Issue(s): Avengers #213
Iron Man contemplates Henry Pym via view screens that depict various scenes in his life. He makes an interesting observation that when Pym gained his growth powers... "Things never seemed to work out too well for Giant-Man! The growth process was such a strain on his body that he was generally too wasted to accomplish much!"
Continuing the trend on his second run, Shooter is simply too heavy handed. Having Hank and Janet return to Janet's mansion after the initial review, Shooter depicts Janet's servants as being ridiculously rude to Hank. "Madame, would you like us to begin preparing your lunch now? ...And Mr. Pym's too, of course!", and so on.
Also, the Wasp is wearing perhaps her most exploitative outfit yet.
While everyone is waiting around for the final trial and searching their feelings regarding Hank and his actions, Tigra learns that all active Avengers receive a $1,000 weekly stipend.
That's pretty good in today's money. It's the equivalent of about a $120,000 salary today, adjusted for inflation.
But Pym doesn't spend his time idly. He's working on a giant killer robot that only he can inactivate.
His plan is to have the robot attack the Avengers during his trial, and then he saves the day. The problem is that Janet catches him doing it.
He lashes out, hitting her, giving her a black eye.
As i wrote in the summary for issue #212, there's a valid reading of Henry Pym that supports this kind of action. But Shooter's writing style is so stiff, it really comes out forced. I think this was a good move, creatively. It brings a lot of subtext about Pym forward, and it will eventually allow the Wasp to grow quite a bit as a character. But right now, just in the context of this issue, it's pretty bad. It's generally said of Shooter that he's a good plotter but a bad scripter. And i think that bears out here.
Anyway, Janet is cowed into going along with it, but at the trial Pym is totally paranoid and irrational.
Janet reveals her black eye to the group.
Pym responds by summoning his robot...
...but he gets captured by it before he can disable it, so the Wasp has to do it. Which, to Pym, is the final insult.
Amazingly, the Avengers let him walk out of the room.
One good thing is that no subsequent writer ever thought that bringing back the robot Pym used this issue would be a brilliant idea.
It's clear that Pym is out of his head at this time. This issue has gotten Pym labeled a wife-beater, and it's occasionally implied that this was just one of many times when he hit Janet, but that's not the intention here. This is a study of mental illness, not domestic violence.
Jim Shooter has actually backtracked on the idea that he intended for Jan to get hit. It was supposed to be backhanded, accidental slap, but Bob Hall overdid it. I'm not sure if i buy that. The subsequent scene where Wasp shows up with a black eye says to me that the implied wife-beating aspect was a big part of this (again, even though it's really about Hank having a breakdown, not being abusive per se).
On a much lighter note, in the lettercol for this issue, someone writes in documenting every one of the Wasp's costume changes. This is only as of 1981, mind you!
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
Syndrome's plan in the Incredibles is very similar to Pym's in this issue. (Build giant robot to be menace, give it a vulnerability I will exploit, swoop in to save the day & everybody will love me!)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | September 18, 2013 8:56 PM
As you so rightly say, there is the background to Pym's state of mind here from years past, he has had almost as many breakdowns as Aunt May had heart attacks. The problem is that Shooter handles it in such a clumsy way. You cited the way Jan's butler treats Pym, which is surely a quick way of handing in your notice.
Posted by: Mike Teague | December 17, 2013 3:08 PM
Yeah, after hearing of this for years I was really surprised when I heard more of it. I mean he's in a mental illness phase, Janet forgivet eventually and he regretted that.
Now Ultimate Hank Pym is an abuser but at times I still wish Pym was known for more things since I kind of like him.
I've heard the art direction has another side to it. Apparently Pym was supposed to be merely spreading his arms on in dramatic fashion and only accidentally struck Janet.
Posted by: David Banes | February 6, 2014 3:27 AM
Hank Pym was treated the way he always should have been during Dan Slott's run on Mighty Avengers from around 2006.
I really like Pym too. I didn't mind the later "fallen hero" phase when I was first reading them, but I had never been a fan of Pym. Then I read the Essential Ant Man book, and I saw the potential that Henry Pym could be, but I never saw that really looked into until Mighty Avengers.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | February 6, 2014 7:50 PM
I've read very few comics that feature Hank in any way, shape or form, but he is one of my favorite characters to describe the Marvel Method of supeheroes.
He shouldn't be a superhero. He's unstable, beats his wife, can't keep an identity for long. I really want him to be in the next "Avengers" movie, just so he can fall apart when the team needs him most, and (hopefully) the Wasp will be there to save them.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 21, 2014 9:18 PM
Ironically, Chris, those are the basic reasons why he ISN'T included in any MCU movie (including the one that is supposedly about his namesake.)
Incidentally, fnord, have you ever read Shooter's account of this issue that states that Hank backhanding Pym was not suppose to be in the script and was "accidentally" included? If you haven't it's here:
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 25, 2014 3:27 PM
Thanks, Jon. I have seen it but it seems kind of like a revisionist memory to me considering how important it is to the story later on.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 26, 2014 12:22 AM
Jon, I'm sure you're right, it's just that he's such a great example of the Marvel 'superheroes with problems' stereotype, and not from the positive side of things. I completely understand why Marvel movies will never play this up, I just think they're missing a great opportunity. Someone's missing it anyway, if they wanted to rip-off the basic idea.
Hell, I've ripped off the basic idea. Years ago, I did a 200-page graphic novel about a Hank Pym/Tony Stark-type superhero. [I can write and lay out a page, I understand the mechanics of comics storytelling, but my art isn't remotely publishable and my lettering is garbage.] Early Silver Age hero who'd messed his life up about as badly as he could and still walk around loose. Gets some respect for being around so long and for what little effectiveness he has, but that's about it. But he keeps plugging away, poor bastard.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 29, 2014 7:21 PM
I should clarify the 'accidentally' hit Jane comment. I meant to add that one story had the artist making it look more deliberate when the script called for a 'dramatic open armed gesture' with one hand accidentally hitting Janet.
But again could be revisionist memory there.
Posted by: david banes | November 30, 2014 12:25 AM
Fnord mentions that $1000 weekly stipend for active Avengers is about $120,000 in today's money. But really, it's so much more. For someone like Tigra, who lives in the mansion (no rent), gets her meals in the mansion (no food) and lives where she works (no transportation) that's actually a huge amount of spending she doesn't have to do. And given that she'll only pay taxes on $1000 she makes per week, that makes it even more valuable (and possibly Stark has the money paid out so that the $1000 is post-tax, given how the check is actually for $1000). It's actually an incredible amount of money to be bringing in. Hell, even today, to bring $1000 a week without having to pay any rent, food or transportation is actually a ridiculous amount of money, let alone back in 1981.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 2, 2015 6:38 AM
It does bring into context the whole "Spidey wants to join" arc that comes up during Stern's run. Heck with Greer's obsession in chasing mice even at this point, she doesn't even have to work "that hard" for food. (love her panel of just lying there on the stairwell for some reason)
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 2, 2015 7:08 AM
Heck, for all everyone talks about Spidey being a "loner", it's a wonder he wasn't knocking on the door of the Mansion every other day.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 2, 2015 8:23 AM
Horrible writing. Horrible art. The golden days of the avengers are gone. Then theres the crappy robot.
Shooter's excuse underlines how bad it all is, but is clearly BS, if it was as he says, why did the wasp have a proeminent black eye? Certainly an harmless, almost accidental, scraping wouldn't result in it.
Posted by: FlipPhone | April 5, 2018 11:52 PM
Another random thought: considering Pym invented Ultron, one of their greatest foes...why would they even let him anywhere near anything robotic without it being a disaster? Wouldn't the fact that a robot appears in the midst of Hank's trial be suspicious enough already?
I actually don't mind this run mostly due to a lot of the psychological aspects of what it means to be a hero or do the right thing that are in play with everything Shooter does, both in the earlier run with Korvac and this run. Sure it feels over the top at time but I still say it works.
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 6, 2018 8:58 AM
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