Hank Pym: The Man in the Ant Hill

Hank Pym: The Man in the Ant Hill

The newest Marvel Movie, Ant Man and The Wasp comes out soon, and it’s only fitting to look back on where these characters came from. The new cinematic universe certainly has some different takes on classic characters, one of the biggest changes belonging to Hank Pym.

You see, Hank Pym didn’t start out as a scientist working for SHIELD, much less a Superhero Spy working in secret. Instead, he was just a guy who happened to be in a Twilight Zone-level tale about science and caution when experimenting. Let’s turn the pages of time (and comics) back to January of 1962, back to Tales of Suspense #27, called “The Man in the Ant Hill.”

  Man, those are no ants. Look at the Vampire fangs, those hands, and the coloring. It’s like they’re all green aliens!

Man, those are no ants. Look at the Vampire fangs, those hands, and the coloring. It’s like they’re all green aliens!

The cover is pretty unremarkable for a 1960s Marvel Comics cover, at least before the superheroes came around. Most of Marvel’s comics tended to have some sort of shock cover involving the subject of the story and thrilling captions. Amusingly, this was also an era where you tended to get what you saw on the cover. In fact, here’s a small sample of other covers in the similar vein of pre-Marvel-Superhero-comics:

2018-06-12 23_04_35-Hank Pym I_ The Man in the Ant Hill - Done - Google Docs.png
  Oh. Hi, Groot. Fancy seeing you here in 1960. Hope you don’t mind waiting another 46 years before becoming relevant.

Oh. Hi, Groot. Fancy seeing you here in 1960. Hope you don’t mind waiting another 46 years before becoming relevant.

Back at this time, Marvel comics were released bimonthly, and they were only allowed to release eight comics a month by their publisher. Ironically, their publisher at the time was DC Comics, according to Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had just gotten together to create a comic not a few months back, one that would change comics forever: Fantastic Four #1.

Sadly, this isn’t quite that comic.

Hank Pym’s first story was penned by both Stan Lee and Stan Lee’s brother, Larry Lieber. Larry is best known for the ill-fated Atlas Comics company of the 1970s, as well as doing the rather impressive Spider-Man newspaper comic. Pencils were by the incredible Jack Kirby, while Dick Ayers provided inks. The colorist seems to have been lost to time, as this is from the era when no one was credited, but could have been cover colorist Stan Goldberg.

Our tale begins with Hank Pym having discovered a new way to make doll furniture:

   “Yes! Now to make the most detailed miniatures Mankind has ever seen!”


“Yes! Now to make the most detailed miniatures Mankind has ever seen!”

Well, ok, it’s a shrinking formula. Since this is the era of SCIENCE rather than science in comics, it’s just a vial of gunk that Hank pours onto things. Same with his reversal formula. Dizzy with success, Hank flashes back to the time that he was ridiculed by the stuffed shirts of the SCIENCE community, and it plays out like a mad scientist being shunned by his peers before going insane. Luckily, the formula works now. So now Hank can become a superhe-

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Or just make a mint in shipping. It’s rather refreshing to see a mad scientist actually want to use their inventions to help mankind improve itself rather than try to take over the world. However, Hank’s testing has now moved on to human testing. Rather than use any volunteers, Hank just says to heck with it and dumps it on himself!

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“I regret everything!”

 

 

I absolutely love this interpretation of Hank Pym. It gives us three schools of science in the Marvel Universe, actually. The Reed Richards school, which is all about exploration and what could be. The Tony Stark school, which is about tinkering and improving what is. Then you have Hank Pym: the school of science for the sake of science.

Unfortunately, Hank Pym doesn’t like being shrunk this fast, and freaks out:

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Yep, Hank just runs screaming into the night, the size of an ant. This lack of forethought is a running theme for the guy in the comics, though it’s hard to say if this comic influenced that. It’s also hard to see how Hank Pym is considered one of the ten smartest people in Marvel, but I suppose intelligence isn’t always about making smart decisions. It isn’t until Hank is on his lawn that he realizes how big of a mistake he made, and how he’s doomed to be small forever. His squeaks of fear and regret can’t be heard by man, but they are heard by the ants!

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It is rather befuddling as to why Hank Pym chooses to hide inside the ant colony to get away from the ants. However, it only gets stranger from there, as Hank winds up plummeting down a shaft inside the ant colony, landing in a pool of-

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What.

 

 

 

 

One can only hope that Stan and Larry somehow mistook the name of the honeypot ant and thought they made honey like bees. This column’s research partner, Doctor Internet PhD, could not find an example of ants who eat actual honey, or store it in random pools in their colonies. Regardless of scientific accuracy, Hank is struggling in the substance. Lucky for him, an ant drags Pym out of the mess and lets him go. However, more ants close in, and Hank spots his only salvation:

 Either that's a microscopic matchstick, or those are some massive ants.

Either that's a microscopic matchstick, or those are some massive ants.

Mankind’s innovation! The struck match ignites, starting a raging inferno in the colony. However, Hank has a plan to escape!

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Pym seems to have double-majored in SCIENCE and being stereotypically manly.

 

 

 

 

It is, however, completely unknown how he had a rope and lasso on hand to save himself. Unfortunately, another ant is at the cliff edge, and looks over Hank. As he gets closer, the ant grapples with Henry, intent on destroying the shrunken scientist! Except, Hank has somehow planned for this too!

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Yes, Henry Pym also knows Judo. While many writers have treated Hank Pym horribly through the years, the man can be truly awesome under the right circumstances. Through the strangest luck, the one ant who helped Henry out earlier comes across Hank again, and helps carry him up the wall of his home and into his lab. He climbs into the test tube and splashes about, becoming big again.

  Oh Hank. You’ll never be normal again.

Oh Hank. You’ll never be normal again.

And now, Hank Pym resolves to save the innocent by-

 Wouldn't this just seriously mess up his plumbing and sink?

Wouldn't this just seriously mess up his plumbing and sink?

Oh. Right. This was before Marvel began making heroes by the truckload. Henry would be forgotten about for another year or so, until Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would bring him back in Tales to Astonish #35 as the Ant-Man.

Where is Henry Pym now, you may be asking?

Hank Pym has gone through more identities and costume changes than you can possibly believe. He became Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Wasp, and even dropped the nicknames for a while to just go by the name of Hank Pym. The many costumes he’s had in that time could fill a normal person's wardrobe, or be an entire Halloween party theme.

Currently, though, Henry Pym is technically dead after the events of 2015’s Rage of Ultron, where he sacrificed his life and was forcibly combined with his robo-son Ultron into one being. It’s now debatable on if Pym is alive or dead, and the books haven’t taken a stance on it yet. However, the latest Infinity crossover may finally be doing something with this. Eventually.

Needless to say, the quiet retirement and mentorship of Scott Lang in the movies is a better destiny for a Hank Pym.

The Ant-Man: Hank Pym Returns

The Ant-Man: Hank Pym Returns

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Captain America: From Humble Beginnings, a Hero is Born