Script: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letters: John Duffy
When we last left mad scientist Henry Pym, he was dumping his secret serums down the drain. Having been traumatized by a run-in with ants, he decides that getting really really small is really really dangerous. Now it’s “weeks later,” and we find Pym reconsidering that rash decision. I guess the trauma is wearing off. But this time, after creating the serums, he locks them up until he feels the world is ready.
A fringe benefit of Pym’s previous adventure, he is now fascinated by ants and learns everything about them, including how they communicate through their antennae. He fashions a helmet which will allow him to communicate with ants, as well as a “protective costume” against potential bites and stings. If you ask me, Pym’s going through a lot of trouble for something he never intends to happen again.
But his hand is forced when the Commies raid his office to steal the formula he and his assistants have been working on for “a gas to make people immune to radioactivity.” Yes, those pesky Commies are back. Pym suits up, downs the formula, and enlists the help of the ants in overcoming the dreaded Red Threat.
Tiny Pym loosens the ropes around his bound assistants, and the ants bite the Commies till they yell “YIIEEEE” and drop their guns. Without their weapons, “those murderous Reds” are a pushover, easily captured by the now-freed assistants.
Pym takes a bath in the growth serum, joins his fellow scientists, and the entire free world is once again safe.
For now, anyway. But in the last panel, Pym muses “I wonder—will I ever be forced to become the Ant-Man again?”
Well, we know he will. In fact, at the bottom of the last panel, Stan tells us he will, in the very next issue of Tales to Astonish. Seems this pseudo-scientific superhero proved popular on his first outing, so a decision was made to focus this comic mag on the further adventures of Ant-Man.
IRONY AND IMPROVEMENTS
I think I’ve mentioned before that Ant-Man is one of my favorite Marvel superheroes. I’ve always been a bit of a non-conformist, and I enjoy the irony inherent in Ant-Man. Not only is the idea of a diminutive superhero highly ironic, but this situation demands a series of unusual and inventive circumstances, with fabulous visuals you’re not likely to see anywhere else. We also get to see Henry Pym use his scientific mind to find new uses for common household items. For instance, as Ant-Man he catapults himself to the windowsill by stretching a rubber band around two corners of an ashtray, releasing the tension, and then…WHOOSHH! My favorite, however, is how he he’ll utilize an ant as a horse or helicopter, traveling on ground or by air (if it’s a flying ant) in order to cover “large” distances.
I like these early stories where we see Stan refining the attributes of his heroes. The helmet and the protective suit are a given. Pym is not going to be able to proceed without them.
And in this second outing, Pym discovers an added benefit to his reconstituted formula. This time, it seems, even though he shrinks to the size of an ant, he maintains the strength of a full-grown man. Essentially, he has super-strength for his size. Super strength always looks good on any superhero’s résumé.
I guess if Pym had not been frightened enough to dump the first batch of serum, he may have never discovered whatever it is that now causes him to keep his full strength. It’s uncertain how or why the new serum has these qualities that were lacking in the first. Pym apparently didn’t plan on it. Did he make a serendipitous “error” while creating the second batch? Does it make sense? Or perhaps there is no real reason for this development beyond Stan realizing that it would work well in future stories if Ant-Man could have super strength. When we’re talking about people shrinking to the size of an ant, “making sense” doesn’t really need to be one of our top priorities.
So, improvement is born out of adversity. And also born out of knowledge. Because Pym has taken the time to study the ants, he discovers how they live and communicate. Now he is able to make the ants his allies. Ah, the power of communication! It also helps that, with his super strength, he is able to beat the living tar out of the resident bully. He vanquishes a beetle “the size of a dinosaur,” which no doubt gains him even further respect in the ant community.
Now as smart and resourceful as Henry Pym appears in this second outing, I do have one criticism. Once the Commies are captured and Pym needs to return to normal size, he has an ant carry him to the table, where he spills the test tube of growth serum.
Pym’s comment that it’s “lucky” he retained his full strength shows a remarkable lack of planning on his part. Remember in the last story, it was only because one exceptionally friendly ant was willing to carry him up the side of the building to the serum waiting on the window sill that he was able to return to normal size. You think he would remember that experience and have left the anti-dote in a readily accessible location for this adventure. But no. It’s on a table, in an upright test tube, that he is only able to push over because–surprise, surprise!!–he has retained his full strength. If not for that happy accident, Pym might have to remain ant-sized forever!
And that would not be a good thing, because as much as I enjoy the adventures of Ant-Man, I also like the stuff that’s coming up for our mad scientist Henry Pym. Next time I travel into the Marvelous Zone to visit with Pym, we’re going to meet the beautiful Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp! And that’s when the fun really begins!
But before we go there, we check in again with our old friends the Fantastic Four! You’d think they would’ve learned by now to avoid extra-terrestrials, but no! That’s where we’re going! So…small as ants, or big as all outer space, the Marvelous Zone is a marvelous place for exploration and adventure!
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