If you can’t tell from the diminutive poster art or tiny-sized teaser, Marvel Studios is not only aware that the larger moviegoing audience has no idea who Ant-Man is, they’re having fun with that challenge. Buzz is now building for Marvel’s Phase Two epilogue / character origin story (thanks to to the debut of the official Ant-Man trailer), but it’s not all positive… far from it, in fact.
Despite being one of most senior members of The Avengers on the comic book page, Ant-Man has never been a mainstream superhero – or even all that popular in comics. So to confront the massive ant in the room: Who is this guy, and why is Marvel giving him his own movie over so many other potential characters?
Answer: Because Ant-Man (like the Guardians of the Galaxy before him) has something to offer movie fans, and a rich comic book history that can factor into the future of the MCU in big ways for this little guy.
Who Is Ant-Man?
THE ORIGINAL – In Marvel Comics history going back to the golden era ’60s, Ant-Man is Hank Pym, one of most brilliant scientists/inventors in the Marvel Universe, and a founding member of The Avengers. With his lab assistant girlfriend (and later wife, then ex-wife) Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym used his size-altering “Pym Particles” to give him and Janet powers as Ant-Man and The Wasp. In addition to size change, Pym developed a Helmet that allowed him to communicate with ants and other high-order insects. Eventually he used his particles to grow in size as well, becoming Giant Man.
By the ’80s, the passive Hank Pym had taken on an aggressive alter-ego named Yellowjacket and suffered a mental breakdown, abusing Janet and plotting against The Avengers (this is after he’d already accidentally created Avengers foe Ultron, as well). Through the 2000s until now, Pym has been a scientist, Giant-Man again, a male version of The Wasp, Yellowjacket again; he’s been impersonated by an alien shapeshifter, become a teacher, is a clandestine part of the “Marvel Illuminati,” and is now a leader of an Avengers A.I. team.
Basically, Pym has always had a sort of shifting role in the Marvel Universe.
ANT-MAN II – After Hank Pym hung up the mantle at one point, we got Ant-Man II, a.k.a Scott Lang (who is actually the featured character in the movie, played by Paul Rudd). Scott was an electronics expert who turned to burglary to help his family. After a prison stint, he was hired by Stark Industries to do security for the Avengers Mansion; when his daughter Cassie got sick, Scott returned to crime, using the Ant-Man suit to rescue a kidnapped doctor who could save his daughter.
After that Scott became a hero, and like Hank Pym has floated through various roles in the Marvel universe. His daughter Cassie has become a superhero in her own right, died, and been resurrected again.
ANT-MAN III – Low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Eric O’Grady also stole a version of the Ant-Man armor. Eric used the suit for the purpose of theft, or status elevation, or to pickup girls. O’Grady has reluctantly been drafted into the services of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Thunderbolts, and Secret Avengers, often functioning as a spy or thief.
What Are Ant-Man’s Powers?
Size-Changing – As stated, the invention of “Pym Particles” allows Ant-Man to change size. At first he was a shrinker, later a grower; at first he needed a pill or a special gas to change size (presumably how the film will do it), later he was able to mentally control the ability. NOTE: Due to the nature of Pym Particles, Ant-Man retains normal human strength even when he shrinks.
Insect Talk – Ant-Man’s cybernetic helmet is what allows him to communicate with ants and other high-order insects, bringing them to his assistance.
Costume & Gadgetry – Ant-Man’s suit is made of unstable molecules, so that it changes shape in proportion to his body. Using Pym Particles he also can shrink down all kinds of larger gadgets, weapons, and other items to be stored in his suit. In certain versions (like the Yellowjacket or Wasp alter-egos), the suits also come with artificial wings and some bio-blaster weaponry known as “stingers.”
Who Are Wasp & Yellowjacket?
The Wasp – Wasp in the comic books is socialite Janet van Dyne, who started out as Hank Pym’s lab assistant and girlfriend – eventually helping to found The Avengers and marrying Hank. When Hank’s Yellowjacket persona took hold, he and Janet had a violent falling out (a plot thread echoed in newer tellings like The Ultimates).
Since then, Janet has grown into a prominent leadership role within The Avengers, backed Tony Stark in The Civil War, and even died for a time during the Skrull Secret Invasion. She’s back now, and is still a major player in the team.
Yellowjacket – Yellowjacket was an alter-ego adopted by Hank Pym, meant to be a more assertive version of his passive self. Yellowjacket helped fuel Pym’s breakdown, and the persona was retired for a time. Rita DeMara took up the mantle as a villain (and later a hero); in the latest Avengers lore, a vision of the near-future reveals that Hank Pym is once again back in his Yellowjacket costume.
What Is The Movie Doing Differently?
Ant-Man II Origin Story – In the film, the saga of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne takes place during the Cold War, long before The Avengers is formed. The movie will actually focus on Ant-Man II, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), in a tweaked version of his comic book origin (steals from Pym, is reformed as a hero, takes on evil industrialist to save sick daughter, etc.). The biggest change is separating Hank Pym from the Avengers team origin.
Wasp Re-Imagined – In the movie, Hank Pym’s wife Janet is no longer alive, but it has yet to be officially revealed whether or not Janet suited up as Wasp alongside Hank’s Ant-Man, during the Cold War era. What we do know is that Hank and Janet have a daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), who is estranged from Hank (Michael Douglas). Hence why she has her mother’s last name.
We’d expect part of the film to deal with Hank and Hope settling the past and putting Janet’s ghost to rest – as well as seeing Evangeline Lily suit as Wasp at some point.
Bad Yellowjacket – In the movie, Yellowjacket will be the villainous alter-ego of industrialist Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). In the comics, Cross mutated himself into a creature with superpowers and a faulty heart; he battled Ant-Man II when Scott Lang tried to free a Doctor from Cross’ captivity – a doctor that could save Lang’s daughter.
In the film, Cross is still an industrialist but also an ex-protégé of Hank Pym. Instead of mutating himself, he will don the Yellowjacket armor, a more militaristic version of Pym’s Ant-Man armor. However, Yellowjacket will NOT be able to communicate with insects, only change size.
New Ultron Origin – With Ant-Man releasing AFTER Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s clear the villainous robot is getting a new origin. In the MCU, it’ll be Tony Stark (RDJ) who invents Ultron; however, since the Avengers 2 plot summary reads as follows: “When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program...” it’s totally possible that the program in question (the basis for Ultron) was first created by Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym. That’d be a nice head nod to comic book fans.f
There are also rumors that Ultron could spawn from Chitauri programming leftover after the attack – so we’ll have to wait and see if any Hank Pym connections actually exist.
Agent Carter of S.H.I.E.L.D. Connections – With Peggy Carter actress Hayley Atwell and middle-age Howard Stark (John Slattery) confirmed for appearances in Ant-Man, it’s clear the film will have some kind of connection to the Agent Carter miniseries and mythos. Maybe Hank Pym worked for S.S.R. or early S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Marvel’s Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Peña as Luis, Judy Greer as Maggie, Tip “Ti” Harris as Dave, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Wood Harris as Gale, Jordi Mollà as Castillo and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Peyton Reed directs Ant-Man with Kevin Feige producing and Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Edgar Wright and Stan Lee serving as executive producers.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019.
Image Header by Fantasmagorik