Tales to Astonish #27
November 11, 2013
The brave story of a man who had stuff spilled on him!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Today, we continue Secret Origins Month and–
(He is interrupted by the "Secret Origins Month" title. He pushes it out of the way before it finishes)
Linkara: Yeah, actually, that logo is getting kind of old, too. Can we, uh, replace that with something new?
(A new "Secret Origins Month" title is shown, with clips of more recent superhero movies mixed in)
Linkara: There we go. Anyway, we continue Secret Origins Month with Hank Pym, otherwise known as "that guy who ate too much pudding in 'Ultimates 3'".
(A montage of shots of Hank Pym, AKA Ant-Man, is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Why him and not some other recognizable hero or team? Well, primarily because I'm planning on reviewing "Avengers #1" at some point, and he's one of the founding members of the team. Many people have wondered we're only looking at his origin here and not his first appearance as Ant-Man.
Linkara: Because it's still his first appearance regardless, and because it's Hank friggin' Pym! The dude has had no less than (holds up four fingers) four different superhero identities. Does anyone even refer to him as a superhero identity anymore? Dude's just Hank Pym.
Linkara (v/o): Hank Pym was created as just some guy who appeared in a story and the anthology series, "Tales to Astonish". There wasn't anything in particular about his creation that was special. He could have been named Joe Joey Joe, and it wouldn't have made a difference. He was kept around, unlike, say, that robot who could exchange heads from "Strange Adventures", because the issue he was in sold very well, and Stan Lee decided it'd be fun to make him into a superhero, thus creating Ant-Man. That being said, the story was scripted by his brother, Larry Lieber, and drawn of course by the ever-incredible Jack Kirby.
Linkara: And yet, no cavemen or purple space octopi are present here. Go figure.
Linkara (v/o): And that's... pretty much everything of note here. I would love to say that there was something more interesting about the creation, but it honestly was just a sci-fi tale about a dude who shrank that they decided to do some more with.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Tales to Astonish #27" and see if there was something about Hank Pym that would make people want to see him become a superhero.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has the "Avengers" theme by Alan Silvestri playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is pretty eye-catching: Hank Pym getting dragged down into an ant's– erm, praying mantis hole. At least, I have to assume they're crickets or mantises or something, since I don't think common ants are green, nor are their legs quite that thick. Eyes are a bit too beady, too. And green. I guess these ants took a dive in some paint or something before they returned to their colony.
Pym: Save me, somebody, save me!! Don't let them drag me there! Not (gasp) into the ant hill!!
Linkara: (as Pym) They're alien ants! Look how green they are! It's an alien ant farm! (gasps) They're gonna play a crappy cover of "Smooth Criminal"!
Pym: (narrating) Let me tell you, while I still can, how it happened... for I was "THE MAN IN THE ANT HILL!"
Linkara: (as Pym) They're all female ants, and I have to undergo the sitcom situation of taking them all out on dates at the same time! Two hundred thousand dates at once!
Linkara (v/o): We open with the rather gripping image of Hank Pym running away from the ants inside of an anthill. Shockingly enough, there isn't any melodramatic text, no credits, no narration explaining what the hell is going on or trying to tell us that this is amazing. It just lets the image speak for itself. That's... really weird for a comic story in that time period. Kudos. We truly open with some narration and a scientist who fell into a bucket of red paint.
Linkara: Green ants, red scientists... Colorists for this comic apparently hated "paint-by-numbers" books and just stuck with one color.
Narrator: Living nightmares can begin in many ways! Henry Pym's began with a cry of triumph!
Linkara: (as Pym, raising his fist triumphantly) I finished my taxes early this year!
Pym: It works! I've done it!
Linkara: (as Pym) I've combined peanut butter and chocolate in a way that will make me (holds up fist) rich! RICH!
Pym: I've reduced the chair to doll size!
Linkara: (as Pym) Now I don't have to buy a dollhouse for my daughter's birthday! I can just shrink normal furniture!
Pym: Now I only have to apply a few drops of my growth potion...
Linkara: (as Pym) ...and the upholstery is ruined!
Pym: ...and the chair returns again to its normal size!
Linkara: "Honey, I Shrunk the Chair" wasn't really as impressive a movie as they were hoping for.
Pym: This is the greatest triumph I have ever known!
Linkara: Eat it, natural male enhancement!
Narrator: And, while the chair enlarges, Henry Pym's thoughts go back... back to a science convention several months ago...
Linkara: Science conventions are the best! You've got people cosplaying as Tesla or Niels Bohr, Bill Nye does live performances, and the Mythbusters team does Cards Against Humanity!
Scientist 1: Bah! You're always wasting our time with your ridiculous theories! But they never work!
Scientist 2: You should stick to practical projects!
Linkara: (as this scientist) Like me! I'm trying to invent some cyborg armor for animals so they can become some kind of... brute force!
Pym: No! I'll only work on things that appeal to my imagination...
Linkara: (as Pym) Like that sex robot I've been devising for the last ten years. My imagination can't stop thinking about that one!
Linkara (v/o): He tells them his latest invention is going to show them all that he's a much greater scientist than any of them.
Narrator: And so, Henry Pym spent months alone in his laboratory, working and planning...
Linkara: (narrator voice) And probably doing other things with those formulas that you really don't want to know about.
Pym: Soon I'll have my serum perfected!
Linkara: The thing already shrinks objects down to remarkably tiny sizes. How much more perfect do you really need it to be?
Pym: Anything could reduced in size and shipped for a fraction of the cost!
Linkara: (as Pym) Thus damaging the shipping industry beyond repair!
Pym: (narrating) An entire army could be transported in one airplane...
Linkara: (as Pym) Thus allowing enemy forces to completely destroy an entire army by just shooting down (holds up index finger) one plane!
Linkara (v/o): Okay, yeah, it's an incredible achievement and I'm just making fun. I mean, he's got to be a phenomenally intelligent scientist to come up with something like this. So, what's the next step?
Pym: Now all that remains is to test them on a living object-- on myself!!
Linkara: I guess laboratory rats hadn't been invented in 1962.
Pym: First, I'll take a few drops of the reducing potion!
Linkara (v/o): (as Pym, putting some potion on his own arm, with a "magic" sound) Secondly, I'll–
(Suddenly, he turns into a puppet version of himself)
Linkara: (as Pym) Okay, I, uh... This really didn't shrink me in the way I thought it would.
Linkara (v/o): So he starts shrinking and then is shocked that it's shrinking him faster than he expected and that it's too fast, in fact. Well, what the hell was the plan, exactly? Hope that you'd shrink really slowly and nobody would notice until you were a foot tall? This is why test animals exist, dude! You know, in future Marvel comics, we've Hank Pym have serious issues with inadequacy... and this pretty much proves why: because he's kind of a moron!
Linkara: You know what would really help him? OfficeMax. Reed Richards has OfficeMax, and he never tries testing dangerous formulas on himself.
(Cut to Linkara putting on a blue coat; he looks to the camera with a startled look)
Linkara: Oh... You caught me in between costumes here... Uh, we'll be right back.
(He walks off as the AT4W logo appears, and we go to commercial; upon return, we see Linkara again taking off his blue coat and replacing it with a silver one)
Linkara: Uh... Qapla' or something. We're back. (the AT4W logo appears in the corner) I'm running out of costumes!
(We cut back to the comic again as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): Also, why the hell did his clothes shrink with him when he only put it on his skin?
Narrator: Frantically, Henry Pym races around the room, as fear grips his heart! Finally, before he knows it, he has stumbled thru [sic] the open door...
Linkara: How exactly do you (makes "air quotes") "stumble through the open door" when you're not even four inches tall?
Pym: How will I ever get back to normal?!! I left the antidote on the window ledge! I could never reach it now!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, (scoffs) yeah, because climbing back up to get to the formula would be impossible! Best to just run out and live out your days as a lost action figure or something. And since Pym is loudly... well, as loudly as he can, with him being tiny and all... proclaiming his woes, a group of ants senses the vibrations from him and come scurrying out of their anthill. They start surrounding Pym and he further demonstrates his vast intellect with this brilliant plan...
Pym: The ant hill! Maybe I can hide in there! It's my only chance!!
Linkara: Of course! Go towards the place that all the ants are coming from! They won't see it coming!
(Cut to a clip of Patton)
Patton (George C. Scott): (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And so he crawls into the ant tunnels, somehow able to figure out where he's going, despite the lack of light in such a place, and falls into a pit of honey. He gets stuck in the honey, but an ant comes towards him and very nicely pulls him free of it.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Look Around You)
Narrator: Thanks, ants. Thants.
(Back to the comic again)
Pym: He did it! He freed me! And now he's letting me go! He doesn't want to harm me!
Linkara: So... does that mean that Hank Pym is the Beastmaster?
Linkara (v/o): The remaining ants launch an attack, and he suddenly spots a matchstick standing up in the honey.
Pym: A matchstick! They must have brought it here when they built this ant hill!
Linkara: Ah, yes, no doubt to light the queen's birthday cake. (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): He manages to grab a small pebble and toss it at the matchstick, which, instead of just knocking it over, manages to strike it in the right way to light it up. This somehow lights the entire tunnel ablaze, though beats the hell out of me how. Maybe there's actually a lot of methane in the ant colonies. Go figure.
Pym: The fire will keep the ants at bay--long enough for me to use this makeshift lasso!
Linkara: (as Pym) It's a good thing I also used the serum on this lasso, which I have now pulled right out of my ass!
Linkara (v/o): He climbs up the tunnels and finds another ant waiting for him. It grabs him in its rather furry mandibles.
Pym: Uhhh--strong--too strong for me! But I have one advantage! A human brain...
Linkara: (as Pym) A human brain that is making me talk while I get scissored in half!
Pym: A human brain... which has learned the art of judo!
Linkara: So, this is a story where a shrunken scientist used judo to throw an ant off a cliff. Dear Lord, I love comic books!
Linkara (v/o): He crawls out of the anthill and spots the enlarging serum just kind of hanging out of his window, but he can't climb the wall to reach it. The ants are upon him again, but Hank is able to recognize one of the ants as the one who saved him earlier. I'm not exactly sure how the hell he recognizes it any differently than the other ants, but whatever.
Pym: If I point to the window ledge, perhaps he'll sense my meaning!
Linkara: (as ant) Yes, human, I understand! You wish to mate with me on that window ledge!
Linkara (v/o): And yep, the ant understands and lets Hank crawl on its back, letting him go up to the side of the wall and onto the ledge, where a test tube sits with the growth formula. He splashes it on himself and he starts growing, presumably shattering the test tube in the process.
Pym: I-I'm growing!! I'm getting bigger and bigger!!
Linkara: Insert your own jokes here about penises. I know you all want to.
Pym: I'm normal again!! I'm a man again!
Linkara: (looking to his left) I AM A MAN!!
(As usual, he reaches out and punches offscreen)
Dr. Linksano: (offscreen) OW! Who punched me in the face?!
Linkara: (calling out) It was 90s Kid!
Pym: And now the first thing I must do is destroy these growth potions!! They're far too dangerous to ever be used by any human again!
Linkara: Dangerous? They're only dangerous when idiots like you splash them on yourselves!
Linkara (v/o): And why aren't the serums affecting the sink? It made the chair shrink just fine, so why not the sink? The next time that the scientists meet, Hank Pym tells them the experiment's failed.
Pym: They were just a foolish waste of time! From now on I'll stick to practical projects!
Linkara: (as Pym) Projects like that rocket-powered hamster or the salt shaker that's also an MP3 player.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Hank Pym staring down at the anthill.
Narrator: Never again did Henry Pym knowingly step on an ant hill! For he knew that somewhere beneath him, unknown and unrecognized, was one little insect-- one small ant to whom he owed his very life!
Linkara: How cool would it be to have a buddy-cop show where it's Hank Pym and an ant?
Linkara (v/o): So, what happened to make him a superhero? Well, in "Tales to Astonish #35", we saw what happened next. A few weeks later, he decided that the discovery should not fall into nothingness and made the serum again! Except, he stored it in a vault for safekeeping and thus kept it a secret, so it might as well have fallen into nothingness. Being a science major, Hank Pym studied ants thoroughly, figuring out how to tune in on their communication wavelengths to "talk" to them via a special helmet, while also, the superhero outfit is a protective suit from stings or bites. And then he invents a radiation-proof formula that Communists try to steal, he becomes Ant-Man, takes over the ant colony by beating up a stronger worker and a beetle, and then uses the ants to defeat the Commies. (beat) As you do.
Linkara: (holds up comic) This origin is... (shrugs) kinda nifty.
Linkara (v/o): Admittedly, Hank Pym is an utter idiot for not testing it on a rabbit or something first, but maybe it was an accident and the shrinking occurred much slower on inanimate objects, so he didn't realize he'd shrink so fast, too. Still, nice basic story about a scientist doing science stuff, though I'm still curious why the ants helped him.
Linkara: Overall, kind of fun, and his first actual superhero adventure is kind of a hoot. Check him out. Though, next time, we stay in the science-fiction realm as we are reintroduced to another DC hero... (grins)
(End credits roll)
For that matter, why doesn't the growth/shrinking formula affect glass?
Sooo apparently the later-titled "Pym Particles" come in liquid form as opposed to being a science ray or something. You'd think the first idea would be to actually synthesize it further for use in various fields instead of just shoving it in a cabinet for superhero use.
But no, it's too dangerous to use. Stupid people might use it or something, much like how they'd already use things they shouldn't use.
(Stinger: A panel showing Hank Pym's helmet is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I love how in old comics like this, they actually bother to give us a diagram of how Hank Pym's helmet was designed, as if you really needed one as if you really needed one after the dude BENCH-PRESSES AN ANT!!