Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania puts the spotlight back on the world’s smallest heroes. But both of them are titles that are among the oldest and most prevalent in the history of Marvel Comics. They are also names that have been passed down through generations and different incarnations. This is a primer on the names that have worn the helmet and the wings of the Ant-Man and the Wasp.
The first and possibly most famous Ant-Man before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hank Pym was created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber, and played by Michael Douglas in the Ant-Man movies. He was the figure that developed the Pym Particles and first used them to shrink down to microscopic size. In the early days, he was a founding member of the Avengers, quickly replacing shrinking with growing into Giant-Man and Goliath. Pym might be the character with the most aliases, using Yellowjacket and Wasp as well.
Hank Pym has a messy and complicated history of over 60 years of publication. His life as an established and respected Avenger was tarnished by nervous breakdowns and spousal abuse, crumbling his marriage and making it difficult for the character to be redeemed. This was attempted, however. He became a leading figure and a teacher, working with the Initiative after Civil War comics and creating the Avengers Academy, a criminally underrated series. But with Scott Lang carrying the mantle, Hank Pym was canonically killed in 2015 and hasn’t resurfaced since.
Created by David Michelinie and Jason Byrne, Scott Lang is now the most famous Ant-Man due to being the face of the franchise, played by Paul Rudd as he stars in movies of his own. Much of the backstory is captured well within first Ant-Man. Scott broke into Hank Pym’s lab and stole the suit and Pym Particles, but in the comics it was to pay for his daughter’s heart treatment. Pym let him have the suit and Lang became a hero, working for Stark Industries and having roles in the Avengers and Fantastic Four, as well as being killed off for a long period of time.
Whilst he was light-hearted, the comedic side of Scott Lang intensified with the release of the movie. His history as a thief had set him up as down on his luck and trying to make things right for his daughter Cassie whilst constantly making mistakes, but Rudd has taken that to new heights and really evolved Scott as a protagonist with a distinctive personality. Lang has had frequent ongoing series after resurrection and cinematic success, and is indisputably the number one Ant-Man for the foreseeable future.
Eric O’Grady was practically marketed as a terrible hero, because he was a terrible human. Created by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester, O’Grady was a low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who stole his Ant-Man suit, similar to Scott Lang, but with much less honour involved. He was part of the Initiative, Thunderbolts, and Secret Avengers, serving as an annoyance. O’Grady was a sleazebag who often used his suit and shrinking ability to hide in the costumes of his female colleagues or to be a voyeur as they showered. His comic series title was literally ‘The Irredeemable Ant-Man,’ just highlighting the framework he was being built with. O’Grady was killed in a Secret Avengers series in what might be the most heroic moment of his life, and the events after his demise were perhaps more interesting than the character was when he was alive. He has yet to be seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with sketchy characteristics, it is understandable why he has been omitted so far.
Janet Van Dyne
Alongside Hank Pym was Janet Van Dyne, who for years was a stalwart of the Marvel Universe. A near constant in the Avengers titles for decades, also created by Lee and Kirby, well as Ernest Hart), and a founding member of the team, Janet was considered the best of the team and the heart by those that fought alongside her. She literally gave the Avengers their name. Transformed into the Wasp by Hank Pym, they were husband and wife for many years until Pym’s breakdown and abuse. Wasp has led Avengers and many of its variant teams, being present for most of the major events and wearing some of the most amazing costumes up until her death in the conclusion of Secret Invasion. When she was brought back, she still remained ever-present in Uncanny Avengers.
In the MCU, Janet is played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who was a wartime hero alongside Hank before being stuck in the Quantum Realm for generations. She was rescued by the finale of Ant-Man and the Wasp, and looks to be a vital part of Quantumania.
Created by Tom Defalco and Roy Frenz, Hope Pym is a villain in the world of A-Next, a future generation of heroes made up of the children of Avengers. With her parents dead, she felt that the new team was a disgrace to their name, setting out to kill those tarnishing their legacy. Hope is a figure who has been expanded upon much more within the movies, adapted into a role played by Evangeline Lily. She’s a character that carries the same rage as her comic counterpart and using her mother’s last name instead of Pym is a recurring sign of her honouring her when she thought Janet was dead.
Nadia Van Dyne
Created by Mark Waid and Alan Davies, the child of Hank Pym and his first wife, Maria Trovaya, Nadia Van Dyne is the most recent holder of the mantle of either Ant-Man and the Wasp. Nadia’s mother was kidnapped and killed, and she was subsequently raised in the Red Room, where Black Widows are created. After escaping the Red Room with help of Pym Particles, Nadia went to America and eventually joined a new Avengers team. This was also paired with an ongoing series of her own, The Unstoppable Wasp. She’s a hero built around love but still has the fury and danger that comes from a product of the Red Room. And there is a very wholesome relationship between her and her stepmother, Janet. Nadia is another character that isn’t in the MCU, although parts of her can be seen in Hope.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is in theatres February 17th. All comics mentioned are available with our ComiXology affiliate link.