Janet Van Dyne, the wonderous Wasp, was the second major Marvel Comics heroine of the Silver Age, debuting after the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Girl. A mainstay of the Avengers, Jan was also a fashion designer. And that factoid caused Avengers writers to create a bit of a personality quirk for Jan. She couldn’t stop making new costumes for herself. After every few appearances, Jan popped up in an entirely new outfit. Later comic book artists, like the legendary George Perez, made it a point to create a new Wasp costume with almost every issue.
To date, the Wasp has worn well over 300 distinct costumes. Some costumes were very basic and forgettable, while others were very memorable. Some are still remembered just for how snazzy they were, and others for being really out there. We’ve taken a look at most of Jan’s costumes going back some sixty years, and these ten are what we think of as her most memorable, in chronological order:
The Original Wasp Costume – Tales to Astonish #44, 1963 (Designed by Jack Kirby)
Jack Kirby’s design for Wasp’s first costume in Tales to Astonish was very of its time. But that is kind of what made it so great. The black and red number, with the pointed helmet, was the epitome of the Atomic Age/late-‘50s and early-‘60s aesthetic. But it remains very striking. Jan wore this costume for her first few years, modifying it slightly each time. But the original is still far-out.
Groovy in Green – Avengers #54, 1968 (Designed by John Buscema)
As the ’60s continued on, fashion changed on an almost daily level. By 1968, miniskirts and go-go boots were all the rage with the youth of the day. And Miss Janet Van Dyne wasn’t one to miss out on trends. This green mini-skirt, designed by the great John Buscema for Avengers #54, didn’t live too long past this one issue. But we still think it’s pretty groovy, in a very Mad Men type of way.
Peek-a-Boo Wasp – Avengers #161, 1977 (Designed by George Perez)
When George Perez took on the art chores for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, he took it upon himself to design a new suit for Jan with almost every appearance. This was during the late ‘70s, the height of the Disco era. And boy, this costume, with all the cut-out holes showing off skin, screams Studio 54 Disco. Practical? No. Interesting? Certainly. Clearly, Perez was inspired by the costumes of DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, who at the time were all basically wearing revealing outfits. Including the guys.
The “Golden Girl” – Avengers #170, 1978 (Designed by George Perez)
Another Disco-era George Perez creation. This one is gold and orange, and has a giant “W” everywhere you look — on the chest, on the crotch, on the boots. Wherever you could place a “W” on the costume, they did. Janet was clearly into Wasp branding big time here. This outfit was super ‘70s and super gaudy, and we kinda love it for that reason.
A Vision in White – Avengers #194, 1980 (Designed by George Perez)
One last design from the early George Perez era. This one was probably our favorite of his. This 1980 costume looked like something a background dancer from an ABBA tour might have worn on stage. The white and blue together make a perfect combo, as was the way Perez incorporated the Wasp “W” right below the neckline. Even though the one uncovered leg was baffling, it’s still a fantastic look. Modern day Jan should dig this one out of the closet.
Secret Wars era – Avengers #240, 1984 (Designed by Al Milgrom)
The ’80s were in full swing by the time Janet became the leader of the Avengers at long last. She borrowed Kang the Conqueror’s green and purple color scheme for this outfit, which she wore during the epic Secret Wars mini-series. It actually debuted the year before, in Avengers #240. And on her, the Kang color combo worked. What gave away its mid-’80s look the most was those huge shoulder flares and puffy sleeves.
The Swimsuit Costume – Avengers West Coast #63, 1990 (Designed by Paul Ryan)
By the early ‘90s, Jan designed a costume that left little to the imagination. She was feeling her sexy self in this yellow and gold swimsuit number with thigh-high boots. By this time, Jan had moved to California for the West Coast Avengers. Which is maybe why she thought a swimsuit made for a good superhero costume. Perfect for fighting crime and hanging in the pool.
A Bug’s Life – Avengers #395, 1995 (Designed by Mike Deodato)
Look, the mid-’90s was a weird time for comics. Everything had to be “extreme” in design. Even old-school heroes like the Wasp got radical makeovers. During this era, they physically transformed Jan into a humanoid insect creature, with huge antennae during the event Avengers: The Crossing. The outfit was overly detailed, in hot pink, gold, and purple. Was Jan going to a rave? Fans did not take to this look at all, as Janet now looked like an alien. In the end, it was a very brief run for this look. But no one can claim it wasn’t memorable.
“Knocking ’em cold in black and gold” – Avengers Forever #3, 1998 (Designed by Carlos Pacheco)
In 1998, Jan designed what most fans think of as her best costume. It was so good, it actually stuck around for several years. It certainly outlasted the average lifespan of a typical Wasp costume. Designed by the late great Carlos Pacheco, this one was a solid black unitard with gold plating in the front. Simple, stylish, and just plain cool looking. If Janet had decided to keep this one forever, no one would have minded.
Retro Chic – Uncanny Avengers #10 (2013) Designed by Daniel Acuña
When Janet returned from being dead (a rite of passage for all superheroes), she decided to go back to her roots. While a member of the X-Men/Avengers combo “Unity Squad,” in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, she whipped up this costume which evoked her original ’60s design. Only now, with a gold color scheme and more modern details. Not as great as her Avengers Forever costume, but still pretty fabulous.
Will Michelle Pfeiffer ever get to wear anything as fabulous as her comic book counterpart? We can only hope. Hopefully, we’ll see some Waspy flashbacks to Jan’s original Wasp days when Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania hits theaters on February 17.
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