A planned trip to the drive-in sparked an idea for one of these columns. A few weeks ago, one of the summer superhero movies, Ant-Man and Wasp, was playing at the local drive-in theater. This was an astonishing fact to me. Longtime Marvel fans know that Ant-Man was never very popular.
The “small hero” had been done so many times before- in everything from Gulliver’s Travels (when he’s amongst the giants in the land of Brobdingnab) to The Incredible Shrinking Man to TV”s Land of the Giants. And in comics, other diminutive heroes like Doll Man, Doll Girl and the Atom were always fighting fearsome giant threats. Such as… the neighbor’s house cat or toys that came to life.
When I was in fourth grade, my class published a student newspaper and used the proceeds to buy cool stuff. After we splurged on posters and kickballs, there was just a little bit left over. My teacher, Mrs. Shearer, turned to me and asked if I’d buy some comics for the class with the small amount of leftover change.
Would I? Buying two dollars and ten cents of comics on expense account? That was beyond awesome. The one issue I acquired, that stands out to me all those years later, is an issue of Marvel Feature with one of the many Ant-Man & the Wasp reboots. In this comic, Ant Man wore a red turtleneck and white pants.
To be fair, I’m sure I’m the only one from that fourth grade class who remembers this.
During that week when I was planning date night at the drive-in, I stumbled across Hallmark’s Wasp Christmas tree ornament. These minor league characters were at the drive-in and the Hallmark store? Incredible!
On John Siuntres excellent Word Balloon Podcast, he interviewed Howard Chaykin who said that the only real creative genius working in comics today was Kevin Feige, as he is able to take B level characters and turn them into multimedia franchises. Give it a listen here. I’d tend to agree. How did the Ant-Man and the Wasp ever get so big?
I’ve always loved drive-Ins and feel blessed to have access to one now. With only 348 curling the U.S. , it feels special to see a movie there. We try to make it an annual event, and my kids and my wife always loved it as much I did. But this year, the calendar conspired against me and I missed my chance at seeing Ant-Man and The Wasp on the really big screen.
Building upon this idea, I was also planning on reviewing the latest Ant-Man and the Wasp comics series. It was an upbeat and fun romp through the microverse. I was especially struck by how writer Mark Waid, a self-professed science nerd, explained that he wanted this comic to move beyond representing atoms as floating billiard balls.
“This book was SO much fun to write,” said Mark Waid. “The character dynamics set a beautiful stage–this Ant-Man became a superhero by stealing her dad’s technology, and even though her dad forgave Ant-Man, the Wasp still carries a (funny) grudge because she never even MET her dad. Artist Javier Garron was just the perfect guy to bring this script to life–he’s imaginative and clever as well as being a great storyteller.“
But not only did I miss the drive-in, but 5 issues of this whizzed by before I knew it. Tempus Fugit.
And as these past few weeks have zipped by, there’s been a deluge of news.
Last week, the Hollywood Reporter had a crazy story about how fans for the movie A Star Is Born employed unethical tactics to sling mud at Sony’s Venom movie, which was debuting the same time.
And in another story, Ant-Man writer Mark Waid (he’s written so many other things too) was at the center of some troubling Geek Culture headlines.
One of the uglier episodes has been the lawsuit pursued against Mark Waid for defamation. Richard Meyer of Comicsgate asserts that Waid used clout in the industry to sabotage Meyer’s publishing efforts. Waid denies this allegation. Antarctic Press, the publisher who dropped Meyer’s book Jawbreakers, has made multiple public statements refuting Meyer’s claims.
Waid has been explaining since the summer that he was opposed to Meyer’s alleged call to action, inciting his numbers followers to embark upon a harassment campaign against employees of comic shops that didn’t pre-order Meyer’s comic.
Much of the comics industry seems to have lined up behind Waid with a #IStandbyMarkWaid effort.
The MOST AMAZING PART of IT ALL
So instead of being amazed a that minor character from my youth made it to the drive-in this summer, the really amazing reality is the vocality, tribalism and activism of many fans. There are, of course, parallels in today’s toxic political world.
I’m tired of bullies and tired of people positioning themselves as aggrieved victims. I’m really tired of people who don’t seek to understand the truth and I am so perplexed by people who don’t seem to get it. I’m encouraged by folks, like Mark Waid, who fight for the little guy. And I’m discouraged by folks who belittle others.
I expect even fandom to be a rocky ride for the foreseeable future. Keep informed, listen to all sides before making decisions and buckle up.