This past summer Marvel Comics added Ant-Man to their growing list of mega-successful film adaptations of their costumed crime-fighters. By request from a Balladeer’s Blog reader here is my look at the early adventures of that superhero.
1 TALES TO ASTONISH # 27 (January 1962)
Title: The Man in the Ant Hill
Villain: Various hungry ants
Synopsis: The emphasis in this debut story was on Incredible Shrinking Man– style antics. Dr Hank Pym has perfected his shrinking and growing formulas – later retconned to Pym Particles delivered via serum, pills or gas. Testing them on himself the good doctor shrinks and finds himself stuck in the “jungle” of his own back yard struggling to get back to his growth serum.
He runs afoul of a colony of ants who wind up chasing him through the labyrinthine confines of their anthill. After fleeing the ants until cornered, Pym strikes back and discovers that though shrunk down he retains the strength of a full-sized man. He also has his first tentative, groping success at communicating with ants and manages to ride one up the wall of his house and back to his growth formula for a happy ending.
Title: The Return of the Ant-Man
Villains: Four Soviet agents
Synopsis: Despite his decision to never again use his growth-changing inventions after his previous misadventure Dr Hank Pym changed his mind. He perfected an armored costume to help protect him when he would shrink down to size and, in the intervening months had perfected a means of communicating with and controlling ants through a cybernetic helmet.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has contracted Pym to develop a means of making human beings immune to nuclear radiation. Agents of the Soviet Union learn of the top-secret project and mount an armed raid on Pym’s laboratory.
While the Communist agents ransack the lab searching for Pym’s results he manages to slip away and dons his Ant-Man costume. Shrinking down he uses his modified helmet to summon an army of ants and, with them at his side he frees the four research assistants held captive by the Soviets, recovers his research and defeats the spies.
After turning the Communists over to the FBI (S.H.I.E.L.D. had not yet been created by Marvel Comics) our hero resumes his Hank Pym identity so that nobody knows he is really Ant-Man.
Title: The Challenge of Comrade X
Villain: Comrade X, a Soviet agent armed with a DDT-based gas gun. Comrade X is also a master of disguise.
Synopsis: Ant-Man thwarts a bank robbery and saves the robbers from suffocating after they accidentally lock themselves in an air-tight vault. Once again Ant-Man is a hit in the news and, over in the Soviet Union their top agent Comrade X is sent to America to capture Ant-Man so the secret of his size-changing abilities can be learned.
Comrade X, operating out of a docked ship, succeeds in luring Ant-Man to the site but our hero turns the tables on the crew members/ spies. He also exposes Comrade X as a woman who was using a throat-box to make herself sound like a man. The “Commies” are all captured.
Title: Trapped by the Protector
Villain: The Protector, a supervillain who uses an exoskeleton to increase his strength and who wields a disintegrator ray. As his name implies, this villain runs a protection racket.
Synopsis: When Ant-Man comes to the aid of a jeweler victimized by a supervillain called the Protector he learns that the figure is extorting protection money from jewelers all over town. Ant-Man determines to bring the Protector down.
Our hero interrupts the villain’s next attempted shakedown and battles him inside and outside the store, but the Protector escapes, nearly killing Ant-Man in the process. Eventually Dr Pym’s citywide army of ants lead him to the Protector’s hideout where Ant-Man defeats him and turns him over to the police.
Title: Betrayed by the Ants
Villain: Egghead (Elihas Starr), who becomes Ant-Man’s archenemy and a supervillain who goes on to be a major part of the Marvel Universe. Egghead plagues Hank Pym in all his incarnations – Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket. He also becomes a foe of the Avengers themselves.
Synopsis: Ant-Man leads a raid on Egghead when he tries to covertly auction off scientific secrets stolen from his (Egghead’s) own top secret project. The villain escapes but his career is ruined and he falls in with various groups of gangsters (Marvel had not yet come up with the Maggia as their fictional version of the Mafia). Those gangsters want him to kill Ant-Man for them to stop his interference with their criminal network.
Egghead agrees to do so in exhange for $10,000 (pretty cheap even for 1962 standards). The villain creates flypaper strong enough to hold Ant-Man even though he has the strength of a full-grown man. In addition he also devises his own method of communicating with ants and uses them to lure Ant-Man into his lair.
Our hero escapes the flypaper and all of Egghead’s other death-traps, breaks Egghead’s hold on the ant kingdom and captures the gangsters who wanted him dead. Egghead, of course, escapes.
Title: The Vengeance of the Scarlet Beetle
Villain: The Scarlet Beetle, who controls an army of beetles and other insects the way Ant-Man controls ants. The Scarlet Beetle leads this army in a campaign of destruction against humanity. (For some reason spiders are also under his control, despite being arachnids and not insects.) Later the Scarlet Beetle would become a foe of She-Hulk.
Synopsis: When beetles, mosquitos and other insects begin deliberately sabotaging humanity’s structures and technology Ant-Man decides to investigate. This leads him to the Scarlet Beetle, who has been given super-intellect and the super-power of insect control by one of the various forms of stray radiation that seem to fill the world in the Marvel Universe.
The villain entraps Ant-Man but, in the typical fashion of evildoers in fiction, fails to kill him. Ant-Man manages to free himself with the help of his ants. Now free, our hero leads his army of ants against the rampaging army of the Scarlet Beetle. After out-generaling the villain Ant-Man undoes the effects of the radiation, stripping the Scarlet Beetle of his powers.
FOR PART TWO CLICK HERE
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