A recent argument has popped up suggesting that Ant-Man is quite possibly Marvel’s most deadly superhero, and that he could defeat DC’s Superman if the full extent of his abilities were realized. But does it hold up upon closer examination of understanding the wacky world of comic book physics?
Inverse recently had a talk with Dr. Spiros Michalakis, who served as a scientific consultant on Marvel’s 2015 sleeper hit Ant-Man. The scientist previously wrote the following back in 2015 right after the release of the film:
“…If someone could go to a place where the laws of physics as we know them were not yet formed, at a place where the arrow of time was broken and the fabric of space was not yet woven, the powers of such a master of the quantum realm would only be constrained by their ability to come back to the same (or similar) reality from which they departed. All the superheroes of Marvel and DC Comics combined would stand no chance against Ant-Man with a malfunctioning regulator.”
More recently, Dr. Michalakis expanded upon his original thesis when he wrote back to Inverse.
“What I’m saying is that potentially understanding the quantum code from which curvature of space-time comes from, [Ant-Man] could manipulate to increase it or decrease it. Ant-Man could have created say, a black hole. Could Superman escape the black hole? Probably not. Then game over.”
So at face value, Ant-Man could win by fundamentally altering the basic values of quantum physics – a fair assumption to make under normal circumstances, as with those kinds of powers, the character could probably beat the vast majority of comic book characters across multiple fictional universes. I’m no scientist, but I’d like to take a shot at playing devil’s advocate here. In such a scenario, Ant-Man probably could take on a number of superheroes without issues and win every time by more-or-less Doctor Manhattan-ing his way through existence. But the thing is that we’re talking about God-Mode Ant-Man going up against Superman, and Superman’s no slouch when it comes to messing with the laws of physics as well, in part because, at his core, Superman is meant to be a character free from all limitations at his absolute best – even though he’s only as strong as the story needs him to be. A story could necessitate that he’d get stuck in a black hole, while another would say he could escape.
Among some of Kal-El’s greatest science-defying feats include the ability to hold a personification of Infinity (an object that’s so massive that it should be completely impossible within any given Universe), hearing emergency signals light-years away from the source and getting back there in a matter of minutes (something which is impossible because sound can’t be transmitted through space, as is traveling faster than light without tearing a hole in reality), and obliterating the New God Darkseid from the Universe by singing. (Seriously, all of that happened Post-Crisis.) …And that’s all with the standard physical limitations of the DC Universe. Could you imagine how much more powerful you could potentially make Superman could be if you messed around with the quantum physics of the Universe?
Admittedly, the article notes that there are limitations to this line of thought, which is something that’s lost in the actual headline of the piece. There’s no indication that there’s any version of Ant-Man, let alone the one we’ve seen in the MCU, has been able to cheese his way toward omnipotence, which is something the original article mentions. And that’s also not getting into the fact that my explanation of Superman’s impossible feats neglect to mention his weaknesses (Kryptonite and magic, among other things), nor do they mention that Superman’s powers are entirely based on solar energy and that he could lose them if it’s blocked off – either of which Ant-Man could exploit under the right circumstances. So yeah, Ant-Man probably could destroy Superman in this kind of a situation, but one could just turn around and argue that Superman could find a way to defeat Ant-Man. In the end, I feel as though I’m in agreement with Stan Lee’s position on the prospect of a different “What If?” battle – the victor can only be decided by whomever is actually writing the story.
Superman (portrayed by Henry Cavill) will next be seen on film in this Autumn’s Justice League and in a standalone Superman film sometime after that. Ant-Man (portrayed by Paul Rudd) has yet to be confirmed for either Avengers: Infinity War or its sequel, but he will be returning in next year’s Ant-Man & The Wasp.