Ant-Man could have gone wrong. There were many who questioned the validity of the identity receiving a movie. I say identity as there have been several people that have taken the mantle of Ant-Man since Hank Pym was introduced into the Marvel Universe in Tales To Astonish. Edgar Wright was one of the most determined to bring the figure to the silver screen. The departure of the renowned director left many with doubts. Not to mention the rather controversial history of the various people to take the costume. Add on an ability that, on its face, seems rather useless, and you have all the ingredients for the first bomb from Marvel Studios.
Despite all of this, Marvel managed to pull off what many thought to be impossible: twelve movies in and Marvel has continued to deliver opening weekend success. The use of humor and ties to the greater MCU combined with a colorful and diverse cast brought the original Ant-Man (Hank Pym) and his successor (Scott Lang) to the general public consciousness.
I will admit that figuring out an appropriate suggested reading list for this release was a challenge. I had to do extensive reading myself in finding the appropriate selections so that moviegoers may find some similarity to the film, were they to pick up my selections. I also had to ensure that they were stories that would lead to more interest in the Marvel Universe itself.
Scott Lang has no real long-standing solo stories. He is the epitome of the every-man in the Marvel Universe who is given the chance to be something more. He has been used largely as a supporting figure for other characters and wasn’t even invited to The Avengers until the 2000’s. In a lot of ways that is part of his charm: He never sought the spotlight–he just wanted to be a good father. When he was introduced in a two issue arc in Marvel Premieres issues number 47 and 48 this concept was the driving force of the new Ant-Man.
A thief who stole Pym’s technology, Scott Lang used it to rescue a doctor who could save his daughters life. As was common in writing at the time, we the readers were regularly reminded that he intended to turn himself in after saving his daughter. From early on we were given a picture of the poor down on his luck thief, trying to go straight, but willing to do anything for his child. So while it may be a short tale, I do think those who found Paul Rudd’s charms appealing would greatly enjoy this throwback to the silver age of Marvel Comics.
As for Hank Pym it is impossible to discuss him without talking about the elephant in the room. The infamous wife beating scene.
Whether or not Hank Pym can readily be held accountable for his actions in the middle of a psychotic break, whether or not you consider Jan Van Dyne’s actions in the matter as reprehensible, whether it was a miscommunication between writer and artist or not, the scene happened. Hank Pym, after developing the insane robot Ultron, hit his wife.
I won’t dwell on this moment in the character’s history. I will say that I felt the film did an excellent job of portraying Hank Pym as an arrogant man, bordering on mad scientist. A man who made many mistakes in his life and hurt people dear to him. A man who desperately feared what horror he may have unleashed on the world. But most importantly he was a futurist. He looked to the next generation to help him try and save the world.
When Marvel relaunched its titles after the Siege story arc they introduced the Avengers Academy. A school where Hank Pym, along with a select team, would help train the next generation of heroes. One of the most interesting aspects of the story was that the children Hank and his team mentored were children seen as at risk for become dangerous super villains. Hank Pym and his fellow Avengers saw a chance to help steer them away from this life. While Hank’s past mistakes were brought up he was not someone to dwell on. He was still the same arrogant scientist he had always been on the surface, but much like his portrayal in film, Hank Pym still had his guilt underneath. In fact it was this same guilt that leads him to try and help this young group. He is a man who has seen how badly a hero can fall and wants to make sure that the next generation has a chance to learn from his mistakes as he has.
Hank Pym and Scott Lang may never achieve the same status as Iron Man and Captain America. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are very much symbols of triumph over our own demons and our own weaknesses. But Hank Pym and Scott Lang do have a place in the Marvel Universe, as any fan can attest. For Scott Lang it’s not about saving the world or being a superhero to the masses: it’s about being the best you can be for the people you love. For Hank Pym its not about erasing your mistakes: it’s about learning from them and helping others benefit from your experience.