Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #49

Credits:

Cover Date: November 1963

Cover Artists: Don Heck

“The Birth of Giant Man!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Don Heck

What’s Going On?

The mysterious Eraser is erasing (surprise!) people out of existence!

He is specifically looking to erase atomic experts, and the next name on his list is Henry Pym. Will Pym’s new Giant-Man powers help keep him from being erased?

Is It Good?

Before getting to the story, I want to point out how much I love the cover to this issue. It’s drawn by Don Heck, an artist that I’m not (yet) a huge fan of, and it is a rare instance of Jack Kirby not drawing the cover to an issue he pencilled. Is there way too much text on the cover? Yes, and the background is super-simplistic. There is just something about Giant-Man’s expression and the Eraser’s arm movements that just pleases me on a very basic level.

The story isn’t anything special —- it’s another alien invasion tale —- but Ant-Man becoming Giant-Man was a welcome change. There have been so many plots where Ant-Man’s problems would have been solved by growing, even a little bit. It looks like Lee and Kirby felt the same way, and now Giant-Man and the Wasp can control just how much they shrink; it’s not clear if Wasp can attain super-size, like Giant-Man, though.

Sub-Plots:

  • Henry and Janet spend time practicing their growing and shrinking powers with their new growth/shrink capsules.
  • It turns out that the Eraser doesn’t “erase” anyone; “erasing” is a means to travel between dimensions.

  • The people of Dimension Z have kidnapped the Earth scientists to learn the secrets of atomic science.
  • The only person in Dimension Z with the knowledge and ability to transverse dimensions is the Eraser.
  • Giant-Man and the Wasp, who was accidentally transported with Pym, defeat the Eraser with ease, save the scientists and use the Eraser’s device to return back to Earth.

Continuity:

  • As of this issue, Henry Pym can grow beyond his normal height and become Giant-Man. If he grows beyond twelve feet tall, though, his body cannot support the strain.

  • Along with the change in powers, Pym also changed his costume (swapping the Ant-Man helmet for a mask) and his and Wasp’s size changes are now triggered by oral capsules (instead of gas canisters). It is worth noting that, even as “Giant-Man,” Pym still has the ability to shrink. Giant-Man and the Wasp can control their size changes with more precision now.

  • Giant-Man has greater strength when he grows. Whether that is a proportional increase or not is unclear, but he can wreck metal weapons with his bare hands.

  • This is the first appearance of the Eraser (usually referee red to as the “Living Eraser,” but he is only called that on the cover in this issue). For that matter, it is the first appearance of Dimension X and any of its denizens.
  • Pym seems more confident and quippy as Giant-Man. Will this be a permanent change for the normally straight-laced character?
  • Janet continues to flirt and be blunt about her attraction to Henry; Henry continues to be dismissive (but also weirdly possessive) to Janet.

  • New corner box alert!

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Did Giant-Man just wreck his neighbor’s house, as well as his own? How small are their side yards?

  • Remarkably, this does not spoil Pym’s secret identity.
  • Who’s scarier, the Eraser or this random dude trying to sell 15-cent hot dogs out of a box in the woods? How cold are those dogs?

  • Why is Henry Pym on a list of atomic experts? His research (until this issue) dealt exclusively with biological miniaturization.

  • Jack Kirby hasn’t really had the chance to get really weird with his designs yet, but this gun is a great example of what “Kirbyesque” means.

  • I like to think that this alien dog farts out question and exclamation marks.

  • The Eraser works for his government, and is allowed to keep the science behind trans-dimensional travel a personal secret?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Who could have predicted that Henry Pym would become an abusive husband? Here, he tells Janet what her emotions are while telling her to shut up.

  • The super-racist “white savior” jungle movies of old Hollywood have thankfully faded from public memory, so Janet’s line here may seem more weird than offensive. In the context of pop culture at the time, though, “B’wana” was roughly equivalent to a slave character saying “yes, massa.” So…not cool, and probably not something to say in a situation where it looks like you’re being flirty.

  • I realize that it’s the villainous aliens that are being racist here, but yikes.

  • It’s nice that Henry can find the time to compliment Janet in the middle of a sexist insult.

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