…Black Widow’s unusually youthful lifespan?

A year after the Communists rejected Nixon’s Five-Point Peace Plan for Southeast Asia and Matt Damon’s birth, Brian C. Saunders was born to redress the balance. Regrettably, the infant failed to stop either the Vietnam conflict or Matt Damon’s career.  For his sins, he was punished with enrolment in US public education and, addled with lack of knowledge, went on to public university for good measure. During this time, he filled his hours with drugs, alcohol and sex with women comic books!, which filled his days with a warm and happy glow. Many careers later, he writes for the public good, using facts and avoiding social media for information or human interaction.  You who read this are welcome.

Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanov, aka the Black Widow, was at a bit of a crossroads in 1990.  That’s when she unexpectedly appeared in one of the most popular issues of the Uncanny X-Men, #268, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Jim Lee.

figure-01_uxm268At the time, for anyone who had been reading comics for over five years, it would have come as no surprise to see the late 20’s Black Widow turning out to have known Wolverine since her childhood since by that stage, the trope of Wolverine already knowing everyone who turned up in his path had become an entrenched part of the character.

figure-02a_mfan24_loganfuryfigure-02b_uxm228_gyrichWhat would have confused readers, though, is the fact that Uncanny #268 depicts Natasha as a young child in World War II, almost 50 years before the present of the issue’s main story.

figure-03a_uxm268So what sort of perspective might Chris Claremont have had to account for the Black Widow’s apparent lack of aging?

Readers would sadly never find out, since while the September 1990 dated issue of Uncanny X-Men #268 raises the question, it never provides an answer, and Claremont is booted off the title before having an opportunity to follow the story up at a later date.

“Madripoor Knights” is very much a Wolverine story.  It is early in Captain America’s career, in “Late-Summer 1941” that he engages ninjas (genin field agents) of the Hand on the streets of Madripoor to rescue Ivan Petrovich.

figure-03b_uxm268Both men are hard pressed to overcome the tide of battle against them, when Logan (the character we are to know as Wolverine) appears, turning the tide in Cap and Ivan’s favour.  After the fight, Logan takes the two men to a local establishment, Seraph’s Bar, where Logan and Cap are briefed by Ivan on his mission and Logan narrowly avoids causing a bar fight with Baron von Strucker and his Nazi aide.

Natasha Romanov has been captured by Strucker to be delivered to the Hand.  The Hand has identified her as gifted with extraordinary aptitude for the martial arts, and means to begin her indoctrination into their organisation.

figure-03c_uxm268The men rescue Natasha but lose Logan, and instead of returning to the bar they go to the local American Consul, who, turning out to be a fascist loyal to the Nazis, promptly delivers them back to Strucker and the Hand.  Only Logan’s return to the conflict halts the ritual death of Ivan and Cap by a blade wielded by the Hand-entranced Natasha.  Freed to act, together the three men defeat Strucker and the Hand, and Logan sees to the safe return of all involved to their respective countries.

In the present of the story, Natasha, as the Black Widow, is surveilling the sibling group Fenris: Andrea and Andreas von Strucker, mutant children of the abovementioned Baron.  She falls prey to Hand field agents under the command of the evil organisation’s new jonin, Matsuo Tsurayaba, but is rescued by Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke who are on the run and searching for the missing X-Men. Upon her recovery, Natasha hugs her “Little Uncle”, Logan, and expresses concern at his debilitated state.  After briefing them, Logan and Natasha draw comparisons with their previous encounter almost 50 years ago to a dismayed Jubilee’s shock.

figure-03d_uxm268Natasha and the X-Men find an informant who gives up a meet location for Fenris and Matsuo. The location turns out to be a sham with decoys, and the villains themselves drink a toast to their victory from a safe, alternative location.

To understand this curious story requires a little history of Marvel itself.  Established in 1961, the Marvel Universe was born piecemeal from characters created in the late 1930’s and 40’s such as Captain America.  Steve Rogers was created in fact early in the year of 1941, a year partially known for fighting in Europe and sabre-rattling from the Pacific.  Nazi political interference with Jews in Germany had by this point become rumors of Ghettos and disappearing of Jewish citizens under German political influence.  These rumors of later proven fact became the impetus that Captain America was created out of, and Marvel had a patriotic Nazi fighter all ready when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

Captain America would go on to return again and again after the war in Marvel’s publishing history, but it was only in Avengers #4 in 1963 that Steve Rogers would return to ongoing publication.  Not long after, 1964 to be precise, the Black Widow was created.  She was a secret agent for the USSR who bedeviled Iron Man…

figure-04a_tos52…a Cold War femme fatale who seduces the unaware Hawkeye into supporting her missions against the USA.

figure-04d_tos57In a few years, she has defected to the West, gotten a makeover as a superhero and uses her Soviet training and “Widow Sting” equipment to fight for the Avengers…

figure-05_avengers-30_-1st-widows-sting…go on to work for the Western-based spy organization, SHIELD…

figure-06_avengers-38_-1st-mission-for-shield…and date Daredevil.

figure-07_daredevil-84_1st-dateAt this time, some background started to be established for the Black Widow.  She acquired a chauffeur who apparently had a long standing relationship with Natasha and he rescued her from her bombed house in Stalingrad during WWII.

figure-08b_daredevil-88_ivan-rescues-natThen, in Daredevil #102, Chris Claremont went on to establish two things about the Black Widow.  Her middle name was Alianovna.  Russian middle names are patronyms which means the name is a version of their father’s first name.  So Natasha’s father is named Alian Romanoff.

figure-09_daredevil-102_1st-alianovnaThe second thing was that in the omnipotent captions, she is referred to as a Tsarina, which means “Empress Queen”.

figure-10_daredevil-102_1st-tsarinaAs Natasha is called Princess throughout Uncanny #268…

figure-11_uxm268_tsarina…Claremont is clearly implying that Natasha is in fact the last surviving heir to the Russian monarchy and Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias!

figure-12_uxm268_last-surviving-heir-of-the-russian-monarchyBut by 1990, Madame Romanoff would have been well over 50 years the age that she was depicted in 1990.  In 1964, this would have not been a problem.  In 1990, though, she was still a clearly young woman and always had been.

figure-13_uxm268_over-50-years-oldAt this point, it is necessary to remember that the Marvel Universe has a compressed time line.  Though most of it has been depicted beginning from 1967, in fact, the compression means that working backward from the present (currently early 21st Century, the beginning of the modern Marvel Universe, Fantastic Four #1, takes place in the early 2000’s and not 1961.  However, characters tied into fixed events, such as the Cold War or World War II, require explanations to orient the reader into how they can exist in the endless present of the Marvel Universe.  For instance, Captain America, fell into suspension animation towards the end of WWII until he awoke in Avengers #4.  But the Black Widow, a WWII child survivor, had no ready reference for her youth.  How could this be?

Some real word history is called for at this point.  During the Russian Civil War, the ruling monarchy was killed.

figure-14a_-colour-restored-picture-of-romanov-familyAmong them was Grand Duchess (or Princess) Anastasia, about whom rumors persisted throughout the 20th Century to the extent that she had survived and escaped.

figure-14b_grand-duchess-princess-anastasiaSeveral women claimed to be the surviving Anastasia, but none were accepted as such in their lifetimes and have since been disproven upon the discovery of the real Anastasia’s grave and subsequent DNA testing.

However, we are talking about the Marvel Universe, which can diverge from ours in subtle ways.  Anastasia was born in 1901.  Natasha Romanoff would have been born in the mid-to-late 1930’s.  It is possible she could be the daughter of Anastasia, if her mother had survived and stayed in Stalingrad and married a man named Alian Romanoff.  This seems unlikely to me as the Secret Police would never have countenanced the existence of a Royal Heir surviving or furthering the line.  The real Anastasia and her family were executed to prevent any threat to the dominance of the Communist Party’s control on the new government.  Moreover, none of the women who claimed to be Anastasia did so within the USSR, but safely in foreign countries far away.  It’s therefore very unlikely the real Anastasia could have lived in open sight in Stalingrad until World War II.

So how could Chris Claremont have reasoned this?

Natasha survived the destruction of her own home during the Battle of Stalingrad which took place from August 23, 1942 to February, 2 1943.  We know this because she told this to Viper in Marvel Team-Up #85.

figure-15_marvel-team-up-85-p13She could only safely exist in her homeland if all the ruling Romanoffs were believed dead.  But, what if there was a heretofore unknown infant born just before the February Revolution?  Conceived and born in secret because of the impeding revolution, this boy would have been the last hope for Nicholas II to continue the Romanoff house and restore the monarchy.  He could not remain in St. Petersburg, but was removed by a trusted retainer to the city of Stalingrad, where he could be raised in safety.  Nicholas II gives his lastborn son Alian Romanoff to his trusted retainer, Ivan Petrovitch.  Petrovitch raises the young Alian in a house purchased with what would be his family inheritance and there, Alian would grow to manhood, being trained by Ivan and study, waiting for the opportunity to regain the throne. Alian marries and the union produces Natasha, who is naturally athletic.  As World War II commences, Alian and his wife allow Natasha to train in ballet.  Her ballet performances expose the child’s prowess to the local martial arts community, resulting in her abduction by the Hand.  Unwilling to alert the Russian authorities, Ivan is enlisted to undertake the mission to save Natasha.  Alian’s wealth has allowed him to make contacts with foreign governments such as the USA, who are very interested when the heir to Russia’s throne asks for help and send their top asset, Steve Rogers as Captain America to Madripoor to meet Ivan, thus setting the stage for a young Steve Rogers to meet Logan and rescue Natasha.

In 1990, it had been many years since Black Widow’s WWII history had been referenced and many political changes had befallen the relationship with East and West since.  It was a shock to see it thoroughly and somewhat definitely referenced.  The floating timeline of the Marvel Universe wherein all present day issues took place in a past circa some eight to nine years since Fantastic Four #1 meant that the Black Widow’s childhood, fixed in WWII made her older than her apparent age.  While her present day adventures could be compressed, her past expanded as her meeting Wolverine and Captain America, and presence at the battle of Stalingrad locked her origins much the same way as Captain America and the Sub-Mariner’s were.  Steve Rogers was in a state of suspended animation until Avengers #4, Namor is a hybrid with an enhanced lifespan.  How does the Black Widow, a human peak athlete remain so?

The answer, I posit, lies in Claremont’s Spider-Woman #42, “The Judas Man.”

figure-16a_spider-woman-42_the-judas-manMichael Kramer has disappeared and daughter Pamela hires Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman to find him.  Michael is on the run from Viper and Silver Samurai.  Viper has gotten the catalyst for a virus that’s 99% fatal to all human beings.  In 1944, Kramer and his fellow American servicemen went down behind enemy lines, only to end up implanted with the deadly virus by the Red Skull.  The virus, dubbed the Judas Plague, required genetic modification to create immune plague carriers for distribution of the agent.  The antidote for the plague is generated via human reproduction by the “Judas Men”: their children will be born with the mutated matrix that will provide the antidote.  However, Captain America and Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes destroyed the lab and all the research…

figure-16b_sw42_recap…except for the catalyst which was later found.  The sole survivor of the Judas Plague experiment, Michael escaped, and hid.  He also gained extended longevity…

figure-16c_sw42_michael-kramer-longevity…and his virus was discovered to have mutated into an inert form after Spider-Woman defeated Viper and Samurai’s plot.

figure-16d_sw43_michael-kramers-virus-discovered-to-be-inertIn 1945, we know victorious Russian forces in Germany took resources and assets from the conquered country as reparations for the War.  As part of this process, it is likely the Russians would have been instructed to collect any scientific research or seize sites of laboratories.  Although Fury and Captain America reported the Judas Plague research destroyed, the report was obviously not entirely accurate, given Michael Kramer’s status and the catalyst’s destruction given Viper’s later obtaining of it?

Jessica Drew recounts in Spider-Woman #43 that the Judas Plague was “required reading” for all Hydra agents.

figure-17a_sw43_jessica-recalls-judas-plague-knowledge-from-hydra-trainingViper, having likewise been a Hydra recruit, would have likely known about the site of the experiment and that Fury’s report was inaccurate.

figure-17b_sw42_viper-knew-furys-report-was-inaccurateIt stands to reason, then, that acquiring the Plague was an operational goal for Hydra, so at some point, Hydra got the catalyst from the Russians and Viper later stole it from Hydra.

But what were the Russians doing with it for so long?

By the late 40’s, early 50’s, Natasha Romanoff would have been identified as a prime candidate for espionage.  Instead Natasha was allowed to be a ballerina…

figure-18a_dd104_bolshoi-ballet…and marry Alexei Alanovich Shostakov, a top pilot for the Soviet military.

figure-18b_avengers-44_bw-married-soviet-military-pilot-alexei-shostakovAfter she was told he was killed (in reality, Shostakov was in training as the Red Guardian) she volunteered and trained for the KGB.

figure-18c_avengers-44-flashbackThe aptitude for martial arts that the Hand had seen in 1941 would have been manifest and she would have been trained in those arts and spy craft to serve the USSR.  As a Hand candidate for Master Assassin, she would have been top in her class and a prime asset.

figure-18d_dd88_bw-married-soviet-military-pilot-alexei-shostakovAs the Red Guardian, Alexei would have been a public figure, a role model to rally Soviet patriotism in the public and inspire fear of the strength of Russian might in the world.

figure-18d_avengers-44-red-guardian-projectThis did not happen because of his apparent death after Avengers #44 and the length of his experiment, which displayed considerable flaws such as his psychological volatility and his willingness to die to save the embodiment of Soviet Russia’s arch-rival.

figure-18d_avengers-44-flashbackHad that not happened, however, he would have been an individual of considerable influence according to Soviet planning.

I would further posit, therefore, that the Soviet government could not allow either Natasha or Alexei such unchecked influence.  Thus, both of them married and were subsequently separated for training alone.  The KGB by this time would have found the surviving German scientists of the Judas Plague experiment site.  Natasha was then subjected to a KGB-run Judas Plague experiment as the agency’s scientists would have deemed her likely to survive and then used as a spy. Natasha would assume the code name of the project, “Black Widow,” although she would be likely be unaware of the actual project or her status as a vector of a plague that could virtually depopulate the planet.  At the time that Alexei completed his training, Natasha would have been reunited with him.

figure-18f_natasha-and-alexeiAnd with that reunion, Alexei would be exposed to the plague, it likely being a sexually transmitted disease, and thereafter he could be deployed in the field with full confidence, either under Natasha’s influence as a loyal wife and operative or blackmailed with his life should he turn against the motherland.  He would serve as public relations at home and at the forefront in the Rodina’s military defense.

However, it obviously took much longer for Alexei to complete his “training.”  The Marvel compressed timeline meant that when Natasha was told Alexei was “dead” in the flashback in Avengers #44…

figure-18c_avengers-44-flashback…she spent decades believing he was dead.  During this time, the Red Guardian project crawled on.  Obviously inspired by the West’s Super Soldier Project, the Soviets’ process was flawed, with Alexei being endowed with superior strength, but a volatile psyche.  These setbacks might have required lengthy periods of mental conditioning, revealing the Super Soldier longevity effect.  Being the first operational asset, any other subjects of the project were likely driven insane if they survived the physical and psychological trauma of the incomplete chemical and radiological procedure.  Alexei’s personality was so altered, Natasha perceived little of the man she loved.  It’s likely he was brainwashed repeatedly in an effort to restore his sanity and bring him to operational readiness.  By the time he was, Natasha’s Judas Plague infection, like Michael Kramer’s, would have been found inert.  Well before then, she would have noticed her own longevity via the Judas Plague process and found out about what happened to her.  She would have been about 40 some years old and although youthful, she would have also realized she was infertile from the Judas Plague treatment (designed for men, I have to assume it wouldn’t be good for a woman’s reproductive ability).  This would have been another factor leading to her eventual defection to the West.

Without either Natasha or the Judas Plague, the Red Guardian project would have needed another control, but it’s likely at this point the break-up of the USSR would have loosened the paranoia and the need for a counterpart to Captain America.  At any rate, the Red Guardian went into the field with an unstable mentality and apparently died, leaving Natasha an indefinitely young widow.  Considering Alexei’s mental instability, his mission would have been selected to cause the most damage and result in his death.  Ironically, he died a hero, saving his wife and Captain America, somewhere in Southeast Asia.

figure-18f_avengers-44-death-of-alexei-shostakovWhen Natasha defected and her infection was inert, the catalyst would have been of no use and the Russians would have been either glad to sell it, or warehouse it.  Through either of those opportunities, Hydra and Viper could have acquired it, not knowing that the lifespan of the active virus in Michael Kramer had already expired.  After Viper stole the project from Hydra, she acquired Michael Kramer before the virus’s efficacy was verified.  By the time Spider-Woman freed Kramer, Viper’s scientists had determined his infection was inert as well.  The project was a failure and was subsequently abandoned, leaving two survivors, Michael Kramer and the Black Widow, forever changed.

Among her friends, such as Ivan and Logan, Natasha is called Princess or Tsarina.  It seems like a nickname to those who overhear, but in truth, she is the last surviving member of the Romanoffs and the rightful heir to the long deposed Russian Monarchy. She will never claim that crown, because her calling is a higher one.  She claims the titles of S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Avenger, and most importantly the Black Widow as a remembrance of the insidious exploitation of female agents by the Rodina through projects like the one that created her.

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…Kang’s origin?

Kang's Origin

I always favoured that rather than being DOOM’s descendant, Kang was actually descended from Tony Stark.

There have been some hints at this over the most recent years… particularly with Iron Lad being revealed as a young Kang.

But think about it. History frequently is lost to time. And sometimes history is rewritten by the victor (no pun intended).

In the far future, the plans for a time machine are found by a man who says he developed himself into first Pharoah Rama-Tut, and then the Scarlet Centurion…and then Kang the Conqueror. He believes that when he met Dr. Doom in Jovian space after FF #23, and before Annual #2, The Final Victory of Dr. Doom, he was meeting his ancestor…

But what if Kang is actually derived from Tony Stark, the futurist, the visionary, and possessor of the armour that becomes Kang’s suit someday?

What if the history books in the future incorrectly attribute the time machine which falls into Tony Stark’s hands or possession, to Dr. Doom? What if the correct interpretation of what the man who will become Kang finds is actually “Here are the plans that Dr. Doom used to create a time machine? We must preserve them and keep them from falling into the wrong hands of villains. This is my sacred trust and responsibility, as the richest man in the world, who can preserve the past, present and future best… Anthony Stark. Whosoever finds these plans among my things in the future, keep them from falling into a Conqueror’s hands. We must keep the Kang of the Conqueror from echoing through the years, changing things as he goes.”

This would mean that by trying to keep the plans safe, Tony ultimately places them into the library where the man who would become Kang finds them… and believes it was developed or built by his ancestor…who is really Tony, but he mistakenly thinks is Victor Von Doom.

We have seen how marvel changes history, revises what we know, plays with the facts of births and deaths, and has shown us complete “Lost Generations” that were erased with a slip of time travel.

Why couldn’t this Marvel Silver age history be the result of time manipulation by someone (Kang? Tony? Doom?) to change the timestream and try to stop Kang from doing something awful in the future.

Look at all the references to time travel by beings from the future that inhabit the first 16 issues of the original Avengers. We have the Space Phantom, Kang, Immortus, some space alien medusa, an alien pig race, the Lava Men, Count Nefaria and the Masters of Evil under Zemo, with the Enchantress manipulating time.

What if the original history of the Avengers never included finding Cap nor having the Hulk leave, and someone has sent time travellers again and again trying to disrupt Cap from being found or joining the Avengers. This would explain a lot of the time travel in this period. And it might explain why these guys keep attacking the Avengers over and over, but seem to stop about issue #15, with the death of Zemo and Cap taking over the Avengers.

Then we have Kang’s supposed connection to Doom, which was tenuous at best.

First, the ancestor wore a suit of armour.

Two, he was technologically advanced.

Three, he could afford lots of equipment.

Four, we have seen that Kang looks A LOT like Tony Stark when unarmoured.

Five, if the ancestor had ARMOUR, it doesn’t follow that it has to be Dr. Doom…could have been Iron Man.

Six, Tony has had several opportunities to acquire Doom’s time-machine.

Seven, history may have made some confusion between two armour suited major figures of the 20th century over the years.

Eight, Tony is the designing futurist who builds toward the future.

Think about it. It makes more sense that Kang is a descendant of Tony than Von Doom… though the confusion could be understandable after years of dark ages between our time and Kang’s future.

Plus, when unveiled, Kang looks a lot more like Tony Stark than Dr. Doom when un-suited.

It’s possible that Tony has yet to come into possession of Victor’s time machine, explaining how Kang comes across plans for the device in the future…and assumes that it is Doom that is his ancestor, not Tony… but he might have been wrong when he was Rama-Tut and leapt to the wrong conclusion in Avengers Annual #2…or FF #19, etc…

Also recall that when Kang is really serious about conquest, he’s tough to beat, but when he’s fighting the Avengers he holds back, trying to make it more competitive, because he admires them so much.  Could this be further evidence that he is in fact Tony Stark?

I would further posit that the stories Michelinie & Lyton teaming-up Stark and Doom may provide a clue as to how Tony becomes Kang.  During one of these adventures did he manage to obtain Doom’s time-machine and reverse engineer it, beginning his interest in time-travel leading to his eventual transformation into Kang? Given these adventures it is also interesting that upon becoming Kang he sets about conquering Camelot.  What for I’m not sure but the implications are certainly interesting.

Also recall during the Crossing the mystery door in the basement of the Avengers Mansion only able to be accessed by Kang.  This to me might be explained by the fact that of course he could come and go from Stark’s mansion as he pleased if he was the future version of Tony.

I would further posit that Kang being Tony Stark is evidenced through Kang’s front-organisation, Timely Industries.

For reasons never fully explained, Kang decided to conquer the 20th Century by gradually increasing the technology levels of civilisation.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Stark, previously attempting to prevent others from getting hold of his technology (i.e. Armor Wars), later changes his mind and begins introducing components which made early, rare, atypical advances possible – such as components which Horton used on his Human Torch.  Even decades later, Ultron was unable to manufacture duplicate components, and allegedly had to create the Vision from Horton’s spare parts.

Reed Richards even said he had used parts from Kang’s company for his inventions (perhaps for breaching the Negative Zone where Stark would later set up his prison).

Timely had been nudging Marvel’s technology forward since 1903! I remember Hank using ideas from the Dragon Man for Ultron, which would seem to suggest Dragon Man was based on Timely technology.  In fact, to hear Kang tell it, EVERYTHING cutting-edge technology-related is a Timely product.

As for Kang’s interest in Mantis, do you think Tony came to understand her importance while he was stationed inVietnam?  Did Tony stumble across the temple of the Priests of Pama while there?

How To Reveal It: Discovering his technology within the Vision, Golden Age Human Torch and Dragon Man, Stark steals Doom’s time machine to travel back in time and investigate Timely Industries.

During this story he runs across Victor Timely suiting up in Kang’s armour to fight off a number of ?.  When he sees Stark he gets distracted and is killed by his assailants.

The assailants then leave via Doom’s time-platform and Stark unmasks the dead Kang to recognise an older version of himself.

Then trolling through Timely’s records he discovers that Kang has been attempting to build an empire to prevent Victor Von Doom performing a black magick ritual that will unleash creatures from the Outer Dark throughout time.

In an effort to perform this ritual Doom forges an alliance with Morgan Le Fay, hence why Kang travels back in time to prevent this from happening by conquering Camelot.

Realising that the only chance of preventing this impending “doom”, Tony realises he must don Kang’s armour and carry on his mission.

The tale would be akin to the 1991 DC Annual storyline where Hawk is compelled to become Monarch.

…Ultron’s origin?

Ultron's origin

There are a number of theories floating about on Hank Pym’s behavioural problems. Those problems are observed as far back as Avengers #13. At the start of the issue Janet Van Dyne was particularly bright and perky, but by the end she almost died. Avengers #14 featured the team hunting for a cure for her injury, with Hank on the edge of insanity. A few issues thereafter Hank and Jan quit the team.

While the events of Avengers #14 were used as evidence for Hank’s mental instability, since Giant-Man was in turns despairing, petulant, and angry, some fans suggested Jan was pregnant at the time of her injury and lost the child as a consequence of the shoot­ing.

Further speculation holds that this may have led to Hank’s mental problems and feelings of inadequacy.

The event fits well with the mysterious creation of Ultron as a surrogate child.

So this makes a great explanation for Ultron and Hank’s mental state, but problems need ironing out for this possibility to work.

This idea that Hank and Jan’s unborn child had his brain wave patterns impressed on Ultron’s programming is possible. So, say Hank had that unborn infant’s patterns around, and in a fit of despair, used them for the mind of his robotic “child.” Ultron, on becoming conscious, would have processed environmental stimuli, and using super-fast processing time, all the data in Hank’s computers, faster than a normal biological infant.

It explains why Ultron hates his father and loves his mother. If Hank dictates a personal log into his computers, Ultron would know Hank blames himself for the Wasp’s injury and the loss of the baby. Ultron could believe his own father “murdered” him, while hurting his mother.

We’ve frequently seen that one panel showing the Wasp in an overall bodysuit, in the middle of one of Hanks’ gadgets, as he modifies her metabolism to give her “Wasp” powers. (This always struck me as odd, because Hank never gave himself or anyone else “natural,” biological superpowers; he uses serums and potions and mechanisms.)

It’s safe to assume that process of “empowering” the Wasp happened quite often, and it was accompanied each time by a full physical done by Hank, aided by scanners of Hank’s invention more sophisticated than you’d find in a doctor’s office.

Hank would want to know what was going on in Jan’s body down to the very last DNA strand before he played around with giving her insect super powers, or even “charged her up” each time.

Obviously, then, Hank gives Jan a super power treatment after he knocks her up, then his scans show she’s pregnant. He would know it quickly.

Here’s where the guilt that turned Hank eventually self-destructive comes in: He didn’t tell her.

Why? Because Hank’s a schmuck. He wasn’t sure it was his, and he couldn’t tell her that, either. So does Schmuck Hank with No Self Esteem propose? Noooooo.

He tries to determine the baby’s paternity. And does Hank create the world’s first DNA tests back in 1963? No, he uses brainwaves.

Which is why he took the opportunity to grab a dying man’s brainwaves, so he could study them. Eventually, he found a way to study his own brainwave patterns and Jan’s, by comparing them to Wonder Man’s as a necessary, unrelated third pattern. He recorded the fetus’ brainwave patterns, and established that, indeed, it was his and Jan’s child.

And before he could tell anyone about it, Jan got injured and lost the baby.

Imagine the torment. Because he doubted the fidelity of the woman he loves, and because, well, he’s a jerk, there’s no denying it, he withheld crucial information. Had Jan known she was carrying Hank’s child, she would have put herself on inactive status, the baby would have been born, she and Hank would have married for positive, healthy reasons instead of that sick Yellowjacket situation, and Hank would have never turned into the neurotic mess we all knew and loved, and they would have a biological child by now.

He can never, never, never admit to this. He may be so far in denial (and had so many psychotic breaks) that he no longer remembers it. It was a huge step to admit that he used his own brainwave patterns for Ultron’s mind, but even that’s not the truth. The truth is much darker. Ultron is Jan and Hank’s child, twisted and sociopathic. If Hank knows that, he will never let Jan know it. Most likely, however, he doesn’t know it.

Ultron must know it, and that’s why he taunts his father by calling him “dad.”But Ultron also will never admit to it, because Ultron doesn’t want to admit he has any ties to real humanity. For Ultron to ever admit that he is Jan and Hank’s unborn son, transplanted into robotic form, would be enormously humiliating. He’d have to be forced to do it, and there’s no way to put that kind of pressure on Ultron, since he can’t be permanently killed.

So neither he nor Hank will ever admit to this dark secret, that they really are father and son, and Jan really has a child with Hank, one who wants to kill every last human being on the face of the planet, as well as every other form of biological life.

This post first appeared as my contribution to Assembled!2: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Villains, appearing in Part 2 of that volume as Ultron as Pym’s True Son.

Postscript

You’ll adduce from the above my dislike for Hank’s later psychotic break and spousal abuse of Janet.

I  can’t see why no one up until now has attempted to reveal it as just another scheme of Ultron’s, akin to his mentally controlling the butler Jarvis when in the guise of the “Crimson Cowl” (Roy really did do the definitive Hank didn’t he)?

Shooter himself even had Pym brainwashed to kidnap the Wasp so she could be converted to a metal mate for Ultron in 161.

Christ, Justin Hammer had his scientists working over a long period of time to figure out a way to control Iron Man’s armour remotely so what is so hard to believe about a robot with an Oedipus Complex scheming to make its “father” fall out of favour with its “mother” so it can step in and become the “surrogate” husband?

This to me would seem to be the best, and simplest, way to redeem Hank and it gels with previous continuity.  Just reveal it and then move forward.