Five months after the Wasp’s debut, Henry Pym underwent the first of his identity changes, utilizing his growth serum to grow beyond normal size as Giant-Man. At first, Pym was limited to a maximum height of 12 feet, but was later able to reach heights of 100 feet, although it proved too debilitating to be of much use.
As Giant-Man (while still retaining the ability to shrink as Ant-Man), he and the Wasp had to contend with such threats as the Porcupine, the Black Knight and the Human Top (who would later return with the considerably less goofy codename of Whirlwind), as well as run-ins with fellow Marvel heroes the Hulk and Spider-Man. Although Giant-Man and the Wasp had a respectable run in TALES TO ASTONISH, it was in the pages of THE AVENGERS where things would really happen for Hank Pym. And not all of it would be good.
Pym served in the Avengers for years as Ant-Man, Giant-Man and under a third identity, Goliath. By this time, both Hank and Janet had been exposed to the shrinking and growth serums so much that the “Pym Particles” had permeated their bodies to such a degree that they could change sizes at will without any new exposure to the formula. Also, Pym’s body began to have an adverse reaction to the extreme heights as Goliath, and he went into semi-retirement, devoting himself to new research in robotics. Pym’s desire to create artificial intelligence proved to be both fruitful and tragic, as his creation, Ultron, achieved sentience and almost immediately developed an irrational hatred of his creator, one that would lead Ultron on a murderous course of self-improvement and attempted conquest that continues to this day.
Ultron, composed of unbreakable adamantium, would recreate himself time after time in new attempts to eradicate all humanity, beginning with his hated “father” and his friends in the Avengers.
On the heels of his creation of Ultron, Pym disappeared, and was replaced by the mysterious Yellowjacket, who claimed to have murdered Pym. The cocky, aggressive Yellowjacket promptly kidnapped Janet Van Dyne and proposed marriage. Janet could see through the ruse and knew it was Hank Pym beneath the cowl, but agreed to marry him anyway, claiming later that she “was afraid rejecting him would make his condition worse.”
You could call the Wasp co-dependent, but I think she knew she’d never get him down the aisle otherwise. When Yellowjacket and the Wasp’s wedding was crashed by the Ringmaster, the sight of Janet in danger snapped Pym back to reality, and his normal personality returned. Pym claimed that exposure to “mysterious gases” in the lab had triggered his psychotic episode and change to Yellowjacket, and it was as Yellowjacket that the repressed Pym could do what he’d always wanted: propose to Janet. Considering that he’d already had one breakdown, the whole “mysterious gases” theory seemed a little shaky (I really don’t think that’s how mental illness works, and considering the number of resident geniuses on the Avengers, you’d think someone would have called him on it), but the marriage was legal, (apparently despite “Yellowjacket” being on the marriage license) and Hank and Janet happily remained wed, with Pym remaining in the Yellowjacket identity when serving with the Avengers.
As much as I like the original Ant-Man uniform, the Yellowjacket identity has always been a favorite. The yellow-and-black color combination isn’t seen much in comics, and the sleek, streamlined design had it all over some of Pym’s other, gaudier costumes. (Of which there were a bunch. Between Giant-Man and Goliath, there was probably 10 or 15 costume variations. No lie.) The Yellowjacket uniform was just plain cool. Unfortunately, it’s also linked to one of the uglier periods in Pym’s history, which we’ll get to next time…