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Evolution of Ant-Man

Track the evolution of Ant-Man from tiny superhero to giant film star.

By Stephen HamiltonPublished 7 years ago 4 min read

By now you must have seen Ant-Man, the 2015 summer blockbuster starring Paul Rudd. For those who haven’t seen it, you’re probably wondering how a film surrounding a superhero called Ant-Man can have redeemable qualities and/or special powers. Meanwhile, Ant-Man has a long and storied history in the comic book universe and has, at many points, been the most important character of the Marvel Universe. This is the evolution of Ant-Man. It’s probably wise to first go over which characters have worn the Ant-Man suit.

The First Ant-Man: Hank Pym

Image via Deviant Art user uncannyknack

This guy was the original Ant-Man back in the silver and golden age of comics. Hank Pym was a biophysicist and Security Operations Center expert who decided to become a superhero after discovering a chemical substance (Pym Particles) that would allow the user to alter his size. He designed a helmet that could control ants so that when he shrunk down, he could use them to help him in battle. He soon shared this secret information with his girlfriend, Janet van Dyme, who then served as his companion, the Wasp. Pym and van Dyme were founding members of the original Avengers, and they are some of the most seminal characters in comic book history.

The Second Ant-Man: Scott Lang

Image via Marvel Heroes

This is the version of Ant-Man that Paul Rudd plays in his movie, with his mentor being an older, wiser Hank Pym. Scott Lang is a classic Jean Valjean-type character who stole in order to provide for his dying daughter. Encouraged to don the Ant-Man suit by Pym, Lang reforms to a life of crime fighting in the name of his daughter. A lovable rogue in every sense of the word, Scott Lang would become a regular affiliate of the Fantastic Four.

The Third Ant-Man: Chris McCarthy

Image via Comic Vine

Created by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester, the character first appears in Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 (December 2006). Chris McCarthy was a low-level agent of S.H.I.E.L.D working in the recon department. Chris and his friend Eric O'Grady were tasked with guarding Dr. Hank Pym's lab by the higher-ranking agent, Mitch Carson. However, Eric attacks Pym while the scientist leaves the lab. Chris panics and jumps inside the latest version of the Ant-Man suit, where he gets lost in the helicarrier. Chris McCarthy is your typical "fish outta water" kind of character, although he does not last long in the comics.

The Fourth Ant-Man: Eric O’Grady the Irredeemable Ant-Man

Image via

Unlike the rest of these characters, Eric O'Grady is by no means a "good guy." In fact, he has very few morals—he often cheats and steals to get further in life. As a low-level agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, O'Grady steals the latest Ant-Man suit to further his own selfish motives. However, he does eventually join the Avengers and sacrifices himself to save a child from villainous character the Father. As you might imagine, breaking down Ant-Man is a complicated affair due to the vast number of stories accredited to him. However, focusing on Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, seems to make the most sense.

Origins of Ant-Man

Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, Ant-Man first appeared in Tales to Astonish #27, which was published in January 1962. Originally created to fill a single issue of the stand-alone sci-fi comic anthology, the character proved popular enough to return several issues later.

However, the popularity was tepid at best and he actually never received his own comic book lineup. When Stan Lee was asked why there was relative unpopularity surrounding Ant-Man, he had this to say:

I loved Ant-Man, but the stories were never really successful. In order for Ant-Man to be successful, he had to be drawn this small next to big things and you would be getting pictures that were visually interesting. The artists who drew him—no matter how much I kept reminding them—they kept forgetting that fact. They would draw him standing on a table top, and they would draw a heroic-looking guy. I would say, 'Draw a matchbook cover next to him, so we see the difference in size.' But they kept forgetting. So when you would look at the panels, you thought you were looking at a normal guy wearing an underwear costume like all of them. It didn't have the interest.

Ant-Man Becomes Giant Man

Image via MovieWeb

In one attempt to keep the character fresh and original, the creators of Ant-Man reversed his entire concept. Instead of keeping him small the entire time, why not reverse the Pym Particles and make him a giant? The thought process worked, and Giant-Man was born. But perhaps one of the most interesting tidbits about Ant-Man is that he is the creator of one of the Avengers' greatest foes—Ultron. You probably remember that name from the newest Avengers movie, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. However, in the comics Ant-Man developed the robot with perfectly innocent intentions. It eventually gained sentience and soon plagued the team for many years. Ultron was such a great enemy to the Avengers that he was not beaten until comics released in the 1990s.

The character of Hank Pym is filled with fear and guilt over the past. He also expresses remorse for his dead wife, Janet van Dyme. These tragedies thus defined every move Pym made. Ultron soon embodied the mistakes of Hank Pym’s past, so when he was finally defeated, the character moved on from his thirty-year-long publication history into a new age. Ant-Man, despite his seemingly simple name, is an incredibly complex character. This sense of psychological complexity allowed for realism in the minds of the readers. It is this same character strength that inspired the 2015 film.

See the theatrical debut as Ant-Man joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film sees the origin story of Scott Lang, but also pays tribute to the original Ant-Man by featuring Hank Pym as his mentor. The endearing film serves as a reminder of the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without catastrophic threats. Consider Ant-Man a post-Avengers palate cleanser between the larger Marvel films that perfectly captures the playful tone of its main hero.

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About the Creator

Stephen Hamilton

Definitive movie buff. Quickly realized that it was more financially prudent to write about film than trying to beg for millions of dollars to make his own.

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