The Wasp – and other female superheroes – have come a long way

When I first got my Kindle a few years ago, I started looking into what kind of comics were available. And most are available in EBook form, which is pretty cool. One of the books I got was a part of the Marvel Masterwork line – a re-release of Avengers Vol. 1, the first appearance of the now iconic superhero team. Despite the re-imagined cover shown above, it’s just the comic in its original form, with nothing done to update it.

And Avengers Vol. 1 has plenty of interesting insights for people who have seen the Marvel movies but maybe aren’t steeped in comic lore. For example, did you know that Captain America was not part of the original Avengers team? Did you know that Namor’s first appearance in an Avengers comic was actually as an antagonist? Did you know there’s an issue where Spider-man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four appear, despite none of them (aside from Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) joining the Avengers until the 1970’s?

But the one thing I really learned is that – hoo boy – the Wasp’s dialogue from the Avengers Vol 1 has aged horribly. It’s the kind of stuff that would make anyone say “hey, I don’t actually think women spoke like that.”

Below, I have excerpted some of Wasp’s worst dialogue from the first few issues:

Wasp: “Wait for me, Ant-Man!”

Ant-Man: “I thought you weren’t coming, Jan! I can’t see why you have to stop and powder your nose every time we have a mission!” img_4567

That seems to be a big thing for Wasp – she’s very enthusiastic about powdering her nose.

“Henry! Did you see that gorgeous Thor?! How can I ever make him notice me?”

It becomes apparent pretty early on that the Wasp’s main function is to talk about how attractive or unattractive various characters are.

“[The Hulk]’s hideous! I wish he had [left] instead of that dreamy Thor!”

“Look! An intruder is coming! Hmm… he’s not bad-looking.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you have the most deliciously blue eyes Henry Pym?”

“[Thor] sounds like a burlesque of a comic hero in Mad magazine! But with those shoulders… those eyes — who cares how corny he talks!”

Wasp: [To Thor] “I’m still waiting to see what you’d look like in an Ivy League suit and a crew cut! With those shoulders, those eyes… Mmmm…”

Ant-Man: “Aren’t you ever gonna grow up, Wasp? Haven’t you anything else on your mind?”

img_4568

When she’s not commenting on physical appearances; she’s talking about the hard-hitting issues:

“Henry Pym! Couldn’t you have made these silly [pills that make Ant-Man/Wasp shrink or grow, a genuine miracle of science] taste better while you were inventing them?”

After nearly dying, her biggest concern is, of course, the fact that her makeup was smudged.

And you bet she has her priorities straight:

img_4569

Ant-Man: “I’m proud of you Wasp!! Your timing was perfect, just when it counted the most!”

Wasp: “I’d rather you were impressed by my blushing beauty, but I guess any compliment is better than none!”*

(*This quote reads like it could be sarcastic – but that’s generous.)

For the sake of keeping this post short, I’ve decided to exclude every time Wasp refers to anyone by a pet name like “handsome” or “playmate.”

As readers of this blog can tell you, I love the Avengers, and I love superheroes. In highlighting these character’s old lines, I don’t mean to say that people can’t or shouldn’t read older comics. Obviously. But I think it is useful, even important, to recognize these old works as time capsules that reflect the era in which they were created (and the medium in which they appeared). You can even still enjoy the old Avengers comics, or Batman comics, or Superman comics, or what have you, but in order to do that, you must recognize its flaws.

Wasp 4.png

People may be inclined to read this and cringe – which certainly seems to be a fair reaction – but frankly, I think that this is a clear sign of how far female superheros have come. Compare the Wasp in Avengers Vol. 1 to Black Widow in the 2012 Avengers film – who not only manages to be a nuanced and interesting character, but even outsmarts Loki in an interrogation. Or compare the Wasp to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman or Kristen Ritter’s Jessica Jones. Or, I might suggest, compare this iteration of the Wasp to just about any contemporary female superhero in comics, and you’ll see just how far the genre has come.

5 thoughts on “The Wasp – and other female superheroes – have come a long way

    1. Seems likely. How else would we be able to know that Thor’s so beautiful? This would have been in the 1960’s, along the American Women’s Liberation Movement, so there is something to be said for the timeliness of characters like the Wasp and Wonder Woman in the 1960’s.
      As always, thanks for reading! 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I had no idea the character of The Wasp had been around so long. If I had read one of those comics when I was a kid, I would have hated her insipid commentary. Thank goodness for progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I suppose comics are like all forms of art, that they will reflect the attitudes of the time. I remember reading that, in the early Justice League comics, Wonder Woman was consigned to the role of team secretary. But at least we’ve made progress since then!

    Liked by 1 person

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