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

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Posted by gmanfromheck (42487 posts) - - Show Bio
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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?

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#1 Edited by Sasuke (446 posts) - - Show Bio

I think he really got a bum rap. As you showed characters have had outburst at the friends anf family for years, but Hank's is the only one that ever gets mentioned.

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#2 Posted by leokearon (1970 posts) - - Show Bio

As Hank revealed, that he did hit Jan not the Skrull.  
Hank has gotten a bad rep because of what he did, and he knows what he did was wrong, it is just people seem to keep bringing it up. 
I remember the whole Spidey/MJ bit and it has got me wondering how come Spidey seemed to get off the hook. 
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#3 Posted by Mercy_ (94572 posts) - - Show Bio

It's a bit of both. It started out as him getting a bum rap and then became a defining thing for him (along with the schizophrenia).

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#4 Posted by turoksonofstone (14705 posts) - - Show Bio

Wife Beater and pretty remorseless about it for like a decade. 
I suspect it always occurred but went on "off screen" in the Silver Age books

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#5 Posted by Eyz (3187 posts) - - Show Bio

I still say, it looked like an accident and fans exagerated...
£Though over the years it became part of the character's background. Authors always referencing it and making the burden heavy on Hank through so many books/titles..

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#6 Posted by Iron_Turtle (590 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think the artist's interpretation helped at all.
Wide stance, feet planted, fist clenched and teeth gritted. That looked like one hell of a 5 finger zinger.

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#7 Posted by Goyo77 (121 posts) - - Show Bio

poor hank. i would have let it go.

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#8 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio
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#9 Posted by Hawkeye446 (3975 posts) - - Show Bio

It's a sad story.. My feelings towards Hank changed at the time when I read them, but I forgave him..

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#10 Edited by Loki9876 (3366 posts) - - Show Bio

Hank did beat his wife once but what is so cool to his character is that he is doing everything to be a better human he doesn't forgive himself lightly and he reminds himself to this moment to learn from the experience he is really a good person now he made several homes were women could go that are hit by their husbands. Hank is my third favorite comic book character.

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#11 Posted by higher_evolutionary (2127 posts) - - Show Bio

all i can say sexism
it isnt funny when guy slaps his wife
nice article

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#12 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23390 posts) - - Show Bio

Both and Neither. But more importantly than that, he's never shied away from what he did. He doesn't pretend it didn't happen, or blame it on someone else. He's never been self-righteous like most Marvel heroes, he recognizes himself as flawed and has done everything he can to better himself and the world. He's the best Avengers, and Stan Lee's and Jack Kirby's (equal with Spidey and Darkseid, respectively) greatest creation.

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#13 Posted by Newport1991 (24 posts) - - Show Bio

Poor Hank Pym dude been haven it ruff ages now cant seem to get a break.

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#14 Posted by jubilee042 (1378 posts) - - Show Bio

the way the artist drew it i always think that hank intentionally hit Janet

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#15 Posted by KINCART (368 posts) - - Show Bio

The guy beat his wife I think that is what makes him a wife beater, just like graduating high school makes you a high school graduate.  There is no bum rap it is what it is.

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#16 Posted by labarith (730 posts) - - Show Bio

Wait... isn't Tigra having relations with Pank Hym now?   
In that pic, she's like "Jan, you're better than him.  Me?  I wants his (not)Skrull babies!" 
And Pym goes for her... WTF?

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#17 Posted by TheShame (516 posts) - - Show Bio

I guess it all depends on how often Pym hit Janet....if it was just the once i'm not sure you could classify him as a wife beater, as he was under severe psychological stress.  616 Pym has always been more redeemable than his ultimate version (who Millar made a douchebag).

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#18 Posted by Zhyrax (11 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm torn here. The artist draws the guy in some kind of power-stance move. Who does that when throwing their hands in frustration anyway? 
But, as a few have stated here already including @TheShame above. It really depends on how frequent the beating were. Your not a wife beater if you do it once (and especially not if it really was an accident) just as you're not an alcoholic if you get really drunk once. Right?

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#19 Posted by ShirEPanjshir (605 posts) - - Show Bio
@KINCART said:
The guy beat his wife I think that is what makes him a wife beater, just like graduating high school makes you a high school graduate.  There is no bum rap it is what it is.
Why that's quite narrow-minded of you, don't you think? Besides you can't even come close to comparing those two events with each other. Someone that hits his wife on one occasion in a very stressful ( one single event that happened in an instant, without any thought given to it beforehand ) time is not the same as someone taking classes and exams for several years after which you are rewarded with a high school graduation diploma ( years of events leading up to this event with a lot of thought put into it to achieve that event ). 
I'm sorry, but your logic is just plain faulty. I don't approve of hitting your wife or such under any circumstances, but people make mistakes. Mistakes that can and should be forgiven if they are 'accidents'. 
I'm sure that perhaps you have accidentally hit someone else 's car with yours or even simply hurt someone. Does this mean you're an aggressive driving maniac? Or that you're a sadist who intentionally hurts people? No. People make mistakes, and if this is a one-time-thing, he should not be considered a wife-beater.
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#20 Posted by dorsk188 (240 posts) - - Show Bio

That's the danger of being in a team book.  One action or event can become your entire biography and you'll be Flanderized forever.  Hank is (potentially) a complicated character occupying a solid grey area, rather than the black and white that too often dominates the medium. 
I think the final result of whether Hank will be forgiven rests with Jan.  If they get back together and all is forgiven, I think he will be able to live it down.  I hope they do work it out, because the cartoon that's on now is really exploring their relationship in an interesting way, and the comics could use something like that.

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#21 Posted by Nerx (15351 posts) - - Show Bio

So if a guy hits a girl its bad but if a girl hits a guy its okay? what a way to promote sexism in comics (pym was on booze that time)

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#22 Posted by MrGutts (286 posts) - - Show Bio

Well for some of those pictures you posted, when did those comics get publish? What decade and yes it does matter.

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#23 Posted by Golden Cod (630 posts) - - Show Bio
@labarith said:
Wait... isn't Tigra having relations with Pank Hym now?    In that pic, she's like "Jan, you're better than him.  Me?  I wants his (not)Skrull babies!"  And Pym goes for her... WTF?
Blame that on Brian Michael Bendis and not the character.   It's quite possible he's never seen that panel before or if he has, enough time has passed that he decided that it's irrelevant (quiet retcon).
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#24 Posted by doordoor123 (3816 posts) - - Show Bio

Instead of ignoring the Hank Pym beating Jan, Marvel should have ran with it. Made being an abusive parter part of his character over the years. It would have added more drama to his comics. If he just all around treated women like sh*t.  When I hear comic companies say that they want to take more risks, thats the kind of risk I want to see. Not all heroes should be the best of people. Everyone has problems.
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#25 Posted by InnerVenom123 (29887 posts) - - Show Bio

Actually that did happen. OMIT made it so Peter and Mary Jane were always together but never got married. 

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#26 Posted by Darknom2 (22 posts) - - Show Bio
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#27 Posted by Aiden Cross (15726 posts) - - Show Bio

Hank has always been one of my favourite avengers. He's human and flawed. Sure he made mistakes but he owns up to them. How many characters have done questionable things and tried to sweep it under the rug? A lot i can tell you! 
You can say what you want about Hank, but he awknowledges that he made mistakes and tries to atone for those every single day.
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#28 Posted by Jake Fury (21941 posts) - - Show Bio

Off My Mind: We're still talking about this?
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#29 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23390 posts) - - Show Bio
@Jake Fury: Heh, nice. 
@Aiden Cross said:
Hank has always been one of my favourite avengers. He's human and flawed. Sure he made mistakes but he owns up to them. How many characters have done questionable things and tried to sweep it under the rug? A lot i can tell you!  You can say what you want about Hank, but he awknowledges that he made mistakes and tries to atone for those every single day.

(Thumbs up)
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#30 Posted by Shadow_Thief (2511 posts) - - Show Bio

Ever notice how it's always the "smart" heroes that snap and starting beating their family members? 
Also, this is a minor thing, but I've witnessed my fair share of hand-to-face impacts, but I've never heard one make a sound that could be described as "whax."

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#31 Posted by afrokola (33 posts) - - Show Bio

I love Hank Pym for the wrap the Marvel universe has given him, it keeps him different than every other canned hero out there; even if it makes him kind of a dick.

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#32 Posted by SleepyDrug (78 posts) - - Show Bio

Hank Pym is an iconic Avenger by any measure.  But he did hit the Wasp.  Shooter might not have planned it that way, but it went to print that way.  It is not just the hit, either.  Hank is the Avenger whose career is defined by failure to adjust to super-heroics.   
Hank built Ultron, he plotted to deceive his fellow Avengers at his court-martial, he developed multiple personalities (or at least one multiple) when he botched one of his experiments.  Hank is constantly reinventing himself; unable to succeed with identities that others later perfect.  Hank Pym is not simply a man who hit his wife once under extreme stress; he is a man who is constantly buckling under the great pressures he lives. 
Personally, I think this is the appeal of Hank Pym.  He fails, often, but continues to strive for greatness.  He hits that mark more often than not, with results as spectactular as his failures.  Hank's relationship with Jan should be past history.  But Hank has become one of the few truely flawed heroes in comics.  This is why he is enjoyable.  Hank's struggle with suicide, which he beat with Firebird's help, in Avengers West Coast was a great story.   
Lets consider the alternative.  Ant-Man/Giant-Man could not maintain his own series; he is the only original Avenger to get permanently canceled as a solo act.  If Hank was not a flawed hero, would he be as interesting and long-lasting a character among all the other Avengers.  I think that founder status gets Hank only so far.  If Hank was not a flawed character....i'd be calling on Marvel to feature Hercules, Black Knight, Quasar, Captain Marvel / Photon, or Beast in the Avengers instead.

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#33 Posted by perry_411 (453 posts) - - Show Bio

Wait, you're not allowed to slap your wife? I'm sure there are plenty of reasons to slap your wife.

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#34 Posted by kirei_gaisuto (8 posts) - - Show Bio

I'll be the first person to say that I think Hank has more than redeemed himself. However, I gleamed two things from this article: 
1) Hank was upset and unstable and Janet was antagonizing him. What did she expect? 
2) Hey, other Marvel guys have hit their women and they don't get a bunch of shit for it. So it can't be that bad.  
Which may have not been the intention, but it's what I came away with nonetheless.

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#35 Posted by illmatic06 (61 posts) - - Show Bio

This is what happens in real life. People can be defined by one regretful act. In this case, it just happens to be domestic abuse.   
I think the primary reason that this act stuck with Pym is that I believe that this was the first act of domestic violence by a superhero in the comics genre. As the first, this act will be forever linked to the character.

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#36 Posted by StriderNo9 (121 posts) - - Show Bio

Poor Hank, this article made me feel bad for him for once in my life. I didn't know the backstory to this until now.

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#37 Posted by MrUnknown (1727 posts) - - Show Bio

He's not a wife beater. Being a beater would mean he does it occasionally whereas we only know of that one time. He just had a really bad day that day. But as the Joker says, all it takes is one bad day to ruin yourself.

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#38 Posted by Gambit1024 (10217 posts) - - Show Bio

If Hank's a wifebeater, then Reed's gotta be something a hell of a lot worse

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#39 Posted by ThomasElliot (439 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't get it.  Marvel MADE this character into one that is unstable and as someone else stated, flawed.  That's a part of this character, its who he is.  Whether you want to interpret a single act as abusive or accidental, it does not CHANGE anything about his character one way or the other.  Its like saying the man who killed Bruce Wayne's parents either pulled the trigger mercilessly or was a nervous goon who freaked and 'had a bad day'.  Either way, Bruce is Bruce.  Hank Pym is Hank Pym... the event only adds to his character and changes very little.

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#40 Posted by The Stegman (36901 posts) - - Show Bio

how many times has he saved the world and bettered mankind? i think i can forgive one little slap

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#41 Posted by djotaku (935 posts) - - Show Bio

Syndrome has the same idea in The Incredibles.  Looks like Pixar was essentially doing a huge mash-up: Pym/Watchmen/Fantastic Four/Flash

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#42 Posted by daak1212 (8342 posts) - - Show Bio

Well if Reed and Hank do it, maybe slapping your wife is the smart thing to do.

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#43 Posted by They Killed Cap! (2268 posts) - - Show Bio

Maybe the reason no one remembers Reed as a wife beater is because he reprogramed the machine that made everyone forget about the Sentry to make everyone forget about the fact that he is an abusive husband and father.
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#44 Posted by Kairan1979 (21394 posts) - - Show Bio

Funny thing is that when Hulk is hitting Red-She Hulk (aka Betty Ross-Banner) nobody calls him wife beater.

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#45 Posted by SpidermanWins (4142 posts) - - Show Bio

Hank can be kind of an A$$

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#46 Posted by Fantasgasmic (1092 posts) - - Show Bio

So, in the real world most women who hit their husbands are never charged with abuse or have any label of abuser attached because of (generally speaking) the size/strength differences between men and women and the social stigma of a man being beaten up by a woman. I understand that, because I live in the real world. 
What I think would be entertaining is how the issue of female spouses/girlfriends with super-powers abusing males would be handled. I mean if Steve Trevor cheated on Wonder Woman and she threw his stuff across the room and hit him in the head, that could do some serious damage. You kinda got this in the horrible movie, My Super Ex-girlfriend, but it would be nice to see it done by a writer with actual talent.

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#47 Posted by goldenkey (3033 posts) - - Show Bio
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#48 Posted by Sylver (1605 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think we can label these characters as hating, abusive beaters.  Granted, ya, it's wrong to strike people in anger, especially a spouse, but if they're willing to come to terms with what they did and seek forgiveness from the spouse, then I think the matter is settled.  But if they continue doing it, then ya, I would say they have issues.  I believe it depends on the genuine-ness of the apology and promise not to do it again. 
No, I don't think these characters should be overlooked because they're iconic superheroes; they need to own up to their actions, but they also deserve mercy if they're willing to never give in like that again.
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#49 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (22 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the "having a rough time" excuse stops working when you actually hurt someone.  If he was just an asshole, or verbally abusive, that'd be understandable- but he backhanded his wife off of her feet when she was trying to convince him not to build a robot to attack his friends and teammates.  That's not just snapping and having a moment of anger, that's beating a woman and going straight into supervillain territory.

Note that when Hank, Reed, and Tony decided to build a robot to 'incapacitate' their friends back in Civil War, they ended up murdering Goliath with a massively instable clone of Thor- so who knows what would have happened to them all, if Hank had been allowed to get away with this?  Would people still want to sweep his actions under the rug if Captain America had died fighting the thing he created?

I still consider him a scumbag, but he's owned up to it and served time for the whole mess.  I think the writers at Marvel really need to put this one to bed.  It's been years, so either have Jan forgive him for this mess, or have them never be a couple again, because it's ridiculous and weakens both characters when they keep going back to one another and splitting again over this kind of thing.

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#50 Posted by Cafeterialoca (1582 posts) - - Show Bio

They tried, but some writers (BENDIS) are too stubborn to let it down.

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