Panels to Pictures: The Irredeemable Ant-Man
The first in a new series of articles which will discuss the latest comic book movies and TV shows along with providing essential reading for those interested in the characters.
Phase 3 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is set to kick off later this summer when the studio releases Ant-Man on July 17th. It’s fair to say that Ant-man is one of Marvel’s lesser known superheroes, despite being one of its oldest. The lack of cultural awareness around the character is quite odd consider he is a founding member of the Avengers as well as the creator of one of their most enduring foes; Ultron. He is also one of their more interesting characters in that he is one of the few true legacy heroes in Marvel comics in that the mantle of Ant-Man has been held by a number of people over the years. This aspect of the character is central to the movie which will see Hank Pym (Michael Douglas); the original Ant-Man recruit a young thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to take up the Ant-Man identity. So what can we expect from the movie and what comic books should those interested in the character read before heading off to the theatres?
The Film: A complicated relationship
Ant-Man is a movie with a very odd history, going through main iterations over the years. Initially slated to appear as part of their first wave of independently produced movies, Ant-man languished in development hell for nearly a decade until finally. During that time, Edgar Wright (Hot-Fuzz, Shawn of the Dead, The World’s End) signed to writer and direct noting that high concept nature of the character and the potential that existed to create a superhero heist film. However, the studio and Wright clashed over the artistic direction of the film leading the two to have a “conscientious uncoupling” in May 2014 with Peyton Reed stepping in to take his place. While conceived as a stand-alone movie, the inclusion of Ant-Man in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War is sure to see the character branch out and may lead to more film appearances in the future.
The Comics: Irredeemable in more ways than one
Many of you are probably fans of, or at least have heard of, Robert Kirkman. If that name doesn’t ring any bells then it’s likely that you haven’t ever read or watched The Walking Dead. That is something you should rectify in the coming days. Despite being mostly known for his dramatic work, Kirkman has a history of writing comedic tales having authored the stupid, but hilarious Battle Pope series. In 2006, following their Civil War event, Marvel launched “The Irredeemable Ant-Man” penned by Kirkman and drawn by the immensely talented Phil Hester. In it, we are introduced to Eric O’Grady, a low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and compulsive liar who steals a new Ant-Man prototype suit from the body of his dead friend (yes, really). Instead of using the suit to fight crime, Eric uses it to steal, con people into buying him dinner and perv on women to varying degrees of sucess. All the while, O’Grady is engaged in a cat and mouse game with his former friend, Agent Mitch Carson. What follows are 12 issues of unadulterated fun and a protagonist that you can’t help but like despite his despicable nature. Kirkman weaves a fascinating tale which concludes on an optimistic note with Grady and the audience hoping that he can become a better man, that there is something good in him.
For those of you interested in the original Ant-Man , it’s worth noting that the character has a bit of a stain on his legacy. Hank Pym at one point in time, abused his wife; Janet Van Dyne (aka the Wasp) and subjected her to domestic violence. While the character arguably has redeemed himself over the years this aspect of his character is quite damaging and can turn people off. His abusive nature was brutally portrayed in Mark Miller’s Ultimates. In this series his fragile mental state and desire to be recognised as a scientist and a superhero, leads him to viciously beat and nearly kill his wife when she “makes him feel small” during a fight with the Hulk. It is unknown to what extent to the film will reference this dark aspect of the character. Evangeline Lilly plays Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym, their seemingly strained relationship and the fact the character takes her mother’s name may be indicative of the family’s troubled past.
If you are interested in reading up on the original Ant-Man, the original graphic novel; Ant-Man: Season One would be a good place to start. My personal favourite take on the character can be found in the excellent Avengers Academy. The series sees Pym, and a number of other veteran Avengers, mentor a group of young super-humans who due to their tragic origins possess the potential to be either the next generation of heroes or some of the most devastating villains the Marvel universe has ever known.
Scott Lang has been an active member of the Avengers over the last two decades with the relationship between him and his daughter acting as a focal point of his character. Currently, Nick Spencer (author of the fantastic Superior Foes of Spider-man) is writing an entertaining Ant-Man series which features Scott Land as the main character. The series is perfect for anyone who wants a continuity-light, funny and engaging title.
One Small Step…
What is clear from is that Ant-Man in all his incarnations is a flawed character with a dubious past who on some level or another uses his power to find some level of redemption. For some it works for others their sins remain with them and having lasting consequences on their interactions with other characters. It’s great that Ant-Man is finally getting a chance to star in his own movie. For many years, the character has been relegated to the side-lines; a joke. While this film is surely to feature a great deal of comedy, it also has the potential to give legitimacy to a character who has often be forgotten by the comic reading public. Ant-Man is proof that every hero, no matter how small or seemingly irredeemable, has an opportunity to shine.