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Friday, 9 January 2015

Comics Explained: Ant Man

The trailer for Marvel's new film Ant Man was released recently so exactly who is the titular character? Marvel has said that Scott Lang is the titular character and that Dr Henry Pym was the previous Ant Man who is passing along the Ant Man persona to a new generation. Although both Lang and Pym are famous in the comic book world those who have not read the comics may not know who either are. Let's look first at how Ant Man began.
The origin of Ant Man- The person who made Ant Man first made his appearance in Tales to Astonish #27 but he wouldn't adopt the persona of Ant Man until Tales to Astonish #35. That person was Dr Hank, (Henry), Pym, (one of Stan Lee's own creations). Dr Pym was a biochemist who had discovered a new and unusual set of subatomic particles previously unknown to science which he calls Pym Particles. Using the Pym Particles he managed to created a serum to make things shrink and after testing it on a chair which shrank he decided to do the next logical step; test it on himself. Pym shrank to the size of an ant and after getting caught in honey when he fled into an ant hill he befriended the ants in there. Using his ant allies he manages to get to the serum and become full sized again where, convinced that it is dangerous, he pours it down the drain. Pym would not appear later until Tales to Astonish #35 where he decides that his serum was too great a discovery to destroy so he remade it but his encounter with the ants last time created an interest with the insects. Using his research he found that the ants communicated electronically through their antennas so he tried to make a helmet to communicate with them as well as making a costume to accompany it. The US government at this time gets Dr Pym to create a formula for an anti-radiation gas. However KGB agents, (this was released in September 1962 in the middle of the Cold War), try to steal the formula. Luckily Pym had created his costume and helmet just in time and he shrinks to ant size to escape the KGB. Finding that he has his full sized strength and that his helmet works he gets the ants to help him and the KGB agents are defeated. Thus started the career of Ant Man.
 Further Adventures- As Ant Man Pym went on a few adventures but the first major issue was Tales to Astonish #44. In this issue another scientist, Dr Vernon Van Dyne, approaches Pym to help him contact extraterrestrial life and his daughter, Janet Van Dyne, who was a prospective scientist becomes Pym's lab assistant. We also learn more about Pym's background in this issue where it was revealed that Pym had a wife called Maria Trovaya who was a Hungarian scientist and was kidnapped and supposedly killed by the secret police. Meanwhile the aliens, called the Kosmosians, under one called Pilai kills Dr Vernon Van Dyne. Janet and Pym work together to defeat the alien while at the same time battling their own attraction for each other. Pym uses the Pym Particles to graft wasp wings onto Janet's back that become visible when she shrinks and they defeat Pilai. Pym and Janet become partners as Ant Man and Wasp. After multiple adventures the Asgardian God of Mischief Loki decided to create a trap for his brother Thor by enraging the Hulk. Ant Man and Wasp arrived along with Thor and Iron Man who team up with the Hulk and defeat Loki. They formed a team: the Avengers. That was the first appearance of the Avengers in Avengers #1. More adventures ensued with Pym finding that he could reverse the Pym Particles to make him go to giant heights in Tales to Astonish #49 becoming Giant Man. He later changed his persona again to Goliath in Avengers #28. Each time he changed costumes again but over the years his affections for Janet grew and they started a relationship. Pym also gained a new assistant called Dr Bill Foster in Avengers #32 who later would use the Pym Particles to become Giant Man, something important as he was one of the first African-American superheros alongside Black Panther and Luke Cage. However travesty was to come around the corner.
Downfall of Pym- Hank Pym was neglected mentally by his father when he was a child and the one person who encouraged his intellect and creativity, his grandmother, died when he young. This traumatic event at a young age and pent up emotions to his father started to lead to mental problems when he started using Pym Particles. Pym started to develop schizophrenia which started to become worse and worse. His erratic behavior that sometimes started to turn violent started to put him at odds with his fellow Avengers and Janet. This culminated in Avengers #59 when Pym had a full mental breakdown and lost his memory declaring himself to be Yellowjacket, (pictured above), that he had murdered Hank Pym and he proposed to Janet. Only Janet realized that it was Hank and said yes despite the other Avengers not knowing who he was. After the ceremony was interrupted by a minor villain group, (the Circus of Crime), Pym remembered his real identity, defeated the group and married Janet. Their marriage started to crumble years later after Captain America decided to court martial Pym after he had attacked and almost killed an enemy who had surrendered, (a magician called Elfqueen). In Avengers #213 during the proceedings Pym tried to create another artificial lifeforms that only he could defeat and Janet tried to convince him not to make it. Although the artist and writers didn't intend Pym to purposefully hit Janet but rather by accident nevertheless Pym's fragile mental state had resulted in violence against his wife. Shortly after their marriage ended. However his greatest mistake happened years before...
After a battle with Dragon Man, an artificial dragon fabricant, Hank Pym decided to copy it but create something greater. Dragon Man was a controlled brute but Pym wanted to create actual intelligence. Something that could think and feel. Using his own brain patterns he created artificial intelligence and named it. It was Ultron. Ultron however rebelled and wiped his memory so Hank forgot all about the life he had created. Ultron however didn't disappear. He rebuilt himself and in Avengers #54 in a disguise came to attack the Avengers and his 'father'. Although the Avengers managed to fend Ultron off he continued to return in more and more powerful upgrades. The only good that came from Ultron was the creation of the Avengers member Vision and for good reason. When Pym used his brain patterns to create Ultron the darker parts of his mind was transferred over to Ultron. Of all emotions Ultron inherited the most darkest: hate, anger, avarice and megalomania. Ultron viewed himself greater than all other and despised organisms for he thought that they were hindered by emotions despite the fact he had emotions himself. Ultron is my favorite Marvel villain because he is literally the dark manifestation of Hank Pym. Pym is the kindness and friendliness and Ultron is hatred. I could write an entire post on Ultron but now to talk about the actual star of Ant Man.
Scott Lang- Lang first appeared in Avengers #181 as electronics expert who had to resort to stealing to help his wife and daughter, (although he was not the main center of the story of that issue). After a prison sentence he worked at Stark Industries which brought him in contact with Hank Pym. When his daughter Cassie was diagnosed with a threatening congenital heart problem the only person who could help her, Dr Erica Sondheim, was captured. Resorting to theft again he stole the Ant Man helmet and costume and rescued her allowing Cassie Lang to get the much needed surgery. Although Lang was intending to return the helmet and costume Pym knew he had stole the paraphernalia. Pym noticed that he had stole the costume for good so made him the new Ant Man. Lang was not made an Avengers member but he often worked alongside them as well as Wasp fighting many enemies including Absorbing Man and Titania. When Reed Richards, (Mr Fantastic), went missing he even joined the Fantastic Four until he returned. After the psychic being Onslaught caused the disappearance of the Avengers, Fantastic Four and Dr Doom he became one of the lead members of the Heroes for Hire and continued his adventures when they returned. He even found time for love in the Alias series where he started a relationship with the vigilante Jessica Jones, Jewel, but this proved to be unfounded when she left to be a private investigator and started a relationship with Luke Cage. After helping the Avengers defeat Kang the Conqueror he was admitted into the Avengers.
Avengers and after- Despite being an Avenger he did not get along well with fellow Avenger Jack of Harts, a half human being with massive energy bursts. This animosity continued until Jack of Harts committed suicide saving Cassie Lang from a child murderer as he was tired of going to an isolated cell to contain his powers which were growing out of control. However everything went wrong in Avengers Disassembled. Scarlet Witch had lost control of her reality bending powers as her mind started to collapse and during this mental breakdown her manifestations targeted her former friends. A zombie version of Jack of Hearts created by Scarlet Witch tried to warn Lang of danger before blowing up killing Lang and destroying half the Avengers Mansion. Lang's death however inspired his daughter to use Pym Particles to join the Young Adventures under the name Stature. Pym meanwhile helped with the New Avengers but was replaced by a Skrull sleeper agent and his memory modified to have Pym's memories. In the Civil War story arc where superheroes went to war with each other over whether to sign their secret identities over to the government Cassie joined the anti-registration forces under Captain America while Pym joined the pro-registration forces under Iron Man. When Bill Foster, who joined the anti-registration forces, was killed by a clone of Thor made by Tony Stark Pym went into depression after the death of his friend and had to take pills. Ironically Hulkling captured Pym and impersonated him until the end of the war, (a half-Skrull impersonating a Skrull impersonating Hank Pym). When the Skrull sleeper agents woke during the Secret Invasion so did the Skrull impersonating Pym but the Skrull was killed. Wasp sacrificed herself during the battle and in memory of his deceased lover he took the persona Wasp. Meanwhile the Young Avengers traveled through time thanks to Scarlet Witch and Cassie ended up saving her father's life but tragedy struck again when Dr Doom killed her. With Lang wanting revenge on Doom he joined the Future Foundation.

There was the history of the two main Ant Men. I hope you enjoyed and please suggest any more Comic Explained posts that you want.

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