OMU: Ant-Man -- Year One

While Marvel introduced their new superhero Ant-Man the same day that Spider-Man and Thor also burst on the scene, the character of Henry Pym had actually been introduced eight months earlier in a one-off sci-fi/monster story, the like of which was the company’s bread-and-butter at that time. Tales to Astonish #27, with its lead feature “The Man in the Ant-Hill,” hit the stands the same day as Fantastic Four #2, which makes Pym technically the second Marvel Universe property to appear, even pre-dating the introduction of the Hulk by several months. However, he was not intended as a continuing character at that time, and was no different from dozens of other hapless scientists in Marvel’s monster comics who experienced something terrifying, learned an important lesson, and were never seen again. It was only later, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were launching their interconnected superhero universe, that they decided to revisit the character and turn him into a hero called Ant-Man.

The concept was considerably less daring and innovative than the rest of the Marvel heroes, inspired no doubt by the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man and DC Comics’ own shrinking superhero, the Atom, who debuted about three months before Henry Pym did. Also Pym lacked the distinctive personality and rough edges that made Marvel’s other characters so compelling. Even the introduction of a female partner, the Wasp, and the concomitant attempt to inject the sort of flirty banter popularized by the Thin Man film series, did little to revitalize the property. Converting the lilliputian Ant-Man into the brobdingnagian Giant-Man a year later was a clear sign that this was a series in search of its identity. If not for his role in the team book The Avengers, it seems likely that Henry Pym would have soon faded into obscurity. Instead, he developed into a hard-luck hero who hung in there through highs and lows unmatched by any other major Marvel character.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.

Let’s go under the microscope with… The True History of Ant-Man!

1960 – Henry Pym is finishing a three-year post-doc in biochemistry at Columbia University in New York. As a young man, Henry had always demonstrated a great talent for science, and ultimately chose to major in biochemistry at college with a minor in cybernetics, though his other interests included mechanical engineering, artificial intelligence, and robotics. A gifted student, Henry pursued an accelerated course of study and earned his doctorate while most of his peers were still undergraduates. At a faculty mixer, Henry meets the brilliant geneticist Pavel Trovay, and is instantly smitten with the professor’s daughter, Maria Trovaya. Henry is impressed to learn how they had escaped from Hungary during the failed revolution in 1956, after being arrested several times as political dissidents. Furthermore, he finds Maria to be intelligent, witty, and beautiful. She, in turn, is quite taken with the handsome and dedicated researcher, and they quickly fall in love.

Within a few months, Henry Pym and Maria Trovaya are married. Maria convinces her husband to take their honeymoon in her native Hungary, believing her new identity as “Mrs. Pym” will shield her from the secret police. Despite his reservations, Henry chooses not to disappoint his new bride and agrees to the plan. Upon arrival in Budapest, though, Maria is kidnapped at gunpoint by KGB agents. Henry is pistol-whipped and staggers to the American embassy to report the crime. An hour later, the ambassador receives word that Maria’s body has been found. She has been shot in the back of the head as an example to any who would seek to escape Hungary’s Soviet regime. Furthermore, a message from America reports that Professor Trovay has also been killed, in an explosion in his laboratory caused by sabotage. Henry goes out of his mind with rage and swears vengeance. Within a few days of his rampage, Henry finds himself in jail on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. The State Department manages to negotiate his release, and Henry is sent home, where he sinks into a profound depression.

Eventually, Henry works through his depression to return to his laboratory, though he is now more hard-driven and his research more radical than ever before. His new theories are ridiculed by his peers as project after project ends in failure. Ostracized by the scientific community, Henry sets up a laboratory at his own house in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, overlooking the Palisades.

1961 – Henry stumbles upon a subatomic particle with strange properties and educates himself in particle physics while continuing his experiments. He becomes obsessed with the idea that this particle could cause objects to change their physical size, and soon develops a liquid potion in which these particles are suspended. Then, after several successful preliminary experiments, Henry decides to test the size-changing potion on himself. However, the serum is more potent than he expected, and he finds himself rapidly shrinking to the size of an ant.

In a blind panic, Henry runs under the door of his house and falls off the step, landing on the front walk. He runs into the grass, where he sees a swarm of ants leaving their ant hill and heading toward him. In a desperate gamble, Henry tries to hide in the tunnels of the ant hill, only to become trapped in a store of honey. Strangely, one of the ants helps him out of the sticky trap. As the rest of the ants move in for the kill, Henry finds a matchstick and manages to light it. Using it as a torch, he fights his way back to the surface, but is soon backed up to the wall of his house with the ants closing in. Then, the friendly ant appears again and carries Henry up the wall to an open window. Inside, Henry reaches the antidote he had prepared and returns to normal size. Traumatized by his frightening experience, Henry destroys his potions and vows to pursue more practical inquiries.

A few weeks later, however, Henry thinks better of it and reformulates his two potions, keeping them locked in his wall safe. He also becomes obsessed with ants following his strange ordeal, and trains himself in the science of myrmecology.

January 1962 – After two months of studying the means by which ants communicate with each other, Henry Pym devises a cybernetic system he believes will allow him to tune in to the ants’ frequency. Preparing himself for another foray into the ant hill, Henry designs a protective outfit to wear, using a red jumpsuit and some blue rubber boots he had laying around.

February 1962 – Henry begins constructing a helmet containing his cybernetic communications system. With its two antennae and the mandible-like extensions on which the microphone is mounted, the silver helmet gives Henry an ant-like appearance when he puts it on. Henry finances his new project by accepting a government contract to work on developing a new anti-radiation gas. He is provided with four lab assistants for the project, but he conceals from them his work with ants. Later, Henry is incredulous when the new superhero team the Fantastic Four sets up its headquarters in nearby New York City and then saves the metropolis from the menace of the Sub-Mariner. The leader of the F.F., Reed Richards, is a scientist whom Henry holds in high regard.

March 1962 – Henry’s plans for another close encounter with the ants take a sudden turn when four Soviet spies burst into the lab and hold his assistants at gunpoint. They demand the formula for the anti-radiation gas, but Henry refuses. He then sequesters himself in his upstairs office while the spies ransack the laboratory. Infuriated that he is again being victimized by Communist agents, Henry dons his protective suit and cybernetic helmet, then splashes himself with the shrinking potion from the wall safe. He is immediately reduced to the size of an ant. Henry then escapes from the house and returns to the ant hill, where, through trial and error, he uses his helmet to recruit an army of ants. He leads them back to the laboratory, where the ants swarm over the spies, enabling Henry to free his assistants. They then subdue the hapless enemy agents while Henry slips back to his office to expose himself to the antidote liquid and change back into his normal clothes. When he returns to the lab, he finds his assistants have already called the FBI. Later, Henry begins to ponder the implications of what he has accomplished.

April 1962 – Realizing he now has the power to fight crime, tyranny, and injustice, Henry Pym decides to become a superhero called the Ant-Man as a way of honoring Maria’s memory. He refines his protective suit into a proper superhero costume and converts his size-changing serum into a gaseous form which he can carry in pressurized canisters on his belt. Furthermore, he builds a large computer to monitor and catalog the communications network of the millions of ants throughout the New York metropolitan area. The computer is based on a primitive artificial intelligence system he has been developing. Once he feels fully equipped, Ant-Man embarks on his crimefighting crusade. Within a few weeks, he has garnered an impressive reputation, as the public is fascinated by the diminutive hero and the authorities are grateful for his help.

May 1962 – Ant-Man’s reputation grows as he assists the Coast Guard in capturing the dangerous Soviet spy known only as Comrade X, revealing the espionage agent to be a woman disguised as a man. Next, he helps the police break a protection racket run by a masked man called the Protector, who has been victimizing the jewelry stores of Hackensack, New Jersey. With the help of the local ant population, Ant-Man tracks the Protector to his secret lair, overcomes the villain, and proves that his fearsome “disintegration ray” is a fake.

June 1962 – Ant-Man continues his war on organized crime, always frustrating the underworld’s attempts to eliminate him. His network of ants informs him of one such plot, hatched by the disgraced scientist Elihas Starr, better known by his nickname “Egghead.” Thus, Ant-Man is prepared for a trap when he goes to stop a jewel heist. The hero brawls with the gangsters until the police arrive to arrest them. However, Egghead manages to slip away and disappear into the night.

Shortly after, Ant-Man discovers a mutated scarlet beetle lurking in the sewers of Manhattan, which has gained human-level intelligence following exposure to radiation. Intending to conquer the world, the beetle traps the lone hero in a deep hole, then uses Henry’s enlarging gas to achieve gigantic proportions. It goes on a rampage in the city, causing extensive property damage, while its insect army attacks the human populace. Ant-Man escapes with the help of his loyal ants and lures the scarlet beetle into a toy store, where he manages to puncture his shrinking gas canister to reduce the beetle to its normal size. Back at his lab, Henry uses the anti-radiation gas he has been working on to undo the beetle’s mutations, thereby stripping it of its intellect. He then releases the creature back into the wild.

Unfortunately, Ant-Man’s victory over the scarlet beetle is not witnessed, and he is castigated in the media for failing to come to the rescue when the insects attacked. Following this public relations disaster, Henry accepts an offer from the publishers of the Fantastic Four comic book to do a series based on his exploits. He is soon informed that the first issue is due to hit the newsstands in September. Ant-Man then begins to rehabilitate his tarnished reputation when he helps nab the perpetrator of a series of payroll robberies at the Mitchell Armored Truck Co., unmasking the hijacker as the company’s owner, Howard Mitchell. Henry also redoubles his efforts against organized crime in New York and New Jersey, working closely with an FBI agent named Lee Kearns. Towards the end of the month, Ant-Man apprehends the traitorous research scientist Nathan Garrett before he can sell state secrets to the Red Chinese. However, Garrett makes bail and flees the country.

July 1962 – Henry is the latest victim of a plot to kidnap leading scientists, and finds himself transported to an alien dimension. His strange-looking captors are ruled by a vicious warlord named Kulla, who has forced the Earth scientists to construct a “death ray” weapon for him. Overcoming his initial amazement, Henry manages to change into Ant-Man, adjusting his cybernetic helmet to contact the indigenous insect population. With the help of the alien bugs, Ant-Man soon turns Kulla’s death ray against him and the warlord is disintegrated. With Kulla dead, the rebel faction storms the citadel and takes over. Assuming his civilian identity once more, Henry rejoins his fellow scientists to be returned to Earth by the grateful leaders of the new regime.

Feeling lonely, and finding he has no one to talk about his adventures with, Henry begins to consider the possibility of taking on a sidekick. He decides to look into ways to equip such a crimefighting partner should the opportunity arise. He finds a promising new avenue of research with wasps, and over the next few weeks he makes some interesting discoveries.

Public opinion is suddenly turned against Ant-Man by the hypnotic vocal powers of the unscrupulous orator Jason Cragg, and the hero soon finds himself a hunted fugitive. Cragg’s irresistible commands nearly cause Henry to drown himself in the Hudson River, but the ants come to his rescue of their own accord. Days later, as Cragg prepares to use a television broadcast to make Ant-Man a pariah to millions of viewers, Henry hatches a desperate plan. Confronting Cragg at the TV studio, Ant-Man bluffs him with a prop gun set up offstage and forces Cragg to publicly retract his previous statements. After Cragg has done so, Ant-Man then releases some microbes he has stolen from a nearby hospital to infect Cragg’s throat and ruin his voice. Bereft of his superhuman power, Cragg is then run out of town by an angry mob.

Soon after, Ant-Man tracks down a villain calling himself the Time Master, who is threatening to turn his “aging ray” against the people of New York. Henry discovers him to be a disgruntled scientist named Elias Weems, who seeks revenge on society after losing his job for being “too old.” Confronting Weems in his apartment, Ant-Man tries to talk him out of his mad plan, but Weems turns his ray on the hero, changing him into a frail, elderly man. Despite his enfeeblement, Henry trails Weems to City Hall where the ants wrest the device from the mad scientist after he turns it on the unsuspecting crowd. Ant-Man then instructs a bystander how to operate the device to return everyone to normal. Weems is placed under arrest, and Henry is left with a new appreciation for his youthfulness.

August 1962 – At a preliminary hearing, Ant-Man offers testimony on Elias Weems’s behalf, seeking leniency since Weems acted only out of outrage against his unjust firing and the fear of losing his grandson’s respect. In light of his fantastic invention, Weems is offered his old job back, and so the judge sentences him to probation only. Leaving the courthouse, Henry feels he has accomplished a greater good than just sending an old man to jail.

Henry receives a visit from eminent scientist Vernon Van Dyne, who has brought along his daughter Janet. Immediately, Henry is struck by the resemblance between Janet Van Dyne and his late wife, Maria. Dr. Van Dyne suggests collaborating on a project, but, seeing no correlation in their research areas, Henry declines. The Van Dynes take their leave, but Henry finds he can’t stop thinking about Janet, even though she seems very young to him. Later, he receives a phone call from a distraught Janet, saying her father has been killed. Henry initially dismisses it as a prank, but when his network of ants corroborates the story, he goes to investigate as Ant-Man.

In Van Dyne’s laboratory, Ant-Man deduces that Janet’s father must have inadvertently brought some alien menace to Earth with his experiments. Janet is determined to avenge her father’s death, and Ant-Man is impressed by her resolve, seeing the strength of character hidden beneath her debutante persona. Seizing his opportunity, he instructs her to report the crime to FBI agent Lee Kearns and then return to Henry Pym’s laboratory. She complies, and while racing back home, Ant-Man learns from the ants that the alien has left behind traces of formic acid. When Janet arrives at his lab, Henry questions her to see if she could be a suitable partner. Satisfied by her answers, he reveals that he is Ant-Man and offers to turn her into a superheroine called “the Wasp.” She immediately accepts the offer, and the procedure begins at once. Henry implants specialized wasp cells in her body to give her wings and antennae when she is exposed to his shrinking gas. He also provides her with a black-and-red costume with canisters containing his size-changing gasses. Regarding herself in the mirror, Janet declares The Wasp is ready for action.

Ant-Man and the Wasp then race to the George Washington Bridge, which is being menaced by the creature that killed Vernon Van Dyne, and find it to be a gigantic gelatinous monster. The Wasp recklessly attacks the alien, but Ant-Man saves her as the monster shrugs off the military’s most advanced weapons. Ant-Man hypothesizes that the creature is composed primarily of formic acid, and so they rush back to his laboratory to prepare a compound to neutralize the acid in the alien’s biochemistry. Replacing the gunpowder in a number of shotgun shells with the chemical he has prepared, Henry grabs his shotgun, and he and Janet catch up with the monster on Wall Street. As the gelatinous creature oozes by, Ant-Man opens fire on it, and the chemical succeeds in breaking down its body mass, killing it. After returning home, a triumphant Ant-Man calls Lee Kearns to report how he destroyed the monster, as well as announcing his new crimefighting partner, the Wasp. Janet is swept up by the excitement of it all and falls head-over-heels for Henry Pym. For his part, Henry is embarrassed by the emotions Janet stirs in him, and is also afraid to fall in love again and risk his heart being broken a second time.

In the days that follow, after Vernon Van Dyne’s funeral, the Wasp joins Ant-Man in his war against criminals. On one of their first cases together, the diminutive duo captures the international jewel thief Ramond Theis, recovering the Star of Ghana, one of the largest diamonds in the world. While returning the gem to its rightful owner, the crimefighters hear tales of the sorcerers of India, such as one who can hypnotize people with his magic flute, but they dismiss such stories of the occult. On their way home, Janet drags Henry to a jazz club to hear a trumpet-player called Trago. During a break in the set, however, Henry is almost relieved when they must don their costumes again to prevent Trago from stealing the manager’s cashbox. The manager agrees not to press charges if Trago will leave the country, and the luckless musician agrees to go. Satisfied, Ant-Man and the Wasp return home. A week later, Henry gets back at Janet by dragging her to a lecture on human/insect relations given by a zoologist named Carl Striker. It is a brilliant lecture, and even Janet enjoys it, though Striker seems unsettlingly familiar to Henry.

September 1962 – Henry gets frustrated when the signals from his network of ants keep getting scrambled, and as a result he fails to prevent a major jewel heist. The next day, while he works to correct the problem, Janet attends another lecture by Professor Striker, this one specifically about wasps. However, that night, Ant-Man must rescue his new partner from Striker, whom he learns is really his foe Egghead, out for revenge. Egghead sets an aardvark on them, but Ant-Man defeats the animal with his disproportionate strength. Meanwhile, the Wasp finds a pin and uses it to “sting” Egghead and his cronies. In the end, the jewel is recovered and the accomplices arrested, but Egghead again manages to evade capture. Henry later chastises Janet for going off to investigate on her own, though overall he is happy with her performance.

Soon after, Ant-Man is invited to meet the Fantastic Four at their headquarters in the Baxter Building. After introductions are made, Reed Richards explains that each member of his team has inexplicably shrunk to tiny size for a brief period over the last several days. Ant-Man offers them a bit of his size-changing solutions and then returns home. A few days later, though, Ant-Man returns to the FF’s headquarters after all attempts to contact them fail. Finding traces of shrinking fluid, Henry realizes they must have shrunk to the point where they crossed over into a “microverse” dimension. He follows them, and as soon as he has appeared on the alien world, he is set upon by armored guards and beaten into unconsciousness. When he comes to, he finds himself the bound prisoner of the FF’s greatest enemy, Doctor Doom. As he is about to be sold into slavery to a race of lizard men, Ant-Man is rescued by the Invisible Girl, and they launch a counterattack. Doom flees as the Fantastic Four subdue the villain’s forces and return the rightful rulers to the throne. Then the five heroes expose themselves to the enlarging gas and are quickly returned to the Baxter Building. Ant-Man heads home having earned the Fantastic Four’s respect.

After a quiet couple of weeks, Janet gets bored and restless, so Henry suggests they take a vacation together. She chooses Greece as their destination, and two days later they arrive in the Mediterranean. While trying to charter a pleasure boat, they learn of a giant monster that’s been terrorizing the region, and so they decide to investigate. Out among the islands, they find a fifty-foot Cyclops straight out of mythology, which they soon discover to be a robot. The Cyclops leads them to a detachment of aliens from the planet Alpha Chiltar III, who are conducting experiments on captured humans in advance of their invasion of Earth. While the Wasp frees the captives, Ant-Man gets inside the robot’s systems and turns it against the aliens. They flee to their ships and call off the invasion, believing earthmen to be too formidable. Ant-Man then directs the Cyclops to walk into the Aegean Sea until it is lost beneath the waves. Henry and Janet enjoy the rest of their vacation before returning to New Jersey.

Later, Ant-Man and the Wasp receive a radio message broadcast by the Teen Brigade asking for help finding the Hulk. Having heard of the green-skinned monster, they decide to check it out and make their way to the small town of Quemado, New Mexico. Once there, they find two other superheroes have also answered the call, Iron Man and Thor. The Wasp is instantly smitten with the so-called thunder god, but to her disappointment, Thor leaves suddenly. Ant-Man and Iron Man agree to team up and help in the search. Soon, Ant-Man’s network of ants locates the Hulk at a nearby traveling circus. The heroes’ efforts to reason with the Hulk fail, and the green behemoth destroys the circus tent and gets away. Ant-Man and the Wasp then catch up to the Hulk at an auto factory in Detroit, where he is battling Iron Man. The brawl carries them all into another installation next door, where Thor suddenly arrives with his evil half-brother Loki in tow, who is responsible for inciting the conflict. When Loki tries to escape, Ant-Man and his legion of ants trap the god of mischief in a lead-lined tank full of radioactive nuclear waste. Thor announces that he will return Loki to his prison in Asgard, but before they split up, the Wasp goads Ant-Man into suggesting the group continues to act as a team on a regular basis. When the others all agree to the idea, the Wasp suggests they call themselves “the Avengers.”

A few days later, Ant-Man and the Wasp attend the first official meeting of the Avengers, held at the Fifth Avenue mansion of Iron Man’s employer, industrialist Tony Stark. They arrive to find Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, has fainted upon encountering the Hulk. The Wasp administers some smelling salts to bring him around. Henry is annoyed during dinner when Janet flirts with Thor shamelessly, though he realizes he has no claim on her affections. After dinner, she excuses herself when the men start to discuss the team’s organizational structure, charter, and by-laws, and Henry wonders if she is taking her own idea seriously.

October 1962 – At the next meeting of the Avengers, it becomes clear to Ant-Man that he and Iron Man are the only ones serious about drafting a proper charter and really getting the team off the ground. The Hulk and his teenage pal Rick Jones participate half-heartedly, Thor’s pronounced mood swings make him unpredictable, and the Wasp, who insists on acting flighty and flirty, seems more interested in the mansion itself than the team’s organizational work. Still, Henry manages to strike up a genuine friendship with the serious-minded Iron Man.

One evening, while Janet is hanging out in Henry’s laboratory, their quiet evening is shattered when Trago and his Magic Trumpet come on the radio and produce an overwhelming sonic effect that pummels them into unconsciousness. Upon recovering their senses, Ant-Man and the Wasp track Trago to the radio station that broadcast his uncanny music, recalling what they had learned about Indian sorcery during the summer. After a brief struggle, Ant-Man gets inside Trago’s trumpet and causes him to play the wrong notes, thereby breaking the magic spell. Trago instantly loses not only his powers, but his memory as well. Furthermore, everyone hypnotized by his trumpet also awakes with no memory of what happened. Under the circumstances, Henry decides to let Trago go free, seeing no way to prove he committed a crime.

Later, as Ant-Man and Iron Man use their records of defeating Soviet agents to negotiate with the government for special security clearance for the Avengers, Henry realizes that the diminutive Ant-Man will always be overshadowed by his more-powerful teammates. Fearing that he will become a liability—or worse, a joke—he sets out to improve his powers. Fueled partly by jealousy over the way the Wasp ogles Thor at their weekly meetings, Henry starts investigating the possibility of changing size in the opposite direction.

November 1962 – While the Wasp is laid up with the flu, Ant-Man goes it alone against an armor-wearing bank-robber calling himself the Porcupine, due to his quill-like weapons system. However, the Porcupine gets the better of him and leaves the hapless hero to drown in a bathtub, bereft of his cybernetic helmet and gas canisters. At the last moment, Ant-Man is rescued by the Wasp, but rather than feeling grateful, Henry is angry and mortified. His worst fears have been confirmed and his confidence shaken, and he becomes doubly determined to succeed in making himself giant-sized. Together, he and the Wasp manage to disable the Porcupine’s weapons, but to Henry’s frustration, the villain manages to escape nonetheless. Henry immediately returns to his lab and devotes himself to his experiments with his enlarging gas, and also works on refining his bulky cybernetic system so he can incorporate it into a cloth mask.

Soon after, Henry succeeds in turning himself into a giant. Unfortunately, his house is wrecked when his initial dosage of growing formula is too high and his body smashes through the walls. After the Wasp arrives, he finally manages to stabilize himself at twelve feet tall, and then reveals to Janet that he has also converted the size-changing gas to capsule form, replacing the pressurized canisters on their belts with capsule-ejecting cartridges. However, their conference is interrupted by an extraterrestrial kidnapper called the Living Eraser, who “erases” them by sending them into his own dimension with a device worn on his palm. On the strange world, Henry learns that he has once again joined several kidnapped scientists who are being coerced into building weapons of mass destruction by an alien despot. The Wasp, who has been hiding in the pocket of his lab coat, slips Henry a shrinking capsule, enabling him to escape his captors and get into his new costume. As soon as he gets outdoors, Henry grows to his full 12-foot height and attacks the aliens, calling himself Giant-Man. Reveling in his newfound strength and power, Henry goes on a rampage, easily overcoming whatever his opponents throw at him. Though he is finally re-captured by the Living Eraser, Giant-Man is again freed by the Wasp, giving him the opportunity to seize the transporter device. They use it to return all the kidnapped scientists to Earth before returning home themselves. Subsequently, it takes the world several days to realize Ant-Man has adopted a new identity. In the meantime, Henry decides to write off his home in Englewood Cliffs as a total loss, and instead rents the top two floors of a building in Lower Manhattan.

Days later, Giant-Man and the Wasp arrive for the first Avengers meeting for the month and interrupt an argument amongst the other members. Henry announces his change of identity to the team. During the meeting, the Hulk suddenly becomes more belligerent than ever, and finally smashes through the wall of the building and storms off. The frustrated Avengers adjourn, but Giant-Man and the Wasp soon receive a radio message from Rick Jones at the local Teen Brigade headquarters. Rick reports that the Hulk has been replaced by an impostor, an alien plunderer called the Space Phantom. They find the Hulk and Iron Man brawling outside the Stark Industries plant in Flushing, Long Island and enter the fray. During the battle, the Space Phantom assumes Giant-Man’s form, casting Henry into the dimension of Limbo, where the hero lies insensate for a brief time. When he comes to, Henry finds the Space Phantom has now taken Iron Man’s form. However, when the Wasp returns with Thor, the tide of the battle turns. The Space Phantom immediately tries to assume Thor’s enchanted form, but his power bounces back at him and he is himself cast into Limbo, where he is trapped. Though the Avengers are victorious, the Hulk is furious at the way the others have treated him and he angrily quits the team. The Wasp is glad to see him go, but Giant-Man suggests that the green behemoth is now more dangerous than ever. Privately, Henry feels that he has finally held his own in a major battle.

Soon after, Henry’s ego gets a much needed boost by the formation of a Giant-Man Fan Club, and he is all too happy to entertain its members at his Manhattan headquarters. However, he discovers a new set of problems when he attempts to stop the notorious criminal known as the Human Top from robbing a major downtown department store. While chasing the whirling super-villain across the city, Giant-Man grows increasingly reckless and clumsy as his foe eludes him. Unaccustomed to maneuvering his 12-foot-tall form through the city streets, he nearly causes a traffic accident before losing the Human Top in the subway system. Frustrated, Henry returns home and begins an intensive training regimen, and also tries to increase his speed and reflexes by taking a chemical stimulant. When that fails, he builds a humanoid robot to mimic the Human Top’s movements. Still, his performance is poor and he begins to worry again that he can’t cut it as a superhero. When the Human Top appears again, Giant-Man suffers a humiliating defeat, despite the help of the NYPD. Giant-Man then attends a high-level meeting after the FBI is called in, following the Human Top’s theft of certain civil defense plans from the Federal Building, and manages to convince the authorities to give him one more chance. He cooks up an elaborate strategy to fence off the side streets near the site where the Human Top is due to rendezvous with the city’s top Soviet agent, and then coats his gloves with a strong adhesive. When the criminal shows up, Giant-Man succeeds in driving him into the trap and apprehending him. As the Human Top is finally taken into custody, Henry is merely relieved that he didn’t blow it.

Deciding the Hulk is too dangerous to be allowed to run around loose, the Avengers return to New Mexico to capture him. However, the Hulk deals his former teammates an ignominious defeat and gets away on an eastbound train. Giant-Man is especially frustrated by his poor showing during the fight, since he was knocked off the train when he hit his head on an overpass. After a fruitless search, the Avengers return to New York, where they learn the Hulk has joined forces with the Sub-Mariner to challenge the team to a showdown at the Rock of Gibraltar. They meet in the tunnels under the famous promontory, and while Thor battles the Hulk, Giant-Man and Iron Man take on the Sub-Mariner. All of a sudden, though, the Hulk abandons the fray, and the Sub-Mariner, realizing he is outnumbered, flees to the ocean depths. Exhausted, the Avengers head for home.

A few days later, Giant-Man and the Wasp chase down a costumed villain calling himself the Black Knight, who has been hijacking vehicles while flying on a winged horse. They find him attacking a helicopter high over New York Harbor. During the fight, Giant-Man realizes the Black Knight is really the traitorous scientist Nathan Garrett, whom he apprehended months before. Trapping Giant-Man with his steel-cable bolas, Garrett brags about the arsenal of unusual weapons he has developed, particularly his high-tech lance. Working together, Giant-Man and the Wasp manage to disarm the Black Knight, then drive his horse down towards Coney Island. Garrett is thrown off the horse when the Wasp pinches the animal and lands atop a roller coaster, where Giant-Man grabs him. Unfortunately, the Wasp gets into trouble trying to rein in the flying horse, and the Black Knight gets away when Giant-Man leaps to her rescue. Returning home, Henry is frustrated that so many of his foes seem to escape capture.

Soon after, during a mishap at a charity event, Giant-Man fractures his ankle, and finds he is stuck at giant-size until it heals. The Giant-Man Fan Club comes to his headquarters to cheer him up. The young fans are dressed in home-made costumes of his many enemies, as depicted in the officially-licensed comic books, but among them is the real Porcupine, back for revenge. After sending the Wasp into a trap, the Porcupine gasses everyone with a powerful sedative. Giant-Man manages to fight him off, but the Porcupine escapes. For the next several hours, Henry is frantic to find his kidnapped partner, but the Porcupine has managed to knock out the ant network. Finally, the Wasp returns, believing she has escaped, but the Porcupine suddenly attacks them. He has decided to steal their supply of size-changing capsules, and before Giant-Man can stop him, the Porcupine swallows several of the pills, thinking he’ll become an invincible colossus. However, he discovers he has instead taken the shrinking formula, and is rapidly reduced to microscopic size. While resting his ankle, Henry theorizes that the Porcupine may even have crossed over into the Microverse.

The following week, Giant-Man and the Wasp join the Avengers as they search the North Atlantic Ocean for the Sub-Mariner, who has been terrorizing coastal areas since his defeat at the Rock of Gibraltar. Near the Gulf Stream, the team discovers the body of a man in tattered Army fatigues drifting in the open ocean. Giant-Man enters the airlock and pulls the soldier into the submarine. The Avengers make a startling discovery when the Wasp recognizes the colorful costume beneath the man’s rotted uniform as that of Captain America, the lost hero of World War II. To their astonishment, he is still alive, albeit in suspended animation, and Giant-Man and Iron Man work to revive him. When he then awakes, the disoriented Cap reacts violently and scuffles with his rescuers. Finally, Captain America convinces them he is genuine, and they piece together what happened to him in the winter of 1945 and how he came to be preserved in ice for almost 18 years.

After docking at a pier in New York, the Avengers are startled by a blinding flash. When their senses clear, Giant-Man and the Wasp find themselves with their teammates in a warehouse, facing Captain America and a green-hued extraterrestrial. Cap explains that the alien had turned the Avengers to stone as part of a deal with the Sub-Mariner, but the heroes agree to help the alien salvage his spaceship from the bottom of the ocean with no strings attached. And so, they travel to a small rocky island in the Atlantic, from which they raise the sunken craft. Suddenly, they are attacked by the Sub-Mariner and his elite guard. Giant-Man is caught underwater, but quickly frees himself and joins the battle raging above, lending a hand as Iron Man takes on Namor in single combat while Thor battles his troops. When Namor reveals he is holding Rick Jones hostage, Captain America finally joins the fray. The battle comes to a sudden stop when the launching spaceship causes a massive shockwave that rocks the island. Namor leads his forces back to the sea, convinced his enemies will perish when the island sinks. Fortunately, the island is not completely destroyed, and as the dust settles, the Avengers invite Captain America to join the team.

For his first mission, the Avengers take Captain America out to New Mexico to search for the Hulk, only to learn that the green-skinned goliath has gone on a rampage in New York City. Racing back to their Fifth Avenue headquarters, the Avengers find the Hulk has defeated the Fantastic Four and has come to confront his former teammates, believing they have betrayed him. The Hulk suddenly attacks the entire team at once, but when he spots Rick Jones, he grabs the boy and smashes out of the building. The Avengers and the Fantastic Four converge on the Hulk down the street, but the two teams only trip each other up, allowing the Hulk to get away with Rick. Setting aside their pride, the two super-teams agree to work together, and they pursue the Hulk to a construction site, where they demolish a half-finished skyscraper. Despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, the Hulk manages to dive into the river and escape. Though disappointed, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four part on friendly terms. Giant-Man and the Wasp stop at Avengers Mansion to inspect the damage before returning home.

December 1962 – Giant-Man must cut short a visit with his fan club when he and the Wasp are summoned to a high-level meeting at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. There, government officials request that the duo travel to Costa Rica to investigate possible election fraud after a communist-supporting strongman known as “El Toro” has been elected president in a suspicious landslide victory. Honored to serve, they jet down to the Central American republic that very day. However, as soon as they arrive at the airport in San José, Janet is arrested. Henry changes to Giant-Man but fails to rescue her after El Toro knocks him down from behind. The despot’s soldiers pursue him through the city, and Giant-Man again curses his clumsiness as he tries maneuvering his 12-foot-tall body through the narrow streets. He escapes his pursuers atop a train that takes him to the Pacific coast. With the help of the local ant population, he soon finds Janet being held prisoner aboard a freighter anchored at a dilapidated port. After rescuing his partner, Giant-Man and the Wasp return to the capital and attack El Toro at the Casa Presidencial, where they find evidence that the election was rigged. El Toro is ousted, and a proud Henry celebrates with Janet as a new election is held. After a few days relaxing on the beach, they return home.

Soon after, Giant-Man and the Wasp host another gathering of the Giant-Man Fan Club, showing old newsreel films of their heroic exploits. But when they learn the Human Top has escaped from prison and robbed a bank, they dismiss their fans and race to the scene of the crime. Feeling pretty confident, Giant-Man promises the bank manager that they will recover the stolen money. They then return to their headquarters to plan a strategy, only to be attacked by the Human Top, who has followed them back. The crook manages to snatch Henry’s canister belt and swallows a size-changing capsule, shooting up to twelve feet tall. Finding his enhanced size has increased the amount of wind he generates when he spins, the Human Top blows the still-normal-sized Henry into a closet. Locking the hero inside, the Human Top then traps the Wasp in a jar and kidnaps her. Furious, Henry has the ants bring him a shrinking capsule so he can get out of the closet and give chase. He soon catches up to the giant-sized Human Top and a rooftop battle ensues. When a roof collapses under the Human Top’s weight, the Wasp forces the stunned villain to swallow a shrinking capsule. The Human Top is then returned to police custody. The next day, Henry brags about his victory to members of his fan club, though his insecurities are mounting.

Henry talks himself into buying a diamond engagement ring and plans to propose to Janet. However, he gets nervous and fumbles his words. In a ploy intended to make Henry jealous and thus spur him to action, Janet announces that her childhood friend, wealthy socialite Sterling Stuyvesant, will likely propose to her that very night. She leaves for Stuyvesant’s party, hoping Henry will follow her, but instead he goes into a fit of rage. After he has calmed down, he learns that the stage magician Stuyvesant hired to entertain his guests has instead robbed them and kidnapped Janet. When a city-wide search by the ants proves fruitless, Henry decides to bait a trap. He lures the kidnapper to a luxury yacht by advertising a charity gala in the newspaper, and confronts him as Giant-Man. The crooked magician tries to escape aboard a blimp, but Giant-Man pursues him and frees the captive Janet. They defeat the villain by crushing his blimp, and he is immediately picked up by the Harbor Patrol. Afterwards, Henry decides that he needs to sort out his feelings, and that his idea to propose to Janet was premature. He puts the ring away and says no more about it.

Days later, the Avengers assemble to investigate a series of disasters caused by powerful sound waves. Tracing the mysterious phenomenon to the New Mexico desert, they discover a gigantic rock slowly rising out of the ground. The rock proves to be the weapon of an advancing army of subterranean Lava Men. While his teammates fight off the Lava Men, Giant-Man makes a thorough examination of the rock and determines a way to destroy it safely. Unfortunately, at that very moment, the Hulk attacks them, still intent on exacting his revenge. However, the Avengers manage to trick the green-skinned brute into striking the rock’s one vulnerable spot. The force of the resulting implosion stuns the Avengers, and by the time they recover their wits, the Hulk is gone. The defeated Lava Men retreat to their deepest caverns, and the Avengers return to New York.

Giant-Man and the Wasp join their teammates in the Avengers in confronting a squad of super-villains, which includes the Black Knight, the Melter, and the Radioactive Man, when they wreak havoc by spraying a super-strong glue called Adhesive X all over town. Captain America is convinced that the mastermind behind the villains’ rampage is an old adversary from the Second World War, the Nazi scientist Baron Heinrich Zemo. After obtaining a powerful solvent from an incarcerated criminal known as Paste-Pot Pete, the Avengers decide to switch foes to gain a tactical advantage. Thus Giant-Man goes after the Radioactive Man, but it is Iron Man who actually apprehends the villain before turning around and defeating the Melter as well. Henry is frustrated with his grandstanding teammate, and goes to help Captain America. Giant-Man captures Baron Zemo’s pilot, who has no super-powers, but lets Zemo escape. It is only Cap’s quick thinking that prevents Zemo from getting the solvent he was after, by switching it with a canister of tear gas. Though forced to make an emergency landing, Zemo nevertheless manages to slip away before the police can capture him. Henry is disgusted with his poor performance, and begins to consider resigning from the team.

A week later, Giant-Man and the Wasp participate in the Avengers’ first annual Christmas charity benefit. Though Janet is filled with the holiday spirit, Henry is glum as he continues to compare himself negatively to his teammates. Iron Man and Thor are so much more successful, he thinks, and Captain America is a living legend. He finally decides to hand in his resignation at the team meeting after the party. To his surprise, however, Iron Man announces he is stepping down as Avengers chairman, and the others elect Giant-Man to assume those responsibilities. Heartened by his friends’ vote of confidence, Henry Pym vows not to let his teammates down.


1960 – Henry Pym’s tragic relationship with Maria Trovaya is shown in Tales to Astonish #44, and later revisited in West Coast Avengers #33. The name of Maria’s father was never revealed, so I fashioned this one for my own convenience. “Trovaya” seems to be a rather unusual name, but may be the feminine form of the more common name “Trovay.” This leads me to assume that her father was a Russian who had settled in Budapest, where Maria grew up. There is often confusion over what organization was responsible for Maria’s execution, but it was without doubt the KGB, who took over for the disbanded Hungarian secret police following the failed revolution in 1956. In the real world, the United States did not maintain a diplomatic presence in Hungary in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and there was no ambassador to help people like Henry Pym. Apparently the situation was somewhat different in the Original Marvel Universe. Henry reflects on his college days in Avengers #227.

1961 – Pym’s discovery of his size-changing potions and his ant-hill adventure are featured in Tales to Astonish #27.

January-April 1962 – Henry Pym’s career as Ant-Man is chronicled in Tales to Astonish #35 and following. It is likely the general public found the teeny-tiny adventurer to be non-threatening, and this accounts for his atypically high level of acceptance and popularity among the superheroes of this period. However, the artificial intelligence computer Pym constructs to deal with the vast amounts of data generated by his ant communications network will eventually evolve into the killer robot Ultron, one of the greatest menaces to mankind ever constructed.

May 1962 – In the next issue, Ant-Man discovers the true identity of Comrade X by hiding inside her purse, and then defeats the spy by tying her shoelaces together. Then, while battling the Protector in Tales to Astonish #37, Ant-Man proves that he can fight his way out of a paper bag. Not the most auspicious debut for a major superhero.

June 1962 – Egghead, Pym’s most implacable nemesis, makes his debut in Tales to Astonish #38. The Scarlet Beetle, introduced in the following issue, will return to menace Pym again in an Ant-Man back-up story in Iron Man #44, of all places. The premiere issue of the Marvel Universe’s Ant-Man comic book can be seen in Fantastic Four #17. Lee Kearns will appear in later issues, when his relationship with Ant-Man is already established. Nathan Garrett will return as the villainous Black Knight in about five months. Although the beginning of Tales to Astonish #52 shows Garrett being captured by Giant-Man, the amount of time necessary for subsequent events places their initial meeting at this point in Pym’s career.

August 1962 – The Wasp is introduced in Tales to Astonish #44. It seems likely that Vernon Van Dyne had ulterior motives for contacting Henry Pym–and for bringing along his flighty debutante daughter Janet–but his plans were abruptly cancelled when he was murdered by the creature from the planet Kosmos. As discussed in a previous post, Van Dyne may have been a member of the clandestine 12-member council that oversaw the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D., and would actually have been trying to recruit Pym as the group’s latest member. While vetting Pym, Van Dyne would certainly have noticed the resemblance between his daughter and Pym’s deceased wife, and so he took Janet along hoping that Pym would be intrigued enough to give Van Dyne another avenue of approach should Pym rebuff his initial offer. It is no coincidence, then, that Pym and Janet Van Dyne met, though her father could not have foreseen Janet’s transformation into a superheroine. When the Creature from Kosmos is on its rampage through Manhattan, the Fantastic Four have temporarily disbanded and are scattered across the country and Thor has returned to Asgard. The only other available superhero is Iron Man, and he may have been away on a business trip as Tony Stark. Thus only Ant-Man is present to deal with the “giant monster” crisis. As with the Black Knight, the amount of time necessary for subsequent events places the diminutive duo’s first encounter with Trago at the beginning of Tales to Astonish #47 at this point in the timeline.

September 1962 – Ant-Man joins the Fantastic Four in saving the Microverse from Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #16. Then, Ant-Man and the Wasp become founding members of the Avengers in Avengers #1. The team’s first meeting can be seen in the flashbacks in Avengers #280. While the Avengers are off searching for the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner invades New York, as seen in Fantastic Four Annual #1. The FF have dealt with the situation by the time the Avengers get home.

October 1962 – Ernie Hart, who scripted the tale of Trago, the Evil Jazz Trumpeter (under the pseudonym H.E. Huntley), clearly took the path of least resistance when coming up with names for his Indian characters, deriving “Nehradu” and “Ghazandi” from Nehru and Gandhi, the two most famous citizens of India of his day. I get the sense from Pym’s comments at the jazz club that he is probably a big fan of Perry Como and guys like that. Henry Pym reminisces about his early days with the Avengers in Avengers #227.

November 1962 – Tales to Astonish #48 proves to be the final adventure for Ant-Man, as Pym adopts his new identity as Giant-Man in the following issue. It is also around this time that the Wasp starts calling him “Hank” instead of Henry, in an attempt to get him to loosen up. Most likely he’s been called Henry his whole life up to this point. The Avengers battle the Space Phantom in Avengers #2, and the unconscious Giant-Man is found lying in Limbo by the Wasp’s future self in Avengers #267. Then, in Tales to Astonish #50, Pym meets his other great nemesis, the Human Top, later known as Whirlwind, who would plague him throughout his career. After finding Captain America in Avengers #4, Giant-Man and the Wasp participate in the first big Marvel crossover event, as chronicled in Fantastic Four #25-26 and the brief wrap-up scene at the beginning of Avengers #5.

December 1962 – Costa Rica is fictionalized as “Santo Rico” in Tales to Astonish #54. Costa Rica did hold a presidential election in the spring of 1962, though events obviously unfolded a bit differently in the Original Marvel Universe. Pym’s battle with the eminently forgettable villain called the Magician occurs in Tales to Astonish #56. The rogues gallery created for Ant-Man / Giant-Man is unrivaled in its lameness. The Avengers’ first encounter with Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil brings us up to Avengers #6. Pym later claims that he long considered retiring from the Avengers before he actually did it in Avengers #16, but fate conspired to keep him on the team.

OMU Note: The final canonical appearance of Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne was in Captain America #383.

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