Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Marvel 1962: Pym

On the heels of the Fantastic Four's return to Earth, we have the arrival of another Man of Marvelous Science, Dr. Henry Pym. How can we wedge this ever shifting character into the Marvel Drewniverse? Start him out as Ant-Man? Giant-Man? Goliath? Yellow Jacket? Whackjob?

Thing is, looking back at Marvel's publishing history, Pym didn't become a superhero until 1963. His first appearance was more in line with Marvel's standard science fiction one-off stories of the day - Scientist discovers Science Thing, Commies and/or Nazis try to steal Science Thing, Accident Occurs, Uh-oh, Scientist uses Science Thing to triumph in the end. This is one of Marvel's go-to plots (Scientist = Pym, Science Thing = Shrinking Chemical, Accident = Chemicals spill, Uh-oh = Bees, bees, bees) used almost as often as the "And Then Aliens Show Up" plot.

Pym was never a popular character with Marvel. Actually, looking back, he seems to be more of a plot device than anything. To be fair, though, when you compare stories where on one hand you have a guy hassling gangsters with bugs while on the other you have a stretchy guy scaring off God with an electric toothbrush, it'll be hard for bug dude to gain some traction with the fans.

This lack of fan affection is why Pym went through so many different iterations. Fighting bugs not dramatic enough? How about fighting giants?! No? Uh... Well, what if he's, uh, edgy? Like a real jerk in yellow? Edgier, you say? Okay, he also smacks his wife around. And makes a robot that will kill us all. Twice.

Seriously. wot

If I was doing this reboot like I did the DC one and was working on a title-by-title basis, Pym would not get one of his own. I'd tack him in with one of the supergroups (much like Marvel does) and call it a day. I think I'll do something similar here.

Dr. Henry "Hank" Pym was never Ant-Man.

Sure, in 1962, he discovers the Pym Particle which controls basic atomic functions like size and mass and stuff. Sure, some rat-fink Commies try to get their hands on that research by strong arming Pym's boss, Dr. Vernon van Dyne. And of course things go wrong and van Dyne dies. We can even have that original accident where Pym gets shrunk and has to run away from bees or whatever.

No, the real hero (and future Avenger) is Janet van Dyne. She's the one that has the motivational tragedy that most superheroes need to start their careers. Pym can provide her with the abilities - A Pym Particle belt that lets her shrink and fly, wasp-wings that are used more as a shield than flight control (Pym remembers being almost stepped on and how Not Fun that was), and even her stingers which are basically little balls of shrunk matter that expand on contact like mini-explosions. Armed with Pym's tech, Janet is able to avenge the death of her father and bring the bad guys to justice.

As for Pym, he quits the university and goes to work as a consultant. He charges big fees to big companies for working on making their stuff smaller. The money goes to finance his own research. He's got some additional financial backing from Janet (the van Dynes are Old Money) and she sticks around to help protect her investment. Pym does not go out into the field more than a few times over the course of his career. He's a lab rat, he builds stuff.

Stuff like Ultron.


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