Friday, June 24, 2011

Among Us Walks…a Goliath! (Or, How I Came to Know Dr. Henry Pym), Part Six

Sad news just in -- please see below. Today's scheduled post follows.

From Comic Book Resources (

"Writer Clifford Meth shares the sad news that comics legend Gene Colan has died. He was 84. Colan was in poor health for some time and passed away following a broken hip and complications from liver disease.

Colan is considered one of the premier Silver Age Marvel artists, illustrating some of the best known comics characters of all time including Captain America, Doctor Strange and the characters he's most associated with, Daredevil, as well as Blade, a character he co-created with writer Marv Wolfman. Colan also contributed work at DC Comics, with the majority of it seen in the pages of “Batman” and “Detective Comics.” Colan's last major achievement came in 2009, contributing to "Captain America" #601 with Ed Brubaker, which was awarded the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue.

CBR will have a full remembrance of Colan on Friday by columnist George Khoury. In the meantime, those looking to learn more about this major artistic talent should read this panel report from 2009’s Comic-Con International, our interview with Colan from 2009 or this extensive interview that looks back on Colan’s career conducted in 2000.

The staff of CBR would like to offer their condolences to Colan’s family and friends. Comics has truly lost one of its greatest artists."

Now, on to today's regularly scheduled post:

Doug: Wrap-up time, kids! Today's sixth installment features the conclusion of my essay on Dr. Henry Pym. It may seem dated, given some of the revelations Jim Shooter has released on his own blog. Here's my ending, and as this begins I'm speaking of my pursuit of a complete run of The Avengers:

I accomplished that feat in the early 1990’s when I purchased a VG copy of Avengers #1. What a satisfying conclusion to a fan’s dream project! Yet to this day I’ve not read the issues where Hank finally broke down, betrayed his fellows, beat his wife, and then seemingly redeemed himself. I’ve read all of his subsequent appearances, but not those issues. My excuse at the time was that the art was too bad (and I still feel that way); but as I’ve matured and as I’ve seen different writers come and go, some embellishing and other (recent) authors desecrating the team’s mythos I’ve decided I just don’t want to see Hank in that state. As I alluded to at the beginning of this essay, Hank Pym has always been one of my favorite Avengers. And even though I’ve been led to believe that he redeemed himself by single-handedly defeating the Masters of Evil, writers just won’t let the guy have any peace. I’ve read his time in the West Coast Avengers as Dr. Pym; I’ve seen his return as Giant-Man in the pages of The Avengers volumes I and III. But writers never take him seriously today. The baggage is as large as his Goliath-sized boots – those few issues where he was shown as weak, perhaps mentally ill yet at the least mentally disturbed, have dogged him for 25 years. When Mark Millar had a tabula rasa in the pages of The Ultimates, it was formulaic-Hank who took after Jan with an aerosol can of bug spray. I was so disappointed, and so depressed. When Millar had the opportunity to correct, or at least amend, the character assassination of the early 1980’s, he went the easy route. Give ‘em the old, familiar Hank. The producers of the Ultimate Avengers animated movies have perpetrated a similar injustice, characterizing Hank as a loudmouth jerk. It seems to me they were writing for Hawkeye; trouble was, ol’ Hawk wasn’t in the flicks.

I don’t begrudge Jim Shooter for that last bout of madness, at least the bout that I knew. I only wish he’d cared enough in the midst of his very good term as writer to bring back Hank’s honor, reestablishing him as a founding member to be revered and not reviled. A new love interest, the occasion to prove himself to his team with a fresh start, perhaps even another costume or name change… anything to have given one of my heroes his just due. A guy with the stature of a giant, but not that of a bug most people just step on…


david_b said...


You hit it precisely on the head with the point on wishing Mr. Shooter (and writers after him..)would have ‘cared enough’.

Plain and simple.

I stopped really wondering about Hank’s stories around the time he was just ‘Hank Pym’ in the red coveralls in WCA. I also shy away from any post-200 issue until Stern/Buscema’s tenure ~ I’d love to complete my Avengers collection as well, but these issues were just plain.. junk.

I typically have uber-high praise for Steve Englehart, but I really don’t know what he (and later Byrne) was trying to convey with in WCA Hank’s brief fling (with Tigra), his stepping back into costumes later on, etc. I did praise Steve for Hank and Janet having adult dialogue about what happened, and thus working through forgiveness (it was some WCA issue, don’t recall which..), but they finally reconciled past the old hurts.

Ironically, I was just reading Avengers 68 last night and was cherishing the times in Avengers history when Hank as YJ chaired and led the team. Those were really great Hank issues, so instead of today’s writing focusing on the tribulations, I’d prefer to focus on Hank’s leadership high points. There were more issues like that than ones in the bad years.

I just wish Marvel writers today would take a peek back as well, but I have so little faith or interest in what I see today.

Dougie said...

I still recall the Shooter Yellowjacket storyline as upsetting and depressing. I think Englehart, over two years or thereabout, really solved Hank's problems elegantly and tastefully (although the Dr. Who costume was very silly.) The Scientific Adventurer acquitted himself well and could have retired with Maria at that point. But then, IIRC, he was brought back as Giant-Man by Bob Harras and Kurt Busiek took Pym back down the route of multiple identities and instability again.
I don't like the majority of Millar's sensationalist ideas and his bi-polar Hank has tainted Bendis's subsequent version. I had suspected the only way to redeem Hank nowadays would be by avenging Jan's death so the Wasp identity made sense to me. The Scientist Supreme role-recalling Yandroth- was also logical. But now editorial has decided they want Giant-Man once again. It's all very wearisome.

Andy said...

On the bright side, I think the portrayal of Hank on the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon has been quite good. He's a likable character and the show allows him to use his powers in interesting ways.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Hank Pyn had the misfortune of being the only early member of the team, aside from the Wasp, who couldn't carry his own title. He lost Tales to Astonish to Hulk, while Captain America, Iron Man and Thor could each carry their own solo series. From then on Pym appeared only in the Avengers, when he appeared at all.

That explains the number of different indenties he went through in the Silver and Bronze Age: He was one of the few members that creators could mess with because he wasn't being used by anybody else. So they did.

The same sort of thing happened to Hawkeye (who literally took on Pym's identity for a while) and Quicksilver (who, in a bizarre late-80s annual, betrayed the team).

The lesson here is pretty clear: If you're going to be in a team comic, your best protection is to also have a solo series.

david_b said...

Doug, all.. To commemorate this wonderful review of Dr. Henry Pym, allow me to treat you all to my Famous Covers custom Yellowjacket I made about 5yrs ago..:

Some of his original insignia fell off, but I made him using the Sam Wilson/Falcon head (to honor Sal Buscema's rendition in Defenders 23), but I never got around to painting his face paler, so I just think of Hank having a really nice tan. Enjoy.

Thanks Doug for your insight and analysis.

Dougie said...

One of the triggers for Quicksilver's breakdown was his(alleged) sense of alienation as a mutant among the Inhumans. The other was Crystal's affair with an insurance salesman (That was the really bizarre part). As I recall, Maximus got the blame for manipulating Pietro's psyche. However, he made most sense to me in YJ's role as the hero who went to the bad.
In any case, he continued to vacillate between pompous windbag and freaked-out psycho throughout the Nineties and Noughties, despite having had his own series. Poor Quicky. Where is he in the Bendisverse?

Karen said...

When I interviewed Englehart for my Ultron article a couple of years ago, we briefly discussed what had become of Pym. He said he had pitched an idea for a mini-series, I believe in the early 2000s, called "A-Man" that would feature Pym and return him to being a top tier character. But of course this was rejected by Marvel, who seem hell-bent on making the character into everyone's whipping boy.


Doug said...

david_b --

That Yellowjacket is VERY cool!


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