Spencer's "Astonishing Ant-Man" Explores Technology & The Modern Supervillain

SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains spoilery art from "Astonishing Ant-Man" #6

Ex-con Scott Lang -- better known as Marvel Comics' Ant-Man -- leads a pretty interesting, often tragically hilarious life. In Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas "Astonishing Ant-Man," the eclectic cast of heroes, villains and oddballs he confronts in his role as both a superhero and the owner of Ant-Man Security Solutions have made his life even more unpredictable and humorous. And when two competing apps debut with the shared goal of revolutionizing the world of super villainy -- Hench, designed by the Power Broker, and Lackey, created by Lang's enemies at Cross' Technologies -- Ant-Man's world officially spins out of his control.

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In the coming months, the story of the tech war between the Power Broker and the Crosses -- which actually occurred during the eight month gap after "Secret Wars" -- will unfold, and readers will see the choices that Lang made which lead to him be being back behind bars in the present day. CBR News spoke with Spencer about his inspiration for the app-based plot, some of the series' more interesting supporting characters, the upcoming issues that will spotlight Raz Malhotra -- the new Giant-Man -- and Lang's daughter Cassie, who used to be the size changing hero known as Stature. Plus, will Scott Lang have to choose a side in the upcoming "Civil War II?"

CBR News: One of the main antagonists in "Astonishing Ant-Man" has been the villainous Power Broker. I'm curious -- is this a new incarnation of the character? Or is this the original Power Broker, Curtis Jackson, in some new armor?

Nick Spencer: This is the new Power Broker who first appeared in "Avengers: The Initiative Annual" #1. He was created by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Steve Uy. He's only had a couple of appearances since then, though, and we haven't found out much about him.

I like to comb through my comics and find bad guys that hadn't been used for a while. It's fun to do a Power Broker story, because in the '80s he was everywhere for a while. It's nice to have somebody in that role again.

What inspired you to create Hench, which is sort of the Uber for super villains? And then you added Cross Technologies' rival app, Lackey, to the mix!

I'm kind of a sucker for stories about global technology and apps. I've done quite a few. It's probably a bit of a crutch, but I just really like them. I think the ways in which new technologies are changing our lives is fascinating. I think the story potential in them is underutilized, so this seemed like a lot of fun.

We've got all of this sharing economy stuff popping up. There seems to be Ubers for everything and they're very well-funded. Everybody can't stop throwing money at them. So I thought that super villains would get in on this. There's no way that they wouldn't.

It seemed liked there was something there, and I dropped it in the first volume as how the Crosses hire Taskmaster. It just stayed in my head. It seemed like there was more story there. So then, to get to do a story about corporate competition and corporate espionage was something I found really fascinating. That's how Hench and Lackey were born.

Now, the Power Broker has had his technology stolen by the Crosses, and he's obviously not happy about that. What's fun about when bad guys get mad at each other is good people tend to get caught in the middle of it and that's certainly what's going to happen here.

From what I gather, the events with Power Broker and Hench are going on in the past, the eight month gap after "Secret Wars," and Scott Lang in prison is "Astonishing Ant-Man's" present day status quo. Is that a correct assumption?

Yes! That's the thing. Marvel let us do something a little different with that in that our story is still being told during the eight month gap, and we've kept what's happened with Scott and how he ended up in prison under wraps. So we're building towards that, but there's a good amount of story still to tell before you'll get the full answer to that question.

In the past segments, we've seen some people coming back into Scott's life. How did it feel to bring his "FF" teammate and former girlfriend Darla Deering into the book?

I was most excited for people to stop yelling at me on Tumblr. [Laughs] No, one of the things we've been doing in this book is continually sort of bringing back elements of Scott's past and revisiting different aspects of his story. It was always the plan to bring Darla back in at some point, because she's obviously a major figure in the character's history. It was more the question of when was the right time to bring her back.

In the first volume, it felt like it would have added something that would have been difficult to fit into that story, but it also would have probably made Scott's life a little easier. If they had stayed together I think that first volume plays out very differently in terms of the pressure that Scott feels. How up against the wall would he feel if he had somebody next to him?

It was always our hope to bring her back as quickly as possible. So we brought her back in the second issue of this new volume, and she'll be a major player moving forward.

The other character coming back into Scott's life as he's trying to shake himself out of a funk is one of your favorite characters and mine Janice Lincoln, AKA the Beetle, who was one of the titular characters of your "Superior Foes of Spider-Man" series.

Right! This is just me shoehorning in my favorite characters. [Laughs] I really like the idea of bringing Beetle into the book. She even has an insect codename. So I was like, "This is a no-brainer!" And she and Scott are really fun together. To me, it's a believable kind of relationship, and it's obviously causing some real headaches for Scott. We saw a little bit more of that at the beginning of the most recent issue.

I wanted that sort of Black Cat character for Scott and I think Janice really fills that role in a way that's also pretty unique to her. So it's nice to be able to continue writing her.

I also wanted to take some time to chat about Scott's employees who are quickly becoming two of my favorite supporting characters in comics, Grizzly and Machinesmith.

[Laughs] They're a blast to write. When we were setting up the book I said I wanted Scott to have a couple of employees. I wanted him to have a crew. That really spun out of Grizzly having the history with Eric O'Grady. I thought it was really funny to have a super villain come for revenge against the wrong person.

It's grown from there and Smith and Grizz are a blast to write together. They're a great duo. So there will be plenty more with them coming up.

These next few issues of "Astonishing Ant-Man" you have coming up will feature some current and former size changing heroes in the form of the new Giant-Man, Raz Malhotra, who shows up in "Astonishing Ant-Man," #5 and Scott's now depowered daughter Cassie Lang who gets some spotlight in "Ant-Man" #6.

Yeah those are big issues. First off we head out to San Francisco and find out how Raz has been doing as Giant-Man. I should mention as a plug that he recently showed up after the eight month gap in "Ultimates." There's nothing better than seeing a character you created like that showing up in other books. So I'm hoping he's going to become big figure in the Marvel Universe. I think he's a great character.

Then after we check in with Raz we're severely overdue for an issue that focuses on Cassie. Obviously what happened to her was a major part of our first volume, but this is the first issue we're doing that's from her perspective and that she narrates us through. So I was excited to get to that. It's got a lot of nice "Young Avengers" references, and it might even feature a guest appearance by one of people's favorite "Young Avengers."

Those characters are part of a number of different titles now and I imagine even down in Miami she's probably conscious of the fact that her friends and former teammates are out there having superheroic adventures.

Yeah, that's a major part of the issue.

Regular "Astonishing Ant-Man" artist Ramon Rosanas is handling the bulk of the upcoming issues, but the Cassie issue is being done by a guest artist named Annapaola Martello.

Yes. She's really fantastic. She did some work recently on "Silk," and she was a great fit for our Cassie centric issue. That issue will have its own feel. It will feel like you're reading Cassie's book for 20 pages. That was fun for me to come in and do something entirely different while still moving our bigger story forward.

Finally we know that this summer the cinematic incarnation of Ant-Man will be choosing a side in the "Captain America: Civil War" film from Marvel Studios. Will the Scott Lang of the Marvel Universe have to make a similar choice in the upcoming "Civil War II" event?

Definitely! We've got a really fun "Civil War" story planned for just after when this story wraps. So, yes, Scott is not going to be able to stay out of that trouble.

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