Tales to Astonish 35

Tales to astonish 35

Our latest retrospective takes us to the first appearance of the Ant-Man, Henry Pym. Pym actually made his first appearance in Tales to Astonish 27, where he is called “The Man in the Ant Hill“.

Synopsis

The issue opens with a brief recap of the above mentioned issue. In a nutshell, Henry Pym, a scientist, has invented two serums. One that can shrink objects, and the other that can enlarge objects. When Henry first used the serum, it proved more powerful than he expected, and he was shrunk to the size of an ant, and barely escaped.

We since find out that Pym has hidden the potions in a safe to keep them safe, until the world is ready for them. Since the first experiment, we also learn that Pym has taken an interests in ants more generally. His research led him to developing a helmet that would allow him to communicate with ants, as well as a protective costume.

On the same day, Pym is given a government assignment (to produce a gas that makes people to immune to radioactivity) and four assistants to help him. Some weeks later, in a communist country far away from America, we see an army general report that the anti-radiation formula is nearly complete. Orders are then given to agents in America to obtain the formula.

They storm Pym’s lab and take the assistants hostage. Pym is found at the back, and he informs the assailants that he will not provide the formula, and that his assistants each only know a part of the formula. They decide to search the lab for themselves. Pym fears he cannot escape as he notices a guard outside. But he then remembers his shrinking formula. He dons his costume and helmet, and then shrinks down to the size of an ant. He then propels himself, using a rubber band, out of the window and heads for a nearby ant hill.

Pym enters the ant hill and then notices he can feel strange vibrations. He realises this is the way the ants communicate with each other. The ants notice him and start to close in. Pym turns on his helmet and sends out a countermand communication, which as the effect of calling off the ants…except one. The ant attacks Pym, but he is able to lift the ant and hurl it away. To Pym’s astonishment, he still appears to have the strength of a grown man.

The large ant resumes its attack and manages to bite Pym, but his costume protect him. He incapacitates the ant and then commands the rest of the ants to turn away. It works, but on leaving the ant hill, Pym notices a huge beetle. He digs a hole and lures the beetle in before burying it.

With the ant army now following his commands, Pym makes his way back to the lab. The foreign agents are still there and the assistants tied up. Pym and the ant army enter the lab and he sets about untying his assistants, although they cannot see or hear him.

Once the assistants are freed, Pym commands the ants to attack the agents. He also instructs them to plug-up the agents guns with honey, making them useless. With the assistants free and the agents preoccupied with the ants, the assistants decide to strike back. Pym sees this as his opportunity to leave and then finds his growing serum, allowing him to return to full size.

Comment

This issue is a nice,fun introduction to the Ant-Man. We see the first use of Ant-Man’s communication powers, as well as his super-strength.  And we also get some communist baddies thrown in for good measure! The use of honey is a curiosity however, perhaps Bee-Man didn’t work so well.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – September 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Tales to Astonish 35 on eBay is £7,618.

Coming next

Star Wars 3

Fantastic Four 6

Strange Tales 101

Journey into Mystery 85

ComicRetrospective 2016

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Star Wars 2

star wars 2

It’s time to revisit that galaxy far, far away. We take another detour from superheroes to look at issue 2 of the 1977 Star Wars series by Marvel. We last left Luke, C-3PO and R2-D2 in the deserts of Tatooine, about to be attacked by the Sandpeople. The next installment is called “Six against the Galaxy”.

Synopsis

The issue opens with the sandpeople triumphant over a fallen Luke Skywalker. But their celebrations are cut short, when a figure approaches them. The sandpeople flee as if they have seen a monster, but R2 knows better. The figure is an elderly man, and none other than Ben Kenobi.

Ben asks Luke what brings him out so far into the desert, and Luke explains that R2 claims to be the property of “Obi-Wan Kenobi“. Ben responds by saying, “Obi-Wan?! Now that is a name I haven’t heard in a long while“. Luke adds that his uncle thinks Obi-Wan may be dead. Ben responds that this cannot be, as he is Obi-Wan! Nut he cannot ever remember owning R2. It’s only then that Luke remembers that 3PO had also accompanies him.

Luke soons finds a “dented and tangled” 3PO nearby, with one arm broken off. 3PO cannot recall what happened, but Ben cuts him off when he hears movement. It’s time for them to move.

They make their way back to Ben’s “homely hovel“, and R2 plays the full message for Ben. Luke finds the woman “terrific” and also notices that she refers to Ben as “General“. Ben then explains that he fought in the Clone Wars and was a Jedi Knight, just like Luke’s father. Ben sees from Luke’s surprise at this that Luke’s uncle has never told him the full truth about his father.

Ben then remembers that he has something for Luke, from his father. It is his lightsabre, the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Luke asks how hos father dies, and Ben explains that “he was betrayed and murdered bu a young Jedi named Darth Vader“.

Ben further explains to Luke about the power of the “force” and how it was this power that Darth Vader used to kill his father, and hunt down all the remaining Jedi. Ben tells Luke that he must learn the ways of the force, and he will teach him, if Luke accompanies him to Alderaan. Luke quickly replies that he cannot go to Alderaan, but Ben says that “he is getting too old for this sort of thing“. Luke says that he will take Ben as far as Anchorhead.

In a brief interlude, we see Darth Vader enter the cell of the woman he captured, and asks her to tell him “the location of the hidden rebel base“. The cell door then closes and we her the woman scream.

Back on Tatooine, Luke is taking Ben to the Anchorhead in his land-speeder. On the way they spot the sandcrawler of the jawas, who sold the droids to Luke’s uncle. Or what’s left of the sandcrawler as smoke billows out of it. All the Jawas have been killed, and Luke thinks it is the work of the sandpeople, although he has never know them to hit anything so big before.

Ben explains to Luke that the sandpeople didn’t attack the Jawas, but we are supposed to think they did. Ben points to scorch marks and comments that only Imperial Stormtroopers are this precise. Luke then realises that the Stortroopers were looking for the droids, and if they managed to track them to here, their next stop will be … “home!“.

Luke rushes off in his land-speeder, leaving Ben and the droids behind. He soon spots black smoke rising from his home and shouts out “Aunt Beru…Uncle Ben“. Quick note here, this is what is said in the comic, but it should of course read “Uncle Owen“. He gets no response and then he sees, laying on the ground, “two smouldering piles which once had been human beings…“.

Back aboard the spaceship, we see Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin standing side by side in discussion. It is explained that Tarkin is the “regional governor of this portion of space“. It is explained to the two men that “all systems are operational” and that they now need to decide on a course. Vader explains that he has yet to extract the whereabouts of the rebel base from the prisoner. Tarkin suggests that “Princess Leia” may be susceptible to another form of persuasion, and suggests they set course for Alderaan.

On Tatooine, Luke returns to Ben and the droids. Ben expresses his grief but also explains that the force is with him, as if he had been with his uncle and aunt, he would also be dead and the droids would now be in the hands of the Empire. Luke replies by saying he wants to go with Ben to Alderaan. There is nothing left for him on Tatooine and he wants Ben to teach him the ways of the force to become a Jedi, like his father.

They continue on Luke’s land-speeder to the Mos-Eisley Spaceport. Ben explains to Luke that he will “not find a more wretched hive of villainy!“. Some stormtroopers approach them and begin to question them about their droid passengers. But Ben responds in a “strangely controlled voice” that Luke doesn’t need to show his registration, he can go on about his business and that “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for“.  After each itterance, the stormtroopers repeat Ben’s exact words, as if in a trance. Ben then explains to Luke that the force is a powerful ally.

They enter a cantina and Luke queries the chances of them finding a pilot who can take them to Alderaan in there.  Ben explains that many good pilots frequent the cantina, but it can get rough. It doesn’t take long for Luke to find out for himself. Two patrons, a tall alien and a human want to pick a fight with Luke. Ben intervenes, but they push Luke over. Ben instantly turns on his lightsabre and sends the pair scrambling into different sections of the cantina floor.

Ben switches off his lightsabre and appears to relax again, Ben then introduces Luke to a tall hairy looking creature called Chewbacca, a Wookie.Luke has heard abaout Wookies but never seen one before. Ben then explains that Chewbacca is first mate on a ship that might suit their needs. The droids have been left outside the cantina and they notice a patron come out and talk to two stormtroopers. This causes 3PO to say “I don’t like the looks of this Artoo“.

Back inside, Chewbacca leads Ben and Luke to a secluded corner where a man is sitting at the table. He says, “you’re pretty handy with the sabre, old man. I’m Han Solo, captain of the Millenium Falcon“. Ben asks the man if the ship is fast. Han responds incredulously, “fast ship? You mean you’ve never heard of the Millenium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 Par-Secs!“. Han asks what the cargo will be, and Ben explains it is just himself, Luke, two droids and no questions. Han asks if they are in any trouble, and Ben explains that they want to avoid any Imperial Troopers. Han says it will cost 10,000 in advance.

Luke balks at the cost, and says they could buy their own ship for that much. Han sardonically asks who would fly it? Luke responds that he could. Ben cools Luke down and says he can pay 2,000 now and 15,000 on reaching Alderaan. They agree and Han tells them to meet him in docking bay 94. At that point the two stormtroopers from outside come into the cantina and ask the bar man something. He responds by pointing to the corner table, but there are only two people there, Chewbacca and Han Solo.

Outside, Ben tells Luke that he will have to sell his land-speeder. Luke is fine with his as he doesn think he will ever come back to this planet anyway. Back inside, the stormtroopers have moved on and Han is just about to get up from the table when he hears someone address him. “Going somewhere Solo?” Han sits back down and responds by saying he was going to visit the green alien’s boss, Jabba. The alien is not impressed, having clearly heard this before. The alien asks for the money now and Han explains he doesn’t have it with him. The alien responds by saying Jabba will take his ship instead. “Over my dead body“, responds Han and the alien draws his blaster. Nonplussed, Han shoots the alien and casually walks out of the cantina, tossing the bar man a coin on the way.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ben have raised enough funds form the sale of the land-speeder and make their way to the docking bay. But they are being followed by the same alien that spoke to the stormtroopers outside the cantina. At the docking bay, Han has some visitors, three aliens. Han speaks to Jabba, saying he has been waiting for him. Jabba responds (in Basic) that he is disappointed that Han hasn’t paid him, and questions why he had to “fry poor Greedo“, referring to to the green alien back at the cantina. Han tells Jabba he should have come to see him himself.

jabba1-620x922

Jabba is upset that Han dumped a shipment that was due to him. Han explains that he has a new charter, and will pay Jabba back, but he just needs more time. Jaba instructs his men to put their blasters down and address Han again, “Han, my boy. I’m only doing this because you’re the best, and I need you. But if you disappoint me again, I’ll put a price on your head so large…that you won’t be able to go near a civilized system again for the rest of your life“. Han assures Jabba that he will pay him.

Back on the Death Star, an officer informs Vader that they have started to search the space port and it is only a matter of time before the droids are found. Vader tells him to send in more troops, as finding the droids is the key to unlocking the location of the rebel base from their prisoner. At the moment, Vader’s instructions are already being carried out, and stormtroopers begin to advance on the Millenium Falcon. They open fire, and Han rushes his approaching passengers inside, whist firing back. He then runs inside and instructs “Chewie” to get them out of there. They manage to take off from the space port, but once in orbit around Tatooine, they are surrounded by three Starsdestroyers. The ships begin to fire on the Falcon, and Han tells his passengers to strap in and stay sharp as they are about to make the jump to lightspeed. The ship rocks violently, sending the passengers flying, but they have managed to escape the stardestroyers. For now…

Comment

So, that’s quite a long blog! But there are so many classic lines in this issue. We also get the introduction of Ben Kenobi, Han Solo and Chewbacca, as well as the first references to Princess Leia (despite having seen her in issue 1), the force and lightsabres. Not only that, but there is also the extra scene with Jabba. Now as you can tell from the image above, he looks a bit different to the Jabba we know and love. For those of you who have seen the special edition of Star Wars, you will know that this scene has been reinserted, but with (terrible) CGI for Jabba. Get ready for some space action in the next issue.

Details

Writer – Roy Thomas

Artist – Howard Chaykin

Cover date – August 1977

Financials

Cover Price – 30c

At the time of writing, the most expensive listing for this issue on eBay is a seemingly bargain price of £26.90.

Coming next

Fantastic Four 6

The Incredible Hulk 3

Journey into Mystery 84

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

A look back at the very early days of Marvel Comics

Welcome to ComicRetrospective.  On this blog, we will be looking at the very early days of Marvel Comics, starting with Fantastic Four number 1, published in November 1961.  Each blog post will look back at the Marvel superhero comics from this era, in chronological order, focusing on the story, the characters, notable appearances and anything with may seem unusual from our vantage point 55 years later.  All these comics are available on the great Marvel Unlimited service, so if you haven’t read them, you now have no excuse not to.

Depending on what digital archives become available, we may be able to add to this with independent and DC comics.  We would definitely like to!

We hope you enjoy the blogs.  Let us know what you think.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect