One of the founding members of the Avengers and capable of commanding the largest force of insects in the world, Ant Man is one of the earliest superheroes in Marvel Comics’ long history. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in a short Tales to Astonish story, the character of Hank Pym was initially a one-off scientist who suddenly found himself living amongst the very ants that he studied. In time he graduated to the rank of founding member of the Avengers where rubbed shoulders with the mighty Thor, invincible Iron Man, incredible Hulk and shield-swinging Captain America.
Despite the high prestige that Ant Man has enjoyed, he remains a relatively obscure superhero. Despite being an obscure superhero, he has recently dominated the comic book/movie rumor mill as Entertainment Weekly theorized a Pixar-helmed Ant Man film in the near-future. As of yet there has been no substance to this supposition and since Pixar is booked up with several projects for the foreseeable future, I doubt that there will be any more news to come of this rumor.
Recently Edgar Wright (co-creator of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) signed on to direct a feature film adaptation of Ant Man with plans to use both the original Ant Man Hank Pym and his successor Scott Lang as the miniature marvel. While the film would have some comedic elements, Wright emphasized that it would not be a spoof. However, the film has become rather locked in stasis with only a statement from Marvel Entertainment President Kevin Feige acting as evidence that it is in development at all.
The version of Ant Man that is most familiar is the first, Dr Hank Pym. A brilliant scientist who becomes ensnared in his own invention, Pym is reduced to the size of an ant and only barely survives the experience. This was back when Marvel was still Timely Publications and printed mainly sci-fi and horror comics. With the move to the long underwear superhero concept, Pym
was re-introduced as the crime-fighter called Ant Man.
The comic book was full of ingenious inventions from a human rocket-style mortar that launched Pym into the air. A mound of ants would assemble itself at his destination to cushion his impact upon arrival. Utilizing twin gas cannisters stored on his belt to reduce and return him to regular height, Ant Man retained his full strength and mass when he was ant-sized. As the comic book progressed, Pym encountered a young socialite named Janet Van Dyne who reminded him of his departed wife, killed in Russia for defecting to the US. Mutating Van Dyne so that she too shrunk and grew wings and antennae from her body, he christened her the Wasp. Now a duo, the pair of adventurers shared the spotlight in Tales to Astonish as they ascended to top billing.
After joining the Avengers, Pym continued to work on his formula to the point where he could not only shrink down to Ant Man but also grow to the toweing Giant Man. This experimentation had its set-backs, once stalling Pym in his giant form, leading to a third persona called Goliath. A mixture of Reed Richards-level genius and raw power, Pym quickly became his worst enemy as his research took over his life. The creation of the awesome and terrifying Ultron in his Long Island lab nearly destroyed both the Avengers and Pym’s sanity, leading to his drop from visibility in the superhero world.
Swapping his identity a fourth time, Pym resurfaced as Yellow Jacket, a macho and self-confident hero who possessed the guts needed to propose to Janet Van Dyne leading to one of the weirdest in-costume weddings I’ve ever seen.
Desperately attempting to fit in with the big players, Pym lost his cool and struck his wife, leading to one of the most high-profile cases of spousal abuse in comics to date. Kicked out of the Avengers, Pym dropped from the public eye and returned to his role of scientist. Hank Pym has since returned to superheroic duty as the leader of the Mighty Avengers, calling himself the Wasp in order to pay homage to his departed wife Janet Van Dyne (the guy has really lousy luck in love) and now has such ability over dimensions that he has housed the Avengers in a pocket ‘Pym Universe.’
Electronics expert Scott Lang stole the abandoned Ant Man gear in order to help his ailing daughter Cassie. Upon returning the gear, Pym decided that Lang should keep it and continue to uphold the Ant Man legacy. A talented superhero, Lang seemed to take to the career with greater success than Dr. Pym. Serving alongside the Avengers, Lang built up friendships with Hawkeye in taking down the Taskmaster. Assisting Tony Stark during his search and destroy mission of the Armor Wars, Lang was as useful in costume as he was out when he acted as a technician and consultant. Even to the point of filling in for resident egghead Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, it seemed that the second Ant Man had found the acceptance in the superhero world that Pym had longed for.
Near the end of the third volume of the Avengers, Lang butted heads with Jack of Hearts, a hero who was forced to spend half of his life in a chamber designed to seep away his excess power. The pair never saw eye to eye and in truth were probably too much alike. In his last adventure, Jack of Hearts sacrificed himself to save Lang’s daughter, finally ending the long-standing feud. One of the many casualties of the Avengers Disassembled disaster caused by the Scarlet Witch, Lang was killed when Jack of Hearts returned to Earth and exploded on the Avengers mansion lawn.
Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie is the latest hero to carry the size-changing mantle as Stature in the Mighty Avengers under Hank Pym.
A low-ranking agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Eric O’Grady stole a massively revamped and re-tooled version if the Ant Man costume. Looking more like the Tony Stark-designed Spider-Man armor, the latest version of Ant Man has a rocket pack and retractable spider-like robotic limbs. Using his abilities for money and stalking curvaceous superheroes such as Ms Marvel, O’Grady is far from superhero material. The star of the Robert Kirkman (creator of Image Comics’ Invincible and writer of the Marvel MAX Destroyer series) Iredeemable Ant Man series, the latest version of Ant Man is a lewd con man driven more by personal gain than saving lives.
After the events of the Civil War, O’Grady joined the recruits of Camp Hammond where he traded barbs at the deceased Ant Man Scott Lang’s expense with the Taskmaster. Despite his numerous shortcomings, O’Grady proved instrumental in thwarting the Skrull’s attempt to use the Intiative’s resources as a weapon. This unfortunately led to O’Grady being recommended to Norman Osborn’s private task group, the Thunderbolts where he his main goal is bedding team leader Black Widow (Yelena Belova). O’Grady is able to shrink to ant-size, making him ideal for covert ops, but lacks the training necessary to command insects… not that he really cares.
With the Ant Man movie tentatively slated for 2012, there is still a lot of time where things can change. Perhaps Wright will step down as director and maybe… just maybe… Pixar will produce. But frankly I doubt it. A founding Avenger, a reformed criminal or a depraved opportunist, there are many directions that an Ant Man movie can go in. We’ll just have to wait and see.