Ant-Man has always been one of the most important but misunderstood heroes in the Marvel Universe. He was one of Marvel’s earliest heroes, first created in 1962’s Tales to Astonish #27 by Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Jack Kirby. Along with Thor, Hulk and Iron Man, he became a founding member of the Avengers. His power to shrink to insect sizes or grow to become a giant makes him a powerhouse, and his ability to control insects comes in handy in countless ways. At the same time, Ant-Man has been seen as a low-level hero, the butt of jokes both inside and outside of the comic book community.
The hit movie Ant-Man changed all that by showing the hero on the big screen. He had a supporting role in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War where his sudden growth caught everyone by surprise. You may know a little bit about this tiny hero, but with the sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp coming in 2018, it’s time to explore one of the most underrated weapons in Ant-Man’s arsenal: his helmet. It’s not just something he puts on, but a vital weapon in the battle against evil. Read on to find 15 surprising facts about it.
15. IT CONTROLS MORE THAN ANTS
If there’s one thing you need to know about Ant-Man, it’s that he’s not all about ants. His helmet’s internal system can communicate with all sorts of ants, of course, but other insects as well. Pretty much any form of insect life (and even spiders) can be controlled by Ant-Man and he’s used them in different ways through his adventures.
In a fight against Namor, Ant-Man (as Yellowjacket) took control of a swarm of bees that stung the aquatic hero so badly he could even feel them through his toughened skin. In 1963’s Tales to Astonish #41 (Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck), Ant-Man was taken to an alien world. Even though they weren’t Earth insects, Ant-Man was able to command the cockroach-like alien life on the planet to fight.
14. IT TRIGGERS SPIDER-MAN’S SPIDER-SENSE
Ant-Man’s helmet is what lets him communicate with insects of all kinds, and that includes other insect-based superheroes. That’s not always a good thing. One insect-based hero named Spider-Man definitely had a problem with it, though that guy has a problem with most things!
In 2009, Amazing Spider-Man Family #8 by Tom Peyer and Stephanie Buscema told the satirical story “Why Not Have Spider-Man Lose Control of His Spider-Sense?” In the short, Spider-Man found his spider-sense going crazy, causing him to attack everything from a baby in a baby carriage to J. Jonah Jameson. When he finally tracked down the source of the trigger, it turned out to be Ant-Man’s helmet that Mr. Fantastic had boosted to help him communicate with ants more clearly. Spider-Man’s problems were just a side effect.
13. IT HAD A LAB INSIDE IT
As we saw in the 2015 movie, there’s more than one Ant-Man. The original Ant-Man was Hank Pym who invented the suit and the technology to change size, but he passed that equipment on to Scott Lang, a thief and electrical engineer who became the new Ant-Man. The two have gotten along well, but Lang doesn’t know as much about the suit as he should.
Ant-Man Annual #1 (Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas, Brent Schoonover) in 2015 brought the two together where Lang discovered a surprising secret about his helmet. Pym returned to shrink down into the helmet and Lang found Pym had hidden an entire lab inside as a backup for emergencies. With that kind of gear hidden in the helmet, we can only imagine what other secrets it holds.
12. IT TERRORIZED THE FUTURE
Let’s face it: Ant-Man won’t live forever. What will happen to his helmet when he’s gone? As a powerful piece of technology, it would make its next owner very powerful, for better or worse. In 2009, Old Man Logan (Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines) showed an alternate future where supervillains had killed off most of the heroes, and Wolverine had retired. When he needed money for his farm, an elderly Logan reluctantly agreed to drive cross-country with Hawkeye.
At one point, they ran into a little kid named Dwight wearing Ant-Man’s helmet who guarded a bridge and demanded payment to cross. Logan treated the kid like a joke, not seeing the dozens of skulls and cars smashed under the bridge by ants under the kid’s control. That was 80-cents well-spent.
11. IT MAKES INSECTS SEE THINGS
How does Ant-Man’s helmet let him control insects? In the comics, it’s kind of vague. We know the helmet taps into electromagnetic signals that let him influence the little critters. We know one possible way it does that is by putting images into the heads of insects that make them do things. For instance, if he wants ants to go left, maybe he makes them see an anteater on the right.
We know the helmet lets Ant-Man put images into bugs’ heads because he’s done it before. For example, in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers, Giant-Girl’s mind was taken over by the Insectoid Race in issue #13 (Jeff Parker, Leonard Kirk). Hank Pym used the Ant-Man helmet to make the insects see giant people and scare them off.
10. THE MODERN HELMET
When we talk about Ant-Man’s helmet, it gets complicated, because there have been three people who’ve called themselves Ant-Man: Hank Pym, Scott Lang and Eric O’Grady. There have also been a lot of changes to the Ant-Man helmet over the decades since his first appearance in 1962.
Pym and his teammates have changed his helmet’s design and function over the years. The original helmet had the basic elements of a speaker, insect communication system and control of Pym Particles. The modern helmet contains a much wider variety of instruments like targeting sensors, a computer feed that pipes in scientific data and multiple vision modes like infrared or night vision. The helmet he uses today is a miracle of modern technology, way more than just something he wears on his head.
9. THE MOVIE USED PHEROMONES
How does Ant-Man’s control over insects work? It’s always been kind of glossed over in the comics. The official guide has always said that Ant-Man’s helmet uses electromagnetic waves to connect with the antennae of ants, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. We know more about ant communication than we did in the 1960s, so we know ants communicate with a combination of movements, scent trails and sounds. Electromagnetic waves by themselves don’t really cover it.
That’s why 2015’s Ant-Man changed how the superhero connects with insects. In the movie, it says Ant-Man’s helmet uses a combination of pheromones that mimic ant scents, along with strong electromagnetic waves to trigger olfactory nerves, making insects smell things that change their behavior. It’s still a stretch but sounds more realistic.
8. IT INFLUENCES NOT CONTROLS
When people think of Ant-Man, they think of him talking to ants, but that’s not quite true. Ant-Man doesn’t talk to ants any more than Aquaman talks to fish. In the comics, when Ant-Man wears the helmet, he’s able to send out electromagnetic signals that go into the brains of ants and other insects. It’s not like ordering them to do something, but more like he gives them the urge to do what he needs them to do. It’s a nudge, not a push.
That push is pretty strong, though. Ant-Man has shown he can do everything from get the ants to swarm all over an enemy to forming into structures like bridges. He can also control an almost unlimited number of the insects at a time, making them all act as one unit.
7. IT SHRINKS ANT-MAN
The key to Ant-Man’s power to grow and shrink isn’t from the Pym Particles that change him. It’s all in the helmet. The helmet is the key to how he controls the Pym Particles. It releases the Pym Particles that let him grow and shrink.
It also regulates how the particles are used by scanning the environment so he can reach the proper size. If he needs to become the size of a fire ant, the helmet can scan a fire ant and reduce him to that size. When he’s ready to go back to normal, the helmet decides when he stops growing. The helmet can even detect Pym Particles so he can find anyone else using shrinking technology. Without the helmet, Ant-Man would shrink to the size of a molecule or grow to the size of the moon, out of control.
6. OTHER HEROES WORE IT
While Ant-Man is obviously the one who wears the helmet the most, he’s not the only hero to do so. The helmet has been stolen or given to other superheroes who put them to good use. In the anthology Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Will Murray wrote the story “Side by Side With the Astonishing Ant-Man” where Spider-Man used Ant-Man’s helmet to send a swarm of spiders to stop a mechanical tarantula.
In 2009’s Mighty Avengers #25 (Dan Slott, Stephen Segovia), the genius Amadeus Cho was given the helmet by Cassandra Lang, Ant-Man’s daughter. The strangest case was in 2009 with Punisher #5 (Rick Remender, Jerome Opena) where a gang of thugs ate a pizza, only to discover the Punisher used Ant-Man’s helmet to shrink, hide inside it, and burst out to kill all of them.
5. ANT-MAN CAN UNDERSTAND INSECTS
While anyone who knows Ant-Man knows he can communicate with ants, you may not know that it works both ways. That’s right, Ant-Man can hear ants, too. That’s all thanks to his helmet, which can translate insect signals into something he can understand. While you might not think that being able to hear ants talking is that useful, you’d be dead wrong.
Ants can send Ant-Man whatever they can see and hear, turning an ant colony into thousands of spies. The ants can travel almost anywhere as long as there’s a crack small enough for them to fit into. They’re also so small that they’re virtually invisible, letting them sneak in and report their environment. It makes tracking down bad guys pretty easy for Ant-Man.
4. IT LETS HIM BE HEARD
When you’re less than an inch tall, you’ve got a lot of problems. Running doesn’t really get you that far. Being seen is a big problem. Being heard is an even bigger problem. That’s where Ant-Man’s helmet comes in handy again. Just because his lungs are smaller than a pinhead doesn’t mean he can’t be loud, thanks to the amplification in his helmet.
When Ant-Man speaks into the microphone built into the helmet, a sophisticated sound system boosts his voice a thousandfold so he can sound like a normal person or even louder if he needs to. When you consider the speakers have to be almost microscopic, Ant-Man’s sound system is a work of genius. It can also communicate with radio and other communication systems, turning it into a miracle.
3. IT PROTECTS HIS BRAIN
In 2015’s Ant-Man movie, one of the small but important changes to the character was based on the helmet. In the comics, there’s never been any real physical cost to changing size, but the movie played around with the idea. The first Ant-Man Hank Pym explained that exposure to the body-shrinking Pym Particles causes health problems that eventually forced him to stop using the suit. The exposure can even alter the chemistry of the brain, causing madness.
To help avoid the effects, Pym designed the helmet to protect the brain during the transformation. It became a critical piece of gear, one that Ant-Man literally never changed size without. Another change as a nod to realism was that the helmet also provided an oxygen supply, which helped when his lungs became smaller than a pinhead.
2. THE HELMET IS PROTECTION
Whether you’re six feet tall or six inches tall, being a superhero can be dangerous. Besides the usual fists, knives and bullets most heroes have to face, Ant-Man faces bigger challenges when he shrinks down to the size of an ant. Not only can he be stepped on by even the shortest purse-snatcher, but even a blade of grass falling on him could crush him like the Empire State Building landing on his head.
That’s why his suit has added protection, of which the helmet is a big part. The suit itself is made of armor, and the helmet is too. Not only that, but the helmet is also weather-sealed so he doesn’t drown in a rainstorm, and it’s also padded to absorb impacts, so he’s ready for whatever comes at him.
1. THE MOVIE HELMET
In any movie about superheroes, it all comes down to the costume. In the comics, it’s easy to design costumes when you don’t have to follow the laws of physics, biology, fabric or anatomy. That’s why a straight translation of a comic book costume isn’t always possible or desirable when it comes time to put an actor in it. Also, many superheroes have had different versions of costumes over the years.
Ant-Man is a great example because the helmet took a lot of work to get right and looks very different from the comics. The movie version of Ant-Man’s helmet was specifically designed to have a different look and feel than Iron Man’s helmet. Concept art also shows debate over whether to show Ant-Man’s face or not at all. The studio went with a full-face mask.
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