroughly planted for later sprouting even in his first appearance:
I’m no Einstein like Pym, but wouldn’t it be unwise to escape from ants by running straight into their home? But I do sympathize with our protagonist, if just because my own life choices have shown me that if I created a shrinking liquid, I would also 100% accidentally leave the antidote out of reach. He returns seven issues later to emerge as a bonafide superhero, complete with that gigantic helmet and appropriate spandex, bringing us to his first superhero name.
We jump to Tales to Astonish #35, written by Lee and drawn by Kirby. Thugs break into Pym’s lab, not realizing that crazy scientists always have nine or ten back up plans in case of threatening. They should just be thankful that Pym’s a softie and not that a giant robot breaks through the wall and rip out their spines.
Isn’t it strange that while Nazis remain an acceptable villain today, commies seem wildly old fashioned? They both still exist, both have killed millions of people, and both sound like breeds of adorable purse-sized dogs, but nowadays we just chuckle at the idea of scary communists. Don’t any of us remember the horror of Vietnam? I know the Punisher can’t be the only one.
Anyway, now Pym can control ants using his helmet giving him an actual superpower, which is far more useful than his previous ability of fighting rats with toothpicks.
If Pym can shrink, shouldn’t the opposite work as well? Unfortunately, Ant-Man won’t work as a name for a man capable of doubling his size — so Pym picks the most on-the-nose superhero name of the 1960s in the pages of Tales to Astonish #49, written by Lee and drawn by Kirby.
Take that Wasp, being in love with the idea of being in love. Everyone in comics back then talked like a clunkier version of Mad Men. Thankfully, Wasp doesn’t button those ruby lips of hers because we treat women as equals and certainly don’t tell them to zip it during science time. They continue to adventure and fight crime until after the first year or so of Avengers comics when the pair leave the team for a brief vacation.
When Pym rejoins the Avengers in Avengers #28, written by Lee and drawn by Don Heck, he does so out of painful necessity. Y’see, Wasp has gone missing and only the Avengers can help him defeat The Collector, the Marvel universe’s premier hoarder.
The irony of Pym’s last statement is that Giant-Man remains his most commonly used superhero name over the past decades — including the one he currently goes by. And honestly, Captain America is a way cornier name than Giant-Man, but we’re too blinded by patriotism and eagles soaring overhead to notice it. Though not to be a buzzkill, isn’t Goliath the name of a bad guy who died from a pebble to the forehead?
I present to you quite possibly the strangest issue of the Avengers ever: Avengers #59, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by John Buscema. Pym’s schizophrenia kicks in high gear as he creates a brand new persona and not just in name this time.
I’m no human resources expert, but I imagine announcing to superheroes that you’d make a good fit for their team because you murdered one of their members probably doesn’t give your resume a second look. Because Pym has a slightly misogynistic streak to continue, he kidnaps Wasp against her will and shameless boasts his sex appeal. Then the issue gets even stranger.
It’s revealed next issue that Wasp figured out Pym was suffering from schizophrenia the whole time (due to the scientific reason of a chemical spill). But to readers, we just saw a random jerk claiming he killed Wasp’s boyfriend, snatch her to a deserted pervert den, sexually assault her, and she responds by immediately pulling a massive Stockholm Syndrome all within the span of four pages. The 1960s were a weird time for comics.
We now jump ahead forty years to the end of the Marvel event Secret Invasion. The Skrulls invaded Earth, lost, and left the planet with a superhero causality notched on their bedpost. All big events cost us at least one superhero and in Secret Invasion poor Wasp bit the bullet. Well, turns out she become trapped in the Microverse due to Thor’s hammer, but that’s a story for another time. To honor her memory in Secret Invasion: Requiem one-shot, written by Dan Slott and drawn by Khoi Pham, Pym changes his name for the fifth time.
There you go, all of Pym’s name changes! I take a sort of pride in answering questions no one’s asking. On Friday, we’ll repeat this with Kitty Pryde — she’s can’t make up her mind either.