Tales To Astonish #27 (Ant-Man)
Issue(s): Tales To Astonish #27 (Ant-Man story only)
Pym develops a potion that allows him to shrink objects. It works on a chair, and the only thing left to do is to test it on a living person - himself, of course. I'm not a fan of animal testing but you can use a shrinking potion on a lab rat before you test it on yourself, Hank.
Having never read Alice in Wonderland, Pym shrinks himself while leaving the antidote potion up on a high table where he now can't get it. Dazed and disoriented (what did he think would happen?), he wanders outside and finds himself pursued by ants. What better place to hide from ants than in an ant-hill?
So that's where he heads, and winds up getting trapped in... honey. Yes, "ants store it for food!". Pym is a biochemist, by the way.
With the aid of one ant that seems to like him, and a very conveniently placed match-stick, Pym manages to escape from the ant-hill and gets to the growing potion. Traumatized, Pym destroys his potions and tells the Science Fellowship that he will only work on practical projects from now on.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Collector's Item Classics #22
is there ever any context in which henry pym is not portrayed as the biggest loser in all of marveldom?
for a geeky scientist, he has pretty impressive hand-eye coordination seeing as he was able to light that match with a thrown pebble.
and, where did he get that makeshift lasso from? are random lasso appearances an epidemic in the marvel silver age?
Posted by: min | August 1, 2007 1:39 PM
"Henry Pym's emotional issues can be traced back to his first appearance here."
He really does seem to be skirting dangerously close to the "I'll show them! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL! MWU-HA-HA-HA-HA!" supervillain vibe there. Which is something that's come up before, but I never realized that it goes all the way back to his very first appearance.
Speaking of which...
There was definitely a period recently when a few writers really played him up (going so far as to invent the "Scientist Supreme" gimmick), but there does seem to be a trend where one writer finally "redeems" his past and establishes him as a truly effective "science hero", only for the next writer to dredge up all his issues and turn him into a screw-up again. And the whole "wifebeater" meme that never, ever seems to go away probably doesn't help his case either.
My personal favorite theory that's been around for a while now is that Hank is absolutely destined by fate to be a supervillain, but his own innate good nature and desire to be a superhero constantly sabotages that.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. He's a classic mad scientists inventing ways to control insects, shrinking/growing, building killer robots, and all manner of other insane tech. Now just imagine him less as an Avenger and more like Doctor Doom.
So basically, if he ever DID fully embrace evil, he'd be one of the most dangerous villains around, but since he's constantly in denial about what he really is and keeps trying to be a hero, he keeps tripping himself up.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 19, 2014 6:41 PM
Love the "Hank is a supervillain in denial" theory.
Posted by: C | August 26, 2015 12:07 AM
Another one of those really good monster/hero concepts that Stan was experimenting with when he was told to do superhero books. If this story didn't sell, well Henry would have been just another man in the ant hill.
Posted by: Darren | November 11, 2015 8:41 AM
Just read this for the first time after picking up the "Man In The Ant Hill" reprint collections, it really is a crazy story. The tiny Pym runs out the house, saying he'd done so without even realising he was doing it, despite that it must have taken him minutes to do so, and then, when attacked by ants, decides that the "tunnels and chambers" of an anthill is the best way to escape the "nightmare" of being attacked by ants.
Not sure if this was bad scripting by Larry, maybe Stan & Jack had intended something else, but it does seem to make more sense if you consider Hank completely unstable. I was also surprised to see that in his second appearance, where he returns to the ants, he is shocked to learn that he has retained his human strength this time. I'd always thought it was something Pym had invented intentionally, but even that bit of Pym ingenuity turns out to have been a complete accident.
So the old joke about Ant-Man having the strength of a normal human? Even that amount of power was an accident!
Posted by: Jonathan | February 27, 2016 3:37 PM
In my reading order, I place this story between FF#15 and 16. I know it took place earlier but since Ant-Man never met anyone else until FF#16 I put it there.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 22, 2016 4:25 PM
Pumped pours his formulae down a drain. I imagine that wreaked havoc with the sewage system.
Posted by: Archie | February 17, 2017 3:32 PM
@Archie - Good call. I'm not usually a fan of continuity inserts but that does sound like a fun "retro Marvel monsters" comic someone should do.
Pym pours shrinking & growing formulae down the sewer, hijinks ensue. Especially with what's down in Marvel sewers: could have giant insects, frogs, rats, alligators & maybe even a giant (or shrunk) Morlock or two roaming the city.
Maybe the rats and frogs are battling at the time, a generation before Thor meets them, and this time the frogs win because one of their crew becomes a giant?
Pym, distracted by getting back to work on other projects, doesn't hear the news for a while & then saves the day at the end, brewing a gas to return everything to their normal sizes. This little bit of heroism makes him wonder if there's mileage in this size-changing stuff after all.
I don't know how Bendis hasn't made an 8-part series exploring Pym's early instability with a retelling of this issue & its "Havoc In The Sewers!" aftermath already. (He hasn't, has he?)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | February 18, 2017 6:57 AM
Or have it be exposed to four turtles and their rat mentor ;D
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 18, 2017 4:00 PM
Morgan Wick: That was Daredevil, not Ant-Man! XD
Posted by: mikrolik | February 18, 2017 5:22 PM
Nah, the turtles were in another part of the sewers and didn't get anything until the crap that made Matt Murdock blind.
Then again, Hank does have a reputation as Ant-Man early on after he finally does become a hero...then again so does Johnny Storm with his solo adventures but at least he was known to be on a superhero team...and Hank was just some crazy guy with the ability to shrink things. (and it isn't like he's the only one with "super-villain aspirations" with his super-science considering Reed Richards or Tony Stark in the early days)
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 18, 2017 10:09 PM
Pym surely does look like Kirby in that initial sinister shadow panel.
Posted by: Flying Tiger Comics | March 13, 2017 3:17 AM
Huh, I never made the connection before of poor Hank being treated as second-rate from the very beginning. I guess I'm more used to the many, many references later about how he's supposed to be the greatest biochemist in the known universe. But yeah, I can see the early seeds of Hank's fears of inadequacy being planted here.
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 11:59 AM
Pym's character suffers badly, and probably more than any other Marvel character, from the throw-sh*t-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to both character and story development at Marvel. It's key to remember that this story wasn't even intended to be a super-hero story at all, nor was Pym intended to be a continuing character who would continue well into the next century. This is just a seven page story that happened to stick, out of an anthology title that contained 3 other short stories and a 1 page text feature.
Pym doesn't call himself Ant-Man in this story. He doesn't design a super-hero costume or have any thoughts along those lines. If Fantastic Four #1 had bombed, this would have been the only Pym story ever. But after FF #1 made unexpectedly high sales, they decided to throw some more of it on the wall.
Meanwhile, 7 issues of Tales to Astonish are published with no Pym stories. Then in TTA #35, Stan Lee gives his brother Larry Lieber the loose outline of a plot to change Pym from a one-shot character into a prospective super-hero. He doesn't even write the story himself. Jack Kirby is still the penciler, because he does everything anyway and has consistently set records for monthly page counts. And because they only have a few other pencilers on staff besides.
This is all well known. Just a recap for the sake of giving poor Pym's character development a little more context. They kept throwing it. Some of it stuck, some of it didn't. It was the Marvel Age.
Posted by: Holt | January 21, 2018 12:14 AM
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