He may not be Captain America, but Jimmy Woo is one of the most important characters in the Marvel Universe — and one of the oldest. With Randall Park set to reprise his role as Woo in WandaVision, the Disney+ series could be setting up another major team-up just as epic as the Avengers.
Don't be surprised if, after WandaVision, Jimmy Woo leads his own superhero team called the Agents of Atlas. Here's everything you need to know about Park's surprisingly important Marvel character.
Who is Jimmy Woo in Marvel?
In 2018, Randall Park, best known for his roles in the ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat and as Kim Jong Un in the 2014 comedy The Interview, debuted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Jimmy Woo. An ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (his name was seen in May's phone, in a Season 2 episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Woo entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a bumbling FBI agent and desk jockey in Ant-Man and the Wasp. He's assigned to Scott Lang, who as Ant-Man aided a criminal Captain America (in Captain America: Civil War) and was sentenced to house arrest.
That's how most MCU fans know Jimmy Woo: A stuffy suit who keeps Paul Rudd grounded and happens to be a youth pastor. He's a funny guy. Harmless, if annoying. And Woo has dimension (again — youth pastor?) thanks to the charisma of Park. He's back now in WandaVision, this time aiding Teyonah Parris' Monica Rambeau, an agent of the government group S.W.O.R.D.
But in the history of comics, Jimmy Woo predates Ant-Man, and is more important than the MCU makes him out to be. Debuting in 1956 for Marvel-predecessor Atlas Comics, Jimmy Woo was created by Al Feldstein and Joe Maneely as the hero of the Atlas comic book Yellow Claw.
In a stark difference from most orientalist, racist pulp fiction of the time — where white heroes fought Chinese villains like Fu Manchu or Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon — Atlas/Marvel's Yellow Claw featured Jimmy Woo, one of the first known Asian-American heroes in American comics. In Yellow Claw, Woo was a Chinese-American FBI agent tasked with taking down the titular supervillain, a terrorist seeking to rule the world. Unlike his depiction in the MCU, Woo was played straight and serious, with swagger and suave like James Bond.
In his 2011-2014 exhibit "Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics," writer and curator Jeff Yang said Jimmy Woo was "a positive exception" in American comics of the mid-20th century, when "the view of Asians was shaped by racist, xenophobic wartime propaganda."
Even today, there are too few Asian comic book characters like Jimmy Woo. When Atlas Comics became Marvel Comics, Jimmy Woo miraculously stuck around. He appeared alongside the Avengers (though he never became one) and worked with Nick Fury. In the mid-2000s, Jimmy Woo again starred in his own series, this time as the leader of the Agents of Atlas.
The Agents of Atlas explained
Published in 2006, the premise of Agents of Atlas is a team that harkens back to 1950s science-fiction comics. (The concept was inspired by Marvel editor Mark Paniccia looking at the cover of What If? #9, which asked "What if the Avengers formed in the 1950s?") In Agents of Atlas, written by Jeff Parker, Jimmy Woo led a ragtag crew of unlikely heroes, made up of:
- Namora: the not-by-blood cousin of Namor the Sub-Mariner (first appearance, 1947)
- Venus: an alien siren named after the Greek goddess (first appearance, 1948)
- Marvel Boy/The Uranian: an Earth-born superhero raised on Uranus, revealed in Agents of Atlas to be an Eternal (first appearance, 1950)
- Gorilla-Man: an American mercenary who seeks immortality and is instead cursed by becoming a talking gorilla (first appearance, 1954)
- M-11/The Human Robot: a very obscure character who killed his creator in his first appearance in issue #11 of the Marvel horror comic Menace (first appearance, 1954)
It's rare to find Asian-American characters in mainstream superhero comics. It's even rarer to see them lead one. Jimmy Woo has led two. And while Woo hasn't starred in a comic that lasted more than eleven issues, his significance as a first in American comic books should, in theory, make him as meaningful as Captain America and Spider-Man. That potential was only realized as recently as 2019, when Greg Pak re-branded the team as the "New Agents of Atlas," a team of Asian superheroes (including Shang-Chi) with Jimmy still leading the team.
There's a lot of history for Jimmy Woo. In the comics, he's a top-tier agent who's worked with the Avengers, fought Godzilla, and led not one but two different superhero teams. On the screen, he can't do card tricks. It's actually very disappointing how the MCU has interpreted Jimmy Woo. Imagine for example if Black Panther, with all his epic comic book lore and significance, was nothing more than a goofy supporting character for someone else, like Iron Man.
Marvel Studios is making use of a character with more potential than bit parts in Ant-Man and the Wasp and WandaVision imply. And finally, it seems like Marvel is setting up something. In a 2021 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, WandaVision creator Jac Schaeffer said it was Marvel's idea to include Jimmy Woo and Kat Dennings' Darcy (from the Thor films) in WandaVision.
Hmm. For what?
Jimmy Woo's MCU future
"Randall and Kat were suggestions that I was like, ‘100% yes is my answer,'" Schaeffer said. "And that's sort of what I've seen on the other properties at Marvel, they have ideas of where they can put different characters and different storylines."
Kevin Feige similarly seems adamant Disney+ be the place for second-tier characters to get the exposure they wouldn't get on the big screen. "It was the notion of growing and expanding the MCU into this different platform," Feige told Variety, "that would allow us to further explore characters ... that we’ve met before, but hadn’t been able to focus on or spend as much time with as we want to."
Schaeffer admits ideas like putting Jimmy Woo in WandaVision only started as "a general idea." This means Marvel probably isn't hammering away on an Agents of Atlas series for Disney+ quite yet. But if Marvel were? That's a very Marvel thing to do: take big swings with characters audiences underestimate.
And hey, if Park's sitcom background seems too unlikely to be the hero of a Marvel team made up of aliens and talking animals, may I remind you Chris Pratt spent years on Parks & Recreation before becoming Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. Why can't Jimmy Woo?
WandaVision streams new episodes Fridays on Disney+.