Earlier this week we got our first look at Ant-Man, the movie that will cap off the MCU's Phase 2 ahead of the plethora of movies they announced last year. Not a follower of the comics? Here's the gist of everything you need to know about Marvel's teeniest hero.
So. Ant-Man. Seems like a weird Superhero.
Yeah, right? He didn't even start out as Ant-Man!
When he first appeared in Tales to Astonish #27, Ant-Man wasn't even Ant-Man yet, but he was Henry 'Hank' Pym, the man who would become Ant-Man. Created for a story called The Man In The Ant Hill, Pym's first ever comic appearance saw the biochemist create a shrinking and enlarging formula based on new subatomic particles he discovered, since dubbed as Pym Particles. Pym tested the shrinking formula on himself, naturally, turning him to into a minuscule version of himself in what was basically Honey I Shrunk The Kids decades before it. Pym got attacked by ants and dragged into an Ant Hill - he eventually escaped, used the enlarging formula to return himself to normal, and then destroyed both, horrified by his experience.
So why did he become Ant-Man then!?
Reasons. By which I mean Pym's Tales to Astonish story was so well received that his creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber decided to bring the character back 8 months later as Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #35 in 1962 - Ant-Man is actually one of Marvel's oldest heroes.
Okay, now his origin is out the way, what can he actually do? Being small doesn't seem all that.
Well it wouldn't if you could just get smooshed by whatever villain you're fighting, would it? Ant-Man's diminutive size lets him be stealthy, so he can sneak into places through the tiniest of openings, but when it comes to combat, the Ant-Man suit still gives him the same level of strength as if he was a full grown man - in fact, according to Marvel's official description for the movie, the suit in this one will empower the wearer too, giving them strength even beyond a normal-sized human. So don't try to squish Ant-Man, because he can still knock you for six.
I don't get the Ant motif then, other than him being really really small.
Well, presumably so he didn't relive his nightmarish escapades when he first turned small, Pym designed his suit's helmet to psychically link with Ants, as well as translate their communications (and his) so he could talk to them and control them. So Ant-Man can have a legion of Ant buddies at his command to swarm and attack his foes too, which is pretty cool. In fact, Pym was so popular in the comics he was a founding member of The Avengers alongside Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Pym's lover, Wasp.
Wasp! Janet Van Dyne was the daughter of Vernon Van Dyne, a scientist who worked alongside Pym. When her father was murdered by an alien being during an experiment, Janet turned to Hank for help in avenging him - and in turn, he used his Pym particle formula on her, which not only shrank her, but let her grow wings when she was smaller than 4" tall. They fought crime together and got romantically involved. They're currently divorced, because as we'll learn later, Hank goes on to be a bit of a gigantic douchebag.
Oh dear. So she's in the movie too?
Actually, no - much to the chagrin of fans. Janet is believed dead, but another Van Dyne does show up - Hope, played by Evangeline Lily, and presumably daughter of Janet. As we learned in Meredith's breakdown of the Ant-Man teaser, she's seen fighting or training with Ant-Man and even sporting the Wasp's hair cut, so maybe Hope Van Dyne will become the MCU's Wasp.
Wait a minute. All this time you've been talking about Hank Pym - isn't he the old guy in that trailer?
Yeah, he's played by the legendary Michael Douglas.
But he's not Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is going to be Ant-Man.
Yeah, that too! Rudd is playing Scott Lang, the second character in the comics to take on the mantle of Ant-Man.
So why is it him and not Hank?
In the comics, over the years Hank Pym did some majorly messed up stuff - he created Ultron in the comics, got kicked out of the Avengers, became a villain called Yellowjacket - more on him later - and has taken on several non-Ant-Man identities since, including his current persona of Giant Man, who is basically Ant-Man but in reverse. He also abused his wife. Like I said earlier, DOUCHEBAG. Whether or not that will make it into the movie isn't known yet, but it's part of why many comic fans find Hank to be so unlikeable (obviously).
So how did Scott become Ant-Man?
Scott was in pretty dire straits. His work as a repairman couldn't support his family, so he turned to thievery. He went to jail for his crimes and his wife divorced him while he did his time - and his daughter Cassie, who we get brief glimpses of in the trailer (and in the comics would later become the New Avenger, Stature), developed a congenital heart condition and was seriously ill.
Yeah. Eager to help his daughter, Lang sought out Doctor Erica Sondheim, the only surgeon who could perform the operation to save her daughter, but she was being held hostage by Darren Cross (more on him later too!). Desperate, Scott returned to larceny as he saw no other way - he broke into Pym's house, stole the Ant-Man suit, and used it to infiltrate Cross' company and rescue Sondheim. He did so, and she successfully operated on Cassie - and Scott tried to return the suit to Hank, but Hank told him to keep it and become the new Ant-Man, as long as Scott used it to be a hero, rather than to break the law. He took it to heart, joined the Avengers and became a part-time hero, while supporting his family and working at both Stark Industries alongside Tony and at his own Electronics business later on.
Okay. You mentioned Yellowjacket and this Cross guy earlier. Who are they?
Although Yellowjacket and Cross were two different comic book characters - Yellowjacket was the supervillain identity Hank Pym took on when he had a mental breakdown (left, above), and Darren Cross was a villain who mutated into a superpowered monster after trying to experiment on a cure for his own heart disease, hence why he had kidnapped Doctor Sondheim (right). In the MCU though, they're one and the same (centre) - Cross, played by Corey Stoll, takes over Pym Technologies in the movie, and develops the Yellowjacket suit as a more militaristic version of Pym's original Ant-Man suit. He's the main bad guy in the film, although Ant-Man as a character has a lot more history having beef with Ultron, of course - this is presumably because Ultron has been tweaked for use in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Right then, now that's all out of the way - how does this all connect into the MCU then?
Well, at the moment it's rather standalone - it's set in San Francisco, rather than the East Coast focused shenanigans of The Winter Soldier and The Avengers - but we know that Ant-Man will feature flashback sequences that show Hank working with Tony Stark's father, Howard - played by John Slattery as he was in Iron Man 2, rather than Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter's Dominic Cooper. That said we don't know what they'll involve yet. Maybe through the Stark connection Pym could still be involved with the creation of the A.I that would become Ultron? Who knows. Marvel have also just revealed a new Ant-Man prelude comic that will tie in to the film featuring Hank as Ant-Man during the Cold War, and the writers have claimed that it will help bridge the gap between the world of Agent Carter and the rise of SHIELD as an organisation in the MCU.
Ant-Man also has the interesting positioning of capping off Phase 2 of the MCU, in the fallout of Age of Ultron. Presumably big things are going to happen to the MCU during Age of Ultron - especially if they're going to lead into phase 3 movies like Captain America: Civil War - so maybe Ant-Man will explore some of that set up too, to give it strong ties to the rest of the universe.
Sounds neat! Got any recommended reading?
Well yes actually - conveniently to tie in with the character's big screen début, Marvel launched a new Ant-Man ongoing series this week, starring Scott Lang. Our sister site Kotaku thought the first issue was pretty good! It's an ideal starting point if you want to get to grips with Ant-Man (and Scott) as a character. Aside from that, that's pretty much all you need to know going into Ant-Man later this year.
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