In 2015’s Ant-Man, Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans got their first look at the Wasp, and the recent trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp shows her in action for the first time. But who exactly is the Wasp? Why might her arrival signal the beginning of a new, more feminist Avengers team?
Hope van Dyne, Thwarted Heroine
In the MCU, the woman beneath the Wasp suit is Hope van Dyne, daughter of former S.H.I.E.L.D scientist Hank Pym. Their relationship was strained after the death of Hope’s mother, leading her to team up with Darren Cross to oust Hank from his company. This newfound alliance was short-lived, as she returned to Hank’s side after witnessing Darren’s lust for power. Despite their reunion, when Hank needed someone to wear the Ant-Man suit, he chose thief Scott Lang over his own daughter.
Hope doesn’t take being pushed aside in favour of a random man particularly well. She understandably takes her frustration out on Scott, even getting rough with him during martial arts training. After all, she is better qualified to carry out the mission. While the movie eventually reveals that Hank chose Lang to save his daughter from her late mother’s fate, Hope’s stance against her father’s perceived sexism is in perfect keeping with the comic book character that inspired her.
Janet van Dyne, Feminist Leader
In Marvel comics, the woman beneath the Wasp suit is Janet van Dyne, Hope’s late mother in the MCU. Though the MCU has handed their mantles off to a younger generation, in the comics, it is Hank Pym and his wife Janet who fight villains as Ant-Man and the Wasp. Hope has had a relatively small role in the films so far, but this belies the importance of her comic book mother. As a founding member and eventual leader of the Avengers, Janet van Dyne has led the team for longer than anyone — except Captain America.
Janet van Dyne owes her membership to her intelligence and combat skills. What she lacks in strength, she makes up for in resourcefulness and courageousness. She uses these abilities to fight not only supervillains but also a much more powerful force: sexism.
As a leader of the Avengers, Janet van Dyne becomes a trailblazer for female superheroes. She actively seeks out women for the team, recruiting heroes such as She-Hulk and Captain Marvel. Her recruiting efforts pay off, as she gets to preside over the first Avengers lineup where women outnumber the men. Sure, she got resistance from bigoted heroes like Hercules, but none could stop her pursuit of equal opportunity.
Nadia van Dyne, S.H.I.E.L.D Trailblazer
The MCU’s Hope van Dyne differs somewhat from the Wasp in the comics. For instance, Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne never had a daughter (in fact, they divorced). However, Marvel creators did base Hope on another Marvel comics character as well, Nadia Pym, Hank Pym’s daughter from a previous marriage.
Unfortunately, Hank didn’t know she existed, as Nadia’s mother was abducted before her birth. After being raised in the same Red Room that created Black Widow, Nadia escapes and creates her own Wasp suit to emulate her father. She eventually meets and bonds with her stepmother Janet, choosing the last name “van Dyne” to honour the first person to believe in her.
Nadia takes on the mantle of Wasp alongside her stepmother and becomes a strong advocate for women within S.H.I.E.L.D. When she discovers that S.H.I.E.L.D’s index of most intelligent people doesn’t list any women above 27th place, she launches her own initiative to find and recruit female geniuses for the organisation.
Marvel’s New Age
Hollywood is undergoing a radical shift as progressive movements break ground for groups that have yet to achieve empowering representation. Marvel finally moved the needle with Black Panther, which received critical acclaim for its representation of African and African-American peoples. It’s only a matter of time before women become a dominant force in the MCU’s famous superhero squad. Hope van Dyne is the perfect candidate for triggering this change. Both of her comic book inspirations are proven feminist leaders who broke ground for women in the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. If she isn’t the one to lift their legacy off the page and onto the silver screen, it will be a massive wasted opportunity for Marvel.
Ant-Man ended with Hank Pym offering his daughter a prototype of the Wasp suit. Now, she’s ready to fly out into the world and lead the way in the fight for good and equality. To quote Hope when she receives her suit, “It’s about damn time.”