Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I'm just Janny from the block

Too Many Avengers!It's the dawn of Marvel's new Heroic Age, and there's no place more evident than in those comic books featuring the World's Mightiest Heroes: The Avengers. Looks like Marvel is following that business-proven, never-fails, ever-so ultra-successful route of Hertz, The Las Vegas Sands, and Krispy Kreme by dramatically expanding their line of Avengers titles from one or two to an Avengers Mansion on every corner. Let's see, there's Avengers, New Avengers, Young Avengers, Avengers Academy, Avengers: The Origin, Avengers Prime, Avengers Prime Rib, Avengers Assemble, Avengers in Space, Retro Avengers, Robot Avengers, Chocolate Avengers, Penguin Avengers...the list goes on and on and on. And you're gonna buy them all, right? Right! Because Joey Q. has us right where he wants you.

But in all those umpty-umpteen Avengers titles, there's one little Avenger I'm missin' a lot and I wish was around to take partt in the team's big league expansion plans. Yep, that's right, go ahead, you may laugh...look, I'll even pause for you to do so...................are you done? Okay, you may laugh, but I miss The Wasp.

Never one of the team's heavy-hitters, nevertheless founding Avenger Janet van Dyne-Pym-van Dyne-again has constantly been on my "must have" list of Avengers on any dream team. With her spunky, cheerful optimism, her can-do attitude, her savvy smarts and excellent people skills, the Wasp should be a mainstay of any top Avengers team. Besides, there's no reason not to have her on a team: she doesn't take up much room, and I think she's more than proven she can take a punch.

Avengers #394Alas, Jan is dead, "killed" like a punk in the final moments of the Secret Invasion. Yes, you read me right: that "killed" is indeed in quotes, because people come back from the dead so swiftly and frequently in the Marvel Universe, it's hard to believe that there's not a revolving door in Heaven-616 instead of Pearly Gates. Jan'll be back, never you fear, maybe with a leather jacket or cool new powers that will mutate her into an actual bug-like creature...naw, that's too crazy for even Marvel to consider!

But most of all, in a universe that thrives on image and colorful costumes, I think I'll miss the Wasp's design sense.

A post-Secret Invasion tribute-to-Jan issue featured several two-page spreads covering every costume worn by the Wasp in her Avengers appearances...yes, every one, including that white one-shoulder doohickey with the blue "W." (You can draw that stuff, George Pérez; she has to wear 'em!) But not enough attention has been paid to her other costuming skill—I don't think anybody's given kudos to Jan for her impeccable and outré fashion design sense. After all, she is a skilled and renowned professional fashion designer. (Also, a screenwriter...look it up, it's canon! But we can hardly hold Ishtar against her now that she's passed on, huh? Well, maybe a little bit.)

In the hands of a creative and capable artist, Jan's civilian dress sense is as fresh as today's Paris and New York catwalks, the envy of the big design houses, clamored for by celebrities and supermodels, featured in high-fashion magazines, and so what if they each have two little holes under the shoulder-blades for "wing expansion"? You think Gisele Bundchen's gonna complain about that just because she doesn't have wings? (Altho', that might explain that time Naomi Campbell threw her cell phone at Janet van Dyne, huh?)

Let's take a look at one of Jan's elegant evening-wear designs and see if we can figure out exactly how far ahead of the times it is, okay? In this sequence from Avengers #273, a posh limo arrives at a glittering all-star charity gala. The limo door opens, and out, not jail-bound and underpantsless Lindsay Lohan, but that regular on the paparazzi ciruit...Dane Whitman, the Black Knight?!?

Avengers #273
Panels from Avengers #273 (November 1986), script by Roger Stern, breakdowns by John Buscema, finishes by Tom Palmer, colors by Paul Becton, letters by Jim Novak

Never fear, Wasp-wooers: the Arthropod Avenger is not far behind. Apparently that limo's back seat was so cramped for space—maybe Jarvis was carting some of his comic book long boxes over to Midtown Comics—that Jan had to ride in the Black Knight's pocket. And he hasn't cleaned that thing out since the crusades! And boy oh boy, that Entertainment Tonight reporter is sure maintaining a level of professionalism when interviewing a celebrity, huh?

Avengers #273

Oh course, it isn't until Jan grows to her full height of 5'4" (and anywhere from 5'7" to 52'8" depending on her Pym-particle infused 'Stilt Louboutins' that we can truly see the design...and the daring of her self-designed evening dress:

Avengers #273

Hotchy motchy! Great googly, Ms. van Dyne! And other phrases appropriate to Tex Avery's Wolf. Why, our little Janny has grown up since Tales to Astonish #44, hasn't she? But my point (and I do have one) is the date this outfit debuted. Take a look: it's November 1986...Marvel's 25th Anniversary month, to be precise (all the issues this month featured head shots of the book's stars). Wow, that's quite some time ago for such edge-of-fashion design. And, like all innovative designs in any industry, but especially fashion, someone rushes right out and makes a cheap knock-off copy. Except, in this case, you have to flash-forward to the 42nd Grammy Awards in February 2000 to see the imitation couture. Aw, c'mon, you know who I'm talkin' about:

Avengers #273

Yep, that's right, folks...proof positive that Jennifer Lopez's famous dress that scandalized the nation and led directly to the technology of downloading photos from the internet is actually a copy of a nearly fifteen-year-old design. Shame on you, Versace. Shame! Shame shame shame!

Oh course, Janet knows the value of modest accessories to compliment such a daring dress:

Avengers #273

...and Jan's dress is at least hemmed at the proper length, so she doesn't drag it through mud puddles, spilled drinks, and Mickey Rourke's drool puddles. Not so J.Lo:

Avengers #273

Jan's dress décolletage? Daringly low-cut but still tasteful. J.Lo's? In the parlance of the 'hood...hootchy.

Avengers #273

And when she walks, Janet is graceful and elegant, a moving vision, with tiny microscopic wings. (Sigh...)

Avengers #273

Ms. Lopez? Well, let's just say watching her walk you can see stuff you usually only can see on Cinemax. After dark. Um, not that I would know anything about that.

Avengers #273

So, even though Jennifer Lopez's recent blockbuster record-breaking Oscar-caliber motion picture The Back-Up Plan was acclaimed by critics as 2010's funniest comedy and the feel-good movie of the summer and the action thrill ride of a lifetime ("One human and one cyborg thumb up!" says James "Bucky" Buchanan), it's clear she's still being outclassed by the little lady from Cresskill, New Jersey. Why, say what you will about Marvel second-stringer the Black Knight, but as a date for Jan he still outclasses' J.Lo's then arm-candy of choice:

Avengers #273

Still, I think through the magic of Photoshoppery, we can fix that. Brace yourself for the upgrade, J.Lo!

Avengers #273

Even so. Game, set, match: Janet van Dyne. Hurry back, Jan, we miss ya.


BoffoYuxDudes said...

I'm all for Janet! I missed that issue - didn't know how much of a prescient fashion maven she truly was.

Thanks for bringing this long lost gem to the forefront of human knowledge! How J-Lo can you go?

Scott Bryan said...

Great post Bully!
Any chance you could post the whole pic above of "What if Every Avenger remained an Avenger?"


Brian Smith said...

I keep saying, Jan died *twice* in "Secret Wars," and she turned out OK! I'm pretty optimistic about her this time, too.

(One thing I appreciate about this story arc is that, while "Secret Wars" told us that Jan was flirty and sexy and confident and a great leader and fighter, these "Avengers" issues made me believe it. It helped that my first post-"SW" exposure to Jan was "Spectacular Spider-Man" 105-106, where she got a better 'do, a spiffier costume and some snappy patter.)

Servo said...

Great post, Bully! I always enjoyed Wasp the Avenger in the books.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we have Bendis to thank for that unncessary death?