After the release of Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” which went on to make about eight trillion dollars, I think there are a lot of people out there who hadn’t previously read any comics who got tricked into thinking that they knew the Avengers’ story from watching that movie. As a comic book movie, it was cool enough, but it did sort of oversimplify more than one of the related story arcs in order to put a lot of super heroes in a two-and-a-half hour flick. First of all, before Robert Downey, Jr. came along, Iron Man was actually not that big a deal in the Marvel universe. Neither was Thor, pre-Chris Hemsworth. The Incredible Hulk had seen his heyday in the 70’s when Lou Ferrigno tackled the part and after that he became more or less a footnote in pop culture. Captain America had a terrible, terrible movie made about him sometime in the late 80’s/early 90’s, and aside from that, was pretty much seen as the shameless propaganda campaign he really was…until Chris Evans gave up Johnny Storm and took the role of Steve Rogers. And I don’t think there are many people who even knew who Hawkeye and the Black Widow were before that movie. Another crucial bit of comic lore that “The Avengers” left out was the fact that a relatively little-known hero called Ant-Man was actually one of the founding members.
Henry “Hank” Pym was, like many superheroes, a brilliant scientist at first. His work led him to discover a particle he dubbed the “Pym Particle,” which allowed him to experiment with shedding and gaining mass, which in turn allowed him to change his size. He was able to shrink to the size of, you guessed it, an ant, but he could also make himself grow up to 60 feet. Also, he could communicate with, and control, ants through some sort of technology built into his helmet–I’m not sure about the science behind that, but it worked for him. His contributions to the Marvel universe were pretty significant–he designed one of the four main prisons built to contain apprehended super villains, helped found the Avengers, and inadvertently created one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies, Ultron (Given that Ultron will be featured as the villain in the next Avengers movie and there’s no Ant-Man, I’m not sure how they’ll explain Ultron’s existence, but trust me, it was Hank Pym). Comic book stories and characters have a tendency rewrite to their own histories and show up in different incarnations, and this is more true of Ant-Man than most. He’s been through so many identities it’s hard to keep up with him, and this is one of the reasons he’s so low on this list. That, plus the fact that I don’t have nearly as much history with Ant-Man as I do with the rest of the list.
The main reason I’m such an Ant-Man fan is that Hank Pym was a staunch pacifist, which is not something that’s very easy to be in the comic book world. He resented the eagerness with which he felt his fellow Avengers approached fighting, and that led to strained relationships and more than one falling out between him and the rest of the group. Back when I was a kid, Ant-Man was exactly the kind of super hero I would have hated. The name Ant-Man sounds stupid, first of all–who wants to be Ant-Man? Plus he didn’t like fighting? Fighting was what made super heroes awesome! It’s as I’ve gotten older that I’ve learned to appreciate a guy who has the ability to basically do whatever he wants and not use it indiscriminately. The world could use more pacifists, after all. He took a lot of flack from his fellow heroes for not wanting to “do what was necessary,” but he stood his ground and stuck to his principles. And it was that particular trait about him that I wish I had paid more attention to when I was younger, and that particular trait that puts him on this list. Solutions in comic stories are too often found at the end of the same road–physical violence. Hank Pym was a refreshing example of how cool a super hero could really be when they tried to find another way.
Check back in soon for a break down of hero number 8!