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We need to talk about The Wasp's look in the new Ant-Man trailer

Contributed by
Feb 11, 2018

Superhero comics and superhero films are entirely different beasts, and even the basic principles laid out by comic creators can be entirely contradictory to the way their characters and stories appear onscreen. That said, you can't hold anyone's feet to the fire when it comes to them not portraying your favorite character the way you want to see them portrayed. Films are intended to bring these concepts and characters to a wider audience, while comics tend to be these hulking, unwieldy, complicated stories that span decades. A basic yet often neglected fact: Comics and films are not the same medium, and you gravitate toward one or the other to fulfill an entirely different set of needs.

This is all true -- but, of course, sometimes things like "logic" and "reason" fly right out the window when, as a devout comic fan, you see something in a film that doesn't correspond with your idea of how the story or characters should be. For example: I can watch the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp and think, “Wow, what a sweet-looking action film!” while also crying out, “But no, what the hell is the Wasp wearing?!"

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In the comics, Janet Van Dyne is an affluent trend-setter with a fantastic sense of style, and that point is being missed entirely by the decisions being made with her wardrobe in the Ant-Man and the Wasp trailer. What is going on with that outfit, and why is it happening? The Wasp has been at least partially defined by her desire to look great wherever she goes since her first appearances over 50 years ago, and she has always been one of the best dressed in comics.

The version of the Wasp that appears in the Ant-Man sequel is not the character most fans associate with the comics. In the comic, the Wasp is Janet Van Dyne, while Hope Van Dyne is an alternate-reality daughter of Hank Pym, who was at one time Ant-Man (as well as Yellowjacket, Giant Man, and even the Wasp for a brief stint). Hank Pym is, essentially, a capital-S scientist. Despite pulling stunts like inadvertently creating Ultron the Murder Robot, he did also invent multiple technologies, one of which allowed him and others to talk to ants via a helmet. Let's give credit where it's due; a helmet that communicates with ants is rad no matter how you slice it. 

Hope Van Dyne originated in an alternate universe known as Earth-982, which was created in 1999 via a line known as MC2, or "Marvel Comics 2." The stories of MC2 were set about 20 to 30 years in the future and featured young, hip, relatable characters as part of the endless campaign of mainstream superhero comics to appeal to youth culture. In A-Next, an Avengers reboot, Hope appears as the daughter of Hank, who died on a mission, and Janet Van Dyne, who "died of a broken heart," as one does.

On Earth-982, Hope used her parents' tech to attack a new team of Avengers, because she had a vendetta against them. Why? They weren't cool enough. I know there's a lot we can say about female superheroes and villains having under-explored motivations, but I can get behind a supervillain who's just mad enough at the new team that she's willing to just take them out. Hope also starts up a new supervillain team called the Revengers, which is maybe one of the greatest antithetical names ever. Point is, even in her brief alternate-reality appearances -- and keeping with the proud tradition of the Wasp of all realities -- the Red Queen had a rad outfit. We can talk about the giant “W” on the forehead later, but, overall, rad.

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The militarized look of superhero films is always a huge turn-off for me. One thing I appreciate about comic book costume design is that each character has their own specific expression. Even in the X-Men, where often there is an overall theme to the costumes, each character will still make slight modifications unique to their personality. In a comic like the Avengers, part of what makes them so visually iconic is their brightly colored individuality, which is undermined by the conformity displayed by many costume designers working on the film versions of these characters.

All of that goes double for the Wasp, who in all of her many incarnations is not only fashion-obsessed, but who is also stated as the underappreciated designer of many of the Avengers' various costume updates. She's even the person who named the team way back in the '60s in Avengers #1, exhibiting a knack for style and iconography in her earliest appearances. For a long time, she appeared in a new costume at least every dozen issues or so, and was constantly making modifications and adjustments to her central theme. Usually when she and Hank would fight in the early days, it was because she was hard at work designing and he was dismissing her skill as frivolous.

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The Wasp is one of the only characters in comics who merges a love for things that are typically referred to as “girly” -- like fashion, shopping, and having multiple crushes on the men around her -- with genuine hero competence. She is indeed a badass, but she's also a person who likes to paint her toenails while gabbing away at Jarvis (the Avengers' butler) about team gossip and reality television. Her ability to lead the Avengers as well as Captain America, and her own interest and capabilities as a scientist, are in no way detracted by her fun-loving, occasionally flippant nature. In all mediums and genres, there is a severe lack of female characters who are as thoroughly complex as Janet Van Dyne, and her fashion has always been a reflection of that complexity.

An essential part of the Wasp's overall appeal is that, while she can go into work mode when she needs to, she's an Avenger who remembers how genuinely rad it is to do things like duke it out with supervillains and travel to other planets. Checking her reflection during a fight to make sure she looks good never detracts from her toughness, and it makes her more relatable than a lot of Marvel characters.

I like Evangeline Lilly, and I'm excited to see the new movie, but still. In her many incarnations, in her many different forms and identities, the Wasp would not ever in a million years be caught dead in that brown breast-plated monstrosity, and you know it, Marvel.