Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hank Pym - The Yellowjacket

On the Comics Curmudgeon site one day, another frequent poster there noticed my yellojkt signature and was honored to be in the presence of the one and only Hank Pym. I had never heard of Hank Pym and went googling to find that Hank was among other things a Marvel superhero named Yellowjacket. He also goes by Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath or even sans alter ego. Scott Tipton has an enormously entertaining and obsessively detailed history of Yellowjacket and his other identities here. Heck, Yellowjacket even has his own Wikipedia entry.

I read a lot of comics when I was a kid. My parents would stop at a convenience store and I would beg for a superhero comic, but they would only let me get the Scrooge McDuck type Disney comics. Finally, when I was in first grade, I went to the Seven-Eleven and bought a Superman (issue #242 if my web source is correct). I went to a vacant lot and read it three times before I snuck it into the house. I was hooked.

The problem was that I became a fan of DC comics which included great heroes like Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and more, but that in the early seventies all the comics buzz was at Marvel which had Spiderman, The (Uncanny) X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, and the Avengers.

I saw the Avengers as a cheap rip-off of the much more prestigious Justice Leage of America over at DC. Hawkeye was a poor man's Green Arrow. Tony Stark was Bruce Wayne with a bad ticker. Scarlett Witch was nowhere near as sexy as Black Canary. And so on.

Yellowjacket was an Avenger. One whose career ended in disgrace in a long convoluted soap-opera-ish story arc that is the trademark of Marvel comics. My comic company snobbery had blinded me to the existence of my future namesake. I had long adopted the yellojkt persona well before I knew there was a superhero of the same name.

After I graduated from college, my mom gave me the "Clean out the closet" ultimatum and my comic collection got liquidated. They were in terrible shape since an eight year old knows nothing about acid free backer paper and clear covers. None of them were particularly collectible anyway.

I haven't bought a comic book since I tried to cash in on the "new" Superman craze several years ago. The "Marvelization" of comics is complete. All the superheroes have incredibly complicated storylines that are impossible to follow if you aren't showing up at your local comics store every Wednesday for the new releases.

I still read them when I am killing time at the mall in Waldenbooks Borders Express. Their selection of comic books is thin and disorganized. Meanwhile, my teenage son and his peers are crowding the manga aisle to read translations of black and white Japanese comics from back to front. If I were a comic publisher I would fear the losing of a generation to anime and manga. I am one of the last of a generation that read comics from when they could read.

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Suburban Turmoil said...

I love comics and collected all the girl ones when I was younger, from Wonder Woman and Rima to the True Romance retro ones I found in used bookstores to Katy Keene and Millie the Model. I'm assuming some of them are worth something, but- who knows?

Today, I'm all about the X Men.

Suburban Turmoil said...

Oh yeah. Michele sent me today... But you know I'll be back!

yellojkt said...

X-men is truly a soap opera. I've seen issues where everyone spends so much time resolving relationship problems, no one even throws a punch, let alone saves the universe from something or other.

trusty getto said...

Excellent, YJ. I'm no longer into comics, but back in the day, wow, was I ever!

Anonymous said...

Beleive it or not, I am a comic book virgin. I don't think I've ever read even one. No, take that back. I seem to remember reading Gulliver's Travels in comic book form. How sad is that?

Well, you've been reading both Princssis and my blog for awhile and you know we like memes so we're dangerous to be around. So please don't hate me. I created a meme tonight and I tagged YOU to help me spread it. Aren't I nice?

Anonymous said...

yellojkt! Thanks for stopping by my place by way of Michele's yesterday- and your kind comment. I like this place! And it seems to me you might be the person to remember this piece of trivia: Which Vonnegut character was featured with Blue Mondays and a peculiarly long pubic hair?

Trusty is my neighbor and serves on the local Bd. of Educ. here. But his politics are shifty... :-)

I'll be back- as soon as I finish my novel.

Unknown said...

I've never read a comic book. I don't know if that makes me cool or lame. But Batman is my favorite superhero. Even though he's not really "super." He's just extremely capable.

So I'm guessing yellojkt isn't for Hank Pym, Yellowjacket.

yellojkt said...

My mom used to buy me all the Classics Illustrated comics. They were actually pretty good. Someone on the web has a great website that rates all of them.

Blue Monday is from Breakfast of Champions. I don't recall pubic hair in it, although is does explain the origin of the term "beaver."

A pubic hair, a rch to be exact, plays a major plot point in Tom Robbins Still Life With Woodpecker.

Anonymous said...

My dad is the oldest of twelve kids, the youngest of whom were in high school and college during my childhood. When I was growing up, his mother’s house was a wondrous treasure trove; closets full of nothing but ice skates in every size, weird collections stashed in each of the six bedrooms. I lived with her for a year when I was a young teen, and discovered somebody’s Marvel collection, heavy on the X-Men. Given, I am a chick, and so genetically predisposed to digging convoluted plot lines and needlessly complex character development. I read through the whole stack in a few days, and I’ve never been the same since. Belittle their sometimes lax universe saving if you must, but to my mind there is nothing more clever than making a debate on the relative merits of Martin and Malcolm’s ideas palatable to the point of being campy. X-Men also has the advantage, if you are a girl, of featuring characters in your gender who are interesting and powerful in their own right.

One of my good friends is a high priest of comic book geekdom, I don’t even try to reach his levels of expertise, but I like to talk to him about what he knows. I think there is something downright Jungian about comic books’ appeal. Again, I am not the person to do this, as I am not well enough educated in either subject, but I think *somebody* could write a helluva thesis on how comic are really ancient myths reimagined for modern times, keeping those old eternal ideas relevant, keeping us connected to archetypes older than the written word. I’d read it.

yellojkt said...

very good point mercuryfan. I think the X-men movies have been truest to the spirit of the comic. More so than even Spiderman.

Jinxy said...

Henry Pym is always going crazy and trying to kill everyone.

But he won't take MY comic book collection!