The Question of Hank Pym

So, this image popped up on my Tumblr via towritecomicsonherarms (it was originally featured on the Superhero Confessions Tumblr a couple of days ago.

Here’s the page in question (I’m not even going to address Ultimate Hank Pym being a wife beater. There was absolutely no ambiguity there):

Frankly, in my opinion, you don’t get the horror of the slap until Hank tells Janet to get the fuck up off the floor and get dressed because they’re late and then blames their lateness on traffic. Because seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?

When the Superhero Confession image popped up on my dashboard, several people had commented on the image, including shield-agent-merrick, who commented:

Actually saying that about Spidey would make much more sense.

Spidey wasn’t (as far as I know) in a storyline that involved a complete breakdown.

Spidey never really dealt with a negative aftermath OF striking a loved one, it was just “Everything is fine, we’ll all pretend it never happened”

Hank actually admits it happened and regrets it, not because it messed up his life, but because it’s an AWFUL thing.

Hank Pym reacted more or less how someone should react.
“I did it once, and it will ALWAYS be ONCE.”

Peter, much like Hank, was actually involved in a complete breakdown. This happened during the Clone Saga and it was just revealed that Peter was the clone and Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider, was the “original”. Peter flips the fuck out and accuses Ben of trying to steal his life. Peter then promptly attempts to murder Ben. Mary Jane intervenes (or tries to) and Peter lashes out and throws HIS PREGNANT WIFE across the room.

After he hits her, he does the “OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE I DONE?” and runs out of the room.

There was a pretty clear consensus among the posters that Hank had gotten a bad wrap while other shitty Marvel Universe husbands (e.g. Reed Richards, Peter Parker) get a pass. randommakings commented on shield-agent-merrick’s post:

THIS SO HARD, see that’s the thing I hate about the Ant-Man hate

Yes him hitting his wife was awful but it was only one arc and why is he the only one who it’s constantly brought up on?

It pisses me off how often I hear people who say they love Spiderman pull this hate on Hank.

PETER HIT HIS WIFE TOO!

So did a lot of fucking characters actually, pretty much every comic book character has done one unforgivably docuhey thing throughout their decades of existence.

You can’t keep using that as an excuse to hate him if you don’t hate every other character who’s done this type of shit.

Stop picking and choosing, stop hating Hank or start hating everyone.

Actually, when you discuss Hank’s abuse of Janet, all you ever hear about is the infamous slap. However, his verbal and psychological abuse of Janet is consistently downplayed. Janet herself mentions how dysfunctional their relationship was.

For example, Hank destroys Janet’s clothes when she takes too long to get dressed and then downplays his actions is a hallmark of psychological abuse.

Hank is also cold, distant, manipulative and rejecting towards Janet. Mind games like this are a sign of emotional abuse.

Taken independently, these incidents seem small, easily excusable and even petty. However, within the wider context of understanding domestic violence and the different types of abuse that abusers use against their victims, these examples are pretty significant. If you went through the entire Hank/Janet relationship, a lot of universal red flags would pop up that would point to Hank being an abuser.

Don’t forget that he was also court martialed for shooting Elfqueen in the back, WHO HAD STOPPED FIGHTING and was in the process of negotiating with Captain America. Villain or no, violence against other women is also another sign of an abuser.

And, while this speaks less to Hank’s abuse of Janet and more to his being a fucking asshole and an idiot, he also designed and let loose a homicidal robot (Salvation-1) during his court martial so that he can – upon disabling it (since he knows its vulnerable spot) – restore his credibility and prove that he’s Avengers material.

primegundam added this:

Been saying this for years.

You know who else hit their wife and doesn’t catch nearly as much hell?

Mister Fantastic.

Yes, Reed did hit Sue when she was Malice and had just single-handedly beaten the entire team. She was being mind-controlled by Psycho-Man and, in order to get Sue to realize just what was going on, Reed needed to get Sue to hate him for a split second. So he goads her a bit verbally, dismisses her outright, and then slaps her. Feeling her true emotions breaks Sue from Psycho-Man’s control, as Reed had predicted.

Look, I’m not going to defend Mr. Fantastic. He’s a shitty husband and his superdickery is well known and documented. That being said, comparing what he did to what Hank and Peter did when they hit their wives is a little disingenuous.

A lot of people seem to make the excuse that “It was a one time thing! He was going through a mental breakdown!” as if that makes hitting your spouse totes okay. It doesn’t. Context is important, but it’s not an excuse that confers a “slap your wife around” free card.

I’m torn on whether or not you should then be saddled with the label of “wife beater” for the rest of your life if it only happened one time. On the one hand, I know the damage that the stigma related to labels can do. A rather benign example would be labelling a teenager who shoplifted a $5 item from the store ONCE as a thief his/her entire life. On the other hand, a single incidence of domestic violence is ONE TOO MANY and, frankly, if education and public awareness isn’t hammering the point across that violence against women is wrong, then perhaps a little shaming is in order.

Specifically, why do I think that having the violent and unstable domestic abuser label attached to Hank and not Peter? Well, to be honest, Peter’s got a now 50-year history of saving the world and being Marvel’s greatest, most relatable superhero. Let’s face it, we all make the concessions and consciously “forget” certain story arcs, even if they are in continuity, if they don’t jive with our love of the character. Given that Spider-Man is pretty much the capstone of the Marvel family, it doesn’t surprise me that the fact that he hit his pregnant wife kind of got pushed under the carpet.  Nevermind that the entire Clone Saga arc itself tends to get ignored by creators and all but the most die hard fans (most fans rejected the entire story arc).

Oh, and then there’s salient point: Peter Parker didn’t have a long history of psychologically and emotionally torturing his wife!

Hank Pym on the other hand? Boring. One dimensional. He has two big achievements: Pym Particles and Ultron, one of the Avengers’ greatest villains. His multiple superhero identities – Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Golaith, Yellowjacket, Wasp, Scientist Supreme – are all failed attempts at the creators to make Pym into a character that was finally likeable and interesting. His mental breakdowns and feelings of inadequacy when compared to his wife aren’t strengths. Nor are they, as the Men’s Rights Movement would have you believe, a sign that feminism has trampled on the spirit of men, driving them to mental breakdowns, domestic violence and suicide. Sadly, I think that the reason that the label of wife beater stuck because there’s not much else Hank Pym as a character.

Frankly, the only good thing to come out of this whole debacle is that it made Janet one of the most kickass female characters in the entire Marvel Universe.

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2 thoughts on “The Question of Hank Pym

  1. “A lot of people seem to make the excuse that “It was a one time thing! He was going through a mental breakdown!” as if that makes hitting your spouse totes okay.”

    PREACH!

    Also, the abusive behavior of other characters had CONSEQUENCES including a literal wander through the wilderness for Reed Richards and a depowering for Spidey.

  2. Your article completely leaves out the fact that from the moment that hank became yellowjacket, Janet was taking advantage of his mental state. She did not want him to get help for his chemically induced schizophrenia because she could control him. This how she got him to marry her. All of his outbursts happened while he was truly mentally ill unlike everyone else that you gave excuses for. Looking at the while scope of the story, Janet was also mentally abusive to hank except in her situation she was completely mentally competent unlike him.by putting affiliate the blame on hank you are saying that it is alright to take advantage of the mentally ill.

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