When a comics character gets an adaptation to film, is there a responsibility to translate all parts of that character to the screen? What about the more controversial or complex parts? Let’s explore this using Marvel’s Hank Pym as a subject.

Some Background On Hank Pym

Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man as well as one of the founding Avengers in the comics along with his wife Janet van Dyne, aka the Wasp. While he is the first ever Ant-Man appearing in TALES TO ASTONISH, Pym has actually had multiple different identities over the years such Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, or Goliath.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

A respected scientist, Pym’s powers come from his discovery and application of the shrinking and growing particle he names after himself. Hank Pym is also responsible for creating Ultron, the evil robot A.I desiring to replace all life with machines. While he intentions were pure, hoping to create an A.I to help society, it falls apart with Ultron’s corrupt sentient programming.

Hank Pym has been an on and off Avenger over the years, having been off for quite a while. Currently, he is competing for the same body as Ultron, as the two have merged together, with Ultron being the one primarily in control.

Hank Pym’s History of Domestic Abuse

Besides his creation of Ultron, Hank Pym is infamous for one other thing: his abusive relationship with his wife Janet. In AVENGERS #213, Hank Pym, as Yellowjacket, builds a robot to destroy the city. His reason for doing this is so he can defeat it in front of the other Avengers, whom he had been in poor standing with for prior misdeeds.

His hope was to orchestrate the means with which he could get back into better graces. Janet discovers his secret plans, and when she begs him to stop, he strikes her in anger. After this, the Avengers remove him from the team and Janet divorces him.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

In the separate Ultimate universe continuity, Hank Pym struggles with serious depression, ego, insecurity, and other mental instabilities. He also abuses Janet in this universe and is removed from the Ultimates as a result, the Ultimates being this universe’s Avengers equivalent.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

His abuse of Janet in this continuity is much worse. After hitting her, Janet shrinks down, using her powers to defend herself and fight back. Hank then sprays her with bug spray. In serious pain, Janet runs underneath a desk. Hank then puts on his helmet, sending an army of ants to attack her. After this, Hank Pym essentially becomes an outcast for the rest of the Ultimate universe’s continuity.

Hank Pym’s Abuse Not Present in Films

This unfortunate and ugly part of Hank Pym’s character is pretty instrumental in his life going forward, in either universe. Yet, this behavior is nowhere to be found in either 2015’s ANT-MAN nor 2018’s ANT-MAN & THE WASP. Hank Pym, played by Micheal Douglas, appears in both films, with his portrayal providing no indication that he ever has this negative relationship with his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) as seen in the comics.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

In the MCU continuity, Janet sacrifices herself to destroy a missile heading for a populated area. She goes subatomic, losing herself in the Quantum Realm. In 2015’s ANT-MAN, Hank Pym lives alone, giving up his suit and its powers. After the events of the first film, Scott Lang is the new Ant-Man, and Hank reunites with his daughter Hope. Through Scott’s brief trip to the Quantum Realm and subsequent return, Hank and Hope see a chance to rescue Janet, which sets up the events for 2018’s ANT-MAN & THE WASP. At the conclusion of this sequel, Hank rescues Janet and together they live in a beach house, seemingly all set to live happily ever after. There are some additional barriers to that happy ending, (like a certain snap) but we’ll ignore that for now.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

While it suffers some serious long-distance problems, Hank and Janet’s relationship is much happier and healthier than in the comics, with no abuse.

What Are The ANT-MAN AND THE WASP Connections To The MCU?

Should MCU Hank Pym Have Been An Abuser?

Why isn’t Hank an abuser? Isn’t that a pretty big part of Hank’s character? It’s not like his abuse is forgotten. In the SECRET EMPIRE storyline, Hank complains that the Avengers don’t act like a family anymore. He wishes they could go back to that. After hearing this, Tony Stark straight up tells him that acting like a family was difficult after he hit Janet. So even now, the abuse is still a poignant part of Hank’s overall character arc.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Some might question whether or not Marvel Studios has a responsibility to adopt all parts of the character’s personality, both the good and bad. To pick and choose possibly runs the risk of having that character remain misrepresented. Perhaps not being a true reflection of who they originally were.

An Opinion: If It Serves The Story

While I don’t think I have a definite answer, I will share my take: it’s all dependent upon the story that’s being told. In my opinion, the stories in the ANT-MAN films don’t have room or opportunity for Hank Pym to be an abuser. Hank’s MCU goals are initially about protecting his legacy as well as the world from misuse of his tech. Then it’s about getting his wife back. That’s the story that Marvel Studios decided on. The story itself is not a direct adaptation of any set comics story, yet parts taken from the whole of comics.

Scott Lang steals and then is given the tech by Pym in the comics. Darren Cross was never the Yellowjacket in the comics. Hope is a brand new character for the MCU. Scott Lang does have a daughter in the comics. Tony Stark builds Ultron in the MCU, not Pym. The list could go on.

The stories on the screen are made up of parts from the comics, as well as brand new parts, making up a universe that hopefully honors and takes inspiration from those comics events. Marvel Studios has that freedom. The AGE OF ULTRON and CIVIL WAR films are not carbon copies of the comic events of the same names. I feel as though the same freedoms should be present for character adaptations as well.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP Is a Perfect Change of Pace — A Light Spoiler Review

Some Freedoms With Character Adaptations

In IRON MAN 2, Marvel Studios determined to briefly reference one of Tony Stark’s struggles: alcoholism. At his birthday, Tony is really drunk, while wearing his suit. Getting close to causing damage to those around him with his irresponsibility, Rhodey puts on a suit to stop him. Thus begins Rhodey’s origins as the MCU version of War Machine. This moment takes inspiration from the comics where Tony steps down to deal with his alcoholism, asking Rhodey to step in as War Machine.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This scene is the only time in the MCU where we get a mention that alcohol may be a problem for Tony. It’s a moment where Marvel Studios decided to honor and recognize a big moment in a character’s history, as they had an organic and natural way to do so. The story they tell with ANT-MAN doesn’t have as much of an opportunity to do the same with Hank Pym’s history of abuse.

Hank Pym
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Is Micheal Douglas’s Hank Pym still a good adaptation without it? I’d like to think so. He’s still stubborn and prideful with a large ego, just like Pym in the comics. But he is certainly more redeemable and sits in a more positive light than his comics counterpart.

Maybe the MCU Hank Pym isn’t as accurate, but I personally don’t see that as a bad thing. Do I think Marvel Studios has/had a responsibility to adapt his abuse? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s irresponsible that they didn’t. It’s their prerogative that comes with adaptation. I see Hank Pym’s comics character as still being honored in the films.

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