Tales To Astonish #36 (Ant-Man)
Issue(s): Tales To Astonish #36 (Ant-Man story only)
All the early issues make a point of telling us that Ant-Man retains his "normal strength" when he shrinks, but that must not mean what i think it does. I mean, i can lift a glass object the size of a shoebox; i don't know about you.
It's established this issue that ants all around the (unnamed) city are part of a network that feeds information back to Pym. The local police station has a veritable infestation.
Pym has also improved on his size-changing chemicals. Previously they were in liquid form and Henry had to literally bathe in them to change back to human size. Now he's developed gasses that he can release from a canister.
It's a lot more practical. Our little super-hero is growing up.
We're reminded that Pym's costume is made of unstable molecules, allowing it to shrink and grow with his body.
We're also introduced to one of the wilder components of this series. Pym has developed a tiny launching pad for himself, with the world's smallest elevator and a tiny human canon. With it he can basically fly anywhere in the city, and where he lands, there's a giant pile of ants waiting to cushion his fall with their bodies.
This is CRAZY.
The twist for this issue is that the damsel in distress that we meet actually turns out to be the bad guy, Comrade X.
Pym knew it all along because earlier he snooped through her purse.
That doesn't stop him from walking right into her trap and requiring a lot of ant hijinx to rescue him.
Actually i don't really believe that Pym knew it all along, because he refers to Comrade X as "him" in all his thought balloons.
With Pym's first two appearances effectively being origin stories, this is the first taste of what the Ant-Man series will actually be like, and it's not very promising.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Ant-Man vol. 1
Believe it or not, Englehart actually brought Madame X back in a West Coast Avengers arc.
Posted by: Michael | November 18, 2012 10:42 PM
Thanks, Michael. I've added her as a Character Appearing. I can't even imagine the point of doing that, but i guess why not...
Posted by: fnord12 | November 18, 2012 10:54 PM
Has FNORD12 really not read those West Coast Avengers issues where Englehart brought back all the old Pym villains like the Beasts of Berlin? They were just awful.
Anyway, I have a pet theory that Pym was actually a devastating superhero between the issues of Astonish - destroying organized crime and busting up spy rings. In the Astonish issues, it's brought up time and time again that ordinary criminals fear the Ant-Man, that the Communists hate him, and he has a huge fan club. No other superhero of the time ever approaches his level of popularity. Clearly something has to be going on that the readers aren't privy to.
Posted by: Chris | November 25, 2012 1:01 AM
I had bailed on WCA at that point when i was reading in real time and i never looked back...
(I will be covering those issues when i get to 1988, of course.)
Regarding Ant-Man's popularity, i was toying with a big fish/small pond idea. Pym seems to move from a generic Central City to New York over the course of his series, and i was going to propose that he built up his name in the generally low crime Central City before moving to NYC. It doesn't really work - plenty of his prominent failures are in the early issues - so your proposed Untold Tales of Ant-Man Being Awesome is probably the better idea.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 25, 2012 2:02 PM
I found the revelations of all of Hank's early villains fascinating in that WCA run, but I've read through all the years and know I'm much more of a Pym fan than fnord12 is. Although reading all about Hank's villains in the late 80's as a teenager and having wearied of Communist villains, it did all seem very outdated and all his villains were very strange.
One thing I find odd is the point of emphasis on the unstable molecules in Hank's outfit (Stan Lee's emphasis on it is the odd part - not fnord's). I understand for someone like Reed or Johnny where you do something to the outfit, you need to have it snap back. But in Hank's case, since it was gas that was making him small, I always assumed that the gas would make his clothes shrink as well. It wouldn't be until he and Jan actually had the power to grow or shrink and not rely on some sort of outside influence that it would be important to have those unstable molecule outfit.
But, as much as I actually like the character of Hank Pym, these early issues are rather painful to look at.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 4, 2014 7:51 PM
Somehow after finding out how the MCU treats Pym and Jan, this is somehow the first story to come to mind...well this and the Beasts of Berlin. But somehow this is probably more believable in existing in the MCU compared to "that other group of super apes not controlled by the Red Ghost".
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 26, 2015 2:09 PM
My inner Roy Thomas likes to explain the shifts in Hank Pym's attitude towards superheroics in his first appearances by linking them to the rise of the Fantastic Four.
I imagine TtA #27 happens shortly after FF #1, when the Four are still something of an urban legend (or even before FF #1, since it feels so much more in tune with, for example, the origin of the Headsmen than with the age of superheroes.) All the scientists think Pym's ideas are weird, and he vows to stick to practical projects after his misadventure.
But then the FF rise to fame (they are already said to be famous in FF #2), Reed Richards probably writes a number of interesting thesis's on all the amazing tech he invents and discovers on the Four's adventures, and the scientific community becomes more accepting of super-science. The ever-impressionable Pym then changes his mind, recreates his serum and starts working on his helmet, as seen in TtA #35. But he's still a scientist, ambivalent about being "forced" to act as a hero.
Then the Four get really famous (They get an award from the government in FF #7), and Pym, either inspired by the good work they are doing as superheroes, or jealous of their fame, depending on your view of the man, decides to become a full time superhero as well. He then has a few more "Untold Tales of Ant-Man" adventures in which he also becomes "a living legend", as is stated by the opening narration of TtA #36.
Posted by: Berend | December 4, 2016 1:11 PM
I can't help but find these early Ant-Man stories to be great fun, in spite of (because of?) their extreme corniness. Didn't Comrade X return as Madame X years later?
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 4:02 PM
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