Tag Archives: Ant Man

[January 25, 1963] Astonishing!  Amazing!  Fantastic!  Strange!  (March 1963 Marvel Comics Roundup)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

The Journey tries to cover as many media as possible to be a complete one-stop shop for science fiction and fantasy fans.  Thus, we’ve long since branched out from sf magazines to cover books, movies, television shows, and comic books.

Interestingly, my journey with comic books mirrors my experience a decade ago with science fiction digests.  At first, I just had the one subscription to Galaxy, and I picked up odd issues of other mags as they caught my fancy.  Years passed, and by the time I started this column, I was regularly purchasing F&SF, IF, Astounding, and Satellite.  As of today, the Journey covers every American sf mag and a British one (New Worlds) to boot!

Similarly, a few years back, I purchased random issues of Marvel and National Comics, but in no sort of set schedule.  These last several months, I’ve found the constellation of Marvel’s output very compelling, and my collection has expanded considerably.

This month looks to be the crest of a wave, with Marvel’s superhero introductions reaching a fever pitch, pushing the fare of Girls’ Comics and Westerns to the background.  And what a crop of heroes these are!

First up is the Amazing Spiderman.  Since his first appearance just a few months ago, he’s become popular enough to earn his own mag!

Unfortunately, the fans are the only folks this new hero is popular with.  Everyone else thinks he’s a menace, a phoney, a hoodlum, or some combination of all three.  Leading the lynch mob is J. Jonah Jameson, editor of The Daily Bugle.  Even Spiderman’s death-defying rescue of Jameson’s son (an astronaut) does nothing to rehabilitate his image.

That’s a raw deal by anyone’s standard.  I wouldn’t be surprised if ol’ Spidey knocked over a few banks just for spite! 

Undaunted, Spiderman decides that, if a solo gig won’t work, perhaps he should join a team.

Of course, the Fantastic Four are sort of the glue that holds the Marvel-verse together, so it’s inevitable that Spiderman should run into them.  But it turns out that the F4 aren’t taking applications.

I have to say that I like Spiderman, and a downer superhero is certainly a switch, but I don’t know if I’m masochistic enough to put up with too much of this.  I hope Peter Parker finds his feet soon.

Speaking of crossovers, look who makes an appearance in Fantastic Four #12?  Noneother than the Hulk, now green instead of gray, and able to change into his titanic form and keep the brain of Dr. Bruce Banner (Hulk’s human form) at will with the help of a machine.


Nothing like a bit of shameless self-promotion…

In this particular issue, the Hulk is blamed for a series of attacks on military bases throughout the country.  But Banner is a sharp cookie, and through incredibly sophisticated sleuthing, finds the true culprit.

Fantastic Four continues to be my least favorite comic, in large part thanks to exchanges like this:


Charming as ever, Richards.

In this month’s Hulk, Dr. Banner’s form-changer machine is becoming more erratic.  Will it last much longer?  Also, the villain is the Master of Metal with… mastery over metal.  Interesting power.  I wonder if we’ll see his like again.

Marvel’s anthology mags continue to increasingly become vehicles for new superheroes.  Journey into Mystery is the home of Thor, Asgardian God of Thunder.

Tales to Astonish is Ant-Man’s vehicle.

Strange Tales might as well be titled Fantastic Four #12 and a half.

Tales of Suspense features the exciting debut of Iron Man, a superhero borne of crisis.  Tony Stark, a millionaire playboy engineer, is captured in North Vietnam after an explosion lodges shrapnel near his heart.  Tasked to make weapons by the nefarious Communist Wong-Chu, Stark instead builds himself a metal suit both to keep his heart going and to make an escape.

I don’t know if Iron Man will be a recurring character, but I’d certainly like to see more.

So that’s Marvel Comics for March 1963.  A pretty exciting and momentous twelfth of a year, and reason to keep subscribing.

As for National Comics, well… anyone else want to write an article?

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[June 7, 1962] Third-rate (the State of Marvel Comics)

[Famed comics expert Jason Sacks returns with a not-unmixed appraisal of the current state of Marvel Comics – in particular, evaluating the raft of new heroes they’ve unleashed on the universe.

Jason is not a man to mince words, you’ll see…]


by Jason Sacks

Tiny Marvel Comics is at it again. Less than a year after comics’ shoestring publisher launched the rough-and-tumble Fantastic Four, Marvel has expanded their offering of new action heroes. In fact, when I visited Spencer’s Drugs in beautiful Snohomish, Washington this Tuesday, I found three premiering costumed characters with adventures to consume. I’m happy to say these offerings are more entertaining than Archie Comics’s dull Adventures of the Fly and Adventures of the Jaguar, but they are nowhere near as entertaining as most of the comics published by National.

If you remember from my last visit to Galactic Journeys, I described how Marvel is an upstart company, mostly presenting giant monster comics for bratty young children while their larger counterparts National and Dell dominate in terms of both sales and quality. A longstanding rumor has it that Marvel is even distributed by the same company that has partial ownership of National, and that parent company limits editor Stan Lee’s small enterprise to no more than eight titles per month.

Heretofore, most of Marvel’s male-oriented offerings have been either of the giant monster or cowboy variety. For example, the May number of Tales to Astonish offered A Monster at My Window – a giant-headed green monstrosity instead of a Peeping Tom – while the same month’s Strange Tales offered an orange variation of the same idea called Mister Morgan’s Monster. Meanwhile, Rawhide Kid and Gunsmoke Western offer adventures similar to Maverick or The Rifleman.

After a rocky first few issues, in which scientific concepts were handled in haphazard manners and artwork by Jack Kirby was loose and awkward, Marvel’s Fantastic Four seems to have settled into a pleasantly fun beat. In the February issue, Lee and Kirby revived the classic Sub-Mariner, last seen about five years ago in a short-lived revival of his classic comic from the 1940s. The new yarn presented a delightful revival of the Sub-Mariner/Human Torch battles from the pages of the happily-remembered Marvel Mystery Comics. In FF #4, the hep, young Human Torch finds a down-and-out Sub-Mariner living on skid row. That then triggers a delightful epic tale in which Lee and Kirby return the former king to Atlantis, where he is reunited with his subjects. Namor also falls in love with Sue Storm, the distaff member of the Fantastic Four. Though he is defeated quickly, the revived Sub-Mariner seems an ideal adversary for the Fantastics.

That is, if the new villain Doctor Doom, who premiered in the April issue #5, doesn’t take that role first. This man in the iron mask has a connection with Mr. Fantastic, the leader and scientific genius of the Fantastic Four, and their relationship gives the story much of its fuel.

If Marvel gives the rest of their books this level of care and attention, they may be able to carve out a small niche on the stands next to the super-popular Dell and National lines. My spies at the circulation houses tell me that many Dell Comics, as well as National’s Superman line, often sell over a million copies per month while Marvel’s line sells barely a quarter of them. If Dell is Coca-Cola and National is Pepsi, then Marvel is more like Royal Crown Cola, a pleasant flavor that barely registers on most peoples’ attention spans.

As I mentioned, three new costumed characters premiere this week from Marvel. Amazing Fantasy #15 debuts Spider Man, while Tales to Astonish #35 marks The Return of the Ant Man! and Journey Into Mystery #83 presents a bold take on the Norse God Thor.

One has to wonder why the obsession at Marvel with many-legged creepy crawlies. Does Archie’s The Fly sell so well that Marvel feels the need to jump into the marketplace for heroes based on multi-legged critters? People, especially girls, hate spiders, so why would anybody would want to read the adventures of a spider man. My sister is terrified of spiders so whenever one of those eight-legged monstrosities ends up behind the icebox, my father always has to kill it. Why would my sister or anybody else want to read the story of a boy with spider powers?

Especially when that boy, Peter Parker by name, is such a nebbish? As Lee and artist Steve Ditko portray Parker in his debut, the boy is a bespectacled scientific genius, hated by his fellow high school classmates and living a cloistered life with his elderly aunt and uncle. Though he attends a public school, young Parker wears a suit and tie and attends a giant scientific exhibit of radio-activity, at which he is bitten by a radioactive spider. You have to give Lee credit for smartly using the scourge of our time to create the background for this hero.

Unfortunately, Lee then takes his debuting hero down a low road when he becomes – of all things – a pro wrestler. Parker puts on a mask and confuses an almost mindless pugilist. This shows the depravity and low levels that Lee is willing to put his characters through. Rather than having his hero nobly take up the hero’s game, as would happen in a DC Comic, Lee has Peter Parker don an absurd red and blue costume (with a full head-cowl – nobody loves full head cowls) and fully embrace a career as a wrestler.
Tragically, Parker’s greed gets the best of him, as his Uncle is killed by a robber who he easily could have stopped. After a quick battle, the hero discovers his failure, and this first appearance ends on a depressing down note.

This blatant rip off of Batman’s origin is the icing on the cake of this lame and frustrating story. There are many markers here that this Spider Man will never take off as a hero, from this unappealing civilian character, drawn by S. Ditko as a complete loser, to the unappealing storyline around professional wrestling, to the awful costume and the lack of a good villain. Any attentive observer of comic books has to question why Lee and Ditko believed this character would have (eight) legs that would stick to readers’ hearts.

Even the comic he appears in shows that Marvel understands Spider Man is a loser: this comic was titled Amazing Adult Fantasy for its previous several issues and presented fantasy tales slightly better than Marvel’s normal pablum. This month, Marvel removed Adult from the title in a tacit implication that these stories are for kids only. Next time they can remove the word Amazing as well. Give me an issue of National’s Challengers of the Unknown or Sea Devils over this pap any day.

Also appearing this month is another hero inspired by creepy-crawlies. This hero, who Marvel hopes will attract a buzz, is Ant-Man. (Incidentally, recent Marvels have also featured a giant scorpion and the story The Man in the Bee-Hive; has editor Lee been studying for an insect-keeping examination?)

Though ants are loved even less than spiders, at least the origin of Ant-Man makes more sense than the Spider Man story. As presented in Tales to Astonish #35, Ant-Man is simply a scientist who discovers a special formula to shrink himself, which triggers an adventure that could have come from the outstanding 1950s flick The Incredible Shrinking Man.

See, scientist Henry Pym has developed both a shrinking formula and an anti-radiation formula. The Commies thus want to kidnap Pym to gain his knowledge of the anti-rad ability so they can safely launch a nuclear war. Pym fights back, donning a flashy red suit as the Ant-Man. Of course he defeats the baddies in the end. The story has some effective scenes – there’s a great moment in which stinger ants crawl up a commie’s leg and defeat him – but this story is only marginally more successful than the one introducing Spider Man. At least it stars a more conventional leading character, since a brilliant scientist is inherently much more interesting than a sad teenager who dresses as a spider. In any event, this Ant-Man is much less interesting than the brilliant Atom (one of Julius Schwartz’s proud publications) at National Comics – and his name is silly, too.

Thor, premiering in Journey into Mystery #83, is the best of these three premiering heroes, but that’s like comparing a Perry Como song to a Bobby Vinton song. I’d rather be listening to The Loco-Motion and reading National Comics than Vinton and Marvel, but when you have to listen to music, Vinton will do.

Marvel’s reborn Thor is the Norse god reborn in the body of frail doctor Donald Blake, “helpless without his cane”, who journeys to Norway for unknown reasons and becomes enmeshed in a battle with the rocky green Stone Men from Saturn. The Stone Men resemble the statues from Easter Island and are the same old hokey Marvel monsters, but this new hero seems like he could be an up-and-comer.  The uncredited artist – who seems to be the same man who drew the adventures of Ant-Man – delivers a dynamic tale that uses storytelling that’s different from the clean lines I’m used to seeing in the pages of The Flash or Green Lantern. The approach is bold and intense, with frequent use of blackout panels.

Of course, the storyline with the stone men from Saturn is a typically rotten Marvel storyline, still another kiddie kreation of giant monsters battling to destroy the Earth. This terribly cliched plot would have fit comfortably in previous issues of Journey into Mystery. Hopefully Marvel will bring the whole background of Norse mythology into this comic and allow readers the chance to see Loki, Odin and the amazing Asgard. Hopefully, too, Marvel will rectify their coloring mistake and color Thor’s hair red, as it should be.

Mark my words: June 5, 1962, will be a date that is quickly forgotten when someone one day writes the history of comic books in America. Thor might be remembered by a few, but you can bet your bottom dollar that this Spider Man will be quickly forgotten. Thankfully I was able to pick up this month’s issue of The Flash this week to wash the awful taste out of my mouth.