Dr. Henry Pym was a scientist of many fields, highly skilled in engineering, computer programming, chemistry, biology, and entomology. Thanks to his development of “Pym Particles,” which could be delivered in liquid or gas form, Hank could grow up to 25 feet (gaining superhuman strength in the process) or shrink down enough to ride on the back of an ant (while maintaining the strength of his original size). After building a cybernetic helmet that let him communicate with insects, Pym became the original hero called Ant-Man.
Not too long afterward, Hank met young Janet Van Dyne and aided her in avenging her father’s death. So she could take on dangerous criminals, Hank treated Jan so that if she used Pym Particles to shrink down, she’d develop wings for flight. Armed with stinging energy blasts, Jan called herself the Wasp and embraced the life of a superhero, even pushing Hank into adventuring more often.
Ant-Man and Wasp became founding members of the Avengers and Jan was actually the one to come up with the team’s name. Soon after joining the group, Hank evolved his identity to Giant-Man. Over the course of his career, he used other identities and costumes, calling himself Goliath or Yellowjacket at different times. Over the years, other people have taken up the mantles of his different alter egos. Scott Lang became the second Ant-Man and later, after he was killed, the alias was adopted by former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Eric O’Grady.
A few years after joining the team, Hank and Jan got married but later split for many reasons. They tried a few times to re-unite, but always seemed to separate again. During the crossover Secret Invasion, Jan’s life was sacrificed. To honor her memory, Hank Pym has taken on the Wasp identity, giving himself wings and a new suit. In a mini-series that started this week, he’s been forced to fight alongside O’Grady, bringing us a new Ant-Man and Wasp team that doesn’t quite get along.
So you know the basics, let’s now take a look at the many looks of Ant-Man and the Wasp. We’ll be focusing on the mainstream Marvel reality rather than parallel universes. And I realize Hank Pym (and others) also adopted the identities of Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket, but if I mention all of those too, we’ll have a novel. So they’ll all just have to wait for a separate column. Okay? Let’s get started then!
ANT-MAN 1: THE MAN CALLED PYM
Soon after he was first introduced in Tales to Astonish #27 (1962), Hank Pym established himself as a whimsical, nerdy adventurer. For instance, whenever he was in his lab and learned about trouble in Manhattan, he would get into costume, shrink down and then literally launch himself from a mini catapult he’d created. Readers would see Ant-Man soar through the air as he called for helpful ants to catch him before he hit the pavement. How hilarious is that?
I mention this because it informs us on what kind of look the character should have. Hank was not trying to be some dark avenger or a tortured vigilante. He was a good-natured geek who loved working in his lab and kind of did the superhero thing on the side, when he felt he was really needed. Insects creep some people out, but Hank didn’t want to scare anyone as Ant-Man. He was a friendly guy who volunteered to help when he could.
This first costume of Hank’s is quite cool actually. Over the years, just about every Ant-Man costume has referenced this look in some way, so obviously it’s got something working for it. The circle and line design give a subtle hint of an insect form when you connect it to the ant-like helmet above. Much more interesting than just blatantly drawing a big ant on his shirt.
This outfit also works even if you change some of the elements a little bit. Altering it from a line to the neck into two lines going over the shoulders doesn’t ruin look and it works just as well if you make the gloves and boots blue or black with blue highlights. After he altered his Pym Particles from liquid to a gas, Hank started wearing the delivery system as gas canisters on his belt. First it was one canister on each side. Later, they served as a belt buckle.
If there’s one thing I would change it’s the shorts just because I don’t like shorts over trousers in general. But the rest of this suit is pretty utilitarian actually, which makes sense for a guy who’s more scientist than superhero.
Even the helmet isn’t really there to be a cool mask, it has a function. It shows that Ant-Man is a great blend between design and simple practicality.
Of course, the helmet could do with looking a little sleeker and cooler. Sure enough, some artists would later put their own spin on it, giving it lenses and making it more form fitting.
Hey, did you know that Fox used to have this awful cartoon called Avengers: United They Stand? Yeah, it was bad and had this notion that Avengers could not be cool without robotic armor. So let’s look a the lameness of this version of Ant-Man… Mmm-hmm… Okay, we’re done now.
Oh, hey, what’s this. It’s how Ant-Man is seen in the new cartoon Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Well done, animators. And this cool, form-fitting version of his helmet actually can shrink away in the cartoon. And when Hank chooses to grow, it adds new design elements to give his Giant-Man identity a distinct look. Very cool all around.
ANT-MAN 2: SCOTT LANG, FAMILY MAN
Introduced in 1979, Scott Lang was a family man whose daughter Cassie became seriously ill. Unable to pay for her treatment, Lang returned to thieving ways he’d used in the past and stole Pym’s Ant-Man technology, using it to help him track down a medical expert who could help Cassie. He then intended to turn over the equipment to Pym again and turn himself in, but Pym sympathized and suggested that Lang make up for his criminal acts by acting as a hero, making him the second Ant-Man.
Pym had a part-time superhero career at most for years. He worked alongside Avengers such as Iron Man and with the Fantastic Four. Later on, because it was the 90s and we did a lot of dumb and weird things then, he had this new outfit he made for himself. And hey, isn’t that weird? It looks like he raided Spider-Man’s closet in the process!
When he saw this image, Newsarama Blog Editor David Pepose told me that he thought Ben Reilly could bring a lawsuit against Lang here. Yes, I realize that his ant has only six legs rather than eight and his body is divided into three sections rather than two, but just look at this, people. He looks like Spider-Man! Moving on.
Lang later went for a look that was a lot better for making sure that people didn’t confuse him for New York’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. This recalls Pym’s original look but distinguishes Lang as his own person. This suit says that he’s not just Hank Pym Lite, he’s a hero in his own right who happens to be following someone else’s legacy. A very cool design.
When Mount Rushmore was hit with a germ weapon, Scott Lang broke out this new hazmat-style Ant-Man suit. This is another fun take on things and the new helmet definitely brings a more insect, and even alien, quality to the look. It’s pretty cool, but we’re losing the “man” part of the equation. Lang is no more a dark vigilante than Pym is, so let’s not forget that.
ANT-MAN 3: THE IRREDEEMABLE ERIC O’GRADY
The third Ant-Man was introduced in 2006 in The Irredeemable Ant-Man #1. The story revealed that the international anti-terrorism agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. had some special Pym-tech armor put into creation, a suit that would allow for fun Pym Particles, insect communication, and several other tricks for combat. A couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents named Chris McCarthy (not a bad guy) and Eric O’Grady (not a great guy) came across this suit. McCarthy tried it on for a bit and then got killed when enemy agents infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. O’Grady panicked and took the armor to escape and one thing led to another, making him the new Ant-Man.
This first look is a whole new twist on things. It recalls the color scheme of Pym’s look, but is definitely its own animal. Which is fine, since Eric O’Grady was not the hero that Scott Lang or Hank Pym tried to be. He used his shrinking abilities to help him peek in on women showering. He was a self-serving guy and even when he rescued a woman from a purse-snatcher, he immediately suggested that she could repay this act by joining him for dinner. Not that he’s a villain, just that he’s not the most altruistic of people.
Another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Mitch Carson was given a similar suit of armor as we can see here. This is more more in keeping with the classic original Ant-Man look, but the added plates down the sides and the number of armor pieces just makes it a little too busy. And the size of those boots just look like they’d slow him down.
For a short time, O’Grady was a member of the Thunderbolts, which at the time was a team comprised mainly of criminals and crazies who were sent on black ops missions. In this spirit, O’Grady got himself a darker suit of armor. It’s a nice design but definitely takes away from the more whimsical aspects of the character.
This later helmet he got was also a bit too Voltron for me. Ant-Man can wear a helmet, but he shouldn’t look too much like a robot.
This armor isn’t bad, but it’s too far away from looking like an insect or like Pym’s original suit to give you a sense of the character. And if it weren’t for the dialogue, you wouldn’t have any inkling that this wasn’t a dark, dangerous character. Basically, this suit would be better for a different hero or if Ant-Man was meant to be a darker hero.
After leaving the Thunderbolts, O’Grady has joined the Secret Avengers, a somewhat secret team of heroes led by Steve Rogers (the original Captain America). Now surrounded by true-blue heroes, Eric’s trying to be a little more noble himself, someone worthy of the Ant-Man name.
To reflect that, we’ve got the basic Pym look but with shoulder pads and elbow pads. My initial thought is that this looks like a sillier version of Pym’s classic look, but you know what? O’Grady IS silly. He’s a nut. So it actually kind of works for him. I’m not supposed to take him that seriously. So for now, I’m okay with this.
WASP: JANET VAN DYNE, FASHION QUEEN
Janet Van Dyne made her first appearance in 1963 in Tales to Astonish #44. She met Hank, got her powers, and got this outfit. This first Wasp costume is pretty fun. Its colors match her partner Hank, but the outfit is not designed to look exactly like his. This makes them appear to be on the same team without also making her a secondary version of him.
It’s got a nice cut to it and depending on the issue Janet would either have a skirt or tight shorts over her leggings. Since they extend from the tunic, the shorts over the trousers bothers me less. The gloves give her a pixie quality that complements the wings. The only real problem I have with this look is the headpiece. Seriously, what’s with the pointy head? It looks ridiculous.
Jan later changed her headpiece to a form-fitting cowl. This looks better definitely but it’s still odd to have a cowl and no mask. Does Jan feel the need to disguise her hair?
Jan later let some of her hair show, which is good, but she also took away the cool neckline of her suit. Taking that away and adding a small, plain W to the shirt makes it seem a little plainer, a little less fun.
After several adventures with the Avengers, the Wasp got herself a new full mask and brought back the neckline without the shoulder pads. This is a sleek, pretty sexy look and the W on the mask also does a great job of indicating antennae.
Jan then left the Avengers for a while and when she came back she embraced the fact that she is a superhero with an interest in fashion designing. So she began making a habit of changing her costume whenever the whim struck her. So rather than listing them in strict chronological order, let’s shake things up a bit by going through the worst and best of Jan’s Wasp identity.
Oh, and before anyone asks. Yes, I’m aware that several adventures featured Jan acting as a hero in whatever dress she was wearing because she had the foresight to have a lot of her clothing made from unstable molecule fabric, a special cloth invented by Reed Richards that interacts with powers. But these were dresses and outfits Jan wore to go out, not to act as a superhero, so we’re not counting them as Wasp uniforms, sorry.
WORST OF THE WASP
If you’re not going to wear a mask and you’re going to let your hair hang out, great, but don’t don a little skull cap as well. It just looks odd and unnecessary.
I’m not against showing some skin, but the cut and look of this just makes it seem cheap.
Yikes. No. The W design on the shirt and boots are nice and work together, but the one on the shorts is a clashing design and very distracting. The line around around the stomach doesn’t really work for me and the color is just not right at all. If it were a darker orange, I’d think Jan was hosting a Thanksgiving special.
Good for vacationing on a resort, not for being a superhero. And the boots give it a winter look, whereas the rest of the outfit seems like beach wear.
If Jan were going down a runway, I’d say go for it. But if you want to go into battle, no. I’m not into superhero costumes being 100% practical because hey, comic books are a visual medium where fabric will do whatever the artist says, but there’s still a limit.
The shirt’s neckline is boring as is the plain W on her chest. Not awful but we can do better.
Purple and green in comics are usually associated with villains or menaces so it’s not something I necessarily want to see on Janet. The way the pants meet the boots and the sleeves meet the gloves makes this seem like an ill-fitting jumpsuit rather than the sleek costumes she usually sports. And on top of all that, there’s nothing interesting in this design or with the W.
Jan clearly was on her way to a Star Trek convention. Or she was trying out for a part in some remake of Buck Rogers. Either way, this is a weirdly retro-futuristic look that doesn’t quite work.
I’m tempted to call this the “Designing Women costume.” Man, nothing says 80s on a woman like shoulder pads and puffy sleeves with a jacket that makes you look frumpier than you really are. Not attractive, Jan, sorry.
There’s minimal and then there’s boring. This could be anyone’s jump suit.
Close, but a little too Tinkerbell.
So the 90s came along and gave us this story where Janet was mutated into a real human/wasp hybrid. Not only did he get orange skin and awful hair, she got this ridiculous outfit that is not at all flattering. And what’s with that random belt on the thigh?
Ah! What is this? What are you wearing? No. No, I don’t like this. It looks like you were jazzercising in the 80s and decided that would be your superhero look.
This is not a bad suit, but it looks like it’s supposed to be for a fire-based hero rather than an insect-based one.
Not a bad costume, but not right for Jan. The design looks too much like a bird, which confuses the message when your alias is “Wasp.”
Changing the colors doesn’t help in this case.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for that collar and the long gloves. Janet comes off looking like an old school Bond villain or some intergalactic queen that fought Flash Gordon.
I don’t like these colors together like this and I don’t like the diamond on the stomach.
If the boots matched the color of the gloves, this might work, but too much of the suit blends in with each other.
Pretty boring compared to other suits she’s worn. And the blue gloves seem to clash with the rest of the look.
It’s not as interesting as some of the other red and blue outfits Jan has worn. And I’m not crazy about the giant W on her stomach.
This is close but just misses the mark. The dark crimson over the lighter red is just a bit odd. It seems like the elements here are fighting each other for attention.
BEST OF THE WASP
This is considered by many to be Jan’s classic costume, after her original. Not just because she wore it for many classic adventures but also because she wore many other versions of it in different colors, sometimes adding a belt or a W badge over her heart. Let’s look at some of those versions.
This one’s my favorite of the classic looks, by the way.
This one take on the classic look I’m not as crazy about because I don’t like this collar on her or the shirt underneath altering the neckline. But it works.
If there’s a problem with this outfit, it’s that it’s maybe too sexy. But this was the first time we really got a sense that Jan was a fashion designer and man, look at that outfit. It’s revealing but not trashy, it’s design works for both a superhero battle and a runway show. And the boots and bracelets let you know that she’s ready for some tough business.
I want to start off by saying that I’d like to either shorten the red boots or have them be black and seamlessly match the leggings. But other than that change, I like this look. The collar is very cool and rose the eyebrows of several women I showed this too, and the line work that forms a W in the back is great.
There’s just something very sexy about this. The line work and the way that all the colors work in tandem is very cool. And it’s a nice callback to her original colors.
Love it. It says superhero and fashion designer in the same breath. The asymmetrical look is great and done in a sexy way of revealing one leg and one arm. And a clever take on mixing up the W with the neckline.
This is close to the minimal yellow look we saw in the Worst section, but the purple is a more dramatic color and the neckline and W belt are enough to make this a stronger look.
Very cute look. Nice colors and cutting the top into a W is clever.
This is a very fun, very retro superhero look. It’s sleek, it’s got a fun belt, and the line work of the W extending into the rest of the costume is quite cool.
This is very cool. Sleek, great colors, great neckline. Maybe a few too many arrows with the boots and gloves.
This was Jan’s final costume that she wore until her last adventure. This is probably the most strict superhero-style outfit that she’s ever worn. It’s a practical black jumpsuit that’s form fitting and has one simple design element to indicate an insect. I like this outfit a lot, yet kind of miss that nothing about this says “fashion designer” as well.
This is how Jan looks on the new cartoon Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s a great cartoon and Jan has been portrayed very well in it. And I’ve gotta say, this is probably my favorite Wasp outfit. It says superhero but it’s also a dress she can party in.
The yellow and black sections of her dress say “wasp” or “bee,” but on top of that the black stripe is shaped like a W and there’s a W cut to the boots and gloves. And that headset that mimics her original antennae look? It has a purpose but also looks pretty cute on her. Great design all around. Love it.
WASP 2: HANK PYM RETURNS
After Janet Van Dyne’s death, Hank took some time to look over his life and decided he needed a new, stronger direction. As the new Wasp, he’s thrown himself back into the life of a superhero and has been attacking his old life of scientific research with renewed energy. As we saw in the pages of Mighty Avengers, Hank was finally back to his old self. For years he’s been plagued by his many failures, but now he’s done with self-pity and everything is focused on the future.
And this new look definitely gives that impression. This is not just a superhero, this is a professional. The design of the jacket, its collar, and the utilitarian theme of this outfit, where everything is there for protection or as a tool Hank can use, all underline this impression. He’s not just putting on a costume for some romping adventure, he is going to work and he takes his work seriously.
The colors, goggles and jacket design all look hint at the insect look, as do the sectioned off arm bracers. But it’s done in a sleek, subtle way. There’s no need for a big W or the outline of a bug’s body. You get the message. A fantastic costume that truly suits a character who has been called Earth’s “scientist supreme.”
This image has nothing to do with fashion. I include it because it is my favorite Ant-Man cover from one of my favorite Ant-Man adventures, back when he was meant to be a whimsical, high-flying hero who seemed like the guy you desperately wanted teaching science class. I’m very glad he’s gotten to be that way again, thanks in no small part to Dan Slott writing him in Mighty Avengers.
And you know what? That wraps it up for this week. I hope you enjoyed this rather long entry of our weekly column. Trust me, it would’ve been even longer and more exhausting if I’d included the Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket costumes. But rest assured, they will be seen here in the future. So, until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off.
Alan Kistler is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle.