Monday, September 22, 2008

Hank Pym's Heroic Life

Given the uncertain (read: dead man walking) future after the Secret Invasion of one of the smartest minds in the Marvel world, I wanted to take a little look at the various costumes he's worn over the years.

There's no denying he's made a massive contribution to the hero world even after he retired. He wasn't one to keep the knowledge and super powers to himself.

I can't think of another character in comics who has changed costumes and names as often as Hank, and amazingly enough he never really chose any that bombed.

Ant Man
Hank's first outing as a superhero was actually a fluke of sorts. He was given a one-shot in Tales to Astonish as a man who shrunk and had an adventure in an anthill. A few cautious issues later he returned, this time sporting a costume and the ability to speak to the ants. Though he remained the smallest member of the Avengers for a while (with the Wasp), he still managed to help a lot.

As far as solo stories go, Ant Man had some of the worst arch-enemies in history. Most were just regular criminals who wanted him dead, but nobody ever found a way to stomp on him.

The thing I like about this suit is how basic it is. Nothing really flashy here, just a splash of red, black and blue.

Giant Man

Eventually Hank figured out how to take that shrinking principle and reverse it to make himself grow. In the process, he opened the door for dozens of other "giant" heroes to follow.

He was still able to shrink and go into action as Ant Man, but once he started growing in the stories that seemed to be the way he handled most of his problems. Of course, you can't blame easy could it be to defeat someone when you're only 2 inches tall?


Well, Hank eventually retired from the Avengers, but he just couldn't stay out of the superhero business. When he decided he was ready to join again, he put on a new costume with new colors, gave himself a new name and went looking for Captain America.

They were a little leery of him at first, but it didn't take long to prove he was the real deal. Figuring it would be handy to have a guy who could grow ten stories tall on the team, the Avengers wisely let him join. Of course, the question remains as to why he chose the name of a bad guy for a superhero title, but who are we to argue?

Theoretically, Hank could still become Ant Man at this time, but once he became Goliath his shrinking days were almost gone...for a while.


This one narrowly won our recent poll for Hank's coolest persona (Ant Man lost by 1 vote, I think). Originally, Yellowjacket was a man of mystery who showed up claiming to have killed Hank Pym. The Wasp married him, only to have the wedding ruined by a group of villains. In the midst of the battle, Yellowjacket was shown to be Hank Pym (suffering from a schizophrenic episode).

Strangely enough, Hank had developed a way to fly and shoot beams from his hands while going through this episode. Guess he should have gotten sick more often.

Although he stayed with the Avengers as Yellowjacket for a while, he eventually left. It was about this time that Marvel started turning Hank into a loose cannon. He helped the Defenders for a while, and then ended up taking a criminal turn and being put in jail. After divorcing Wasp, it looked like Hank's hero days were over.

Hank Pym

Then Marvel stepped in with a "logical" explanation for his behavior. The stress of growing and shrinking had been too much for Hank's mind and he'd snapped. Ever the hero, he didn't want to be left out of the action.

Hank donned this weird "Gambit" headband and a red jumpsuit, and decided it was time to help the Avengers again. He joined the West Coast Avengers and was actually a pretty vital part of the team for a bit.

Using his shrinking and growing gas, Hank could carry an arsenal, laboratory, and airport in his pockets at all times. Anytime they needed a gun or a ride, Hank was grabbing stuff and making it grow. Finally, he started working a little more of his own growing and shrinking into the game, but never really got another costume and name during that phase.

Ant Man (again)

I'm not sure if you can call this cheating or wrong or what, but the last time we saw Hank as a hero, it was during the Ultron storyline of Might Avengers. He came out of retirement long enough to help defeat the newest version of Ultron by becoming Ant Man again. A few minor variations on his costume, but it was still Hank.

Later it was revealed that Hank had been replaced by a Skrull during this time, so it technically wasn't him doing the fighting...but it's close enough. We'll let it count for now.

I wish we could see more of Hank Pym's Ant Man. He was really cool even though he was practically useless in most galactic battles.

A Heroic Life

Even though he's stepped out of the role of hero, he's been pretty free with his technology and made sure others stepped in the hole.

Scott Lang became Ant Man (with Hank's blessing) after stealing the suit from Hank.

Clint Barton became Goliath after Hank left. Bill Foster also used the growing gas and became Black Goliath (another bad guy name, but he changed it later to Giant Man).

Yellowjacket showed up again as well. This time she was a woman, first a villain, then later a hero.

Hopefully he'll make it through the Skrull's invasion and replacements, but even if he doesn't there's no doubt Hank's made one of the strongest impacts of any character in Marvel history. A charter member of the Avengers, Hank's made a difference time and again.


Anonymous said...

Didn't he also call himself "Giant-man" for a while? I remember the narration of the Onslaught comic calling him that, but, as it wasn't the english version (I'm not american) I can't be sure...

Brian said...

Yep. We have him listed as Giant Man at the second spot on our list here. The costume is really similar to Ant-Man (minus the helmet), so it's easy to overlook the change.

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