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He may be only the size of an ant, but there are big expectations for "Ant-Man," the lighthearted superhero saga opening Friday. But just who is this guy? Here are some little-known facts to carry into the theater with your popcorn:
There are actually TWO Ant-Men: The first Ant-Man, introduced in the 1962 Marvel Comics story "The Man in the Ant Hill," was Hank Pym, a scientist who found a way to shrink in size. Michael Douglas plays him in the movie, while Paul Rudd stars as the second Ant-Man, a thief named Scott Lang who became a bug-sized good guy under Pym's guidance.
He's an underachiever: Even though he was a founding member of the mighty Avengers, Ant-Man generated insect-size sales for Marvel Comics. "Ant-Man never became one of our top sellers or had his own book," writer Stan Lee admitted decades after introducing him, blaming the character's artists for not drawing him next to objects that dramatized his tiny size: "You thought you were looking at a normal guy wearing an underwear costume like all of them. It didn't have the interest."
He was the butt of jokes on "SNL" back in the '70s: Befitting his puny stature in the superhero world, Ant-Man (played by Garrett Morris) was derided in a 1979 episode of "Saturday Night Live" after explaining his powers at a superhero party: "I shrink myself down to the size of an ant while retaining my full human strength." Jeered John Belushi as the Hulk: "Whoa, best stay out of this guy's way!"
His powers don't make sense: James Kakalios, physics professor at the University of Minnesota and author of "The Physics of Superheroes," explains why it's so hard to make yourself smaller or larger as Ant-Man does: "You can't just remove or add atoms ... where would they go or come from?" And no, you can't just mush them closer: "Squishing atoms together like that would probably require enough pressure to set off a nuclear fusion reaction," warns NBCNews.com science editor Alan Boyle. You can read more about why shrinking like Ant-Man is impossible here.
His helmet isn't just for show: Considering how teensy Ant-Man's vocal cords get, how come he doesn't talk like Kristin Chenoweth on helium? Kakalios points to his helmet, which he thinks compensates for diffraction effects when he's ant-sized, "keeping his voice from sounding too squeaky and adjusting his hearing range so he can actually hear what is being said about him — though maybe he does not want to hear all that."