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Off My Mind: Is Hank Pym a Wife Beater or Did He Get a Bum Rap?

Hitting his wife is something he will never be able to live down.

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Hank Pym is one of the original founding members of the Avengers. He's the guy that created superhero identities that several other characters have used for themselves including Ant-Man, Giant Man and Yellow Jacket. In the recent Fall of the Hulks storyline, Hank was included as one of the eight smartest persons in the Marvel Universe. He's even responsible for creating Ultron (which unfortunately didn't go too well).

Despite all of these accomplisments, there's really one thing that Hank is known for and something it seems he will never live down, striking his wife, Janet Van Dyne.

Hank Pym was a troubled man and this one panel is what will forever haunt him for the rest of his life. While striking a spouse is not a matter to be taken lightly, it turns out there is more to the story than this one image tells. Is the bad reputation Hank has carried all these years been justified?

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Jim Shooter, writer of Avengers #213, recently addressed the matter ("Hank Pym was NOT a Wife-Beater"). If you look back at the comics from the time, Hank was under a lot of pressure and seemed a tad unbalanced. Determined to try to show the team he was worthy of being an Avenger, Hank was actually on trial and about to get kicked out for excessive force during a battle. The team was fighting a mysterious woman and Cap had convinced her to stop fighting. Hank came along and zapped her in the back. This could have caused her to re-ignite the fight and defeat the team.

Hank locks himself in the lab trying to figure out what to do. His only real accomplishment was creating a robot capable of thought, Ultron. After three days of cooking up a new plan to win back the graces of the Avengers, Jan decided to shrink down and sneak into the lab. She discovered Hank building a giant robot that would attack the team.

Why did he want a robot to attack? The robot would be unstoppable except for one weak spot he would be able to zap and save the day. Hank would be a hero, being the only one that could defeat the robot and saving the entire team at the same time. His trial would be dismissed and his position on the team would be saved. You can see that he wasn't thinking clearly.

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After three days of working, Jan came in begging him to rethink things. This is when he struck her (as seen in the very first image above). Jim Shooter had intended for Hank to "have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of 'get away from me' gesture while not looking at her." It's still not right but you have to see there is a bit of a difference. Artist Bob Hall had taken the script and drew it with as much extreme action as he could. By the time Shooter had seen it, there wasn't time to have it redrawn. Shooter also went on to other projects and didn't have a chance to finish the story of Hank the way he intended.

Hank has forever been branded as a wife beater since. This isn't a matter that should be taken lightly. Spousal abuse is never acceptable. In Hank's case, it wasn't something he planned on doing or something he did on more than one occasion. Because of the way the artist interpreted the script, Hank is known as a wife beater.

Hank isn't the only one that has been known to hit others. What about Reed Richards?

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Most of us have seen the image of Reed slapping Sue. Reed seems to have gotten off the hook since Sue was possessed and was in evil mode. The panel on the right shows Reed giving his son Franklin a pretty powerful slap. Again, to defend Reed, it should be pointed out that this occurred in What If? #30 where Reed and Sue's unborn second child was a monster.

Despite Reed's excuses, he's never been branded as being abusive. This is one of the smartest dudes in the Marvel Universe. The only thing he could think of in both case was to resort to slapping the person he was talking to? Hank was not well in the head but Reed was calm and calculating.

What about Spider-Man and Mary Jane?

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During the Clone Saga/Fiasco, after Peter and Ben Reilly figured out that Peter was the original and Ben was the clone, a revelation came that Peter and Mary Jane's unborn child could have a genetic anomaly. This anomaly could be the result of one of the parents being a clone (so suspicion was cast upon Peter once again).

Peter and Ben ran intense tests and came up with the same results (which were actually fudged a little). Peter now believed he was the clone and Ben was going to steal his life. WIth all the pressure, Peter attacked Ben. The two fought and when Mary Jane tried stopping Peter, he accidentally hit his pregnant wife.

Another horrifying moment but how come no one ever brings this up? I know people try to forget about how poorly the Clone Saga ended up and with Brand New Day, Peter and Mary Jane were never married so technically this never happened. But when it did happen, where were all the outcries of Peter being a wife-beater? How come his traumatic excuse was acceptable but Hank's wasn't? Was it because of the way it was drawn? Is there just something about Hank that allows himself to be branded in such a way?

There was the chance for Hank to get out of this mess and not have the stigma attached to him. After the Skrulls' Secret Invasion when the original Hank returned after being replaced by a Skrull sleeper agent, no one knew how long Hank was replaced. The Skrulls were in place for different periods of time. It could have been established that the Hank that struck Jan was a Skrull that believed it was actually Hank (that's how deep their programming went in order to infiltrate Earth). It might have been taking the easy way out, but it was never intended for Hank to be labeled a wife beater. Hank admitted that it was him and not a Skrull. Shouldn't that admission stand for something?

Hank Pym did hit his wife. It was an accident. Does that make him a wife beater? Is Black Canary considered abusive for decking Green Arrow when she discovered he was forming a new Justice League behind her back with Hal Jordan? Did Hank Pym get a bum rap due to an artist's interpretation of the scene?