“Giant-Man Versus the Wonderful Wasp!”
Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Carl Burgos
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letters: Art Simek
THE POWER OF IMPERSONATION
We begin with Giant-Man facing a new villain…if you want to call him a “villain.” Second-Story Sammy is actually little more than a second-class thug, who wears a hat and bow tie while burglarizing second-story apartments. This career is going nowhere. Clearly Sammy needs a new angle, a makeover, and he gets one when he witnesses bio-chemist Henry Pym committing the unforgiveable error of using too potent an additive in his experiment. An explosion throws Pym across the room, knocking him out.
During the explosion, a business card drops from the table to the floor. (Because, as everyone knows, no bio-chemist worth his sodium chloride could possibly complete a potentially explosive experiment without his business card being right there…)
Sammy picks up the card, discovers it’s for Henry Pym, Bio-Chemist, and correctly jumps to the conclusion that the unconscious man in the Giant-Man monkey suit must BE Henry Pym. (Hey, folks, we’ve only got 12 pages to tell this story, can’t waste a whole lot of time trying to get things to make sense.)
So at this point, I’m feeling somewhat deflated about the potential for this story, but then something happens that’s both amazing and disturbing. When Sammy puts on the Giant-Man suit, he finds he has ALL the powers that Hank has when wearing the suit. He is, effectively, Giant-Man.
Which leads me to ask the question: how dangerous is it, to have that much power in something that can be stolen?
THE EVENING GOWN COMPETITION
Let’s quickly review the other Avengers as they slip into their superhero attire. Captain America also has a suit, but the power is not in the suit, it’s in his chemically altered and well-trained body. As Russ rightly points out, Steve Rogers is Captain America, even in his pajamas. Yes, he’s got that shield, but any criminal stealing it would not be able to wield it as a weapon, unless he also possessed the same conditioning and strength as Steve Rogers.
Iron Man has a suit (and you’ll notice for this discussion, I can’t bring myself to call it a “costume”). Iron Man’s suit also has a lot of power, arguably more than Pym’s expanding leotard and cybernetic helmet. Could that suit be stolen and manipulated for evil purposes? Perhaps. I haven’t seen that storyline, but I surmise that a villain would need the brilliant brain and technical know-how of a Tony Stark to make the suit perform effectively. (Of course, that’s not out of the realm of possibility, so…hmmm…I guess I’ll have to wait and see.)
As for Thor, he’s a god, his power cannot be stolen. Except perhaps by another god, like Loki, who can hypnotize and neutralize him, but that’s not the same as stealing his power. Thor has his hammer, which no one but he can pick up, so….no problem there.
Conclusion? Of all the superheroes I’ve met so far, Giant-Man is the most vulnerable to attack and impersonation. And that’s a real problem, for him, and the world he lives in. As such, Pym would be wise to jealously guard his secret identity. And of course, the conceit of this story is that he actually DOES have a policy of keeping his Giant-Man identity a secret. Except…he doesn’t.
Even if we forget for a moment that at the end of this story, he invites members of THE PRESS up to Henry Pym’s lab, Giant-Man has never been super-careful about his secret identity. For instance, in Tales to Astonish #55, Giant-Man and Wasp hold a fan club meeting…IN HENRY PYM’S LABORATORY! Hello! Does this strike anyone as odd? It’s apparently common knowledge, if not that Pym and Giant-Man are the same person, that they are at least buddies. Any villain who wanted to find out more about Giant-Man would only have to corner mild-mannered Pym in a dark alley and make him talk.
Now, as if this wasn’t enough, in Tales to Astonish #54, Pym receives a surprise visit from his fan club at his lab, while he’s wearing his Giant-Man costume…without his mask! So, everyone in his fan club now knows that the giant man inside the Giant-Man suit IS, in fact, Henry Pym.
One more? In Tales to Astonish #58, Captain America actually STOPS BY Pym’s lab to deliver a message to Giant-Man. As we all know, there’s a solemn pact among the Avengers that they never reveal their real identities to each other. But somehow, Cap had no problem knowing exactly where to find Giant-Man. (Maybe he’s been dating a talkative gal from Giant-Man’s fan club?)
There may be other examples, but I’ve made my point. Giant-Man’s secret identity…well…not so secret. But the funny part is that brilliant scientist Pym honestly believes it is! Because, at the end of the story, he feels compelled to use a memory-loss serum on Sammy to make him forget everything that’s happened.
Wiping Sammy’s memory clean is actually a good idea, though not for the preservation of Giant-Man’s secret identify. The real reason should be so Sammy doesn’t get drunk at the bar and blab to everyone he knows that by stealing Giant-Man’s suit, he got to BE Giant-Man for a day. That’s a much bigger and more dangerous issue for Giant-Man than his supposed “secret identity.”
So why does the story not go there? Theory: Maybe Pym is aware that he has a problem with his “one size fits all” suit, but is embarrassed to confess to Jan that he doesn’t know how to fix it. There could be a lot more going on behind the scenes than the writers are letting us in on. Or, more likely, they simply haven’t put a dollar’s worth of thought into a 12-cent, 12-page story.
Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Steve Ditko
Inks: George Bell
Letters: Sam Rosen
BANNER’S SUPREME SECRET
But let’s move on to Hulk now, because Bruce Banner also has a secret identity, but like Thor, there’s no way anyone’s stealing his thunder by stumbling upon a pill or portion or wundersuit. And unlike fellow scientist Pym, Banner’s survival and freedom is absolutely dependent upon no one finding out that he moonlights as Mr. Mean and Green. In Banner’s case, the secret really IS supreme, and for that reason I might be able to forgive him for what at first appear to be misplaced priorities.
We start on the splash, with Hulk imprisoned in unbreakable chains, anxiously lamenting that he must make every effort to break free before General Ross learns “who I really AM!!” Then, as soon as Banner is Banner once again, practically the first words out of his mouth are a relieved “I don’t think anyone saw my transformation!”
At the end of the story, when the blast of the gamma bomb causes Hulk to turn back, Banner’s first thought is how lucky he is there’s so much smoke that nobody saw him transform. Not “I’m grateful I’m still alive,” or “Thank God nobody was killed by the bomb!” No, uppermost in his mind is the preservation of his secret identity.
THE CRAFTY CHAMELEON
But Banner’s secret identity is only a small portion of the masquerading going on here. The Chameleon serves as the villain of this piece, and though in the past I’ve been less than impressed, slowly I’m beginning to appreciate his charms.
Chameleon is sent on a mission by a mysterious leader, named…wait for it…The Leader. His objective is to find out what happened to the agent sent to General Ross’s missile base in Tales to Astonish #61, but that little fact is completely beside the point. The point is that it’s the Chameleon, so now we know we’re off on a roller coaster ride of nothing being what it seems.
Arriving at the base, Chameleon impersonates General Ross in order to make Hulk his ally. The clueless soldiers leave the commandeering “General” alone with the beast. Hulk is uncooperative, of course, but that doesn’t matter, because when Chameleon/Ross steps away for a moment, Hulk transforms back to Banner and escapes.
Drats! But Chameleon isn’t beaten yet. Deciding he may not be able to fulfill his mission of finding out about the missing agent, he settles on Plan B, stealing secrets from one of America’s greatest atomic scientists. To do this, he captures and impersonates Banner, locating not only the plans, but also an actual GAMMA BOMB Banner just happens to have laying around in his office.
All seems to be going well for Chameleon, but then…enter Betty. A mere girl. It takes her all of 30 seconds to figure out that the guy who looks like Bruce is not really her sweetie-pie. The narrator puts this down to “an intuition, which only females seem to have.” Which makes me wonder if Stan is implying that all women possess a mild yet innate level of superpowers.
A short time later, “Banner” hides an unconscious Betty in a “rocket speed-velocity test sled,” then runs off, hoping to deliver the gamma grenade to the Leader and become “the most important spy of all!”
The real Banner has other plans, though, and having transformed to Hulk, pursues Chameleon, who is forced to use the gamma bomb, which of course has no impact on someone of Hulk’s stature. Chameleon escapes with nothing to show for his efforts, and Banner disappears into the smoke, hoping he can change clothes before Talbot “puts two and two together and realizes who the Hulk really IS!”
Well, not much chance of anyone putting two and two together any time soon. What fun would that be? I feel confident I’ll continue to enjoy the amusements of masquerade in Marvel Comics for a long time to come.
JUSTICE ISN’T BLIND, SHE’S BLINDFOLDED
And now, for something completely different: I have a little problem with the way justice is handed out in both stories.
In the Hulk feature, the charges against Banner are quickly dismissed when Betty swears he wasn’t the one who kidnapped her and set off that bomb. Ross reveals that he still has suspicions, but what do you expect? He’s an over-protective father. The important point is that based solely on the testimony of Banner’s GIRLFRIEND, they’re not even going to investigate the matter further. Is this any way to run a military, with a ferocious green monster running about? It’s all resolved too easily.
But that’s nothing compared to the way the Giant-Man story concludes.
Okay. Where shall I begin? How about… “just happened to have some memory-loss serum lying around”? Between Banner with gamma bombs carelessly strewn about his office, and Pym’s potent memory-loss serum, I’d say our scientist boys are awfully careless with their toys.
But that’s not the worst of it. I have to wonder: If indeed Pym has a memory serum that can make criminals forget they’ve ever been criminals, why doesn’t he share this incredible concoction with the justice system? Jail wardens could simply pop a drop of the potion in every inmate’s plate of beans, wipe their slates clean, empty the jails and solve all of society’s ills overnight.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Or…maybe not. Because even though criminals would no longer remember they’ve been criminals, there would still be victims demanding justice. Does that not count for anything?
I guess not, if you happen to be Henry Pym, Bio-Chemist. He has no problem taking upon himself the roles of judge and jury, and never mind executioner, because he’ll simply pardon wrongdoers, whenever it suits his own purposes (i.e. – keeping his secret, which we’ve already determined, is no secret at all). He’s like a mad scientist performing brain surgery on people without consent.
Apparently, Pym has decided that one of the perks of being a superhero is that he gets to decide who has to pay and who gets a free pass. I’m concerned about any one person having all this power, especially if that person is self-absorbed and at least somewhat delusional.
In addition to Hank having no respect for the legislative and judicial branches of government, he also thinks the press is a bunch of bungling idiots who couldn’t get a story if it was staring them straight in the face. And here in the Marvel Universe, he may be right. After all, Giant-Man invites reporters to Pym’s lab to tell them how he, Giant-Man, stopped the giant plant. (Oh yeah, there’s this giant plant, menacing all of New York, but I haven’t mentioned it till now, because it’s the least interesting aspect of the story.)
We don’t see it, but don’t you think at some point it might occur to one of these reporters to ask, “Hey, where did this giant plant come from? We’re here in the lab of bio-chemist Henry Pym, could there be any chance Pym wreaked havoc on the city by letting one of his experiments get out of control? And if that’s the case, maybe PYM should be held accountable for his actions?”
And do you think it might occur to any of these ace reporters to question WHY Giant-Man calls a press conference in Pym’s lab? Are none of them going to connect the dots? Or, is Giant-Man right in assuming none of them have enough brains to figure it out?
Or, perhaps he simply sprayed them all with his memory loss serum, selectively wiping their memories of only those things he no longer wishes them to recall.
Wow. It’s awfully convenient to have superpowers and super-potions. Seems Giant-Man can get away with almost anything he wants. I’m not liking him very much in this story.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE PICTURES
AND A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT WORDS
I could go on like this all day, but let’s wrap this up now with a few random observations.
- This time around, Giant-Man artist is Carlos Burgos, whom Russ tells me has a history with Marvel Comics, but this is the first time I’m seeing his art, and I especially like what he does with Wasp.
- Steve Ditko gives us the art for the Hulk story, and though poor Betty can’t hold a candle to Wasp, I was impressed with the “make-up” Ditko applies to the troubled Hulk, giving him a much more stressed and menacing appearance.
- All the Marvel Comics I’m reading are overwritten, but this Giant-Man story tops the list for alliteration. The narrator can’t mention Henry without calling him “happy” or “handsome,” even though those adjectives have nothing to do with the story. Then, when the narrator pops in with an arrow to warn “Look out, Sammy! That ledge isn’t safe!” I feel it’s the writer who’s gone over the edge.
- Oh, and one more thing… on the top of page 17, does General Ross really say “blankity-blank”?? Commander Benson, you’ve been in the military: did your officers talk like that?
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