Wednesday, March 10, 2010

37: Tales to Astonish #41

Tales to Astonish #41
December 3, 1962

  • Oh, Heck! Don Heck, that is. After pencilling every Ant-Man story to date, this month Jack Kirby is nowhere to be found. Instead, Marvel artist Don Heck begins a run on the title that will last for the next eight issues. Heck, who had been around for a few years illustrating various monster, western, and romance tales, was the co-creator of another stalwart Marvel hero - who would premiere on the stands the week after this one. But - Heck's estimable talents aside - after reading seven issues of Ant-Man tales drawn by Kirby, it's impossible not to feel a bit let down. Instead of the power and sense of grotesque that Jack's figures would often imply, Heck's lines have an rougher, jagged look to them - which unfortunately suggests a rushed, unfinished quality of work. (And who knows? Given the artist change, and what little we know of the time, may have been entirely true.) Again, there aren't too many artists that wouldn't leave us feeling a bit let down after taking over from Jack Kirby, and that's not a slight against those artists as much as awe at what Kirby could do.

  • This is certainly the most sci-fi Ant-Man story to date. Scientists, including Hank Pym, are being kidnapped from our world into an alien dimension to serve the monstrous tyrant Kulla. The scientists are being compelled to construct "an electro-death ray" with which Kulla can then resist the native populace who have risen against him. One has to wonder why the despot was forced to snatch scientists from our world, however, as the men are kidnapped by use of first a paralyzing chemical, and then strange helmets which transport both kidnapper and victim across the dimensional veil. If Kulla had the means to invent or obtain such devices, why couldn't he similarly achieve his death weapon? What made humans necessary to invent it?

  • In Ant-Man's first superhero tale, Pym told us that ants communicate through their antennae via electronic wavelengths, and that he was able to speak with them because his cybernetic helmet was tuned to the correct frequency - as if the insect world is just one big transistor radio. Plausibility thus demands a "fuzzy reading" of this blatantly ridiculous concept, where we simply pretend Hank never attempted to explain to us how his helmet works. (Which is fine; such an approach is often necessary with these Silver Age comics.) But there's no getting around it this time, for when Ant-Man is menaced by a group of monstrous, alien insects, he finds that he can't command them as he would his ants ... because they're receiving on a different frequency. Fortunately, after a bit of a scuffle, he's able to "tune in" and thus compel them to do his bidding....

    When in doubt, hitch a ride in an alien's shoe.