People love to make fun of Aquaman. “Ha ha! He can talk to fish!” Actually, Aquaman can command fish. But what about the guy who can only command ants?
Hank Pym was created by Stan Lee, Stan’s brother Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby in 1962’s TALES TO ASTONISH #27 in a story called “The Man in the Ant Hill” . At first, he wasn’t a superhero, but a victim of his own experiment, a pretty direct lift from the film version of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957). In his next appearance, he was Ant-Man. Despite the numerous, obvious liabilities presented in being a man who can shrink to the size of a bug, Ant-Man actually did pretty well and went on to co-found the Avengers (along with his wife-then-girlfriend, see MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #2: THE WASP ). Soon he learned to grow and became Giant-Man instead. Then Goliath. Then back to shrinking as the anti-hero Yellowjacket. Then simply Dr. Pym. Giant-Man again. He even took his wife’s superhero name, The Wasp (she wasn’t using it at the time). Etc.
Pym has never seemed happy as a superhero. He’s rarely seemed happy, period. He and the Wasp are the Burton/Taylor of the Marvel Universe. Infamously, in the midst of a nervous breakdown, he once backhanded her (supposedly the result of an artist misinterpreting a written plot description).
So what is there to like about this guy?
Saddled with what might be the saddest, most meager set of superpowers, Hank Pym tried again. He reinvented himself. And when that didn’t work, he tried again. And again. He keeps trying to make himself better, to overcome his past, and to do the right thing. It has never been easy for him, but he keeps trying. Most of us are never going to have the happy lab accident that gives us a superpower, but all of us are going to screw up (although, one hopes, not so spectacularly), and keep our fingers crossed that we’ll get it right the next time.
Ant-Man is depicted here with a little Grant Williams, star of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, style. I believe Williams was the physical model for Pym. Kirby’s bizarre, inventive helmet, with its loudspeaker/mandibles, is both ridiculous and cool all at once. Also depicted is the Wasp, Hank’s partner and love at this time.
Hope you’ll come back for tomorrow’s installment. This next character is a riot.