This article contains major Ant-Man spoilers and explanations of both Ant-Man post-credits scenes, so you might not want to read it until after you’ve seen the movie.
Ant-Man is out on Blu-ray and DVD today, December 8th, 2016, so we’ve brought this article out of the archives for you.
Ant-Man has never been the most well known or beloved of Marvel superheroes, but he’s been around longer than most of your favorites. Like most Marvel Studios flicks, the Ant-Man movie starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas as two generations of shrinking hero pays plenty of tribute to the character’s comic book history.
With that in mind, we’re here to give you as much information as we can about what hidden comic book gems are stashed all around the Ant-Man movie. Note that this article isn’t necessarily chronological. For example, you’ll see an explanation of the first post-credits scene comes during my discussion of the Wasp.
Now, please keep in mind, I did this after only one viewing, so I’m bound to have missed a few things. I’ll update this when I see it again, and anything verifiable that you can throw at me in the comments or on Twitter will also get added!
Let me just get everyone up to speed on the first of our two Ant-Men…
– Michael Douglas is Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym, and for the vast majority of Ant-Man’s existence in Marvel Comics, he has been the company’s primary shrinking hero. The movie kicks off in 1989, not because it’s a banner year for Ant-Man or anything, but because it’s a good way to illustrate that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-Man operated during the Cold War era.
– Hank first appeared in 1962 in Tales to Astonish #27, in a story called “The Man in the Ant-Hill,” although he didn’t get the fancy costume until Tales to Astonish #35. Hank was created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby.
– So, a little bit later, when Darren Cross is talking about Hank’s career and makes that “tales to astonish” joke, now you know what he was talking about. Oh, and you know who else made his first appearance in the pages of Tales to Astonish? A less cuddly version of Groot, long before his Guardians of the Galaxy days.
– Unlike the movie Ant-Man, the comic book version was a founding member of the Avengers. Very much like the movie version, though, Hank was inseparable from Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp. More on her in a bit.
– Hank has a long and impressive career as one of the most brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe, but his history is so confusing that we had to write an entire article about JUST that. You can read it here.
– As for the other folks in that opening scene, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter needs no additional introduction, and I have to assume that you recognize John Slattery as Howard Stark, who also needs no additional interruption. To the best of my knowledge, neither of those characters ever met Hank Pym in the comics, but the Marvel Universe is a big, strange place, so feel free to correct me.
– The other person in the room is Mitchell Carson (played by Martin Donovan). Carson is notable for having been co-created by The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman, and the comic book version was intended to be SHIELD’s Ant-Man, until someone else (Eric O’Grady) stole the suit. I can’t imagine he’s destined for any of that here.
– Scott Lang, on the other hand, didn’t show up in the Marvel Universe until 1979. He was created by David Michelinie and John Byrne. Like Hank, you’re getting a rather streamlined version of the character here on screen, but the broad strokes are correct. In the comics, it was his daughter’s illness that left him needing money for her treatment that motivated him to steal the Ant-Man tech, and he eventually proved himself a hero.
Interestingly enough, he just recently had a stint as the leader of a Fantastic Four team as part of the Future Foundation. It’s fun stuff by writer Matt Fraction with some wonderful art by Mike Allred. If you’re looking for something a little more out there than your average Marvel Ant-Man story, you should check these out.
If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, the current series by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas is as close as you’re going to get to taking a new chapter of the movie home with you. It’s really a lovely comic, and pretty damn funny.
– The Ant-Man costume, is a pretty slick looking update of what is generally considered to be the character’s best known look. Keep in mind that the Ant-Man character has had a TON of uniforms, but in general, the red/black color scheme and clunky helmet are pretty much the inspiration here.
And speaking of comic book accuracy…
Ant-Man’s preferred method of transportation has always been hitching a ride on a friendly (or not so friendly) flying insect.
This is a fairly iconic moment, at least as far as Ant-Man has iconic moments, so seeing shots like this next one in the movie definitely pushed my Marvel buttons…
– The place that Scott is staying at after he gets out of prison is The Milgrom Hotel, named for comic book writer, penciller, inker, and editor Al Milgrom. Some of my favorite Milgrom work includes his art on The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man, and his inking of Ron Frenz on Thor. He was also the first artist on the first Avengers spinoff title, The West Coast Avengers. Since the Ant-Man movie takes place on the west coast, it’s fitting that there’s a hotel in his honor here.
– The Pym Technologies logo sure does look like something that Ant-Man co-creator Jack Kirby would have designed. Here’s a better look at the logo:
See those lines and circles? That was like Kirby’s universal symbol for unfathomable technology. For comparison, here’s a Jack Kirby image from The Eternals (who had a quiet reference in Guardians of the Galaxy, too), positively loaded with the same abstract circuitry:
I feel like there’s a little of that classic Marvel Comics DNA in this high-tech chamber that Darren Cross power struts into, as well:
Basically, if you need ridiculous technology in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just go back and look at Jack Kirby drawings and figure out a way to do them in three dimensions!
Oh, and who the hell is Darren Cross, anyway? Darren! Yo! Turn around!
Okay, so…who is Darren Cross? I’ll tell you who he sure as hell isn’t…and that’s Yellowjacket. But he was definitely the first villain that the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man faced off with (and, like Scott, Darren was created by David Michelinie and John Byrne), so that’s a nice bit of synergy. It’s rare in these movies that you see that happen.
Corey Stoll is really cool, by the way, and we have an interview with him talking about how awesome it is to be the villain in a movie like this right here.
The comic book Darren Cross was also a douchey business scientist, and the mock-up of Cross Technological Enterprises that you see in the movie is the name of his company in the comics. He was also superpowered, but not in the way we saw in the film. Instead, he was searching for a way to fix his defective heart and ended up looking like if the Hulk was made out of bubblegum.
Not that I’m complaining, really. The Yellowjacket design for the movie is infinitely cooler than anything comic book accurate, anyway.
We should probably discuss the whole Yellowjacket thing, though…
– So, aside from the fact that I absolutely adore the Yellowjacket design here, the name has long-standing ties to Ant-Man lore, even if it was deployed way differently in the movie.
Like I said, Hank Pym’s comic book history is pretty long and twisty, but here’s the very shortest version I can come up with. He liked to play with different identities and costumes. He was Ant-Man, then he was Giant-Man for awhile, and then he was Yellowjacket…then he went on to other things. It’s bonkers.
But while he was Yellowjacket, he was having some mental health issues. At one point in the film, Hope Van Dyne tells Darren Cross that he’s acting weird because the constant experimenting with the Pym Particles is “affecting your brain chemistry.”
The constant messing around with chemistry did have something to do with Hank’s own identity issues in the comics. While he was still technically a hero as Yellowjacket, he also wasn’t the nicest, most heroic guy. I guess a little of that is reflected in the big screen Darren Cross.
Anyway, enough about that dick. We’ve got more good stuff about The Wasp and those post-credits sequences coming…
– Hope Van Dyne is from the same alternate Marvel Universe future that brought fans Mayday “Spider-Girl” Parker. She was known as the villainous Red Queen in that timeline, but ummmm…that won’t be happening here. That’s kind of all you need to know about that for now. Evangeline Lilly has signed a signed a multi-film deal, so the character’s meta-exasperation at the lack of female superheroics in this movie should be taken care of pretty quickly.
What I’m getting at here, is that we really want to be talking about the Wasp. Janet Van Dyne was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Tales to Astonish (there are those three words again) #44 in 1963. She was also a founding member of the Avengers.
Obviously, after that post-credits sequence, she is intended to take on the mantle of the Wasp in future Marvel movies. Hope’s haircut is very much a Janet Van Dyne style ‘do (note that she takes her mother’s last name and not her father’s), too. You can even spot a hint of Wasp’s original headgear in the pointy headpiece in the movie…
Now, things get a little loopy, so stick with me…
– Janet’s “death” as portrayed in the movie isn’t unprecedented for two reasons. The first is that the manner of her death (hero’s partner heroically sacrifices self to defuse a missile directed at the United States) is remarkably similar to the way Bucky Barnes bit the bullet in the pages of Marvel Comics (his on-screen death was a little less dramatic). For more on that, read my unpacking of Captain America: The First Avenger. But do it later. Stay here, please.
But Janet Van Dyne did “die” (briefly) during the events of Marvel’s Secret Invasion. Then it turned out she didn’t really die, but had been sent off to the Microverse, which is kind of like what happens to her here in the movie with the whole shrinking out of existence thing. Now, here’s the crazy part (because this hasn’t been crazy enough, I guess). The Microverse first appeared in Marvel Comics because of a comic published based on an old Mego toy line, The Micronauts. So, in a roundabout way, when we see Scott shrink into the subatomic realm, he’s kind of in the Microverse…and a Micronauts movie would be cool as can be.
For your amusement, the little notebook I was scrawling in while watching this movie has one page that only has five words written in caps: “Give Hope the damn suit.” Of course, that’s exactly what happens in the first post-credits sequence, when Hank finally comes to his senses and shows off that sharp looking “advanced prototype” for her.
The relationship with Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie is about right. Cassie is a teenager in the comics these days, and even did some time as a member of the Young Avengers (using the old Giant-Man gimmick and calling herself Stature). She died but got better because…comics!
That really good Ant-Man series by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas I plugged up above focuses nicely on Cassie and Scott’s relationship. If you liked the movie, you’ll like the comic even more. Am I overselling this?
I guess that does it for major stuff, but there are a few other things scattered throughout, some of which may need further investigation and verification…and that’s where you readers come in!
– We keep seeing an “Ellis Food Center” which I would like to believe is a reference to comics writer extraordinaire, Warren Ellis. It probably isn’t, though. But it would be a lot cooler if it was!
ahem…it has also been pointed out to me that there is simply an Ellis Street in San Francisco. This might just be a case of me looking for something that isn’t there. It wouldn’t be the first time.
– In Hank’s lab, there’s a wall with ummmm…things…hanging on them, and I swear at least two of them look like the masks worn by Hank during his Giant-Man and/or Goliath days. I’ll need to see that again, though.
– Blink and you’ll miss a poster for Pingo Doce, the green soda from The Incredible Hulk that caused a few people (including Stan Lee) a problem or two.
– Since the Falcon is now a card carrying member of the Avengers, and there’s a reference to the team “dropping cities out of the sky,” this movie firmly takes place after Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Falcon/Ant-Man fight is a typical Marvel “heroes must have a misunderstanding and fight before they can team-up” trope.
– But we also most certainly get our first Marvel Cinematic Universe reference to Spider-Man. What’s cool about the way they handle that is the idea that Spidey is just kind of an urban legend at this point…but he exists. So this probably means no origin story, and hopefully means that, like Ant-Man, the stakes in the new Spider-man movie will be mostly confined to the “friendly neighborhood” variety.
– I can’t believe I missed this the first time around, but that’s Saturday Night Live alum Garrett Morris playing the cab driver. Why does this matter? Because Morris was the first actor to portray Ant-Man in live action, although it wasn’t in the most complimentary fashion.
The sketch is pretty funny, though. Watch it here:
– Did anyone else hear the classic Star Trek communicator sound whenever anyone was talking to the ants with the earpiece?
That final post credits scene probably doesn’t need any explanation, but just in case it does:
– The fact that Steve doesn’t want to call Tony Stark in to deal with the Winter Soldier is a symptom of the growing rift that will lead to their throwdown in Captain America: Civil War. This is one of those scenes that feels a little bit out of place chronologically, and I almost have to imagine it was actually shot by the Russos during the Civil War production, mostly because of the reference to other recent events that we aren’t yet aware of.
What it might mean, though, is that the capture of the Winter Soldier is one of the things that actually leads to the implementation of the Superhuman Registration Act. Without spoiling too much, something fairly awful in terms of collateral damage has to go down in order for Cap and Iron Man to end up on opposite sides of the law, and in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Winter Soldier seems like as good a scapegoat as anybody else. We have more speculation on and explanation of Captain America: Civil War right here.
The fact that Steve and Sam are willing to go to someone kind of “outside the law” foreshadows their status as outlaws when they buck the Superhuman Registration Act in the name of freedom. The big question, then, is…will Scott Lang accept? Or will the tech-savvy hero decide he’s had enough of the outlaw life and side with Tony Stark? We’ll find out in May of 2016!
If you tell Mike Cecchini what he missed, either here in the comments or on Twitter, he’ll do his damndest to update this article until it’s the most comprehensive one out there!