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Big things might be afoot for Paul Rudd’s Marvel hero in this summer’s Captain America: Civil War. Two separate leaks from toylines tying in with the superhero movie have his character named not as Ant-Man, but the oversize Giant-Man — just one of many alternate identities the size-changing hero has gone through in comic books.
If Civil War ends up setting a trend for Scott Lang’s cinematic career, it’s possible that he’ll have a new costumed identity in each successive movie. Bearing that in mind, here’s a quick guide to the multiple superhero lives of the character who changes names as easily as he changes stature. (No, “Stature” isn’t one of his superhero names; that one belonged to his daughter, Cassie Lang. Don’t ask.)
The original superhero identity of Hank Pym, as adopted in 1962’s Tales to Astonish No. 35, Ant-Man was actually the second nom-de-plume for the character — in his first appearance, he went by the more descriptive, if less catchy “The Man In The Ant-Hill.” Surprisingly, Pym’s Ant-Man career was very short; within fourteen issues of the monthly Tales to Astonish, he’d switched things up — in fact, up pretty fair indeed.
The change to “Giant-Man” came with more than just a different costume and name; it also saw Pym’s power-set go through a metamorphosis, as he went from shrinking and communicating with insects to growing and gaining superhuman strength in the process. (The latter is presumably a side-effect of his increased size, along similar scientific lines as Spider-Man’s strength coming from his possessing “the proportionate strength of a spider.” Don’t think about comic book science too much; it’s better that way.) Pym stayed in the Giant-Man identity from 1963’s Tales to Astonish No. 49 through his retirement from superheroics in Tales to Astonish #69 in 1965.
Of course, you can’t keep a good superhero — or even a mediocre one like Hank Pym — down for long, and so he returned to action in Avengers No. 28, a year later after retiring. This time around, he’d adopted a third identity, “Goliath” — a name that would prove to be a little too apt when he temporarily became trapped at his increased size for a number of issues. That wrinkle helped Goliath stick around for the longest run of a Pym identity yet — until Avengers No. 59, in 1968 — before things got very complicated indeed.
Speaking of complicated, just as there have been three different Ant-Mans in Marvel comics mythology — the second, Scott Lang, is the character played by Paul Rudd in the movies — there have been multiple different Goliaths in the comic books as well. The second, in fact, was an alternate superheroic identity for fellow Avenger Hawkeye for a short period in the late 1960s. There was also a second Giant-Man, Bill Foster, who’d later adopt the name Goliath for a period as well.
Yellowjacket, by far the longest-lasting of Hank Pym’s alter-egos, made his debut in the aforementioned Avengers No. 59, claiming to have murdered Goliath as the result of his love for Pym’s girlfriend, Janet Van Dyne. It was complicated — he’d had a psychotic break and created an alternate personality — and became even more so when Van Dyne married Yellowjacket, claiming to have realized that he was actually Pym all along as a result of their first kiss. Unlike Goliath, Yellowjacket — a name familiar to moviegoers, as it was used for Rudd’s enemy in last summer’s movie — wasn’t a giant, but a return to the insect-themed shrinking roots of the character.
Pym stayed in the Yellowjacket identity, for the most part, all the way through until Avengers No. 230 in 1983, at which point he retired from superhero-ing after a nervous breakdown. After a period in which he tried to fight crime without a costume — during which he went by the name “Doctor Pym,” which was, if nothing else, descriptive — he eventually returned to costumed crime fighting in 1998’s Avengers Vol. 3 No. 1.
After a period where Pym cycled through previous names and costumes, he eventually took up a new identity in 2009’s Secret Invasion: Requiem — or, at least, an identity new to him. Calling himself “the Wasp” in memory of the dead Janet Van Dyne (Don’t worry; she got better), Pym led a team of Avengers for a period before once again returning to the Yellowjacket identity — just in time for one final battle with Ultron, the unstoppable robot he was responsible for creating in Marvel comic history. As of 2015’s Avengers: Rage of Ultron graphic novel, Hank Pym went through his most extreme change yet, becoming part of a new cyborg version of Ultron.
One final alternate take on the Ant-Man/Giant-Man identity came in 2006’s Irredeemable Ant-Man series (written, notably, by The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman): the G.I.Ant-Man suit, built by Pym for S.H.I.E.L.D., which allows its wearer to control their size. Given the origins of the cinematic Ant-Man suit, it’s possible that the movie Ant-Man technology is the G.I.Ant-Man suit, allowing Scott Lang to grow as well as shrink — and become Giant-Man with ease in Civil War, while remaining small enough to fulfill the title role in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Assuming, of course, that it is Scott Lang in the title role of that latter movie. After all, as pointed out above, there have been many comic book Ant-Mans, so why not multiple cinematic ones, as well?
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