Who is Ant-Man?
When the Avengers assembled on the big screen in 2012, there was one notable omission. Where was Ant-Man, one of the founding members of the team?
Well, he's arriving in cinemas, finally, this summer with his own standalone movie. (He's only got little legs, so you'll have to forgive his tardiness.) Not only that, but he's kicking off Marvel's Phase Three roster of films, just as Iron Man kicked off the entire MCU back in 2008. That's quite a responsibility.
If you've not read the comics, though, you're probably wondering who Ant-Man actually is. If that's the case, or if you're just looking to brush up on your Ant-Man lore, here's our guide to Marvel's teeniest hero...
Created by legendary Marvel man Stan Lee alongside his younger brother Larry Lieber and artist Jack Kirby, Ant-Man first appeared in Tales To Astonish #27 in January 1962, though he only showed up in his secret identity of Henry Pym.
Entitled 'The Man In The Ant Hill', the seven-page story was written by Lieber at a time when high-concept, twist-y stories were all the rage in the pages of Tales To Astonish.
That debut appearance introduced the basics and provided the foundations for Ant-Man lore. Say hello to brilliant biochemist Hank Pym, who invents some nifty shrinking technology, tests it on himself and ends up battling ants and bees in an adventure that predates Honey, I Shrunk The Kids by roughly 30 years. The concept was so well-received that Lee decided to transform Pym into a superhero all his own. And Ant-Man was born...
Just eight issues later, in Tales To Astonish #35 (September 1962), Pym made his first appearance as Ant-Man. With his cool tech and unique shrinking ability, he was deemed so cool that he became a founding member of The Avengers (alongside Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and love interest The Wasp).
Given how crammed with superheroes 2012's Avengers Assemble was, you can almost forgive Joss Whedon for leaving Ant-Man on the sidelines, even if it did cause head-scratching among ardent comic fankids.
Hank Pym predates a lot of things that people know to be Marvel Comics, says Brian Michael Bendis, Marvel writer and key member of its Creative Committee. Hes the prototype for Tony Stark and Peter Parker. That alone makes him a very interesting character. Hes also a founding member of the original, original Avengers. This guy is legacy all over the place.
Guy turns into ant, gets crushed by super-villain's boot, right? Hardly. With science on his side, Ant-Man's easily one of the most powered-up of any of the Avengers.
His cybernetic helmet allows for communication between man and insect, while his antenna channel traditional radio waves and non-traditional ant engrams (or thoughts). The decoder also transforms incoming and outgoing signals into intelligible language yes, this guy can actually talk to ants.
Hes also done everything from having a fantastic journey through the human body to using an army of ants against some pretty powerful foes, adds Bendis. It seems silly, but he has his own drone army. Thats pretty powerful stuff.
If you're looking to brush up on your Ant-Man comic lore before hitting the cinemas this summer, you could do worse than starting with Avengers: The Many Faces Of Henry Pym. A compilation of stories that span 1962-2009, it introduces Henry Pym while also featuring his numerous alter-egos (Yellowjacket, Goliath, even the Wasp).
Meanwhile, The Avengers #161/2 (1977) sees Ant-Man going pretty badass, and includes an appearance by mega-villain Ultron. And Marvel Premiere #47/48 (1979) debuts Pym's Ant-Man successor Scott Lang (though he previously cameo'd in The Avengers #181).
Lang's pretty important, but we'll get to him in a bit...
The Dark Ages
The darkest events of Pyms comic-book life came in the 1980s. Plagued by guilt over creating Ultron (yep, he unleashed the villain in 1968 comic The Avengers #54, though that lore is being given an overhaul for Avengers: Age Of Ultron), the troubled boffin has a mental breakdown.
In his alternate superheroic identity as Yellowjacket, Pym attacks an enemy from behind during a negotiation and Captain America is forced to shut him down. Awaiting a court martial from the Avengers, Pym creates another killer robot, not unlike Ultron, which he programs to attack his team so he can save the day.
When his crime-fighting partner, who is now also his wife, Janet van Dyne (aka the Wasp) figures out his plan, Pym strikes her down during the confrontation. Fittingly, the Wasp divorces him and Ant-Man/Yellowjacket is expelled from the Avengers. Yeah, we warned you it got dark...
With Pym changing personas every few years, the role of Ant-Man was up for grabs in the Marvel stable. To date, two successors have donned the mandibles, with both Scott Lang (told you we'd get to him) and Eric OGrady using Pym particles to their advantage.
Lang turned to a life of crime after failing to make enough money to support his family as an electronics expert. After parole, Tony Stark hires him as a security technician, but when Langs daughter falls ill, he returns to burglary and steals the original Ant-Man costume and shrinking gas from Pym.
Rescuing the kidnapped doctor that could save his daughters life, Langs rewarded by Pym with his own Ant-Man costume and a new superhero is born.
It's Scott Lang who'll be showing up as Ant-Man in Marvel's movie this year. From what we know, the plot seems to stick pretty closely to the comics, with Lang attempting to save his ill daughter by turning to a life of crime.
It hasn't been a smooth transition from page to screen, though. After working on the movie (in between other projects) for eight years, director Edgar Wright resigned over creative differences with Marvel. Though fankids were up in arms, Marvel quickly found a replacement director in Peyton Reed, who admitted he's a life-long Ant-fan.
Its still very much in the spirit of what Edgars original pitch was and the entire template of the movie is what Edgar set out and originally came and pitched us, says Marvel movie boss Kevin Feige. But its on its way to being the absolute best version of what that movie could have been.
Peyton is really, really wonderful, and will be proving that soon enough. As I said to the Comic-Con audience a few years ago, You might not have heard of [Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors] Joe and Antony Russo, but youre going to be big fans of them soon. And Id say the same thing about Peyton Reed now.
With Paul Rudd already cast as Ant-Man by Wright, the Anchorman actor proved surprisingly useful when his friend Adam McKay was drafted in to give the script a polish ahead of filming.
Ive always known Paul Rudds a really good writer from improvising with him on set, but I had no idea he was that good hes really great with dialogue, McKay said in October 2014.
So the two of us holed up in hotel rooms on the east and west coast, and I think it was like six to eight weeks we just ground it out and did a giant rewrite of the script. I was really proud of what we did, I really thought we put some amazing stuff in there and built on an already strong script from Edgar Wright and sort of just enhanced some stuff.
Meanwhile, Michael Douglas will play Hank Pym (and no doubt bring the requisite twinkly-eyed elegance to the character), while Evangeline Lilly will fill the shoes of his daughter, Hope Van Dyne. Which hints that, somewhere down the line, Lilly will be turning up as The Wasp (in the comics, Hope's mother is original Wasp Janet Van Dyne).
It would seem obvious that Ant-Man's foe in his cinematic debut would be Ultron, but with that villain repurposed for Avengers: Age Of Ultron, he needed a new baddie to tackle.
Enter Yellowjacket. In a further shake-up to comic lore, Yellowjacket is no longer Pym's evil alter-ego, but a villain in his own right. I was Hank Pyms mentee, and a genius scientist as well, explains Corey Stoll (House Of Cards), who'll play Yellowjacket aka Darren Cross in the film. Cross becomes a business partner of Pym, but Douglas says hes taking the company in a different, evil direction.
Adds Stoll: He is not a villain in the vein of Thanos or Loki. [Cross] is a guy who is not that dissimilar from Michael Douglas' character, Hank Pym. A brilliant scientist who is not ethically pure. I think a great thing about the whole movie is that everybody in this movie is in those shades of grey a little bit.
The Anty Hero
He's been a long time coming, but Ant-Man is finally scuttling onto cinema screens in 2015. And despite the Marvel Cinematic Universe's packed roster of heroes (on top of the Avengers, we also have the Guardians Of The Galaxy to think about), Marvel seems confident that there's room for the minuscule hero.
There is something a little Robin Hood about him when you consider the crime that sent him up the river, says comic writer Matt Fraction. Hes not a dangerous man or a mean man. Hes not the Punisher. I find it impossible not to view him through the lens of economics and class. And I always liked his story best amongst the Ant-Men.
I liked the Robin Hood side of things. I think it connects him to Spider-Man in a way. There is something that feels very Marvel about that. Hes kind of the anti-Bruce Wayne. And hes not Tony Stark. Hes not Reed Richards. Hes a guy thats going to need to build all of this superhero stuff in his garage literally.
Appetite suitably whetted? Well, here's the first 'human-sized' teaser trailer for Ant-Man, which opens in cinemas on 17 July 2015.