Tuesday, November 30, 2010

90: Tales to Astonish #49

Tales to Astonish #49
August 1, 1963

  • Here comes the birth of Giant-Man! And as shocking as it may have been to the regular readers of the time, in hindsight it comes as no surprise. After all, when the tiny superhero first came on the scene I noted how oddly he fit in, amongst thunder gods and hulking monsters of might. Next to such larger-than-life characters, could a man who simply shrinks down to a few inches hold his own? Sadly, the lackluster stories that Pym has been mostly saddled with since his inception would indicate not, and having the character join a super-team - alongside that selfsame thunder god and monster - must have driven that point home. (Stan might also have wondered if it was really all that necessary to have two members of a five-person team be able to do little more than become very very small.)

    This is from the first panel of Giant-Man's debut.  Smashing entrance, eh?

  • As with Journey into Mystery #97, which came out the same week, such changes are heralded in true style - with the return of the team of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby! Jack hasn't been seen on the strip since issue #40, after which he was supplanted by Don Heck (a jarring change at first, but one I quickly took a shine to). Kirby's just on board for the next few issues, but hopefully that will have been enough to work his magic. By contrast, Stan Lee is now providing plot and script here, for the first time ever - just like on Thor - and it will stay that way through almost the entirety of Giant-Man's run.

    I'd wonder if he always had such markings on his wall ... but c'mon.
    This is Hank Pym. 
    Of course he did!

  • The villain for the story is The Living Eraser, and you have to admire the simplicity of design: from the cover alone, it's abundantly clear not only what he does, but how he does it. And a callback to our old friend Paste-Pot Pete is in order! As with that wonderfully ridiculous villain, even a cursory examination reveals that this is a character who came about simply because of an ordinary function that's used in the creation of comics, and thus would have been in front of the artist every day. The most common question any writer or storyteller gets asked is invariably "Where do you get your ideas?" Sometimes the answer is just staring you in the face!

    That's the last time this hot dog vendor sells his wares in a random field!
    (Seriously.  I'm not making this up.)

  • Despite being essentially just another "alien invaders from another dimension" story - one is reminded of the aliens Pym fought in that first Don Heck tale, or the denizens of the Fifth Dimension tackled by the Torch - it's surprisingly enjoyable! Partly this is due to the greater space Lee & Kirby have to work with, as the story has been allotted 18 pages instead of the normal 13 (much like the last time there was a major change to the comic), and partly due to no more than the talents of Stan & Jack keeping the story unusually fresh and exciting. There's definitely a sense of renewed life and vigor in the concept; now we'll see how long that can last....

    Reading between the lines, I think we can pinpoint the inferiority complex
    that led to this latest of developments....