Characters in Ant-Man and the Wasp with more meaning than you realized

Everything's personal in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The small-scale superhero movie is a light and summery story with no real villains — just characters striving to get done with their work and make their way home, sometimes at odds with each other. It's the sort of low-stakes hangout of a comic book flick that, ten years ago, would've seemed unthinkable.

But while the Ant-Man sequel's stakes and story may be small stuff, the characters themselves have long histories in comic books that stretch back decades — and we're not just talking about the two with their names in the title. A huge portion of the cast has surprising comic book backstories and alter-egos, with some of them poised to possibly affect the whole future of the MCU. There's more going on with the heroes of Ant-Man and the Wasp than you may have noticed — here are the movie characters deserve your extra attention.

Cassie Lang

Scott Lang's daughter Cassie is the secret MVP of Ant-Man and the Wasp. One of the movie's most adorable moments is when the 10-year-old makes it clear to her dad that she could, would, and probably should be his superhero sidekick. It's a suggestion that Scott shelves — at least, for now.

In the comics, however, Cassie does get in on the superhero game, both on her own and with the Young Avengers team under the names of Stature and Stinger, first appearing as a hero in Young Avengers #6. Like her dad, she has size-changing abilities, gaining the power to do so innately without the help of any technology through her lifetime exposure to Pym particles. 

The reason why Cassie's comic history matters to the MCU has to do with how Marvel already seems to be setting up a hero turn for the character down the line. It's not just a theory — Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has openly discussed how the company is "planting seeds" for the Young Avengers' potential arrival in the movies through the inclusion of "a very young Cassie, [...] inspired by her father."

You may see that inspiration pay off sooner than you think, as Marvel has reportedly cast an older actress to play Cassie in the fourth Avengers movie. Is this aspiring heroine about to get her time in the spotlight? It certainly seems that way.

Elihas Starr

Ghost's dead ghost dad only appears in Ant-Man and the Wasp in flashbacks, during a slowed-down scene you may or may not have used to hit the restroom. In case you missed him, Elihas is the bald man who got blown up along with his wife Catherine in Ghost's origin story, the accident that left her to grow up orphaned as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Which is not, apparently, the greatest long-term work arrangement. Don't you hate it when you accidentally get employed by Nazis?)

Ant-Man and the Wasp presents Elihas — a former colleague of Hank Pym — as an unfortunate victim of a quantum experiment gone wrong. But while he may be a sympathetic figure in the movie, in the comics, his namesake is anything but.

Introduced in  1962's Tales to Astonish #38, Elihas is a brainiac villain appropriately known as Egghead, a super genius enemy of Hank Pym's Ant-Man. He became obsessed with defeating Pym and the Avengers.

You don't really get any of that in the movie, though. Instead, Elihas' antipathy toward Pym is transferred to his daughter Ava, aka Ghost, who has a reflexive distaste for Pym due to what she perceives as his part in her parents' deaths. That fatherly aspect to Egghead is entirely an invention of Ant-Man and the Wasp; in the comics, Ava doesn't exist. Speaking of which…

Ghost

Ava Starr, aka Ghost, is one of the more mercurial characters in Ant-Man and the Wasp. She's got no time for chit-chat, and an understandable focus on staying alive before her uncontrollable phasing condition tears her apart. While she's an antagonist, she's not a villain, despite a brief desperate flirtation with the idea of kidnapping Scott's daughter during the movie's climax. 

Motivated by survival, Ava's the most sympathetic "bad guy" the MCU has seen yet. By the time the credits roll and Ghost is cured, Scott's casually referring to Ava as the team's "new Ghost friend", making her story feel less like a villain's tale and more like a backdoor pilot for a whole new hero. 

In the comics, Ghost is not named Ava, nor is she a she. Until the Ant-Man sequel, Ghost didn't even have a real name, though the male Ghost does follow a similar villain-to-hero trajectory as his big-screen namesake. Off-screen, Ghost was originally introduced in 1987's Iron Man #219 as villain before eventually joining the Thunderbolts, a team of bad guys gone good that has yet to appear in the MCU. As a result, many fans are chattering about the possibility of Ant-Man and the Wasp's Ghost eventually joining a movie version of the Thunderbolts, or some other good guy team — a compelling possibility, since she survives her turn as villain.

Jimmy Woo

Would you believe that FBI Special Agent James "Jimmy" Woo is the Ant-Man and the Wasp character with the longest comic book history? It's true. With the character first introduced in 1956, it might also explain why he's such an unabashed square in the movie.

Woo is such an old-fashioned character that he predates Marvel Comics as a company, first appearing in an Atlas Comics series about a Chinese supervillain named, uhhhh, "The Yellow Claw." A name which aged very, very poorly!

When Atlas Comics eventually became Marvel Comics, the special agent who hunted Yellow Claw became an FBI liaison to the Avengers, eventually ending up repackaged as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. But Marvel never forgot his Atlas roots over the decades, eventually making him the center of a new team called the Agents of Atlas in 2006. That squad is entirely composed of retro heroes from the '40s and '50s, leaning into the throwback nature of their origins through their characterizations. 

Woo's quaint, non-profane, high-strung and "aw, shucks" style in Ant-Man and the Wasp seems like an intentional reference to the character's origins in another era. Being a stickler for the rules makes him a natural heel in a world where Scott Lang — technically a criminal! — can be among the ranks of the world's mightiest heroes.

Whale Boat Captain Daniel Gooobler

In contrast to everyone else on this list, Whale Boat Captain Daniel Gooobler (with three Os) is not a comic book character, but rather a manifestation of a real-life inside joke. 

The boat tour guide, who shows up in Ant-Man and the Wasp during Sonny Burch's attempted aquatic escape, is played by comedian Tim Heidecker. As a performer, Heidecker is known for his surreal projects with Eric Wareheim, multiple shows and podcasts, an unironic music career, and many film and TV appearances. And while he doesn't do anything particularly funny in Ant-Man and the Wasp aside from steal an awkward amount of camera time, it's not what he does that's supposed to be a joke. Instead, the joke is the fact that he's in the movie at all.

It all goes back to the series On Cinema at the Cinema, starring Heidecker and comedian Gregg Turkington — a satirical series on which Ant-Man director Peyton Reed once appeared.  Ever since Turkington cameoed in the first Ant-Man as Scott's crappy Baskin-Robbins manager, the two co-hosts have been locked in a rivalry over which of them can appear in more Marvel movies. Tim tied the game in 2015 by appearing in the non-MCU Fox Fantastic Four reboot, and has finally lunged into a shocking lead with this appearance as Daniel Gooobler in Ant-Man and the Wasp. If you've been following the story, it's a hilarious turn of events. If you didn't know…well, now you do.

Bill Foster

Laurence Fishburne's Bill Foster serves as an Ant-Man and the Wasp antagonist for about five minutes, with any seeming villainy on his part mostly coming down to a difference in perspectives. The kind professor is introduced as a former partner of Pym's who worked alongside him on a project called Goliath. But what's never made too explicit is that Goliath is a former superhero alter-ego of Hank Pym's, and that — for a while — Foster was Goliath.

A scientist who worked with both Tony Stark and Pym, Foster was introduced in 1966's Avengers #32 and became one of Marvel Comics' first recurring black characters, working with Pym while he was operating under the name of Goliath. After parting ways with Pym in the '70s, Foster gained the power to grow to great heights himself through his tinkering with Pym particles. (Notice how this keeps happening to people?) 

Moving to the west coast, Foster started a blaxploitation-era crime-fighting career as the hero Black Goliath in 1975's Power-Man #24. (Later, after a time spent going by the moniker of Giant-Man, another one of Hank Pym's old superhero names, Foster would just take the name Goliath.) As to why Bill and Hank ended their relationship on poor terms in the past of the movie universe? Well… that's just apparently just how relationships with Hank always end.

Sonny Burch

Sonny Burch, the weapons trader played in Ant-Man and the Wasp by Walton Goggins, also has a history in Marvel Comics, though it's not one he shares with Hank or Hope.

First introduced in 2003's Iron Man #73, the Burch of the comics is a full-on maker of weapons, with ambitions to become a supplier on the same scale as internationally-successful capitalist Tony Stark. Fueled exclusively by greed, Burch acquired the patents for a range of old Stark technologies, using them to create and funnel massive amounts of dangerous, untested weaponry into the world. It was a scheme so out of control that Stark was eventually forced to take one of his strangest character turns and, like many eccentric tycoons before him, go looking for a new challenge in the political arena.

The storyline of the two competing weapons dealers eventually led not only to Burch's self-induced demise, but also to Iron Man himself being unanimously appointed as the United States Secretary of Defense. Needless to say, it's a storyline we're not seeing in the movies. And while Walton Goggins' interpretation of the character does make him the closest thing the movie has to a real bad guy, he's still a lot more affable than the psycho Burch from the comic books.

Janet van Dyne

Michelle Pfeiffer's Janet van Dyne has cast a long shadow over both Ant-Man movies, but she's still yet to fully reveal herself by the time the credits roll on Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Despite it taking 20 movies for Janet van Dyne to show up in the flesh, the original Wasp is one of the most important figures in Avengers history, being a founding member of the original comic book team, and even giving the group its name way back in 1963's Avengers #1. While the MCU has had her locked away in the Quantum Realm for 30 years, that never happened to the comics. Instead, she ended up as the Avengers' longtime leader. (As a reminder, Captain America, the leaderest leader to ever lead, was also on this team. Wasp was even one of the people who found Cap when he was still encased in ice. She's kind of a big deal.) 

Except for her sunny personality and intelligence (portrayed in the Ant-Man sequel, mostly, by a temporarily-possessed Paul Rudd), much about the movie Janet seems to be significantly different from her comics counterpart. The most obvious alteration is the set of mysterious powers she gained from her time in the Quantum Realm, setting her skill set apart from the Ant-Men and Hope's Wasp. It remains to be seen how those powers will play into the series' future — provided, of course, that post-credits scene doesn't stick