Tales to Astonish #27 (January 1962)

I hate ants. No, I REALLY hate ants. I have seen horrors in life that revolve around ants. I remember when I was about 7 years old, and there was a kid screaming bloody-murder across the street. His mom had him stripping his clothes off while she sprayed him with a water hose. The screaming continued, followed with, “they’re going in my butt!” Horrible. I’ve also woken up covered in ants, as a friend’s little brother had left a peanut butter and jelly sandwich under my bed. Seeing them gathered in massive amounts crawling all over each other is enough to make me sick. I hate ants.

Perhaps that’s why I have always avoided Ant Man at all costs. I’ve never been interested in a superhero named “Ant Man”, and because of that, I’ve made it this far in life without ever really knowing anything about him. I knew that he could shrink to the size of an ant, but I never thought that was cool. Various film blogs have even hyped up a possible Ant Man movie being developed by Edward Wright. I’ve always thought, “what’s so great about Ant Man? There’s NO WAY he’s cool enough to have a successful movie.” Now I’ve realized how wrong I was.

The cover gave me the creeps, and just like re-watching Arachnophobia, I thought, “there’s no way I’m going to make it through this entire story.” For God’s sake, it says that it’s about a man caught in an ant hill! That’s pretty much my worst nightmare. To make things worse, the ants are dragging him in with their fuzzy arms while he yells “SAVE ME SOMEBODY!” Sheesh. Maybe when I open the issue, it won’t be so bad.

HOLY CRAP! I WAS WRONG! What the hell am I reading?

The story begins and introduces a misunderstood scientist named Henry Pym. Henry looks deranged, but I think it could just be Jack Kirby’s artwork, which tends to occasionally make scientists look a bit on the mad side. Henry has just concocted a serum that can shrink objects, but his endeavors are always laughed at by his colleagues, so he decides to keep this invention to himself. His plan is to make millions off of this “Reducing Potion”, as it could be used in a number of useful ways.

The Maniacal Mad Doctor Pym!

Of course, he needs to test this stuff out on himself in order to see it’s effects on a living thing. To his dismay, it happens so fast that he races around the room and accidentally falls through a crack in the front door, leaving him stranded outside. He shouts for help, and while he thinks nobody can hear him, he is wrong. THE ANTS CAN!!

THIS will teach you to mess around with the laws of nature!!!

The ants end up chasing him, and unfamiliar with his surroundings, Henry accidentally runs INTO the ant hill. He falls into the cavernous hill and lands into a pool of sticky honey. Henry becomes trapped at this point, with a giant ant fast approaching. What happened next shocked me. The ant lowers itself above Henry, allowing him to reach up and use the ant to pull himself out. The ant saved him! However, the pursuing ants are still getting closer. Henry spots a matchstick inside the cave, which the ants must have mistakenly brought in. Thinking fast, he throws a pebble at the match, striking it just as the horde of insects are right beside it.

Henry finds some string and uses it to climb a cliff, but meets an angry ant once at the top. It traps him in it’s mandibles for a second, until Henry escapes through the use of Judo!

He manages to get back out to the outside world again, and makes a dash to the window of his house where the “Enlarging Serum” is balancing on the edge of the sill. Henry is faced with the problem of how he can get up to the window now that he has shrunk. The poor man really didn’t think ahead prior to shrinking. He should have set this little experiment up a little better, or at least like a REAL scientist would have! Suddenly, a lone ant emerges from the grass, which turns out to be the ant that saved him earlier. Henry wonders if the ant might be able to help him reach the window, and perhaps if he points up there the insect would understand what he wants.

Well, imagine that! Henry was right!

Once exposed to the serum, Henry grows back to his normal size again. Don’t ask me how the serum knew the exact size to return Henry to, I have no idea. Sadly, the story ends with him returning back to the GUILD OF SCIENTISTS, admitting that the experiment that he hyped earlier turned out to be a fluke. He destroys the rest of his potions, and silently vows to never make the same mistake again.

Umm…I really don’t think it’s a good thing to be pouring the Enlarging Serum and Shrinking Potions down the drain. Maybe he’s to blame for all of the giant sea-monsters that plague their world?

I was surprised to see the story wrap up the way it did, and wondered how long it would take for Ant Man to emerge again. I enjoyed the story, even if it played out like a Twilight Zone episode. It’s really strange reading this and realizing that he would eventually become a super hero.

(This article originally written on May 25th, 2011 at comicbookcurios.blogspot.com)

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