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Mantle-ism in Ant-Man: Why You Need to Pass the Cape to Someone Else

In comics, “timeline” is a dirty word (almost as dirty as the word “continuity”). Fortunately we have the gift that keeps on giving: the RetCon (retroactive continuity). Tony Stark became Iron Man due to injuries he received arguably during the Vietnam War. Later it was said that he was injured in the first Gulf War, and then later it was retconned to the war in Afghanistan so that Tony wouldn’t be seventy-plus years old. It gets even more tough: the Batman comic celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary but how old is the Batman himself? How long has Spider-Man been with Mary Jane? When exactly was Captain America unfrozen after fighting in World War II?  Fortunately Ant-Man provides a fix that can help not only comic books but the future of comic book movies.

Ant-Man sets up some very important and helpful things for Marvel and (possibly DC). Although other people have put on the armour, Tony Stark is viewed as the one true Iron Man. More than one person has worn the cape and cowl but Bruce Wayne is considered the one true Batman. The character Ant-Man is a mantle, meaning that you can have more than one person be Ant-Man without a problem. Henry Pym was the original Ant-Man before handing the helmet over to Scott Lang, establishing that it’s ok to have multiple people be called Ant-Man without any confusion. The same concept was dealt with in Watchmen where you have several generations of Silk Spectre as well as several people taking on the role of Nite Owl. Even in years past, we have seen Bruce Wayne grooming Robin to potentially take over the role of Batman, who has done so under extenuating circumstances.

Whoa, is that the Fantastic Four speaking with President… Richard Nixon?

The idea of a character carrying on a mantle allows for characters to have realistic interactions with current events and allow time to pass without bizarre explanations. For example, the Punisher fought in Vietnam, which would make him at least sixty years old, and it took his death and reincarnation to allow for him to be younger. Characters like Nick Fury, Wolverine, and Captain America have augmented biologies that allow for long lives and minimal ageing.  Having the superhero be a mantle allows for characters, even actors to age out.  Robert Downey, Jr. just turned fifty this year and establishing the mantle of Iron Man instead of the character will allow for Tony Stark to exist whilst having other people piloting the Iron Man armour. Hugh Jackman is forty-six this year and it’s a little harder to replicate Wolverine, so that’s certainly going to be difficult to have his replacing make sense opposed to just swapping out actors they way they do with James Bond.

Considering that comics, although entertaining and engaging, due to their profitability are now viewed as a vehicle for tentpole filmmaking. The Marvel Universe, and soon the DC Universe as well, is being built upon a unified movie universe with interconnected characters based on how they connected in comics. Although Superman has been around for decades, he still has more or less been thirty-five years old, which will be difficult with Henry Cavill, who looks like a literal super man with his chiselled physique but unfortunately gets old like the rest of us. Even casting Ben Affleck as an older Batman sounds intriguing, but in ten years, when the actor is fifty-two years old, can he still be saving Gotham? Perhaps this is where the mantle of Batman comes into play, and it can be passed onto a younger actor, much like the ending of The Dark Knight Rises. Superboy was retconned into a clone of Superman to also possibly allow for Superman to be a mantle character, so anything is possible.

Would you like to see characters be more of a mantle, or have the universes reboot every few years the way they did in the Spider-Man movies?  Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!

About the author

Chris Chan Roberson

Chris has been a comic book fan and science fiction fan longer than he has been alive (this is due thanks to a temporal paradox). He has a YouTube channel called All Hail RETCON that explains fake 80s technology and has written a "healthy" amount of Star Trek fan fiction.