2007 was a big year. Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone; Tumblr came into existence; Nancy Pelosi was elected the first ever female Speaker of the House; The Boys was cancelled with #6 at DC’s WildStorm imprint before finding a new home at Dynamite Entertainment; the Iron Man movie began filming….and Image Comics released the penultimate issue in Mario Gully‘s Ant series.
Fourteen years later and the final issue in the arc finally lands. But it won’t be the end of the story. For while Image Comics has announced that Ant #12 will arrive this June to put a capstone on the original series, it will provide Image partner and CFO Erik Larsen — now owner of the character — the opportunity to start afresh.
It has been a bit of a winding road for the character. As beginnings go, The Ant had a relatively odd one — as creator Mario Gully, a self-taught artist, fascinatingly described in a 2003 interview with Newsarama:
“I invented Ant in jail in 1996,” he said. “I was convicted of robbery and sentenced to one year and probation.”
He continues, “The event was a turning point in my life. I used to draw portraits and hot chicks on envelopes for commissary. One day around day #6 of 358, I was depressed about where my choices in life put me. I was looking out the barred window and a single ant crawled in from the outside of my window seal. I said to myself ‘Man, I wish I were an ant! Then I could crawl right out of this place and start my life all over!’ Well, I couldn’t pull that one off, so I decided to make a homemade comic book about it.”
It garnered a small following with his fellow inmates and built his confidence up enough to pursue drawing for comics as a career. He even did pin-ups in the earlier days of Image Comics.
Eventually Gully’s Ant character got her star chance, with the first four issues of her eponymous series published at Arcana Press in 2004. The Arcana years followed a lonely, heavily bullied 8-year-old Hannah Washington who would write in her diary the adventures of her adult superhero alter ego ‘Ant’ who seemed to be making a difference in the real world.
When the series shifted from Arcana to Image in 2005, during Larsen’s stint as publisher at the company, the now-adult Hannah Washington found herself in a mental institution and told that the superhero alter ego of her childhood wasn’t real…yet increasing evidence — and her own memories — suggested quite the contrary.
Larsen bought the rights to the character from Gully in 2012 after making a bid to make her a heavy hitter in an Image Comics shared universe — with the Ant partnering with the likes of Spawn and his own Savage Dragon in their series, but her own story remained dangling. Stuck in limbo since that 2007 release of Ant #11.
Larsen’s enthusiasm remained undiminished though. In his own words:
“Back when I was the publisher I brought Mario Gully’s Ant over to Image and Mario and I talked at great length as to how the book could be retooled in order to be integrated into the Image Universe. I ended up putting a lot of thought into the character and concept…I saw the character’s potential from the very start.”
Even when original creator Gully had lost interest and wanted to move on, Larsen was still keen. That led to the sale of Ant in 2012. “At some point Mario offered to sell me his creation,” he says. “[Mario] knew how much thought I’d put into her. Hell, I’d laid out a full-length story for him—and I couldn’t resist.”
Although Larsen could have started completely afresh with the character, it seems he wanted to release the end of that first Image series arc – issue 12 – even after all these years. “I just couldn’t leave it as an unfinished work. I felt compelled to write, pencil, ink and even color the story.
“Finishing this story got me into the groove,” he continues. “I was experimenting with a new art style. I was playing with color. I was having a blast and I didn’t want to stop.”
“I found there was a lot I wanted to say and a lot that I wanted to do. I started digging in on an origin story and it just kept expanding and expanding. Pretty soon I had all kinds of plots dancing around in my head and numerous directions the book could go. Work has begun on a new ongoing Ant book. But first—the concluding chapter of the old one—at long last.”
And so here we are, a blast from the past and a new series for Erik Larsen to experiment and play with. Starting in June 2021. Fourteen years later.