Marvel Feature #5-6
Issue(s): Marvel Feature #5, Marvel Feature #6
Most superheroes' super-powers make them better than the average person, but for Henry Pym they almost always put him in situations where he'd be better off if he was powerless. For example, in Marvel Feature #5, he spends about half the book being chased by a bird (he is trapped in his Ant-Man form).
Interestingly, in narrating his situation, he says, "Bubbling anger splattered and burst through every pore of my skin --- Strangely for me, I let the anger rule -- I acted." Henry Pym has the most repressed rage of any comic character this side of the Hulk; he's just not a healthy man.
He also gets into a fight with Egghead...
...and meets Egghead's super-smart hippie niece, Trish Starr...
...who sews him a new costume, which is supposed to make him look like a swashbuckler.
Because his costume is so tiny, the stitch lines are relatively gigantic, which i thought was funny.
Trish Starr doesn't get much character development here, but she'll be turning up again in Defenders and Hulk. She's actually a character with a lot of potential that never really got used properly.
After defeating Egghead and parting ways with Trish, he returns to his home to find Janet unconscious. Oddly, it seems that she just tripped and fell while looking for Henry, but her chauffeur comes in and tries to put the moves on her.
When that doesn't work out, he attacks as Whirlwind.
Super tiny Pym manages to get the Wasp to hear him, and the two of them hide. They start to work on a cure for Henry, but he's too cautious and slow in developing the antidote, so Janet infects herself with the serum that made him stuck in his small state, thinking that he'll work faster if he's doing it for her instead of himself. What a weird relationship. Frustrated with Janet a little later, Pym thinks to himself, "I could have taken her pretty neck -- and wrung it!".
With both of them stuck at insect sizes, Whirlwind attacks again, destroying Pym's home and lab. A newspaper ("Southampton Review", one of the few times in a Marvel comic that a newspaper isn't the Daily Bugle) publishes an article claiming that the couple is dead.
The motive behind these change (trapping them at insect size, cutting them off from the real world) seems to be to repurpose the title as a barbarian adventure book, presumably to capitalize on the popularity of Conan. Similar efforts were made with Ka-Zar and the Sub-Mariner. Fighting the bird, Pym even refers to himself as a barbarian. Pym has too much baggage for that to really work, and Janet certainly isn't suited for a barbarian theme (which will result in her getting turned into a real wasp), but it could have been an interesting direction with a better writer.
An insightful letter from a Will Hamblet in Marvel Feature #6 (excerpted):
I first met Henry Pym on that fateful day Cap walked out on The Avengers...
I think the analysis of Pym's character is dead on, but (as the writer implies) the development comes more from subtext and interpretations that were not the original creators' intent. Interestingly, while most Marvel characters were deliberately created with a character flaw, Pym's flaws were unintentional, and yet more human and realistic than most.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Beginning this issue Henry Pym and the Wasp are presumed dead and should not appear in other Marvel books until their return in Marvel Feature #10.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
On the Pym's emotional problems issue, "Tales to Astonish 44" (the first appearance of the Wasp) really does lay the groundwork for this stuff.
Pym's wife gets iced by Communist spies, and he suffers a "nervous breakdown." This is unusually explicit for an early Silver Age comic, though refreshingly plausible. Afterward, he gets fixated on becoming the size of an ant. (Ostensibly this is because ants are hard-working and unusually strong, but I gotta believe it was an expression of his insecurity in the face of a cruelty.)
Once the flashback ends, Pym meets Janet. He immediately starts lusting for her in this weird "Vertigo" type thing, and has to forcibly check his libido because she's a minor. (She looks all of about 14 in the illustrations.) Rather than commit statutory rape, he injects her with wasp DNA.
It may not have been Kirby's original intent, or Lee's, but I'm dang sure Gary Friedrich was setting up that Hank Pym was a weird, weird guy. What kind of super hero is a mentally ill widower? What kind of super hero's "girl problem" is that his love interest is literally a girl (and not a grown woman)? Well, the same kind of super hero who nearly drowns in a bathtub.
As a guy who really loves the Silver Age stuff, I'm not always down with Roy Thomas's work: it's always a little more fussy and forced than it needs to be. But the whole "Hank Pym is cuckoo-bananas" subplot from Avengers 55-60 is a totally convincing interpretation of this guy's problems.
I think the deal is that Hank Pym is a super villain in serious denial. Genius? Check. Invents homicidal, indestructible oedipal robot? Check. Crazy? Check. Crazy about the fact that he is crazy? Double check!
He's a fascinating character, though. Totally in keeping with the early Sixties "super heels," like Grey Hulk, Early Thing, and Sub-Mariner.
Posted by: James Nostack | August 18, 2011 10:58 PM
Weirdly DC sort of ran with this with "Sword of the Atom"; I actually thought they did it first but weirdly that was 1983, so this was ten years ahead of it's time with Pym.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 3, 2012 7:01 PM
I've always assumed the inspiration for this phase of Ant-Man's career was THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. But I'm reminded of "Minimidget", which appeared in comics from Centaur in the early Golden Age. Minimidget and his lady Ritty were permanently small, and Minimidget often carried a sword (an actual sword, not a nail). He dressed similarly to Ant-Man here (tight shirt and leggings of different colours, boots).
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | November 10, 2015 4:25 AM
The MU had always fascinated me for its vastity, but that vastity also kept me away. Still, when I started reading, after the film Captain America 2, I did it form the beginning (FF#1). Reading all the issues from there gives a cross section of those years, I guess, and reading also "minor" issues like this one can show elements like the one you underlined in your comments. Besides, I love this site, which for one thing helps me to orient in the endless issues that have been published.
Posted by: JTI88 | May 22, 2016 7:46 AM
Interestingly, while most Marvel characters were deliberately created with a character flaw, Pym's flaws were unintentional, and yet more human and realistic than most.
Well, Hank wasn't created to be a super-hero; he was the protagonist of a fantasy story, so that accounts for the difference.
And however jejune Jan may have been when we first met her, she turns 23 in Avengers #46 (ironically the Whirlwind identity's debut), so not "literally a girl" any more.
I found Geoff Johns's Avengers v.3 #71 so gross with Whirlwind's sexual fantasies about Jan, but I guess they weren't so unfounded as I thought. (Still hate the execution, though.) I'd forgotten about Dave/"Charles"/Whirlwind being so willing to swoop in and "comfort" Jan in this one. My bad.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 30, 2016 1:27 AM
Whirlwind also went after Jan pretty aggressively in AVENGERS #222, knocking out her current chauffeur and assaulting her in her car with the idea that, since her husband was in jail, she was available. And he'd only just been sprung from prison by the (Egghead's) new Masters of Evil, forcing them to reveal themselves early in order to save him. So yeah, there's a basis for that characterization.
Like you, I still didn't care at all for Johns's story.
Posted by: Ubersicht | August 30, 2016 9:59 AM
Also in Avengers 274, Jan is glad Whirlwind is caught because he has a sick fascination with her. And Steve explains that he knew that the "Jan" he spoke with wasn't the real deal because she didn't seem to care if he was caught.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2016 7:51 PM
And before Whirlwind, Jan had to deal with the unwanted attentions of the Living Laser.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | August 30, 2016 7:54 PM
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