THE WASPMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1963
Creators: Stan Lee (writer/editor) and Don Heck (artist)
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Tales to Astonish #44 (June, 1963), when heiress Janet van Dyne acquired superhuman powers to match those of Henry Pym, who, under the name of "Ant Man", was the title's resident superhero. Like him, she could shrink to insect size. In her case, she also grew insect-like wings when she shrank. "Ant Man and the Wasp" (later "Giant Man and the Wasp", when Pym put his size-shifting technology in reverse) ran for a couple of years, until The Sub-Mariner got his own series, and crowded them out.
But before that happened, they both became founding members (along with Thor, Iron Man and The Hulk) of The Avengers. There, too, she seemed mostly an appendage to him, hanging around only because he did. Their inability to hold onto their own series led writers to characterize both as not being particularly dedicated to superheroing, so they drifted in and out of active participation several times.
Eventually, however, she became a steady member. Even after they were married, in 1969, she continued to participate actively while he came and went. In fact, she was one of the few characters to appear in over 100 consecutive issues, which she did between 1976 and '85. She even served an occasional term as the team's leader. She has also been a member of The Defenders, and, along with The Black Widow, The Scarlet Witch and a couple of others, a short-lived all-female superhero group called The Liberators.
During this time, she continued to maintain her position as a wealthy socialite. She even managed to combine the two aspects of her life, in a way — she was seldom seen twice wearing the same superhero costume.
Her wealth also supported her husband's career as a research scientist, the calling that competed so successfully with his superhero activities. During the 1980s and '90s, when the trend was for the darker and less savory aspects of superheroes' characters to be emphasized, writers capitalized on the tendency for men in such a position, subordinate to their wives in personal and professional areas, to feel inadequate. Pym became a weaker and weaker character, more and more prone to verbal abuse. When the abuse became physical, she divorced him. He has not stopped trying to win her back, but she remains a liberated woman.
The Wasp has never starred in a comics series of her own, nor has she made any noticeable forays outside of comic books. Nonetheless, she's proven a strong and enduring character.