Friday, March 19, 2010

If You Blinked You Missed: The Astonishing Ant-Man

Hey, hey, hey, Groove-ophiles! Yesterday Ol' Groove was rapping about how bad Wonder Woman had it during the 1970s. Well, that's nothing compared to the hard knocks one Hank Pym has endured for, like, his entire existence! The incredible Dr. Pym (along with his better half, the Janet Van Dyne-Pym, aka the wondrous Wasp) enjoyed a decent run in Tales to Astonish back in the Silver Age as Ant-Man/Giant-Man--and even helped found the mighty Avengers. It was downhill (or down the ant-hill) from there. It's pretty well known that Hank and Jan left the Avengers for a while but shortly returned, with Hank changing his name (for reasons unknown) to Goliath. After a while, he was back to Ant-Man, then back and forth as Goliath/Ant-Man, until he temporarily lost his mind and became Yellowjacket. Even after regaining his mental faculties, he remained Yellowjacket for a couple of years--and then went back--again, who-knows-why?--to being Ant-Man. And that's where we'll stop for now. Marvel never was one for wasting a character, or even withholding second (or sometimes third, fourth, and fifth chances), and so it was that the Astonishing Ant-Man got his second shot at solo-stardom beginning with the fourth issue of Marvel Feature (April 1972). Written by Mike Friedrich with Kirby-inspired art by Herb Trimpe, "The Incredible Shrinking Doom!" really knocked Young Groove's socks off. How can you not love an inch-high super-hero and his dog (yes, his dog!) battling it out with drug-pushing gangsters and their mysterious boss--with a special guest-appearance with none other than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? Dig it, baby!

Happy Herb handled the art chores for the first three issues, and then an up-and-coming superstar-to-be P. Craig Russell took over with Marvel Feature #7 (October 1972), finishing up the series, which actually came to a satisfying conclusion with issue #10 (April 1973). One year, one plot, one writer, nicely wrapped up with no dangling plot-lines. Hey, did Friedrich create Marvel's first mini-series? Anyway, after his Marvel Feature stint, Hank soon went back to being Yellowjacket, palled around with the Defenders some, joined/quit/joined/quit...(you get the idea) the Avengers for the rest of the decade, slowly becoming the very unheroic, wife-slapping, paranoid/schizophrenic we've been enduring ever since. To Ol' Groove, the Hank Pym we read about in Marvel Feature is the best he's ever been portrayed. He was likable. He was level-headed. He was a hero.


  1. One of my very favorite comic runs of all. I second everything you say here -- about the character and this comic -- and I never realized this could very probably be Marvel's first miniseries.

    One further note: the second issue of this story introduces a particularly great supporting character in the form of Egghead's niece Trixie. While that issue is her only appearance in the pages of Marvel Feature, she returns just a few years later in The Defenders courtesy of Steve Gerber, who takes her in an unexpected new direction or two.

  2. Poor Hank. The only way to make sense of his development is to see him as a man of terribly low self-esteem and perhaps aspergers who suffered long-term brain damage during the accident that led to his first time as Yellowjacket. Which means that everything afterwards has been him struggling with terrible disadvantages just to remain stable as best he can. But to so many writers, he's just been a convenient whipping boy. I dread to think what will be done to him next after a (brief) recent upturn in his fortunes.

  3. Hey Groovyone!
    I didn't blink! I jumped up & down! I always loved Ant-Man & bought every issue off my corner store's wall rack. I was very lucky to interview & get to know Herb Trimpe. This was his favorite book to work on, especially since his brother inked him one issue.

    I hated how Marvel destroyed a great character. I've been over on the Marvel boards recently & the fans today just hate him & even the wasp now. I guess they've turned wasp into the MU bimbo right next to the She-Hulk & Tigera. Two more characters I always loved.

    Instead of writting great stories with interesting characters. Today it's like tabloit garbage. This was Ant-Man at his best! I wish Marvel had just given him & the Beast as well their own solo titles from the start. My interview about the Hulk, Ant-Man etc with Herb. was published in Back Issue#27 for anyone who is interested. Let's Get Small! Mike AKA Hugo

  4. Only ever seen this reprinted in the Brit Hulk Weekly. Wondered where it had come from - nice art.


  5. Great write up! your very knowledgeable..not many people know much about this comic book. i never read it but i know a lot about teh whole Marvel Features comics!

  6. ps. How cool is it that ant-man got the green light to be filmed.....and that he will be added to the avengers movie 2 or 3..



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