Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And Then There Was Hank's "Doctor Pym" Phase.

Recently mentioning Henry "Hank" Pym’s short stint as the Wasp got me thinking about his many other costumed identities, particularly his short-lived time as Doctor Pym, Scientific Adventurer. Pym changed names and personae about as often as his wife changed costumes, and his switches from Ant-Man to Giant-Man to Yellowjacket and back again have been well-covered elsewhere, but I always kind of liked the underrated Doctor Pym identity, and thought it was too bad that more wasn't done with it, hence this "spotlight" on Pym's least appreciated alter-ego, I suppose.

Pym had joined the supporting cast of Steve Englehart’s West Coast Avengers, but was despondent over his many failures as husband and hero. He was depressed and near suicide, when he was stopped by Espirita, (a.k.a. the devoutly religious superheroine formerly-known-as-Firebird, and another West Coast hanger-on). Espirita convinced Hank that he had another path, and helped him realize that while he may not fit in with the heavy-hitters, he could still have a place among the Avengers. Pym changed his focus from changing his own size to shrinking and growing other things, adopting an arsenal of miniaturized tools, weapons, and gear for a variety of uses. He even created a quasi-sentient vehicle named ROVER to travel in, which was also reducible to pocket size.

Calling himself simply “Doctor Pym”, he adopted a plainclothes look consisting first of a trench coat, scarf, and hat. Later, a multi-pocketed jumpsuit replaced the coat, and he took his place among the West Coast Team as their resident scientist. Al Milgrom’s chunky, clunky artwork insured that neither costume looked especially sleek or appealing, but a good idea was there. Doctor Pym eventually got a story arc of his own, one which took him and the WCA to Russia to face some of Ant/Giant–Man’s oldest foes, including an army of Scarlet Beetles, in order to rescue his long lost first wife, Maria Trovaya. At the end of that story, Hank quit the team to work on her recovery from sinister brain experiments, but he returned to the Avengers after Maria turned out to possibly be not Maria but a spy named Olivia, but who knows with mutants involved, who in turn eventually became MODAM.

Unfortunately, after Englehart introduced Doctor Pym, nobody else seemed to know what to do with Him. He may as well have been tech staff in the Avengers, for all he did  under other writers, (usually sitting at a console) and he was quickly absorbed into the background before eventually, quietly, reverting to Giant-Man again. I always liked the idea behind “Doctor Pym”, given Hank’s persistent inferiority complex amongst other heroes, but obviously, few others did. I think it made a lot of sense for him to highlight his mind as his superpower over his brawn, and thought that in time he could have become something akin to Brainiac-5 for the Avengers. As I recall, Pym's adopted Wasp identity did incorporate some of the miniature tools and gadgetry of the Doctor Pym era, as well as the know-it-all aspect, but again, Wasp didn’t last long either.

So Pym reverts to Giant-Man again, and the circle of life goes on. See you back here in, oh let's say, early 2012, when it ought to be time for Hank to flip out and go Yellowjacket again!


Nik said...

I love the Dr. Pym years. WCA was hokey and goofy but there were a lot of fun ideas in it for me at 14 or so. I think the Dr. Pym ID makes far more sense than any other of Pym's costume changes and it's a shame they didn't keep it.

Mego Thor said...

I remember this era. You can never go wrong with Doctor Who cosplay.

BradyDale said...

I loved Dr. Pym! That version should definitely come back.

I also love that in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY a little after that the blue guy got a thing to replace his hand with lots of weapons in it that were stored using a "Pym Particle Drive."


Garnet said...

Oddly, I think everyone who was reading WCA at the time like this take on Pym. Having all that shrunken, essentially invisible tech could have been written as very useful and fun.

cease ill said...

You're right, it's the one that got away! The idea is strong enough for a charming TV series, though without the menaces of the Marvel Universe he IS hard to picture. Very clever take on a character who's rarely fit anywhere since the Silver Age. (I liked him in the Defenders, though. I just love GErber's writing!)

Anonymous said...

In the West Coast Avengers story referenced ("Tales to Astonish") Dr. Pym and the team travelled to Hungary, not Russia.