Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #49

"The Birth of Giant-Man!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Don Heck
(November 1963)

Well, the Ant-Man stories had finally become something comfortable and fun, so I guess that means it's time to change things again!

Though the cover and the splash page (and the title) are very excited to announce that Hank Pym is leaving the Ant-Man persona behind and becoming Giant-Man, most of the first half of this story is concerned with Hank doing various experiments with his size. He's figured out how to turn his enlarging and reducing gases into pills with varying effects; depending on which pill he takes, he can change his size. He can be as small as an inch, or as large as 12 feet. (In the opening scenes he nearly falls prey to the law of conservation of mass by growing too large, determining that he can never go over 12 feet in height.)

Stan Lee takes a little extra time in this one--five extra pages--to establish the premise, and then drops Hank into another dimension, so he can face the Eraser. The Eraser has a kind of horrifying power, or seems to at first.

That just looks horrific! It turns out, though, that what the Eraser is doing is slowly transporting people to Dimension Z. The Supremacy of Dimension Z has been kidnapping Earth scientists and demands that they make him atomic weapons so that he can attack our own dimension. I can't really blame Stan for going back to this old saw--seriously, every hero has had this story, including Ant-Man--since this story is really just an excuse to show off Giant-Man. I do like the idea that Hank can change sizes, which he does a couple of times in this issue, and Giant-Man's a neat idea, but I'm not a fan of the idea of Hank just being Giant-Man. I like going back and forth.

I'm torn on the costume, too. I dig the look, but I miss the helmet. Doesn't make sense to have it anymore--and the cybernetics are all in the new mask, apparently--but I just thought it was neat. That's a meaningless criticism.

Oh, and Hank finds the scientists and brings them back to Earth and defeats the Eraser and all of that. It's not much of a story. It's an effective introduction to Giant-Man, but not much else. It's another retool, and maybe this one will stick. I liked the last one better, but those days are over. Let's see what comes next!

Stray observations:

These two. Good God. If it's not her being soppy and flirty and obsessed with material things, it's him being a condescending misogynist. "Honey, you're just in love with the idea of being in love! Now button those ruby lips until we finish this job!" During a battle, Jan tells Hank he'd make a bossy husband.

You know, as lame as her flirty behavior got while Ernie Hart was writing, at least he remembered that the Wasp was a superhero in her own right. When Stan Lee writes the Wasp, she's a hundred percent man-hungry. I guess he doesn't have time for a second character trait. It gets to be a real drag sometimes.

:: This story establishes that Pym's home and lab are in New Jersey.

:: A gardener is the first one to see Giant-Man; he runs to the nearest police station, where he's dismissed as a loony. Officers, after all this world has seen in the last year, you're really going to dismiss people as attention-seeking crazies? Where were you when the Atlanteans invaded?

:: The art in this issue is credited to Jack Kirby on pencils and Don Heck on inks, but it looks 98% like Heck's work. There are a couple of Giant-Man poses that seem Kirbyesque, and the costume is Kirby's design (it's just Ant-Man's old costume with a new mask), but this is really Heck's work. Still looks good, too.

:: I decided to jump right to this one instead of waiting to get here alphabetically because Giant-Man also appears in this month's Avengers #2. And, on that note...

Next time: we'll save the new Amazing Spider-Man for another entry and jump right to the Avengers fighting among themselves! Nobody loves the Hulk!

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