Scientific genius Hank Pym has lived a life of highs and lows, both tied to his wife Janet. College sweethearts, they married despite the insecure and emotionally unstable Hank's occasional physical abuse. The couple worked as scientists at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Super-Soldier Research Facility under Bruce Banner, in whose scientific shadow Hank lived uneasily. Fearful of anti-mutant prejudice, the self-shrinking, insect-powered Jan concealed her mutant nature, eventually allowing Hank to take credit for creating her powers by scientific means. Pym's genetic studies of Jan helped him make new scientific breakthroughs in the areas of size changing and entomology. The Pyms were later promoted to head the research and development wing of the government's new superhuman strike force, the Ultimates, with Banner as their deputy. The Pyms also became two of the program's founding super-operatives as the Wasp and Giant-Man (Hank used his new growth formula). Humiliated and injured in battle by a rampaging Hulk (a transformed Banner), Pym physically recovered, but his shaken confidence sparked a vicious domestic fight with Jan, during which Hank nearly killed her. Pym fled, but he was caught and beaten into traction by Captain America, who soon began dating Jan.
Pym was dismissed from the field team, and his former assistant Eamonn Brankin took over their R&D operations; however, Hank remained on staff. He formed an unlikely friendship and fertile scientific collaboration with fellow outcast Bruce Banner, while trying unsuccessfully to rejoin the Ultimates field team as the self-shrinking "Ant-Man". When Banner was sentenced to die for the Hulk's crimes, Pym covertly sabotaged the execution, facilitating Banner's secret escape. Finally fired from the Ultimates altogether, a desperate Pym was willing to work for free, even offering them his new Ultron and Vision robot designs;he was rejected. Pym joined a new amateur super-team, the Defenders, romancing his teammate Valkyrie, but the group's ineptitude soon drove Hank away. Weary of her new boyfriend, Jan secretly struck up a platonic friendship with Hank; but by this time, the desperate Pym had secretly allied himself with a traitor within the Ultimates to plot the team's downfall.