On Monday, my esteemed colleague Peter Martin ran a poll asking just which Marvel movie / character you were most excited to see onscreen. As of Tuesday morning, Ant-Man was actually winning, prompting Erik Davis to ask me if I'd put together a guide to this offbeat Avenger. Or did he ask me because Ant-Man was dead last, as he is right now? I can't remember -- it was 7am and I hadn't slept because I plan to do that when I'm dead ... but hey, whatever the reason, now you'll have an Ant-Man guide!
As you know, Ant-Man has attracted the talents of Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). But the sad truth is that Wright has a lot more fans than the erstwhile Avenger, and a lot of moviegoers will be scrambling to catch up. Since the movie is a long way off, you've got time to catch up and scour some back issues. That way, when Ant-Man finally does hit theaters (hopefully in time for him to join the upcoming Avengers movie), you'll be an expert, able to lord your continuity knowledge over all those moviegoers who think it's part of the Cornetto Trilogy.
Several Marvel men have held the title of Ant-Man over the years. The first to hold the title and wear the antennae was Dr. Henry Pym, who discovered "Pym particles," sub-atomic particles that can shrink a person or an object when used correctly. In true superhero fashion, he naturally mixes into a secret formula that allows him to shrink to the size of an insect, and is very nearly killed by a colony of ants.
Restoring himself to original size, Pym constructs a suit that allows him to speak to and control those bloodthirsty ants, and use them for his own heroic ends. Like most superheroes, he's inspired to seek out injustice because of a tragic personal loss. Pym lost his wife to the Hungarian Secret Police, and Communist agents continued to harass him and try to steal his work for their own political ends.
Not long after reinventing himself as Ant-Man, one of Pym's colleagues (a Dr. Vernon Van Dyne) is killed by an alien outlaw. His daughter, Janet, asks for Pym's help in avenging his death. In creepy comic book fashion, she resembles his late wife, and he agrees to help her. Not only does he reveal his secret identity, but he uses his research to graft wasp wings on her body that appear only when she's shrunk down. (So handy for backless dresses -- I'm always impressed by the way he planned ahead like that.) They fall in love and become a crime-fighting team, with Janet assuming the identity of the Wasp.
The couple help found the Avengers (Janet even names them, and is elected leader a few years later), and she's one of its most kick-ass members. But it's also the beginning of troubled times for the buggy couple, as Janet likes flirting with Thor and Hulk, and Pym suffers from an inferiority complex that leads him to create a Giant Man serum. One of the side effects is a complete nervous breakdown and schizophrenia, leading him to reinvent himself as an alternate personality named Yellowjacket. On the upside, Yellowjacket is macho enough to finally propose marriage to Janet. From this point on, he continues to suffer a lot of mental problems and breakdowns, and even physically assaults Janet. He's expelled from the Avengers, she divorces him, and hooks up with Tony Stark. (Who wouldn't?) Over time, he is forgiven and they reunite, though things have gone rather tragic in recent crossovers ... but we won't go there.
Above: Eva Longoria was rumored to be playing the Wasp at one point, though that's since been debunked
Scott Lang was the next to flaunt the Ant-Man suit. He has a depressingly real-world story as he's an electronics expert who turned to burglary to support his wife and daughter. He served time in prison, was released and went to work for Stark Industries. But desperate to find the doctor who can cure his daughter's heart defect, he broke into Pym's house to steal some Ant-Man armor. Pym forgave him, and let him keep the suit in exchange as long as he upheld the law while sporting it. Lange became a part-time Ant Man, who helped out the other Marvel heroes whenever they needed an extra shrinking man. But there's something about hanging out with ants that destroys your personal life, as Lang divorced and lost custody of his daughter, lost his new girlfriend Jessica Jones to Luke Cage, and was blown up along with the Avengers Mansion. (In other words, if you actually could become a superhero for a day, you should choose anyone but Ant-Man. Anyone. That suit comes with really crappy luck. )
Wright teased Empire last year that his Ant-Man will combine Pym and Lang into one man. We'll have to see how that works out (Pym is a nerd, Lang's got a rougeish charm), but one thing it won't be is a schlocky satire on the character. Sure, the guy hangs out with ants, but he's also burdened with mental trauma, insecurity, and a startlingly violent side. (He also has some really creepy bedroom gifts. Click for some NSFW panels if you dare.) Those of you clamoring for another Dark Knight might just find it here ... and you might want to go change your vote on that Monday Night poll.