The tiny titans Ant-Man and the Atom are quickly becoming popular in other media. Much like the Green Arrow/Hawkeye and Swamp Thing/Man-Thing conundrums, you may be confused as to who these weird comic book creations are and why there are two of them (there are actually many more).
Relax. I’m here to help.
Ant-Man and the Atom are two science-heroes capable of manipulating their size, shrinking so small that they are little more than a speck in your field of vision. However, the two characters have many other similarities. Ant-Man appeared in ‘The Man in the Ant Hill, a story published in the January 1962 issue of Tales to Astonish. Many characters have used the name of Ant-Man from Hank Pym to Scott Lang. The Atom has a somewhat hazier origin, with the first diminutive pugilist making his break in October, 1940. The size-changing version of the Atom debuted some time later in 1961 when several superheroes were revived with new looks and new powers.
After discovering what became known as the Pym particle, Ant-Man has also been known as Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellow Jacket and The Wasp. He has been called ‘the Scientist Supreme’ and is a founding member of the Avengers. Hank Pym later passed on the mantle of Ant-Man to Scott Lang after he put his superheroic days behind him.
Scott Lang turned to crime and stole Hank Pym’s Ant-Man costume in order to save his daughter’s life. Lang went on to be a respected Avenger but until recently (in the amazing series by Nick Spencer), never made that much of an impact on readers. This is the version that we will see adapted into a movie action hero (alongside Michael Douglas who will play the senior Ant-Man, Hank Pym).
The notion of size-changing may seem silly, and Ant-Man has been the punchline to many jokes including Garret Morris’ hilarious Ant-Man routine on Saturday Night Live. However, Ant-Man has earned his place alongside the technological wonder of Iron Man and the godly power of Thor by outwitting his enemies and in some cases, shrinking them as well. I admit that Ant-Man is a hard sell, but after witnessing how an army of ants can help subdue the Hulk… there may be something to it.
Ant-Man opens July 17th, 2015 and has a much harder mission than I do to win you over.
Brilliant scientist Ray Palmer discovered the ability to shrink after some cave water fell on a polished lens of dwarf star material (since that happens). While he was small, Palmer retained his relative mass, allowing him to leap into the air and strike foes with the force of a grown man (albeit from something smaller than a flea). Developing the lens into a costume, the Atom later joined up with the Justice League of America and was a key member (alongside Green Arrow and the Flash) from the 60’s to the 80’s. Back in the day, the Atom was a big hit alongside Hawkman, Elongated Man and other ‘third tier’ heroes.
Much like Ant-Man, the Atom is a tough sell, but in the 1980’s, DC Comics had a great idea that mixed some things up. In a paradigm shift, the Atom shrunk down to a subatomic realm and had a series of sword and sorcery-style adventures. This remains one of the more inspired ideas regarding the Atom, but it was short-lived.
In the TV series Arrow, Ray Palmer isn’t just a gifted inventor, but a sharp business man. After making a bid for Queen Consolidated and making moves to rename Starling City (to Star City, thereby matching the location in the comic book world), Palmer also revealed that he had created a super suit to fight crime. Very loosely based on the comic book version, the TV Atom is still veiled in mystery but is sure to continue DC’s success in adapting heroes on the small screen.
Ray Palmer’s Atom suit is scheduled to debut on the February 25 episode of Arrow. He will also appear in the Flash story All-Star Team-Up.
So… now you know.
Tell your friends.