Did Ernie Hart Actually Name Marvel's The Avengers By Accident?
Janet Van Dyne, The Wasp, first appeared in the Ant-Man strip in Tales to Astonish #44, and she already had avenging on her mind.
Janet Van Dyne, The Wasp, first appeared in the Ant-Man strip in Tales to Astonish #44, plotted by Stan Lee, scripted by H. E. Huntley, drawn by Jack Kirby and published in June 1963. She was immediately established as Henry "Hank" Pym's partner, becoming the Wasp to avenge the death of her father, scientist Vernon van Dyne. She co-starred in Tales to Astonish from issue #44 to issue #69 and was also the star of her own backup feature in issues #51–58.
And right from the beginning, in her first appearance, she was using that word, wanting to "avenge" the death of her father. She kept using it as well.
She was a founding member of the Avengers, appearing in the first issue and in its final panel, giving the team its name, by apparently picking the name out of the air.
This also means that Ernie Hart, scripter of The Wasp, and credited as H. E. Huntley, may have inadvertently named the Avengers.
This week saw the publication of Avengers Inc #1, eschewing the superheroic suits and putting Janet Van Dyne up alongside someone who might be The Whirlwind or who might be The Vision, they are keeping things rather indeterminate. And writer Al Ewing posted on his newsletter regarding what was going on with the book, which has become a "what if The Avengers superheroes were the Avengers TV show with Steed and Mrs Peel."
This one's interesting and somewhat experimental, in a very genre way – it's basically an attempt to take another route into the whole "Avengers" concept, by starting with the word and building out. It feels like a pulp word, a title that promises something other than superfolks, something from a different branch of serial fiction's family tree – I didn't immediately think "what if the Avengers were the Avengers", although it makes a dandy elevator pitch, but I was definitely starting somewhere in that ballpark. It's gone through a lot of permutations and evolutions behind the scenes, and what's left is a kind of TV show format, with a Big Mystery simmering in the background and Little Mysteries solved on a monthly basis. Leonard Kirk is our series artist, and he's great for the expressive faces and detail work that make for a good murder mystery, while being able to switch tracks into big, bold, classically Avengers-flavored superhero action whenever the need arises, which is quite a lot in this first issue – for this opening mystery, we don't provide the whole solution, but like Columbo, we give you the "who" right out of the gate.
So… why Jan? Honestly, these panels caught my attention, especially the first one.
Right from the get-go it's all about the avenging.
Let's imagine for a minute that Ant-Man wasn't there to offer her a job as an insect-themed hero. Where is Jan going with this? She's swearing to dedicate the rest of her life to avenging her murdered father, and she's already got a pretty clear idea who did it. She's on the case. She is in a cape comic, so the avenue of investigation involves gaining wasp powers, but… that's a detective origin. In another world – and it's the road not travelled, I admit, but a fascinating road all the same – this is the starting point for a crime-solving fashionista who tackles weird murders, and the idea of seeing how that adds to the soup intrigues me.
Ernie Hart died in 1985, at the age of 74, and didn't live to see the name get as much fame as it now has…