Saturday, October 04, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #53

"Trapped by the Porcupine!" by Stan Lee & Dick Ayers
(March 1964)

There really is part of me that wants to like the Porcupine; he's an angry old man in a suit that looks like a rough draft of the Predator, and the suit is that fun kind of cheesy because it has everything a writer can decide they need to put in it, like a full body version of the TV Batman's utility belt.

The more interesting element of this story to me is its momentary focus on a Giant-Man & Wasp fan club. Still not a thing I'm sure would exist (Giant-Man is just always going to be kind of lame), but it's an early look at Marvel addressing fandom. Just two issues ago Hank & Jan were bothered by a fan club at Hank's lab, but they were a bunch of nicely-dressed college kids. The fans in this issue are actually cosplaying. They don't call it that, of course, but they're all dressed up like Giant-Man's villains.

Alexander Gentry, the Porcupine, infiltrates this fan club, asking if they'll accept an old man in their group. The response is kind and welcoming--"If you're a fan, you're a fan!"--so it's pretty shitty that Gentry takes advantage of them by dressing in his Porcupine costume, following them to the gym where Giant-Man works out, and then attacking him with knockout gas. Those poor fans all get gassed, and we never hear from them again. But they're okay, right?

The Porcupine is back for revenge, and after failing to knockout Giant-Man, he captures the Wasp, through the clever ruse of asking her to get something out of his car. She shrinks down to wasp-size to do it, and falls into his trap of not being able to get out of a locked car. Also knockout gas. Seriously, Jan, you couldn't have just walked down to the car? When you start using your powers for every simple task, that's just sloppy, and sloppiness apparently breeds being able to fall into ridiculous traps.

The Porcupine then arranges for Wasp to escape, so he can send some kind of radio transmitter tracking arrow flying after her, and that leads him to Hank Pym's lab, even though roving groups of college kids have no problem finding it, but whatever. Porcupine traps the Wasp in flypaper and then tries to fight Hank, who switches sizes a couple of times. Porcupine swallows a bunch of Pym's growth capsules, intending to become giant, but instead shrinks and, because he's taken so many capsules, just keeps on shrinking until he's the size of a microbe. Will he shrink forever? Did he shrink into nothing? Can matter be destroyed this way? Will Porcupine wind up in the Micro-World of Doctor Doom? Will these questions ever even be answered?

Who knows. I'm not exactly on the edge of my seat there. So far, the Black Knight is the only villain Hank Pym has fought that I've ever wanted to see a second time. You're still at the bottom, Hank.

Stray observations:

:: Much of this issue's attempts at suspense revolve around Hank's ankle. He broke it in a fall while putting on a show for some orphans, and now he has to stay Giant-Man until the bone sets or else he'll shatter it completely. Interesting idea--the semblance of scientific thought went into it--except that they throw it out as soon as the plot requires it, and during the final fight with the Porcupine, Hank shrinks to Ant-Man size.

:: I do find it kind of dorkily charming that the fan club is carrying a big sign that just says "Yay, Giant Man..."

:: This issue, in addition to the knockout gas and firing a flypaper pellet (and the radio transmitter tracker thingy), the Porcupine's quills also contain sneezing gas, jets and a suction cup with an unbreakable steel cable. The unbreakable steel cable I believe, but not that a suction cup will stick to a brick wall. Also, he uses a concussion blast to break down Hank's door. I bet it wasn't even locked!

:: "He's far more dangerous... far more powerful than when I first fought him!" Not really, Hank. In fact, the first go-round was much more believable.

:: Hank is quite melodramatic this issue. After a frustrating day of the ants not being able to find Jan, she escapes the Porcupine, causing Hank to exclaim "I never realized I could miss anyone so much... worry about anyone so much... need anyone so much!" Not even Maria Trovaya, the Hungarian woman you were married to, and whose death behind the Iron Curtain is what motivated you to become Ant-Man, and who is the reason you can't bring yourself to openly express your feelings for Jan?

Just curious.

I wonder if Maria ever gets mentioned again, even as a plot device.

Next time: Magneto returns, brings friends. (Also, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.)

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