The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Henry "Hank" Pym
known variously as
Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Dr. Pym
of the Avengers
We have not yet fully ascertained Henry Pym's religious affiliation. We have reports of a published comic book in which Hank Pym told his devoutly Catholic teammate Firebird that he himself does not believe in God. Some commentators have suggested that Hank Pym is an atheist. Whether or not Pym is actually an atheist is debatable. He is not known to have identified himself using this label. He has never been portrayed as particularly religious. At least part of the reason can be attributed to the fact that he was created in a time where there was a strong taboo in comics against overt portrayals of religiosity.
Pym's wedding to Janet Van Dyne ("the Wasp") appeared to be a Protestant Christian ceremony, and Pym certainly seems like he is a Protestant (at least in upbringing, if not conviction), as do most of the superhero comic book characters created during the same time period. But we have not yet researched this topic sufficiently. In the many forum discussions, blogs, news articles, etc., that discuss the religious affiliation of comic book charaters, Hank Pym is almost never mentioned. The character simply is not strongly associated with any particular religious affilation by the fan community or in popular consciousness. Nor is he is he strongly associated with atheism or any form of "disbelief."
Since the inception of his character, Hank Pym has been a scientist. Indeed, he is regarded as one of the most successful and immportant scientists in Marvel's superhuman community. Pym does not seem to apply science to broader philosophical questions nor does he appear to veer into scientism.
Alhough Henry Pym has proved time and time again that he is a competent superhero, he is widely regarded as a more successful scientist than superhero. Everybody knows who Pym is, and they respect his experience, but he has always seemed like somebody whose heart wasn't fully in the superhero game. He seems to be more comfortable in the lab.
Henry Pym suffers from at least a little bit of a guilt complex or persecution complex because of two major, memorable mistakes. First, Pym wsa the creator of the villainous robot Ultron, who became one of the Avengers' most vexing opponents, and became an enemy of humanity which has murdered untold people, including beloved Avengers as well as civilians. Pym certainly did not create Ultron to become a villainous robot - his intention was quite the opposite. But Pym believes that no matter what he accomplishes as a scientist or superhero, people will always remember him as the person who created Ultron.
Pym's other big memorable mistake, one which is more private (and yet, rather widely known), is that he harshly struck his wife, Janet Van Dyne (the Wasp). This has been described as a "slap," and has been attributed to him having a nervous breakdown after being tormented by the villain Egghead. But whatever the reasons or the extent of this incident, Hank Pym's momentary brutality toward hid wife lead to the collapse of his marriage, his downfall as an Avenger, and the ruination of his reputation in the superhero community. It took many years for his wife and other superheroes to trust Henry Pym again.
Although Hank Pym's ex-wife and his superhero peers now treat Pym with respect, Pym seems to think that people still think of these incidents when the look at him.
In the Ultimate line, an alternative version of the Marvel Universe, Hank Pym savagely battered his wife, but she fought back a little more. This incident and many negative characteristics of the traditional Henry Pym character are significantly magnified in the Ultimate version of the character.
Despite what Henry Pym did in the past, he and his wife (or ex-wife) Janet Van Dyne have reconciled and sometimes temporarily established a romantic relationship in both the traditional (616) Marvel and Ultimate Universes. Often Pym's fellow superheroes have been bewildered by their relationship, but they seem to have long since learned to not try to figure the couple out.
Although the character dates back to the earliest days of the modern Marvel Universe, and he was a founding member of the Avengers, Pym has usually been regarded as something of a second-rate superhero. Pym is essentially unknown outside of comic book fan circles, while fellow foundational Avengers such as the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America have achieved at least some modicum of familiarity outside comic book readership.
From: "Who's Catholic in the Marvel Universe" forum discussion started 5 February 2005 on "HCRealms" website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/showthread.php?t=123637; viewed 10 May 2007):
I know a lot of characters are Jewish, so I was wondering who is officially Catholic?
I know Daredevil is. It's a major part of his personality and often occurs in storylines.
I also believe Firebird from the West Coast Avengers... After that, I'm pretty much stumped.
Anyone have any others?
Henry Pym was becoming indoctrinated into Catholic dogma by Firebird when the two of them were close but I imagine that fell by the wayside.
From: "Atheist representation on the Avengers" forum discussion started 20 June 2001 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?trd=010620110715; viewed 24 May 2007):
Posted by Jae [a self-described atheist] on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 11:07:15 GMT
Atheist representation on the Avengers
The teams pretty well rounded now, but are there any atheistic members?...
Posted by The Scientific Adventurer on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 14:09:11 GMT
Hank Pym pretty much tells firebird in WCA [West Coast Avengers] #25 that he doesn't believe in God. Instead he believes that there is a scientific explanation for everything.
However, IMO [in my humble opinion], believing that scientific methods lead to truth is no different than believing in a "registered" religion. In fact a figure no less than Eistein believed in this sort of truth, and largely because of it refused to accept Quantum Theory, which gives a more probabilistic nature to reality than he liked ("God does not play dice with the universe", he said).
And there is, of course, nothing to say that a Judeo-Christian-Islamic type God cannot work through science, but I digress...
As far as other atheists go, perhaps Iron Man, but I have no evidence to back it up.
Posted by Omar Karindu on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 11:27:02 GMT
...Hank Pym is an atheist too, which is why Firebird/Esperita didn't want to become romantically involved with him in WCA [West Coast Avengers] #26. Most of the members have never had any religious preference stated, BTW (excepting Thor, Black Panther, and Firebird, of course). Even Captain America has never explicitly been called religious, though he's likely Protestant...
From: "How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?" forum discussion, started 20 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?p=3716053; viewed 24 May 2007):
05-20-2007, 06:23 AM
How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?
Tony Stark - who else?
05-20-2007, 01:10 PM
Hank Pym admitted to Firebird way back when in West Coast Avengers that he didn't believe in God.
05-20-2007, 02:54 PM
...according to Wikipedia, I can't find a single [Marvel superhero] atheist besides Yellowjacket. However, DC has the Atom, the Question, Booster Gold, Rorscach, Dr. Manhatten, Lex Luthor and Booster Gold as atheists.
Webpage created 10 May 2007. Last modified 24 May 2007.
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