Published January 19, 2023

Meet Janet Van Dyne, the Original Wasp

Who is Wasp? Discover more about Janet Van Dyne, the fashion heiress whose tragic past eventually led her to become Avengers Chairwoman.

Few characters are more essential to the Marvel Universe than Janet van Dyne, the first Wasp. Created by Stan Lee, Ernest Hart, and Jack Kirby, the hero debuted in TALES TO ASTONISH (1959) #44 and became a founding member of the Avengers soon after. Over the decades, Wasp has played an important role in many different stories, and now she has returned once again to team up with her stepdaughter, Nadia van Dyne, in the pages of WASP (2023). Here's what you need to know about Janet.

Janet van Dyne’s Tragic Origin

The daughter of scientist Dr. Vernon van Dyne, Janet came from a wealthy family that earned a fortune in textiles and fashion. When Vernon tried to recruit Hank Pym, AKA Ant-Man, for a project that involved contacting extraterrestrial life, he brought his daughter with him to their meeting. Hank immediately noted Janet’s resemblance to his deceased wife, Maria Pym (née Trovaya). Soon after, Vernon made contact with an alternate dimension called Kosmos, and one of its inhabitants, Pilai, came to Earth and killed him. 

In the aftermath of Vernon’s death, Hank revealed his Super Hero identity to Janet and gave her the equipment necessary to become the Wasp. Together, they got revenge on Pilai for killing Vernon by destroying the being. Janet and Hank proceeded to fight crime together, taking on villains such as Elihas Starr, AKA Egghead

One of the most momentous events in Janet’s history came in AVENGERS (1963) #1, which saw Loki goad Donald Blake into transforming into Thor so that he might get revenge on his old enemy. To accomplish this, Loki made it appear as if Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk, had attacked a train in the hopes that such a menace would convince Blake to become Thor. A message meant for the Fantastic Four ended up getting diverted to Blake, who indeed went to fight the Green Goliath. 

However, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Wasp also received the message. They arrived on the scene and helped thwart Loki’s plan. At the end of that first installment of AVENGERS, Janet gave the team its name. A few issues later, Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, joined up as well, officially completing the group’s classic lineup.

From that point on, Janet’s history became tied up with the Avengers and Hank, with whom she eventually fell in love. During her time on the team, she fought against such threats as Kang the Conqueror, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and the Masters of Evil. She was also forced to contend with a stalker, David Cannon, AKA Whirlwind

In the team’s battles, Janet proved herself an able and powerful member of the Avengers. She and Hank did leave the team at times, but they invariably returned. Janet also eventually received her family inheritance, which made her quite rich.

Janet’s Relationship with Hank Pym Turns Sour

One of the most trying periods in Janet’s life came about because of her relationship with Hank, who frequently struggled with his emotions. This worsened after he created the powerful and malevolent artificial intelligence known as Ultron, and he eventually developed the aggressive and arrogant Yellowjacket persona. That version of Hank ended up marrying Janet.

Hank’s mental health continued to deteriorate, and his behavior became more reckless. Things came to a head when, during a confrontation, he attacked a villain named Elfqueen after she’d already surrendered. This resulted in the “Trial of Yellowjacket” storyline, in which Hank faced a court-martial over his behavior.

Hank ended up having a complete breakdown and attempted to build an army to attack the Avengers Mansion so that he might prove himself a hero by stopping them. Janet discovered Hank’s plan and tried to intervene. In response, Hank struck Janet. Soon after, the Avengers discovered that Hank had abused his wife and kicked him out of the group. His marriage with Janet also came to an end.

Janet Becomes Avengers Chairwoman

Following the end of her relationship with Hank, Janet took a vacation. When she returned, she became Chairwoman of the Avengers. In her first mission, she led the team against Yellowjacket, who was blackmailed into attacking a military base by Egghead. Over the course of Janet’s tenure, she proved an effective leader and brought several female Super Heroes onto the team. She also struck up romantic relationships with Tony Stark and, later, Paladin, all while involving herself more in the fashion world.

Despite Janet’s deft leadership, one group proved more troublesome than the others: the Masters of Evil. Reformed under Baron Helmut Zemo, the Masters of Evil managed to take over the Avengers Mansion and imprison several members of the team. Although Janet and her allies eventually triumphed over them, the experience rattled her. She left her long-held leadership position, with Monica Rambeau taking up the role of Chairwoman. 

As is often the case with Wasp, though, she didn’t stay away for long. Wasp later joined up with the West Coast Avengers and began working with Hank again, leading them to rekindle their relationship. Janet also received an upgrade that allowed her to grow into Giant-Woman.

Janet Nearly Died During Secret Invasion

Janet’s life took a distinctly dark turn in the 2000s. During AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED (2004), Janet accidentally mentioned Wanda Maximoff’s lost children to her. Janet’s reference brought back memories that had been removed by Agatha Harkness, leading Wanda to attack the Avengers. Wasp was badly injured in the attack, which set the stage for HOUSE OF M (2005). After she recovered from her injuries, Janet tried to patch her rocky relationship up with Hank, and the two went to England together. While there, the relationship broke down and Hank was replaced with a Skrull

When Wasp returned to the United States, she once again turned to fashion. She also ended up siding with Tony Stark during CIVIL WAR (2006) and rejoined the Avengers until SECRET INVASION (2008). That crossover revealed that some new Pym Particles—which were given to Wasp by the Skrull disguised as Hank—had actually turned her into a massive biological bomb. Thor then seemingly killed Janet in a defensive maneuver. In honor of his late ex-wife, the real Hank adopted the Wasp identity.

However, Janet wasn’t really dead. She had become trapped in the Microverse, where she contended with a villain named Lord Gouzar. Using an old Avengers’ Priority Card, she alerted the team to her predicament, and they helped her escape. Afterwards, she became a member of the Avengers Unity Squad. Formed in the aftermath of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN (2012), that iteration of the team was made up of both human and mutant members with the express goal of bettering relations between the two groups. 

During her time the Avengers Unity Squad, Wasp helped the group deal with several threats. The most dangerous menace they faced was undoubtedly the Apocalypse Twins, a pair of powerful mutants aiming to turn Earth into a mutant planet. They succeeded, and in the alternate universe that followed, Janet struck up a relationship with Alex Summers, AKA Havok, and had a child named Katie with him. Eventually, though, the timeline was undone, and Katie was erased. Later, during AVENGERS: RAGE OF ULTRON (2015), Janet played a key role in the battle against the titular artificial intelligence that ended only when Hank merged with his creation.

Janet Meets Nadia, Her Stepdaughter

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016 (CIVIL WAR II) #1 introduced Nadia, the daughter of Hank and Maria, to the Marvel Universe. Following Maria’s death, Nadia was trained as an agent of the Red Room, specifically as part of the organization’s Science Class. Nadia eventually mastered Pym Particles and traveled to the United States to meet her father, whom she didn’t know had seemingly died.

Edwin Jarvis soon took Nadia to meet Janet, and the two struck up a fast friendship, despite the latter’s problems with Hank. Janet helped Nadia establish Girls In Action Research Labs, AKA G.I.R.L., and gave her blessing for Nadia to use the Wasp moniker. Janet also played a key role in helping Nadia to receive her American citizenship. Nadia, who did not formally have a last name, then began using van Dyne in honor of her stepmother and main parental figure.

Although they’ve fought alongside each other in the past, WASP promises to really delve into the two’s relationship. In that story, they have found themselves up against Whirlwind in a confrontation that will lead them to explore their shared history. 

Catch Janet’s next adventure in WASP #1 by Al Ewing and Kasia Nie, on sale now!

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