“It’s about damn time,” Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) cracked when her scientist father gifted her with a super suit at the end of 2015’s Ant-Man, which prompted many casual fans to ask: Who is the Wasp?
She was talking about her character’s impatience to get in on the action, but the line was also a sly nod to Marvel’s lack of leading female heroes. And perhaps no female has been more inexplicably missing from the multiplex than the Wasp. After all, she was one of the founding members of the Marvel universe in the comics — helping to form the Avengers and becoming the first female superhero of the Marvel Age to helm a solo adventure back in 1964.
Despite her cachet, the Wasp has been mostly absent from the big screen. Until now, that is. The bug-sized heroine finally gets her due in Friday’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Wasp and partner (Paul Rudd) team up and use their size-shifting abilities to battle a mysterious new villain named the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen).
The storyline represents a slight shift from the character’s four-color origins. The Wasp debuted in a 1963 issue of Marvel’s Tales to Astonish. She was Janet van Dyne, a socialite who is given powers by the original Ant-Man. In a nod to the passage of time, the movie’s Wasp is the daughter of Janet, Hope van Dyne.
Who is the Wasp?
The Wasp was created by the legendary team of writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby (along with writer Ernie Hart), and Lee in an early-1960s interview admitted her introduction was an attempt to give Ant-Man, who’d first appeared in September 1961, “a shot in the arm.” It worked. Marvel’s staff and readers alike quickly developed a fondness for the Wasp. She was an inaugural member of the Avengers in 1963 and was responsible for suggesting the group’s name.
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One reason for her popularity could have been down to the artist who drew some of her first adventures. Don Heck was known for penciling particularly beautiful women. He claimed he drew inspiration from his “good-looking" wife. The Marvel office was flooded with letters from its largely male readership praising Heck’s renditions of the Wasp and other alluring heroines, including the Black Widow.
But when the Marvel Cinematic Universe began to be built, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, the Wasp kept getting swatted away. Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed 2012’s The Avengers, penned an early draft of the script that included the Wasp after it appeared that Scarlett Johansson, who plays Black Widow, would not be available.
“But [the script] was way too Wasp-y,” Whedon said during a 2012 appearance at the Directors Guild of America. “I was like, ‘She’s adorable! I’m just going to watch her.’”
A bit late maybe, but she’s now arrived, becoming the first Marvel heroine to receive title billing. Considering her importance in Marvel history, if there is a sequel, they may want to call it The Wasp and Ant-Man.