Monday, July 21, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #50

"The Human Top!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko
(December 1963)

This one's a fun, breezy read. It's also everything I hate about Giant-Man & the Wasp stories.

First, the villain: David Cannon, the Human Top. He was born with the ability to spin around really fast like, well, the name's a give away. I guess he must be a mutant, since he was born with his powers, although the word isn't used. He's a bully and a jerk, and grows up to be a cheat; he gets in speed skating races and deliberately loses in order to drive the odds up, then easily wins as a sort of fix for the mob, because I guess the mob bets on the outcomes of speed skating races. Eh, gambling money is gambling money. His new plan is to get a job in a show at Danly's Department Store and rob the payroll.

Into this plot stumble Giant-Man and the Wasp, who are more or less insufferable in this issue.

First, we have Stan's usual go-to of flirty banter that basically amounts to Hank Pym using his "ew, girls are yucky!" attitude to deflect man-hungry Jan. It starts right from their first appearance in this story, after Hank calls Jan to remind her they're having a briefing this afternoon.

Let's remember the real victims of workplace sexual harassment in the Marvel Universe: male scientists who just want to do their jobs without being reminded that girls like all that mushy stuff. Which is too bad, because apparently all that mushy stuff is why a girl becomes a superhero herself.

The story's only 13 pages long, and ends on a cliffhanger, but a lot of pages are just this kind of filler, with the Wasp angrily insisting that handsome Giant-Man acknowledge her ceaseless flirtation. And apparently all he has to do is call her "honey" and she's over the moon. It's just really insulting and idiotic sometimes.

Hank learns about the Top's plans to steal the payroll, and he and Jan get jobs there to infiltrate and be ready. At least it's a little more believable than setting up your own jewelry store overnight to catch a robber.

Hank and Jan have been so insipid this issue that it's almost a relief when the Human Top shows up and just throws everything into chaos.

Not only is the Top snottier than Spider-Man, he's also apparently unbeatable. The guy with the power to spin around really fast is also the guy that Giant-Man can't beat. Gee, I guess being twelve feet tall isn't the best power in every situation.

This is what you get for those puke-inducing filler scenes of flirty banter that reads like it was written by children, Giant-Man! This is the funniest thing that's happened in a Marvel comic since this classic.

So, yeah, the Human Top gets away. And Giant-Man, humiliated, begins a combination of chemical tests and physical training in order to increase his speed so he can stop the Human Top's criminal rampage. But things aren't looking too good...

To be continued.

Stray observations:

:: The credits read "Illustrated by Jack Kirby, Rendered by Steve Ditko," which, from the looks of things, means Jack Kirby laid out the story and did some poses (lots of familiar Kirby poses in this issue), but Ditko did the finished pencils and inks. Marvel Wiki implies that Kirby did the pencils and Lee did the inks, but it looks a little more like Ditko's work to me. Hard to tell. I'm sure someone out there knows.

:: The ants still send messages to Dr. Pym about things that require his intervention. This is visualized like this:

I've long given up questioning why ants would even have the slightest interest in the affairs of human beings and their laws and their concept of good and evil or even their concept of the ways humans divide time. But who knew the ants thought in such legible script? And look, they have the concept of motion blur, too. Ants are much more sophisticated than we gave them credit for, apparently.

:: Ordinary citizens in the Marvel Universe are so stupidstitious.

*Sigh* Where were you when Atlantis took over New York, lady?

:: My wife: "How does the Human Top not just puke constantly? Even astronauts would be puking constantly!"

So, yeah, not my favorite issue here. Ever since Stan Lee took over this series and Ant-Man became Giant-Man, it just hasn't worked for me. I miss the old Ernie Hart & Don Heck Ant-Man stories. Alas, alas, etc.

This is also the last story in this Marvels series from 1963. But there are milestones galore in '64! (Sorry, wanted to see what it would be like to write for the bullpen for a second there.)

Next time: Stan Lee salutes the teenagers.


bliss_infinte said...

As crappy as Ant-man / Giant-Man comics are, I've always loved the character(s) for some reason and I'm looking forward to the movie next year.

I think you need to come up with a Stan Lee-ish Bullpen name for these posts like "Penned by Samurai (Leapin') Frog. Don't know your secret identity only your handle, but you get the idea!

SamuraiFrog said...

I find the character kind of neat, too, and I'm definitely looking forward to the movie. I mentioned way back that I just dig the old suit with the helmet, the whole science hero vibe.

Haha, I like the idea of a bullpen name...