Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #39

Credits:

“The Vengeance of the Scarlet Beetle!”

Cover Date: January 1963

Plotter: Stan Lee

Scripter: Larry Lieber

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Dick Ayers

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

What’s Going On?

After being accidentally irradiated by atomic tests, a once ordinary insect gains telepathy and intelligence to become the Scarlet Beetle! The Beetle’s Plan is to rally the insects of the world to conquer humanity.

When Ant-Man tries to stop the Scarlet Beetle, he is overpowered and loses his tools. The Scarlet Beetle then uses Ant-Man’s growth gas on itself, becoming roughly the size of a human.

Will he be able to help without his special helmet and size-changing gases?

Is It Good?

It’s pretty dumb, but it’s silly enough to be passable. It’s also the second consecutive issue where a villain tries to rally insects against Ant-Man, and that’s a weird trend.

Sub-Plots:

  • Ant-Man’s ants stayed loyal to him, and helped him escape the underground maze where Scarlet Beetle left him stranded.

  • Ant-Man manages to draw the Scarlet Beetle into a position where the shrinking gas (which the Beetle has kept with him) can be triggered, and the villain is shrunk back down to typical insect size.
  • Back in the lab, Henry Pym manages to remove the Beetle’s radiation, transforming it back into a normal Beetle with normal intelligence and no telepathy. He then releases Scarlet Beetle back into the wild.

Continuity:

  • This is the first (and, shockingly, not also the last) appearance of Scarlet Beetle.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • You know what would solve this problem quickly? Growing to normal human size and stepping on Scarlet Beetle. Why is this never an option?

  • Ant-Man: “Good thing I have the strength of a normal-sized man!” Moments later, he is overwhelmed and defeated by bugs.

  • The Scarlet Beetle, after using the growth gas, becomes the size of a human.  That’s gross, sure, but that is still small enough for a non-super-hero to handle, right?
  • The Scarlet Beetle has fantastic eyesight!

  • I had no idea that Ant-Man’s ant buddies were nihilists.  These ants are fucking dark, man.

  • You would think that the following scenes would explain this panel. They do not.

  • Why was Scarlet Beetle wearing a belt? Why would it need to use the gases ever again?

  • He’s not Insect-Man, jerks. Since when are all insects his problem?

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