In the late 1970s, Marvel Comics introduced the *What If…? comics. A series of unrelated one-shots, they examined how the Marvel Universe might have been different if key moments in its continuity had happened differently or not at all. What follows is our homage to these quirky books.*
It’s relatively well-known to the fans of the MCU that Edgar Wright was working on Ant-Man at the tail end of the last century. Wright’s interest in the film actually pre-dated the conception of Marvel Studios with Wright having drafted a treatment as early as 2001 and meeting with Kevin Feige in 2004. In 2005, Marvel Studios was born and the dance between Feige and Wright began.
After many ebbs, flows and rewrites, Marvel and Wright parted ways in May of 2014, just months ahead of production. Finally, in 2015, we got our Ant-Man film, featuring an old, widowed Hank Pym, no Janet van Dyne, and focusing on Scott Lang. Though many fans lament Wright’s departure, the final script was still heavily influenced by his original draft and while the entire internet wondered what the film would have been like with Wright behind the cameras, we have a different question entirely. What if he had never been involved at all?
Hank Pym first appeared in Marvel’s Tales to Astonish #27 in a story called ‘The Man in the Ant Hill.’ He preceded many of Marvel’s more famous heroes and was, alongside Janet van Dyne, a founding member of The Avengers. The magnitude of his genius was matched only by the magnitude of his personal insecurities and has a long history of making the wrong choices for the right reasons along with just making some poor choices. He’s one of Marvel’s most interesting case studies in humanity and, in many ways, the character that Stan Lee first dreamt up in the 1960s is a very modern human. Pym had many alter egos (reflective of his many personality shifts) over the years and, at one point, stopped being the Ant-Man while Scott Lang took over the mantle.
We know that when Marvel Studios became a reality in 2005, they had plans to explore Ant-Man. What I don’t think we can say is whether or not they’d have chosen to focus on Pym if not for Wright’s very creative script. Since this is a what if, we are going to operate under the premise that Marvel Studios would have gone about developing Hank Pym as the main character and think about some things that may have been different and how they might have changed the MCU the way the MCU unfolded over its first 8 years.
While Iron Man was not as troubled of a production as Ant-Man turned out to be, it certainly went through it’s fair share of turmoil before becoming the movie that launched the most successful interconnected cinematic universe in history. It is possible that if Feige and Wright had never sat down in 2004 to discuss Wright’s vision, that we may have had an Ant-Man movie as early as 2008, as a follow-up to Iron Man. While I can’t imagine any way that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark would not have been the huge star that he is even if an Ant-Man movie had come first, it would certainly have been interesting to see who Marvel Studios would have cast as Pym if they kicked off the MCU with a solo Ant-Man adventure.
Keeping with the thought that we would have met super genius Hank Pym early on, it’s also a safe bet that the first solo Ant-Man outing would have also focused on Pym’s relationship with Janet van Dyne, The Winsome Wasp, and another founding Avenger. If Feige had never seen Wright’s Lang-centric script, would the MCU have the Wasp as a foundation piece? Though early portrayals of van Dyne were not very flattering, she has grown into a powerful character, a leader of the Avengers and an iconic female comic book character. Marvel Studios still hasn’t produced a film with lead, female heroine (though Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel are in the works) so how much different would things have been had Janet van Dyne been one of the first heroes of the MCU?
Of course having Pym and van Dyne in on the ground floor would have had a huge impact on the membership of the Avengers. Had Feige and Wright not spent years working towards the 2015 film, the MCU Avengers almost certainly would have looked much like the 1st comic book crew, featuring Pym and van Dyne alongside Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk:
Hank Pym and his work were a big part of many of the Avengers early stories, with his greatest achievement and failure giving rise to the Avengers greatest foe: Ultron. Without Pym, the work of Tony Stark gave rise to the villainous A.I. and the Avenger the Vision. If we had Pym from the beginning, could he not only have been the creator of Ultron, but also have aided in the entrance of a forgotten Avenger into the MCU? The classic Ultron story heavily features Simon Williams, Wonder Man, a one time nemesis of the Avengers before joining their ranks. With Pym and van Dyne in place, would Marvel have been tempted to bring Williams into the fold, perhaps as the antagonist of Iron Man 2? Fans of the MCU generally see Iron Man 2 as one of the weaker entries, perhaps an iconic character like Simon Williams, brought to financial ruin by Stark, could have totally changed the film and its perception. Perhaps an organization like A.I.M. could have had a part and become more integral to the overarching story line as they often are in the comics.
At this point, the butterfly effect is pretty huge. While much of the structure of the MCU would seem to be same, some minor changes would have had some major impact. The makeup of the Avengers would be potentially very different and some fan favorite characters would have major roles as opposed to none. What that would mean for the future of the MCU is even further conjecture, but it’s safe to say that Pym’s many personalities and internal struggle with his place among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would cause some interesting conflict.
Of course there would still be room for Scott Lang (in fact an Lang-centric Ant-Man film could follow many of the same beats as Peyton Reed’s film did) and his chapter as the Ant-Man could introduce an interesting concept to the MCU: legacy characters. Pym stepped away from the suit a number of times, though he always returned. However, his role as a mentor to younger characters (Avengers Academy) and continued work on A.I. would always give him a place.
So what do you think the MCU would have been like if Edgar Wright and Kevin Feige’s decade long pursuit of Ant-Man had never happened? What other things may have changed? Most importantly, what do you think of this new “What If?” feature? Let us know if it’s something you’d like to see more of in the future!