Tales To Astonish #38 (Ant-Man)
Issue(s): Tales To Astonish #38 (Ant-Man story only)
Review/plot: At this point it's said that Ant-Man has effectively put a stop to crime in his (unnamed) city. The criminals get together and recruit a brilliant nuclear scientist called Egghead...
...who was fired by the Federal government on suspicion of being a traitor (without being able to prove anything, although he does sneer at their "patriotic ramblings").
I was actually disappointed to see Egghead's plan fail. It made perfect sense. Egghead deduces that Ant-Man must have a way to communicate with the ants, and he manages to recreate the same technique. He talks to the ants and tells them that he will stop Ant-Man from bossing them around if they'll stop working for him.
And then he sets up a trap. The trap fails because the ants are actually the Ant-Man's friends and partners in the war against crime and not his minions...
...but i don't buy it. I would have thought the ants would have been happy to get back to tending to their queen and colony. Oh well, Ant-Man wins again, and Egghead winds up in a Bowery flophouse muttering to himself about ants.
Ant-Man adds spring-boots to his arsenal this issue...
...and he helps his ant buddies get a little vengeance by dropping a giant sheet of flypaper on some humans.
If it wasn't for his supernaturally big head, Egghead wouldn't be too different than the other sort of villains Ant-Man has fought to date. But unlike them, Egghead will have some staying power and go one to be one of Henry Pym's most important foes; the one who ultimately ruins him for a long period, in fact.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales Annual #3
Unrelated to anything in this story, but there was a villain in the Dick Tracy comic strip around 1956 called Ms. Egghead. She had an equally weird-shaped head.
Oh man, that image of Egghead muttering to himself about getting tricked by the ants slays me every time.
There was a later episode where Egghead decides to stop screwing around, and gets an ant-eater to kill Ant-Man. The ant-eater is billed as "the ultimate weapon." Which it sort of is, within Ant-Man's frame of reference.
I stand by my theory that there should have been an Ant-World, sort of like Ant-Man's version of Asgard or the Negative Zone, where he can just hang out and be awesome fighting ant-eaters and scarlet beetles, without having to compete with guys like Thor.
I love the Ant-World idea, but you must realize the potential for more ironic humiliation for poor Pym. Thor is the prince of a famed mythological heaven. Henry Pym is the greatest hero of an ant hill in an abandoned vacant lot.
Yeah, but in the first 12 issues or so of the early Ant-Man adventures,
* Ant-Man nearly drowns in a bathtub
* Ant-Man nearly gets washed down a sewer grate
* Ant-Man gets trapped under an upside-down flower pot
* Ant-Man gets imprisoned inside a vacuum cleaner bag
The humiliating comparison to Thor is already implicit in all of that, because there is an explicit humiliating comparison to non-powered thugs armed with flypaper.
When you think about it, Pym's problem is that he tries to play Thor's game, by turning into Giant-Man (which happens right around "Avengers #2", immediately after they meet).
I think the Ant-World would have helped the little guy handle the whole Avengers fiasco. If the Ant-World existed, whenever Pym felt humiliated, he could zip down to Hive-12 and chill. "Sure he can lift mountains, but can 'the mighty Thor' get lit up on nectar and mack on these fine lady-bugs? I think not."
Instead, he just can't handle his bitterness, and the next thing you know, he's got super-power impotence and is inventing indestructible, genocidal, oedipal robots.
(But you are right that Egghead and Ant-Man deserve each other. One is a super-hero nearly drowns in a bathtub. The other is a super-villain whose "genius plot" is to buy an anteater at the pet store. This is not the approach Doctor Doom would have taken.)
Man, I would never have guessed I had this much to say about freakin' Ant-Man. I think I have thought about him more today than Stan Lee ever did in 5 years.
The early Ant Man issues are just awful. Part of it is that they are mainly scripted by Larry Lieber. Another is that most are not actually drawn by Kirby, who was obviously the real idea man of the Lee-Kirby team. Finally, people just don't know what to do with shrinking heroes. The obvious thing is to threaten them in ways that exploit their small size - which undermines their heroism.
However, something not mentioned subsequent to these issues is that despite these lame stories, that the Ant Man must be doing something right. He seems to have crime on the run in a way that no other Marvel hero succeeds at. Criminals don't see to complain about Spidey, DD, the FF, or anyone else like they complain about the Ant-Man.
Furthermore, in later issues when Pym becomes Giant Man, we see "Giant Man" fan clubs. We don't see anything similar, even for the other Avengers. So he must be doing something right.
Considering how the character of Pym is later treated, I'm disappointed nobody ever saw fit to revisit this period when the Ant-Man was the terror of the underworld.
Ant Man's most useful/least used ability, really, is his "ant surveillance" used often in his solo adventures, once or twice in The Avengers, and...almost never again.
Sure, his main ability was Get Small! but he also had the ability to know anything that was happening *anywhere*.
He just stopped using it for some reason.
I agree that Pym's "ant surveillance" network is probably his coolest power, and something he probably used extensively to shut down crime. If the shrinking angle was only ONE part of his schtick, with other ant-related powers used a lot, then he might have become a good character. But the shrinking aspect alone seems to doom any hero from being considered useful.
I like to think that one reason we see the mob wars in early Spider-Man issues (Big Man/Crimemaster/Kingpin) is that there is a power vacuum caused by the Ant-Man.
"I like to think that one reason we see the mob wars in early Spider-Man issues (Big Man/Crimemaster/Kingpin) is that there is a power vacuum caused by the Ant-Man."
I love that idea!
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