Marvel’s next big thing may not be so big after all.
“Ant-Man” crawled into theaters this past weekend, earning a respectable $58 million in the process. You may not know much about this diminutive dynamo, but his history goes back to Marvel’s earliest days. Despite being left out of the first two “phases” of Marvel’s cinematic universe, “Ant-Man” was a founding member of the “Avengers,” alongside the more popular “Thor,” “Iron Man,” and “Hulk.”
“Ant-Man” was a founding member of the “Avengers.”
In 1962’s “Tales to Astonish” issues, biophysicist Hank Pym discovers a substance (later known as Pym Particles) that enable him to shrink to the size of an ant. With the help of a cybernetic helmet, he controls the actions of the insect world (think Aquaman for arachnids). Together with his girlfriend Janet Van Dyne, who also uses the special particles to become the Wasp, they battle the likes of Egghead, Whirlwind and more.
The movie skips over Pym’s time as Ant-Man, focusing primarily on his successor, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). That’s likely a wise move as Pym (portrayed by Michael Douglas) had a bit of ADD with his superhero personas. At various times he fought evil as Giant-Man, Goliath. and the boring-if-not appropriately named Dr. Pym.
The good doctor has battled some bouts of mental instability, owing in part to his creation of the murderous Ultron. (In this summer’s other Marvel blockbuster, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” it was the combination of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner who created the villainous robot.)
While Pym was off Avengering, thief Scott Lang stole the Ant-Man suit so he could save his daughter’s life. Pym caught him, but recognizing Lang’s nobility let him keep the suit to assume Ant-Man’s mantle.
The Wasp’s character is another diversion from the source material.
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As you can tell, the comics and movie share the same character names, but beyond that, the differences are quite stark. For example, the film’s villain is Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who develops the militaristic Yellowjacket suit based on Pym’s design. In the comics, Yellowjacket is yet another of Pym’s multiple noms de guerre (though the comics do later create an evil female character with the same name).
The Wasp’s character is another diversion from the source material. Van Dyne begins as Hank’s schoolgirl sidekick, but eventually matures into a hero on her own. At one point she becomes leader of the Avengers. And of course, she ends up marrying and divorcing Pym (after a bout of mental illness leads Pym to strike her). Presumably, the film’s Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) will eventually become that character.
If it seems Marvel is scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to its cinematic heroes, consider this: How much did we know about those Guardians of the Galaxy at this time last summer?
At this point, it’s hard to bet against Marvel.