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In the original Marvel Comics' Tales to Astonish stories featuring Ant-Man, bio-chemist Henry "Hank" Pym discovers a way to shrink himself to the size of an ant. In an attempt to keep real ants from killing him, Pym next invents a helmet that allows him to communicate telepathically with ants. What does he do with these two amazing bits of technology? He becomes a superhero, of course! Pym knows that shrinking to the size of an insect is a technology "far too dangerous to ever be used by a human again," so he keeps it to himself and immediately launches a crusade against Soviet spies.

I'd never really realized it before, but most of the signature characters of the Marvel Age were all grounded in the Cold War struggle against the U.S.S.R. The Fantastic Four had to beat the Soviets into space. A Soviet spy triggered the bomb test that birthed the Hulk. Iron Man was a casualty of the escalating "limited conflict" in southeast Asia that would become the Vietnam War. Spider-Man and Thor are notable exceptions: their careers triggered respectively by an accidental spider-bite and an alien invasion -- another common Marvel adventure even to this day. (In hindsight, it's probably not much of a coincidence that I lost interest in Marvel Comics about the time the Soviet Union collapsed.) For Pym, the battle against the Reds was personal: they killed his wife, an Hungarian freedom fighter. Sure, she'd given up fighting for freedom when well-to-do American biochemist Hank Pym came along, but she was really serious about it in college.

Did you really think that shrinking to the size of an ant would be enough to save the world? Ant-Man, you're an idiot.

However, don't expect to see any of this lunacy in the long-rumored Ant-Man movie. If the thing is even made, they'll no doubt ignore the fact that Pym changes his superhero moniker from Ant-Man to Giant-Man mid-conversation if he changes his size. (Freud would have a field day with that.) Or the fact that he grafted biological wings and antenna into his female partner, the Wasp, but neglected to give her the ability to change her size without the aid of his size-changing gas or pills. (Pym kept for himself the cybernetic helmet that allowed him to change size at will. Dick.) Not to mention the fact that when Pym is ant-sized, he inexplicably maintains his full-size strength while growing stronger when he gets larger-than-life size. Or that his rogues' gallery consists primarily of such forgettable nutcases as Egghead, Human Top, Magician, Porcupine, or the scientist Garrett, who mixes eagle blood with horse blood to create a flying horse in order to exact revenge on Giant-Man. (They market these books to children and they wonder why Americans lag behind in science.)

No, they'll put Ant-Man in a black costume and pit him against the evil robot Ultron. Because mark my words, nothing ruins a computer like a bug. (Don't blame the messenger: it's just how Hollywood thinks.)

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To be continued...

 

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