Like most people Ant-Man was never on my list of "best superheros." In fact, until the recent film staring Paul Rudd, all I knew about Ant-Man came from Garrett Morris' incarnation in the 1979 SNL sketch. Then I saw the film and everything changed. There's more than "just the movie" though that's keeping me from shrinking away from my ever growing love of the character.
Being Small is Huge
Ever since I was little I have loved the idea of being little. In 1984 (7th grade) when our class started getting to go into the school library once a week to pick out books I gravitated towards a series called "The Littles." The Littles were a family of tiny people living in the walls of human houses. They had been stars of a cartoon series the previous year that I had fallen in love with. The idea of being small enough to have your entire world be the interior of a house was fascinating to me. Going outside to visit a relative who lived in the house down the street was to them was equivelant to us traveling across the globe. The books cemented my fascination with the idea of being small. In fact my younger brother and I worked tirelessly on creating a "formula" — a "Green Particle" I suppose — that would shrink us down. It consisted of, as I remember, peanut butter, pickle juice, mayonnaise and other things that made it not only gross but had elements that (for some reason) we thought would create a "shrinking effect" when consumed. Though we prepared our Fisher Price house to live in and measuered daily the "Green Particle" didn't ever work. But the dream was there.
We're Only Human
It has been said that crisis does not make a hero or a coward, it merely reveals to us what we have bit by bit been becoming.
Ant-Man is vastly different from most of the other heroes out there. He is purely human. He is probably the most accessible hero in the Marvel Universe. More than geeky, radioactive Spider-Man, more than cocky, billonaire Iron Man, certainly more than godly, hammer toting Thor or certainly more than ultra-patriotic, time-displaced Captain America. Ant-Man is us.
Paul Rudd in an interview with IGN said,
He has no superhero background, he wasn’t born with any kind of ability, but what he’s going through, and what the story is really dealing with, are things that every single one of us have to deal with. We all have parents, some of us have children, but we all want to try and live as best we can and make the best choices we can in our lives.
That's no small thing. In fact how we handle power is a defining attribute of our character. Spider-Man's Uncle Ben may have one of the more famous qoutes on power and responsibility but it was Abraham Lincoln who said,
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
The story of Ant-Man shows us that even with a superpower (or a super powered suit) all we have, in the end, is our integrity and character to be either a hero or not.
It's Bigger Than all of That
I love reading. A well written mythos is enthralling. They open up worlds, make you fly twice as high as a butterfly and all that stuff. The Ant-Man comics fall very squarly into the well written category of a well written mythos. You have to consider that something which has been around in one form or another for over 50 years has to have something to it. There's something there that has kept it alive and active and in the (relatively) few Ant-Man comics I've read I get a glimpse of all of that.
Every good story has that bit of humanity in it I mentioned earlier — even Iron Man, Captain America and so on have something we can all relate to. That "truth" — or more rightly TRUTH — that we're seeing glimpses of in those stories is what makes one mythos ultimately better than another. Ant-Man himself may not be the best of heroic archetypes but the story and the grander mythos of the Marvel Universe that its set in make it bigger than just Ant-Man.
J.R.R. Tolkien said,
We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.
If you've not seen the Ant-Man movie do so. If you've seen the movie and not read the comics I recommend that too — especially the new ones by Spencer, Rosanas & Boyd. While shrinking is certainly a cool idea — and one that drew me personally into the stories — Ant-Man is much deeper and more relatable than just that and well worth your time.