Size does matter. Just ask Hank Pym, who has conquered, and even patented, every size and shape a superhero can be.
Pym made his debut half a century ago in 1962’s Tales To Astonish #27, and has been the key figure in many of Marvel’s greatest moments, including forming the original Avengers back in 1963, and creating one of the team’s most formidable foes, Ultron.
Although he was the original Ant-Man, he has also had several other superhero personas, from Giant-Man and Yellowjacket to plain old Doctor Pym.
Besides playing hero himself, Pym also had a hand in the origin of several other heroes, courtesy of his Pym Particles – The Wasp, two other Ant-Men (Scott Lang and Erik O’Grady), four other Goliaths (Clint Barton, Bill Foster, Tom Foster and Erik Josten), Stature, and a female Yellow Jacket.
Yet, despite his versatility and achievements, he was still deemed unworthy of headlining the upcoming Ant-Man movie, which will be released in Malaysia on July 17.
In all fairness, the man who took that place is no small fry either. A doting father and former criminal turned superhero, Scott Lang has stamped his mark over the years, and was even hand-picked by Reed Richards to lead a replacement Fantastic Four team in the recent FF series.
While Pym does make an appearance in the movie (played by Michael Douglas, no less), most comic sentimentalists (us included) would have preferred to see Pym headlining the movie. So, in the spirit of Team Pym, this week, we pay tribute to the many names and personas of Hank Pym throughout his turbulent 52-year history.
Henry Jonathan “Hank” Pym
Naturally, the story of Hank Pym started on an anthill, with a story called The Man In The Ant Hill in the science fiction/fantasy anthology Tales To Astonish #27 (1962).
The seven-page story introduced us to Pym, a scientist who tested his own shrinking technology on himself and ended up getting chased by ants and bees.
In an era when alien invaders and cosmic rays were the flavour of the day, the concept of an ant-sized human was surprisingly intriguing, and sales of Tales To Astonish #27 were encouraging enough to convince co-creators Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby to turn the former ant-sized man into a superhero!
Pym made his official debut as Ant-Man in Tales To Astonish #35 (1962). His early adventures revolved around fighting spies, to weirdo baddies like Egg Head. Sadly, he never got his own book.
The introduction of Janet Van Dyne aka The Wasp during those early years (in 1963’s Tales To Astonish #44, to be exact) added spice and colour to Pym‘s adventures. The couple’s relationship went beyond love, as they played an instrumental role in the formation of the Avengers.
Eventually, size did matter to Pym. In Tales To Astonish #49, he discovered that his technology could be used to make things bigger as well as smaller, and he decided to supersize himself and become Giant-Man.
On the surface, the decision to go big was prompted by the presence of the more powerful Avengers (Thor, Hulk and Captain America), but an underlying reason that was needling Pym was Van Dyne’s flirtatious nature – which made him very insecure about his abilities.
Pym and Van Dyne eventually began a romantic relationship, and with that, came another change in Pym’s story.
Unfortunately, the constant changes in size eventually caused a strain on Pym’s body, and he decided to retire from being Giant-Man, and quit the Avengers together with Van Dyne. However, when she was captured by Namor villain Attuma, he rejoined the Avengers to rescue her, under the name Goliath. Unfortunately, he could only grow to a height of 7.6m (25ft), and could only do so for 15 minutes. At one point, he stayed big for too long, and could not revert to his normal size. That caused him to become depressed and contributed to his worsening mental issues.
Lacking character and self-confidence in his own abilities, Pym eventually succumbed to the mental strain. In a moment of weakness, and thanks to a couple of broken chemical vials, he suffered a schizophrenic episode and adopted a new identity – Yellowjacket, named after the predatory wasp.
This new character was a hybrid of Ant-Man and the Wasp but with a big, bad attitude. His debut (Avengers #59) was controversial, as he misled the Avengers into believing that he had defeated Goliath and killed Hank Pym!
What was even more alarming was the instant connection between Yellowjacket and Wasp, which led to them getting married within two issues (Avengers #59 and #60). It was later revealed that the Wasp had known it was Pym all along, and was merely playing along with Yellowjacket’s ruse.
Pym created the Wasp identity for Van Dyne in 1963 when he grafted wings onto her using Pym Particles. During the Secret Invasion event, he was kidnapped and replaced by a Skrull.
When he came back, he was distraught to find out that Van Dyne had supposedly been killed during the battle with the Skrulls (she turned out to have been merely trapped in the Microverse). As a result, Pym became the new Wasp, as a tribute to his supposedly dead ex-wife (Secret Invasion: Requiem).
Father of Ultron
Contrary to what we saw in the Avengers: Age Of Ultron movie, Pym, not Tony Stark, was the creator of Ultron. When Pym’s depression kicked in, so did his dark side – resulting in the creation of Ultron, who would go on to torment him and the Avengers for decades.
Pym is actually one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe, rivaling Reed Richards and Hank McCoy (The Beast). He was even named “Scientist Supreme of Earth” by Eternity, the omnipotent being that is the collective consciousness of all living things in the universe.
However, his brilliance will always be personified by his patented “Pym particles” – the sizing process of increasing/decreasing mass from an alternate dimension.
The highest accord and recognition for Pym’s brilliance came in the form of his induction as a member of the Illuminati. Pym was the one who deduced that the Beyonders were responsible for the universal incursions that had been plaguing the Multiverse in the run-up to the current Secret Wars event.
Pym’s life has always been defined by extremes – small to big, hero to anti-hero, creator to destroyer. These hero-to-zero streaks are synonymous with Pym’s self-destructive persona, but the biggest blot on his illustrious career has to be the physical abuse he unleashed on Van Dyne, which resulted in him being thrown out of the Avengers and the couple splitting up (Avengers #214).
While the Earth-616 version is a whole lot “milder”, the Ultimate Universe incarnation took the abuse to bloodier levels. Blaming it on immaturity, the couple eventually reconciled.
Besides forming the original Avengers team, Pym also set another milestone in Avengers history by founding the Avengers Academy – a programme dedicated to helping train young people with newly-acquired superpowers. Think of him as Professor X for non-mutants!