What Ant-Man Can Teach Us About Management

Journey Into Marvel

By: Julian Munds

ant-man-1-e1334917704111It seems everywhere I look on the internet, if you have a blog, you are writing about business practices.

Therefore I thought, in an effort to gain more followers, I’d throw Extremis’ into that ring.

Those of you who read The Extremis Review on the regular know we choose to focus on what in those sites’ eyes might seem frivolous.

But since you are already some one who knows who Ant-Man is, or at least have an idea, and are attracted by the prospect of a discussion about a comic character’s effect on business practices, I am most assuredly preaching to the choir.

On this site you can find countless articles digesting how comics shape our opinions of politics, history and even religion.

Surely they have something to say about business.

Most particularly, proper management skills.

Those of you who read these reviews on the regular are probably well aware of my less then friendly opinions of Ant-Man. I have written countless pieces that address unfavourably Hank’s misogynist and sexist demeanor or the rather anti-social way he treats everybody in his life. As some in their comments have informed me, Hank Pym in later years, was retconned as a sufferer of bi-polar disorder. This was news to me, being a rather green Marvel reader, and it gave me pause.

While it is lovely to see a superhero that actually suffers a mental illness, something we have experienced again most recently in Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, I rather prefer a Henry Pym that just happens to be prickly.

In Marvel, DC and other literature, there are many examples of unlikable heroes that were able to attract enough fandom to carry them on through many different incarnations. We all know Sherlock Holmes is a handful to deal with and Bruce “Batman” Wayne would probably be a psychologist’s dream. The fact that Hank is just an unpleasant ass without illness has much precedent. One of the benefits of this narrative is when Stan Lee has Hank do something uncharacteristically nice, it is an extraordinarily powerful moment.

Supervillains are spawned in many ways, but what I have noticed over the countless stories that have flooded my 25 or so years of comic book fandom, is that most supervillains are born out of a need to be recognized. They feel somehow grossly under appreciated in some part of their life and this leads them to start acting irrationally out of revenge, or some other goal, to achieve fame.

The Porcupine has a valid point.

The Porcupine has a valid point.

In this issue we are presented with a character named Alexander Gentry. Gentry works for an arms maker. Not Stark Industries. Just a faceless corporation. Alexander is considered a genius, as most scientists are in the Silver Age, and he applies this genius into developing a suit covered in poisonous gas filled spikes with other gadgets and weapons concealed in it. He doesn’t develop this suit for his employer however. Rather he uses it to exact revenge on the management of the company by robbing a bank whose security was designed by them. At one point, Gentry claims he does this crime because he was not being paid enough and no one cared about him. Gentry says that he has worked for the company for years without a raise and has seen no respect from those who “boss him around.”  If someone at the company had appreciated the considerable genius that was working for them, perhaps, the Porcupine would not exist.

On the other hand, we have the duo of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. Ant-Man and the Wasp have had a tough tumultuous relationship so far. That is probably because the two of them have feelings for each other and for some reason do not admit it. They also both contend with the extraordinary mood swings of Hank.

Something which is often forgotten when discussing these two, is that Janet is Hank’s employee. Like many assistant and manager relationships they have allowed their close working ties to define their interaction. But with all the turmoil, why does Janet still work for Hank aside from the sexual attraction?

Janet in this issue falls ill from what appears to be a regular cold, yet she still insists upon helping Ant-Man in his quest to defeat the Porcupine. What could inspire such loyalty?

Wasp loves asking Hank for recognition after she aids him on a mission but he doesn’t often return thanks. However at the end of this issue, he gives up his vendetta on the prickly villain to take Janet back to bed and force feed her antibiotics. This little episode shows he deeply cares about Janet’s well being. He appreciates her. Ant-Man doesn’t adorn her with gratuitous rewards, such as the jewels she always asks for, but he does respect her and her contributions enough to care about her health.

There’s a very simple lesson being taught here; appreciate and respect those who support you. 

Always give thanks where thanks is due but not extravagantly lest your company be full of little entitled Sub-Mariners.

If only Alexander Gentry had been shown some respect for his ideas.

Clearly, he’s a genius.

When did you last invent a mega suit that turns an entire banking clientele into a sleeping mass.

Maybe the terror of the Porcupine would never have been unleashed on the world if he’d been given some kudos.

If you treat your employees well, may be when you too are drowning in a bathtub and need the help of your sick colleagues, they will be there to fill the gas spikes of your nemesis with plaster and save you.

A good management lesson for anyone.

Story I Read:The Porcupine” (Tales to Astonish #48 Oct. 1963)

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5.

Pros: The heart-felt moments with Wasp. The Development of Porcupine. Ant-Man nearly drowning in a bathtub.

Cons: The really run of the mill plot. A bank robbery? That’s kind of boring.

Upcoming Review:Face to Face with the Lizard” (The Amazing Spider-Man #6 Nov. 1963)

Previous Review:Prisoners of the Pharaoh!” (Fantastic Four #19 Oct. 1963)


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on December 16, 2013, in Ant-Man, Marvel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

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