Marvel Studios: Explaining The Man In The Ant Hill!

"When you're small...you're like a bullet." That's what the trailer said.

“When you’re small…you’re like a bullet.” That’s what the trailer said.

“Ant-Man” from Marvel Studios came out in theatres today, so it seemed like this was the kind of thing that should go up. I wasn’t really intending to see it, which should scare Marvel. I’m the “one hundred percent consumer” that they are looking for, the demographic that just goes to see these things. I didn’t go to see “Green Lantern” for similar reasons that I had for not seeing this film…and look what a bomb that was. Still, I hear decent things about “Ant-Man”, despite it’s source material and the general misgivings in the media over the course of the film being developed. The quote in the caption comes from the much needed explanation in the trailer about how Ant-Man can even be a super hero. His power is to become ridiculously tiny, after all. How is that really all that useful? Click here to watch the explanation…the film does a clever, and funny job on the needed exposition. That alone gives me hope for the film.

Ant-Man is actually the name of several fictional characters appearing in books published by Marvel Comics. The film will be focused, apparently on Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man, with Hank Pym (the first) as sort of a mentor figure, or simply the inventor of the suit, I suppose. Ant-man’s powers DO come from his suit in the film, as they initially did in the comic books. The Ant-Man persona was the first superhero alias of the brilliant scientist Hank Pym after inventing a substance that allowed him to change size…he went through a bunch of identities. In fact, one of those identities, the Yellowjacket, is apparently the bad guy in this film. I have no idea how THAT will play out.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas in the Film) debuted in a seven-page solo cover story titled “The Man in the Ant Hill” (about a character who tests shrinking technology on himself) in the science fiction/fantasy anthology comic “Tales to Astonish” No. 27 (in 1962). The creative team was Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, with inker Dick Ayers. A pretty great team of creators, really. How did this sci-fi story turn into a superhero book? Lee said in 2008, “I did one comic book called ‘The Man in the Ant Hill’ about a guy who shrunk down and there were ants or bees chasing him. That sold so well that I thought making him into a superhero might be fun.” As a result, Pym was revived eight issues later as the costumed superhero Ant-Man who starred in the 13-page, three-chapter story “Return of the Ant-Man” in Tales to Astonish No. 35. The character’s adventures became an ongoing feature in the title…and now, we have a major motion picture.

Ahem. Nope.

Remember…the Ant-Man in this film isn’t Hank Pym.

Oh…yeah.

So…Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man…what’s he all about? Scott Lang turned to burglary when his occupation as an electronics expert failed to support his family, making him very different in initial background and motive thant the rest of the Marvel Studios bunch of characters. Apprehended, he served his prison sentence and was paroled after three years for good behavior (they mentioned the prison stay in the trailer). In prison, he furthered his study of electronics and was soon hired by Stark International to work in its design department. Under Tony Stark’s direction, he helped install a new security system in Avengers Mansion….which is important for the opportunities for plot development it gave to Mr. Lang.

When his daughter Cassie Lang became seriously ill, Scott Lang decided to return to burglary as a final resort. He broke into Dr. Hank Pym’s home and stole the Ant-Man suit and shrinking gas canisters. Garbed as Ant-Man, Lang broke into Cross Technological Enterprises and discovered that Dr. Erica Sondheim, the only person capable of helping his daughter, was being held prisoner by Darren Cross. He rescued the doctor from Cross’ clutches and was relieved when Sondheim was able to save his beloved Cassie’s life. Lang had intended to return the Ant-Man suit to Pym and turn himself in for its theft but Pym, aware of the use to which Lang had put the stolen goods, offered to let him keep them, provided he only use them to uphold the law.

That’s a pretty unusual origin story, and like many of the Marvel movies, was used as loose sourcing. It does however suggest that we are getting a more interesting and/or complex protagonist in the film, a more “rough around the edges” kind of character. I mean…consider that Thor’s powers are derived from him maintaining a noble moral core, and that Captain America is the embodiment of the core values of the “greatest generation.”

Ant-Man, on the other hand, stole his suit.

It seems like it actually could be a clever set of premises…I think the whole thing will depend on the execution. Since a huge number of readers had no @#$%ing idea who Ant-Man is, this seemed like a useful post.

About the art…again, experimenting with radical foreshortening. I like the way the automail arm came out, and Ant-Man on that weird, flat arrowhead. I also thoroughly dislike our hero’s summer costume, which incorporated the automail. There just aren’t accents to it that are any fun, and it’s boring. I think it will be around a bit longer though. Foreshortening is hard, but necessary…especially when depicting archery. Comics love archery, despite it not being a super power.

I decided to fuss with the image a bit digitally…working with the stippling effect, and attempting to produce a sort of “bullseye shadow” effect in the background. I don’t love it, but I’m not unhappy with it…experimentation goes like that. It does, however, give you unexpected bonus art, below:

The "B side" image.

The “B side” image.

Excelsior!

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