For the uninitiated, it would seem that Marvel is reaching to the bottom of the barrel for their latest studio effort: Ant-Man. In truth, the character goes back to the beginning of the Marvel Universe and is one of it’s greatest heroes in most of his incarnations. The original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, was a founding member of the Avengers and was a brilliant scientist and hero that went on to become many different heroes like Yellowjacket and Goliath before he made the horrible mistake of creating Ultron and went through a mental breakdown that led to the dissolution of his marriage to the Wasp, another Avenger, and him being kicked out of the Avengers. His successor, Scott Lang, was a thief who stole the Ant-Man technology to save his sick daughter Cassie and in the process would become an Avenger worthy of the name. After Scott’s brief period as a dead man, a SHIELD agent named Eric O’Grady stumbled onto the latest Ant-Man technology and used it to facilitate his selfish agenda that included stealing and stalking women.
For the movie, we can expect to see the first two heroes to wear the mantle as Hank (played by Michael Douglas) mentors Scott (Paul Rudd) to prevent the Ant-Man technology from falling into wrong hands. Some people I have spoken to seem put off by the obscurity of the hero and the tone of the movie, but I have a feeling that this will end up being this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy minus the killer soundtrack. Unfortunately, it would seem that like Guardians last summer that Marvel has not released a ton of Ant-Man stories in graphic novel or collected format to coordinate with the movie but thankfully some of these stories were collected in other texts or can be found in Marvel’s Unlimited service. Here are some stories I would recommend for anyone interested in learning more about Hank Pym or Scott Lang. I’m going to give some more recommendations than normal due to there being two versions of the character present in the movie and I’d like to offer stories for both.
Tales to Astonish #35 (1962) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
For the very first time, we meet Hank Pym and are introduced to his superhero identity as he battles communists. A seemingly odd choice for a hero today, just like the Fantastic Four’s adventure into space, it was a product of it’s time. In this story we are also introduced to what would become Pym Particles, Pym’s discovery that allows normal sized objects to shrink or grow in size, and see his first encounter with ants. We see Pym’s cleverness, courage and resourcefulness as he not only battles the reds but also a worker ant and a beetle in the pursuit of saving his formula and captive lab assistants. These traits would later go onto define Hank as a hero and have stuck with him ever since.
Although Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross will be wearing the Yellowjacket mantle in the film, it originally was one of Hank’s other aliases. This issue marks Hank’s first time wearing the costume and I will admit that it’s quite odd. Appearing out of nowhere to stop a band of thieves, Yellowjacket’s abilities and exploits garner him not only media attention, but the approval of J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle. During a training session, Yellowjacket breaks into Avengers Mansion and claims he killed Goliath, an identity Hank was using at the time. No one knew Yellowjacket and Hank were the same person, and it wasn’t until later that it was revealed that a lab accident had altered Hank’s personality and gave him a confidence boost that would allow him to propose to his long-time girlfriend, the Wasp. Although their marriage was not meant to last, this issue foreshadowed some of the problems Hank would experience later on in his career.
If you’re interested in reading stories just about Hank’s time as Ant-Man, look no further. In the early 70’s, there was an attempt at launching Hank back into his own title and giving him a rogue’s gallery that included Whirlwind and Egghead. This is Hank at his most heroic and has him free of the Avengers and his baggage. The art by the late Herb Trimpe is also fantastic as always, look no further than the dynamic covers he did as proof.
This issue marks the debut of Hank’s successor, Scott Lang, into the role of Ant-Man and delivers his origin story. Scott was a thief looking for redemption and to save his daughter, Cassie, whose life was on the line. The only doctor that could save her had been captured and Scott had to steal the Ant-Man suit to save him. Edgar Wright was originally going to direct Ant-Man and these issues served as his main inspiration. Something that seems to have carried over to the finished product, these two issues have introduced elements that continue to define Scott in every re-telling and every interpretation of his story: a father looking for a second chance stealing powerful technology to earn redemption for his daughter’s sake. If you want to start delving into Scott’s backstory, start here. It doesn’t hurt that the great Bob Layton and John Byrne were involved, the former of which I am a huge fan.
This seems like an odd inclusion for the list, but the series is under appreciated and features not only Scott but Jessica Jones, another character getting her own Netflix series later this year. For these issues, Scott and Jessica dated and he served as her emotional rock before he was killed off (seemingly) by the Purple Man (played by David Tennant in the upcoming series). Although this death was faked, these issues helped readers identify Scott more as a person in addition to a hero and helped push him forward as a character and established his place in the Marvel Universe.
Scott’s death and resurrection were both powerful stories for varying reasons. Avengers #500 was the beginning of a storyline called Avengers: Disassembled that had Scarlet Witch suffer a massive mental breakdown that led to a recently deceased Avenger named Jack of Hearts being brought back as a bomb that killed Scott among other tragedies like the deaths of Hawkeye and Vision. It was a story that showed no one was safe and that included Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, who disbanded in the wake of the tragedy. In the aftermath, Scott’s daughter Cassie (you know, the one he became Ant-Man to save) became a hero in her own right named Stature after years of stealing Pym Particles that allowed her to grow in size and she joined a new team called the Young Avengers. A career cut short when Doctor Doom kills Cassie just as Scott returns to life. Devastated, Scott would move forward as a hero propelled by his daughter’s death and making this a powerful issue and a landmark in his career.
FF Vol.2 #1-16 (2013-2014) by Matt Fraction, Lee Allred and Mike Allred
While the Fantastic Four were off traveling through various worlds and dimensions, they gave the keys to the Baxter Building to a group of heroes consisting of Scott, Medusa (Queen of the Inhumans), She-Hulk and Miss Thing. Still moving through the pain caused by his daughter’s death, Scott would embrace being a mentor to the children of the Future Foundation and leader of the team. Matt Fraction, ever the fantastic writer, establishes Scott moving forward as a man, hero and father and Mike Allred’s fantastic (pun intended) art works perfectly with capturing the action and drama. It also was recently released in trade format, making it easy to pick up and read.
Capturing the feel of the upcoming movie and bringing Scott back to the forefront, the new series brings Scott to Miami where he intends to start a new life. Cassie had just been resurrected by Doctor Doom and he planned on getting closer to his daughter. In these pages, Scott begins a security company where he works alongside the former villain Grizzly. Cassie is soon kidnapped by a supervillain named Crossfire in a crazy plot to revive Darren Cross, leading Scott to make an alliance with other villians to save her. The series has had a short run, but it has also been collected in trade format. Scott will return later this year after Secret Wars has ended in a new book, but I’d suggest starting here before the new title debuts.
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