What’s that you say? Marvel are about to introduce another female superhero into their testosterone-soaked universe? Indeed, in what some might characterize as a welcome sign of progress, while others might call it long overdue, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has verbally confirmed that The Wasp is included in plans for ‘Phase 3’ of the franchise-generator’s output, having popped on the radar in the recently released Ant-Man.
The Wasp is the superhero identity of one Janet Van Dyne, also known as the mother of Hope Van Dyne – the character played by Evangeline Lilly in Ant-Man. The Wasp first appeared in Marvel comic books in Tales To Astonish #44 in 1963 and went on to become a founding member of The Avengers – even giving them the team its name. Her father was killed by an alien, so she enlisted the aid of scientist and colleague Hank Pym and underwent bio-chemical enhancement to provide her with the ability to shrink and grow, develop wings, manipulate insects and create bio-electric energy blasts.
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She worked to avenge the death of her father, Vernon Van Dyne, and in doing so she and Pym created and named The Avengers superhero team. She featured in their very first issue and has also appeared in the Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Captain America comic series. Historically, her character is also notable for some 1980s comic book storylines which featured her breaking away from an abusive marriage, being repeatedly elected to the leadership of The Avengers, and using that role to specifically take steps to increase the number of women on the team.
Recently, Kevin Feige was heard to confirm, in conversation with Yahoo, that The Wasp will soon be a bigger part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“It’s going to be certainly a part of our Phase 3; some of the films we’ve announced in Phase 3. It is going to be a very important moment [in Ant-Man], and – spoiler alert! – we see that suit for the first time, and her father now is finally giving it to her and realises that he can’t hold her back from what is essentially her destiny. It’s gonna be a very big part of one of our upcoming films.”
So, while the character of Janet Van Dyne makes a brief appearance in Ant-Man, it seems that The Wasp costume will be ultimately be filled by Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne in an as-yet undisclosed, future Marvel movie. As ever, the inclusion of any superhero characters that are not white men is a big step forward in terms of on-screen diversity and equality of representation, however, it is hard to ignore the fact that Marvel essentially erased the true female-driven history of The Avengers team back in 2012.
By opting to remove any trace of the existence of The Wasp from Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – particularly Avengers – Marvel has demonstrated the unfortunate truth about those that make modern cinema: They still believe that a female superhero can only be successfully introduced within a male-led story, rather than be allowed to stand on her own, in her own time. They still believe that they must be, in effect, smuggled in while everyone is distracted by the roguish charm of less-central male superheroes – even when the women are the driving force behind the original story. Woman as a spinoff from man, as ever it was in the world of film. That being the case, the introduction of The Wasp in Ant-Man may finally usher in a welcome era of Waspish influence, but its execution gives a nasty sting.