Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, one of the most-anticipated movies of early 2023, features Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer as the happily betrothed Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, who seem at the start of the film’s trailer to be happily reunited after Janet’s escape from decades in the Quantum Realm.
But in the Marvel comics that inspired the film, they have a darker dynamic. Hank Pym is best known in Marvel comics for being a wife beater. In one infamous scene, published in 1981 in The Avengers #213, a cowardly and pathetic Hank hits a negligee-clad Janet so hard that he knocks her off her feet. He’s in the midst of a personal crisis, in which he feels like a failure, and striking his wife is his absolute low point.
It was also, apparently, never supposed to happen. Jim Shooter, who was writing Avengers at the time — and serving as Marvel’s editor-in-chief — wrote in a blog post a decade ago that he wrote a scene in which “Hank is supposed to have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of ‘get away from me’ gesture while not looking at her.” But penciler (that’s comic-book talk for “artist”) Bob Hall took things in a different direction.
“Bob Hall, who had been taught by John Buscema to always go for the most extreme action, turned that into a right cross! There was no time to have it redrawn, which, to this day has caused the tragic story of Hank Pym to be known as the ‘wife-beater’ story,” Shooter explained.
Obviously, hitting your spouse by accident isn’t great, either. But it’s not as bad as a deliberate right cross. The reprehensible domestic abuse was the final nail in a marriage that was ultimately doomed, Shooter wrote, by Pym’s insecurity.
“His history was largely a litany of failure, always changing guises and switching back and forth from research to hero-ing because he wasn’t succeeding at either,” Shooter wrote. “He was never the Avenger who saved the day at the end and usually the first knocked out or captured. His most notable ‘achievement’ in the lab was creating Ultron. Meanwhile, his rich, beautiful wife succeeded in everything she tried. She was also always flitting around his shoulders, flirting, saying things to prop up his ego.”
The MCU version of Hank Pym has gotten some terrific image rehabilitation since 1981. In the MCU films, of course, Hank’s greatest comic-book “accomplishment” (read: not an accomplishment) is redistributed to Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. It is Tony, not Hank, who accidentally introduced the age of Ultron in, you know, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
And while the MCU Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas would never strike Janet, he did fail to keep her from slipping into the Quantum Realm, which is, let’s be honest, not great. The trailer suggests that she may have had a little history there that has gone unexplained — until now. You can watch above.
Also: Of course we all know Hank Pym isn’t the Ant-Man of the modern MCU. Though he invented the Ant-Man technology, the new Ant-Man is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who pals around in miniature form with the modern wasp, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly.) Scott may be a convict, but he carries none of Hank Pym’s comic-book baggage.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania arrives in theaters Feb. 17, 2023.