A Marvelous Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

The Wasp Fails

February 15, 1963

"Hey Joe." Bob Byrne sipped his coffee as his partner punched in and took his usual place. "Ready for another run?"

"About as ready as I'm going to be I guess." The younger man nervously tapped his badge as they entered the armored truck. The heavy vehicle shuddered to life and pulled out of the garage. "We getting any backup on this?"

"What, worried about desperadoes?" Bob joked as he tapped in rhythm on the steering wheel. "Look, one flash of the gun and those guys wilt. It's all about keeping your backbone, you hear me?"

"Yeah, I guess." The talk drifted into other things and topics as they made their way to their destinations and picked up the various payrolls. Once the last bag was tossed in, the armored truck was once again on the road.

Seeing a bright orange detour sign in front of them, Bob turned the wheel accordingly, only to slam on the brakes. "Hey, what gives?" Joe drew his pistol and nervously looked around.

Around them were the tell-tell signs of a dead end. Joe gripped the door handle when Bob's hand on his shoulder made him stop. "Yeah, I guess we should report in before we go running around half-cocked. Thanks partner." When Bob's hand fell into his lap, Joe spun around his seat and stared in horror at the lifeless form of Bob slumped across the steering wheel. "Bob?"

Panic set in as he fumbled with his seatbelt. His gun slipped from his hand as the door handle suddenly turned into mercury in his other hand. The dashboard rushed up to meet him as visions of Mr. Ed wearing a coat and tails danced before him.

W

Maria flipped through the morning paper. The headline read: "Hijacker strikes again!" Several opinion pieces following the article blamed both Ant-Man's absence and his presence as the root cause of the problem. She put the paper down as she thought about her predicament. Hank was retired, and gratefully so, so asking him was out of the question. Saying Ant-Man was retired, however, could spark off more crime. The Wasp could handle these thieves with no problem, but the trick was who knew the Wasp? If an unknown hero showed up, there might be more questions. If the criminal element knew Ant-Man had a team, perhaps even several operatives, while he himself was occupied with other crimes, then…

"The Wasp would have the freedom to act, and Ant-Man would remove all the pressure and questions." Maria smiled as she finished her breakfast. Yes, an idea even Hank would get behind.

HM

In the office of Mitchell Armored Cars, another paper was put down. This one, however, was in the hands of the man whose name was on the company masthead and his mood was far from pleasant. "Gentlemen, before I fire the lot of you, I want to know just what exactly you have managed to find out during your stay at this company." Howard Mitchell never took his eyes off of the paper before him. The men before him collectively gulped before one lone volunteer stepped forward.

"Well sir, we don't have anything." Mark Trapp wiped his brow. The back of his collar became much damper as Mitchell suddenly gazed up at him. He quickly scrambled for a response. "I mean, we're all working on finding the hijacker sir, its just leads are proving to be harder to find-"

"Shut up!" Mitchell bellowed. "I have been paying you louts a small fortune for the last six months, and what do I get?" He crumbled up the paper and threw the projectile at Diamond's head. "Nothing but another headline, that's all!"

"Sir, we are trying our best!" Macdonald Gargan offered. He instantly wished he could retract what he said as Mitchell turned his full fury his way instead.

"Trying? I paid you to do the best, do! Not 'try!' Trying gets me nothing but humiliation! What exactly am I to tell my creditors, that I tried to pay them? That I tried to pay back my loans? Do you think they'll just let me off the hook?" He was past yelling now. With one brawny hand he knocked everything off his desk. "Get out! Out! Every last one of you is fired! And I'm canceling all of those fat paychecks too!"

The detectives left without a word as Mitchell slumped back in his hair. Running a calloused hand through his thinning white hair, he sighed as he gazed around at the ruined remains of his office. "Its over." A strange shadow fell over him. "What the devil?"

Spinning around, Mitchell threw a hand up to his mouth in revulsion as he saw hordes of ants swarming over his window. Before his eyes, the swarm began to move, and…form a message?

"Pick up the phone" the bugs spelled. Speechless, Mitchell reached over and picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" There was no dial tone.

"Howard Mitchell?" A distorted voice answered him. "This is the Ant-Man."

"Who? Look, I don't have time for games."

"Neither do I. I have read about your plight, and I am interested in helping. Would you accept my aid?"

Mitchell thought for a few seconds. "Well, it couldn't hurt. But don't expect any payment until you've succeeded!"

"Very well. I will send one of my aides to meet with you directly. Good-bye." The dial tone returned with a strange buzzing noise before he hung up. Mitchell stood up and moved over to a sideboard in the corner. Helping himself to a stiff drink, he was unaware of the occurrence that was happening at his desk.

From within the phone, the Wasp removed the voice modifier from her mask. The ants had reconnected the phone, so there would be no problems if Mitchell needed to call someone. Slipping out of the receiver, she waited until the older man's back was turned before she broke into a run. Diving off the edge of the desk, she swallowed one of her husband's pills and was normal sized before she hit the carpet. "Mr. Mitchell?"

The older man gagged on his gin and tonic. "How the devil did you get in here?"

"Trade secret. I am known as The Wasp. Ant-Man sent me."

Mitchell looked her over with disdain evident in his eyes. "So he sent a woman, eh? Look here little lady, I'm not used to dealing with flunkies. Either I talk to your boss, or no deal."

She held her temper. "I do understand sir, but from what my boss has seen, you may not have the capital to pay him, if you catch my drift."

Mitchell scowled. "Blast it and him! You're right, if these robberies continue I'll have to declare bankruptcy. The money's insured, but all these thefts are driving my customers away."

"Have you had any threats? Business rivals, ex-employees?" The Wasp leaned against the desk while Mitchell paced around the office.

"Possibly. Ever since I founded this company I've had to fight against the national chains. My other ventures have taken a pounding, but this is the worst yet!" Mitchell slammed his drink down on the desk hard enough to crack the glass. "If you can't put a stop to this by the next run tomorrow, then I'm ruined!"

"Have no fear." The Wasp spoke softly as she opened up the window. The assembled ants scurried out of the way as she climbed out onto the ledge. "With the Ant-Man and the Wasp on the job, those hijackings will end before you know it." To Mitchell's horror, she leaned too far out and fell. Rushing to the window, he started in amazement, as he saw no sign of her on the pavement below.

"What have I gotten myself in to?"

W

The next day, after a long night of composing plans and research and a brief but reassuring talk to Hank, Maria strolled down to the loading bay of Mitchell's Armored Cars and ducked behind a series of crates. Slipping off her jacket, she pulled her cowl over her head and put on her special helmet. "Alright, so Mr. Mitchell wants that hijacker stopped, does he? Well, this should silence him." Folding her coat up and slipping into a pouch by her side, she immediately took one of the pills and shrank without anyone seeing her. Signaling some nearby ants, she climbed onboard and rode the multi-legged insect all the way up the side of the building until she was once again near Mitchell's window. Taking out a small folded up note she enlarged it enough for the ants to handle it and slip it under the window.

Howard looked up from his reports when he heard the distinct sound of paper hitting the floor. Looking around, his curiosity grew when he saw the folded note on the floor under the window. "Eh? What's this?" Picking up the note, his blood pressure skyrocketed as he read the tiny print.

"Mr. Mitchell

Wasp unable to work on your case due to cold.

Busy with other cases and unable to spare any more operatives.

Ant-Man"

Wadding the note up, Mitchell cursed loud enough to startle his secretary. The Wasp, meanwhile, slipped back down the wall without anyone noticing. Once again on the ground, she directed her mobile column of ants towards the nearest armored car. "Alright, if those papers were right this truck is going to haul some of the bigger payrolls in the city. All I have to do ride shotgun and wait."

Crawling in-between the door and the cab, she and a small contingent of ants waited under the seat. The rumbling of the car and the bumps in the road, while hardly noticeable to the guards, shook her around like a straw in a hurricane. Reaching up and snagging a broken coil, she gripped onto the wire for dear life as the ants formed a protective shield around her.

Once the rumbling had stopped and started up again, she readied herself. "The attacks always happen right after the pickup." She reached into her belt and pulled out a modified gas mask. "This should protect me, and the ants can escape easily enough."

True to her words, she heard the panicked shouts of the guards and the sound of the men hitting the dashboard as the gas seeped in through the air conditioning. "Now All I have to do is wait"

Peering out carefully from her hiding spot, the Wasp stared in amazement as a leering orange face loomed over her. The figure was clad in a purple jumpsuit and the face was totally obscured by what looked like an orange diving helmet made to look like a skull. "The Hijacker!" She thought as she stepped closer into the darkness. She silently saw the Hijacker remove the guard's guns and throw them away. As the gloved hand brushed against the seat, she sent a message via her helmet, ordering scores of ants to climb, leap, and crawl over the visor.

With a muffled shout, the Hijacker staggered back, frantically clawing at the ant-encrusted visor. Ducking out of the cab, the Wasp (with the gas mask still firmly in place), enlarged. With a well-sharpened fingertip, she easily slashed open the purple fabric that covered the Hijacker's back. With a startled yell, the Hijacker blindly spun around and groped towards her as the gas took it effect on the criminal. He hit the ground with a thud and didn't move.

With a small smirk hidden by the mask, the Wasp bent down and quickly undid the latches that secured the helmet to the protective suit. With one tug, the helmet came away to the reveal the face of the Hijacker to the world.

"Howard Mitchell, just as I suspected."

W

As the police arrived and the guards treated, the Wasp sat in the front seat of a squad car, slowly nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee. "Tell me, how did you know?" The puzzled officer asked.

"Easy." The Wasp finished taking a sip before she explained. "I did some research into the back of Mr. Mitchell, and I found that he had been steadily losing money ever since he founded the Armored Car business. The Ant-Man did most of the work. A few quick meetings with some South American ants, and we discovered Mitchell's favorite prewar hangout was Peru, and the attempted plantations that all failed down there. The gas he used, you see, could only be concocted with ingredients found there, and wouldn't you know it? Despite all the losses his company took, Mitchell could still find time to visit and even order large quantities of rare flowers and medicine from Peru."

"Amazing! You're boss must be incredible!" The officer tipped his hat back as The Hijacker, sans his mask, as loaded into the back of a waiting police wagon. "Hey, where has Ant-Man been anyway?"

The Wasp smiled demurely. "Very busy; but I hope you won't take offensive if I can't tell you why."

M

Maria whistled softly to herself as she prepared dinner. "Not a bad day, all things considered." The evening edition of the local paper sat, with the words "Ant-Man Foils Fraud" The sound of the front door closing startled her.

"Honey, what's going on?" Hank's voice trailed from the foyer.

Moving with surprising speed given her heels, Maria appeared before Hank and smiled. "I'll explain everything later."

Much later

"So, Ant-Man takes all the credit, but you do all the work?" Hank stroked his chin as he lay under the covers. "How is that fair?"

"True, I am going to increase my workload, but think of it Hank. You're retired, so you won't be Ant-Man anymore. Criminals won't be able to find Ant-Man if he doesn't exist anymore, right?" Maria answered back from the bathroom.

Hank considered this. "Yeah, but what about the danger?"

"I think Ant-Man can handle it. After all, who would bother with just his girl Friday?" All the work she had to do, however, was a pain. Hank could certainly help in many regards, but even he couldn't be everywhere at once. The ants were effective as spies, but seeing as to how they couldn't process the information, that left her out of luck. "Maybe one day I'll tell Hank how I got all that info, but not right now."

"Who indeed?" Hank joked as he leaned back under the covers. "You know, this might just be the start of an amazing partnership."

The end

This particular story was based on "The Day Ant-Man Failed", which was first published in Tales to Astonish #40 (February 1963) with credits to Stan Lee and Larry Leiber (script), Jack Kirby (pencils), Sol Brodsky (inks), and Artie Simek (letters).

And now for the fan mail:

From first time mail sender Lorendiac,

I believe this happens to be the first story of yours that I've read, so I blinked when I saw that Maria Pym, Hank's first wife, was still alive and well and calling herself the Wasp in your version. I'm not sure yet why you felt the need to substitute Maria for Janet, but I rolled with the punch and moved on. (After I go back and read some previous stories about these two, I may get a better understanding of why you made this particular change.)

By and large, I liked the story. Although to be perfectly frank, I've never been a big Ant-Man fan, any version of Ant-Man. (Granted, this one was more about the Wasp, with Hank not wearing his costume this time around.) As I suggested above, I do intend to go back and read the rest of whatever you've done with your versions of Ant-Man and the Wasp.

First, glad you liked it. Second (and I do apologize for removing your grammar hints) I really do appreciate you taking time to point those out to me. For some reason, I just can't seem to find all of my own errors. Now, the reason I went with Maria as the Wasp was touched upon in the first issue, but here's a recap. This series (along with Sensational Comics, Journey Into Mystery, and Amazing Adventures) is basically one long What If? The question being, What If other characters took over the roles of some of the major players in the Marvel Universe?

Great job you're doing with Free Spirit by the way

And from Tiffani, the big bad mama jama of the Dungeon,

Excellent job as usual, Cambot. The Wasp has always been an
interesting heroine, in my eyes. And she's one of Marvel's older
heroines that still gets some use.
Great stuff, thanks for sharing

And once again Tiff, your words are divine and your devotion touching.

That's about all for right now kids, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled and your monitors ready for the following stories! (Available soon) Be sure to swing next time when we see the Wasp battle some off world weirdness and gain a brand new power! Tune in next time for "Slave of an Alien World!"

Amazing Adventures #4-What Lurks Within?

Sensational Comics #8-The Hulk VS Madame X

Journey Into Mystery #9-See Lady Thor battle Sandu, Master of the Supernatural!