In the movies, Henry Pym (Michael Douglas) is so abrasive he’s driven most of his colleagues away. The comics version suffered mental instability that has achieved the same thing.
Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Now that you’ve seen Ant-Man and The Wasp – and you have, right? – here are 20 semi-spoilery Fun Facts to Know and Tell:
1. High Fidelity: The films take a lot of liberties with the source material, but they get the essence of the characters right. In the comics Henry Pym “has a lot of falling-outs,” Scott Lang is a quintessential screw-up, Cassie is a wonderful kid and the most competent characters are the two Wasps.
2. Multiple Personality Disorder: Henry Pym has had five superhero names in the comics. Five! They include Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket and, weirdly, The Wasp. He might have a sixth, if you count his time with the West Coast Avengers, when he wore a simple white lab coat over a red jumpsuit, changed the sizes of other things (instead of himself) and went by “Dr. Pym.”
3. You Know My Name: In Marvel Comics, three characters have gone by the name Ant-Man, three have called themselves Giant-Man, five have claimed the name Goliath, three have answered to Yellowjacket and three have been christened The Wasp. Henry Pym created most of these identities and is the only person to bear all of these names, so it’s kinda sad that he hasn’t been able to keep a single one unique unto himself.
4. A Growing Possibility: One of the comics characters who called himself Goliath (and Black Goliath, and Giant-Man) was Bill Foster, played in the movie by Laurence Fishburne. Hands up, everyone who wants to see a gigantic Laurence Fishburne!
5. Heel Turn: The third Ant-Man, the second and third Yellowjackets and the fourth and fifth Goliaths were villains.
6. The Robot Was an Improvement: The worst of them all is probably Eric O’Grady, the third Ant-Man. A low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with few morals or ethics, O’Grady stole the Ant-Man suit and used it primarily to hide from fights and spy on women in the shower. Fortunately, he was killed and replaced by an android with an artificial intelligence, who goes by the name Black Ant.
7. Bug Battalion: In addition to various Ant-Men, Wasps and Yellowjackets, other insect-inspired superheroes and villains include the Beetle, Black Beetle, Blue Beetle, Bug, Bug-Eyed Bandit, Bumblebee, Firefly, The Fly/Fly-Man (and Fly-Girl), Green Hornet, Gypsy Moth, Hornet, Human Fly, Humbug, Insect Queen, Killer Moth, Mantis, Moth, Mothman, Human Fly, Red Bee and The Tick. Honestly, those are just the highlights. And no, Spider-Man and Black Widow do not belong on this list; they are arachnids, not insects.
8. Name Drop: In Ant-Man and The Wasp, Ava (Ghost) refers to her father, Elihas Starr. In the comics that was the real name of Egghead, who was the closest thing Ant-Man/Giant-Man had to an arch-enemy back in the ‘60s. Egghead is a scientist with an egg-shaped head (naturally) who is insanely jealous of Henry Pym, and has invented all sorts of things over the years to do him in. So, for comics fans, Elihas Starr was an Easter … egg … head.
9. No Relation: Giant-Man’s Egghead had nothing to do with the Egghead on the Batman TV show (played by Vincent Price) except the name. And the head. And being lame.
10. Rogues Gallery: Other early Ant-Man/Giant-Man foes included such painful characters as the Scarlet Beetle, the Living Eraser, the Creature from Cosmos, the Magician and the Porcupine. That’s probably why the movie opted for a couple of Iron Man villains, Sonny Burch and the Ghost.
11. Arachnophobia: Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne met Spider-Man in 1964, when Egghead tricked them into fighting each other. Even after the misunderstanding was sorted out, Spidey and The Wasp couldn’t stand each other. That was because, Pym explained, “spiders and wasps are natural enemies!” Let’s all pretend that makes sense.
Ant-Man and The Wasp is a five-issue miniseries featuring Scott Lang and Nadia Van Dyne in an adventure in the quantum realm.
12. On Sale Now: Scott Lang and Nadia Van Dyne – the current Ant-Man and Wasp in the comics, who mirror the movie’s stars – are now headlining a miniseries named, appropriately, Ant-Man and The Wasp. And, yes, they are in the quantum realm for the whole thing. Wonder where they got the idea for that?
13. Nom du Combat: Most superheroes have nicknames the writers use so as to avoid saying the character’s name over and over. The Flash is sometimes called the Scarlet Speedster, the Wizard of Whiz or the Crimson Comet. Captain America is sometimes called the Star-Spangled Avenger, the Sentinel of Liberty or the Living Legend of World War II. In the ‘60s, Marvel trotted out the “Master of Many Sizes” for Henry Pym. It didn’t stick.
14. Nom du Combat II: Over at DC Comics, Ant-Man’s size-changing counterpart The Atom was referred to a few times as the Lilliputian Lawman. I think we can all agree that one’s even worse.
15. Small Sales: The publication history for Ant-Man and related characters has been spotty at best. Ant-Man debuted in Tales to Astonish in 1962, but poor sales prompted quick changes. By the tenth installment, The Wasp was added, and in the fifteenth, Ant-Man gained the power to grow into Giant-Man. Evidently, those additions didn’t help – by 1964 Giant-Man and Wasp had to split the book to make room for a Hulk series, and in 1965 the duo were pushed out altogether by the Sub-Mariner. After that Pym and Van Dyne were relegated to off-and-on appearances in Avengers, with occasional solo series that never lasted. Scott Lang managed a 13-issue run of Astonishing Ant-Man (2015-16) and co-starred in 16 issues of a Fantastic Four spin-off (2013-14), and Eric O’Grady headlined the 12 issues of Irredeemable Ant-Man (2006-07), but otherwise the characters’ success rate has been, ah, small.
16. Death Be Not Permanent: Both Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie have been killed in the comics, only to come back from the dead. That’s not really all that uncommon among the superhero set, as the same description applies to most of the Avengers, the Justice League and the 80 bajillion X-Men. But it’s rare for resurrection to run in families.
In Henry Pym’s 1963 debut as Giant-Man, he faced the absurd threat of the Living Eraser.
17. Young Americans: When Cassie died, she was a teenager swanning about as the superhero Stature. (She got real big.) She was a member of the now-defunct Young Avengers, all of whom were descended from or associated in some fashion with the, uh, Grown-Up Avengers.
18. Boffo Box Office: Ant-Man and The Wasp opened with $76 million in the U.S, bettering Ant-Man by about $19 million. It rang up $85 million overseas, a total which was hampered by two glaring absences: The movie won’t open in the UK until Aug. 3 (because of the World Cup), and China is currently employing one of its foreign-film blackout periods (because China is weird).
19. Ask Your Parents: Ant-Man and The Wasp had hugely entertaining car chases. But Henry Pym should have been driving. After all, who knows The Streets of San Francisco better than Michel Douglas?
20. The Force Awakens: There’s no telling what Janet Van Dyne’s “healing power” – the one she demonstrated on Ghost – is or will become in future MCU movies. But there is an intriguing precedent. Back in 1979, when the quantum realm was called the Microverse, a mysterious energy appeared as the Micronauts battled Baron Karza. Called “the Enigma Force,” it is a mystical energy field that permeates (or perhaps embodies) the Microverse. The Force – and there’s a catchy name – can manifest as the “Uni-Power” in the macro-world, briefly bestowing on some lucky individual in crisis nearly omnipotent super-powers until their current problem has passed. Those receiving the power mysteriously manifest a blue-and-white superhero outfit, and call themselves Captain Universe.
Yeah, that’s pretty cheesy. Let’s hope the movies go in a different direction.
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For some reason, my announcement of this column on Twitter got a lot of re-sends. I don't know why.
5) Heel Turn:
Not to nitpick but it was the third Goliath who was the villain, not the fourth.
In order of actually using the name "Goliath":
1) Hank Pym after he was Ant-Man and Giant-Man but before he was Yellowjacket.
2) Clint Barton who gave up being Hawkeye to become Goliath II for a while.
3) Erik Josten who was the first Power Man and Smuggler who was the criminal Goliath III who later was renamed Atlas.
4) Bill Foster who was Black Goliath and Giant-Man II who much, much later called himself Goliath IV.
5) Tom Foster, Bill's nephew, became Goliath V after his uncle's tragic death in Civil War. He was a villain only as he blamed Pym and Iron Man for the whole "Clor" debacle. This led him to join Wonder Man's "Revengers" but in his last appearance was back on the good side.
I debated with myself briefly about the order of the Goliaths.
You're right that Bill Foster called himself just "Goliath" after Erik Josten took the name. But Foster called himself Black Goliath in 1975, nine years before Josten took the name Goliath in 1985 (Iron Man Annual #7).
So it depends on how important you think the adjective is. I'm kind of pedant, so I think it's important -- I think Josten is the third Goliath, whereas Foster is the fourth (and the first and only Black Goliath).
But if you think using "Goliath" in your name is the important aspect, then you think Foster is the third Goliath (a Black one) and Josten is the fourth. That's what Wiki thinks, which is where most people will get their information, so ultimately I came down on using their definitions.
I knew I would be criticized either way.
As to whether Tom Foster is a villain or not, it's once again a matter of definition. He does act heroically sometimes, and as a villain other times. He has been a bad guy on panel more often than a good guy, so I fell on that side.
Again, if "the last time you saw him" is more important than "how often," then you're right, he's not a villain. But if you reverse that order of importance, as some do (and I do), then he is still in need of redemption before I'll call him a hero.
Again, since there are two valid ways to look at it, I knew I was going to be criticized either way I jumped.
Please don't think that I was criticizing you, Captain. I was merely trying to justify all these inane facts that are lodged in my brain!