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Ant-Man Debuted With a Collection of Outdated Pop Culture References

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
Ant-Man Debuted With a Collection of Outdated Pop Culture References

This is Foggy Ruins of TIme, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of “Seinfeld” will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).

Reader Le Messor wrote in to note that the debut of the second Ant-Man in 1979’s “Marvel Premiere” #47 (by David Michelinie, John Byrne and Bob Layton) was particularly filled with references that are now quite dated, but at the time, readers would know what they were talking about.

To start, when Scott first used the capsules of Pym Particles from the costume that he stole from Hank Pym, he was shocked to see himself surrounded by what appeared to him as giant ants…

This, then, led to him referencing the late, great actor James Whitmore (who won a Tony, Emmy and Grammy in his career). Whitmore was the star of 1954’s “Them!” about gigantic killer ants…

This was one of the earliest films that worked off of the whole “the dangers of nuclear radiation!” theme.

Next, when Ant-Man is sneaking into Cross Enterprises to find the kidnapped doctor that he needs to operate on his dying daughter, the ant that he is riding, Emma, starts to quiver. He makes a joke…

This is a reference to the tennis player, Bobby Riggs, who famously lost in a “Battles of the Sexes” tennis match to female tennis player, Billie Jean King (King was in her prime and much younger than Riggs, but Riggs had just recently defeated the #1 female teenis player in the world at the time, Margaret Court, in the first “Battle of the Sexes” match).

E.R.A. meeting is a reference to proponents of an Equal Rights Amendment guaranteeing women equal rights as men.

Finally, as Ant-Man goes into action against the Cross Enterprises guards, he makes the following reference…

This is referring to a famous Steve Martin bit from Martin’s hit album, “Let’s Get Small.”

You can listen to the joke here (basically, it’s Martin riffing about how he uses drugs that don’t get him HIGH, they get him SMALL).

You know what? Since Ant-Man’s debut was a two-parter, I’ll also look at outdated references in the SECOND issue, “Marvel Premiere” #48 (by Michelinie, Byrne and Layton).

Ant-Man is captured by Darren Cross, and he mentions that his superhero career so far has bombed bigger than De Laurentiis’ “King Kong”…

This, naturally, was a reference to the 1976 production of “King Kong,” produced by Dino De Laurentiis and starring Jessica Lange in her first major film role.

The movie actually did very well at the box office, but it was not received well, critically. Lange, in particular, got some very negative notices (luckily, she still had an excellent acting career).

Finally, for some reason, Ant-Man named his ants Emma…

and Steed…

Obviously a reference to John Steed and Emma Peel from the British TV series, “The Avengers”…

But beyond the fact that Michelinie and Byrne were currently doing a comic book series called “The Avengers,” as well, at the time, I don’t get the reference.

Thanks for the suggestion, Le Messor! If anyone else has an idea for a future Foggy Ruins of Time, please drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com (note that I no longer receive mail at bcronin@comicbookresources.com, so please use the new e-mail address).

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