Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #50

Credits:

Cover Date: December 1963

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky

“The Human Top!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

The Human Top, a criminal with super-spinning and -speed powers has come to town, after years of success elsewhere. When Giant-Man’s ants observe the Top’s plan to rob a store, Giant-Man and the Wasp are ready to stop the villain. But how can they stop someone they can’t catch?

Is It Good?

This issue has a lot going against it —- the Human Top is a dumb villain, Giant-Man is acting strangely, and Wasp is making poor life choices —- but I was surprised at how fun it was. Playing up Giant-Man’s logical clumsiness was a good idea, and stretching this story into a two-parter makes the heroes look genuinely outmatched. That adds more drama than this title is used to seeing, and I appreciate that.

Sub-Plots:

  • Dave Cannon was always a nogoodnik; he was born with superpowers, but used them from an early age to bully and steal.

  • Some of Giant-Man’s ants observe the Human Top planning to rob a store, so he and Wasp decide to catch the criminal.
  • Is it possible that Henry’s personality is being affected by his growth formula? It is interesting that Henry is open to this possibility.

  • When the heroes try to capture the Top, he easily avoids them. Giant-Man is far too slow and clumsy to catch the villain.

  • The Human Top escaped, so Henry Pym concocted a new potion to increase his speed and reflexes.
  • Even with his improved reflexes and speed, Giant-Man is far too slow to capture the Human Top. The Wasp doesn’t have the heart to tell Giant-Man how hopelessly outmatched he is.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance, and origin of, Dave Cannon, the Human Top. He has super-spinning abilities than also give him super-speed. He apparently doesn’t get dizzy.
  • The communications between Pym and his ants are retconned in this issue. Before this, the ants could speak to Pym through his helmet or listening device. Now, Pym’s devices can only interpret the ants’ communications as a series of Pictionary-like images. The Wasp acts like this is how things have always been.

  • This issue (or Journey Into Mystery #99, which also has a cover date of December 1963) is the first two-part story of Marvel’s Silver Age.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • So Dave Cannon was born with superpowers, and they don’t make him a mutant? That seems like an odd choice. It also shows that, however interconnected the Marvel Universe is at this point, a lot of ideas are not being shared between titles.

  • Is this the stupidest-looking helmet in the Marvel Universe? I mean, he does spin on his head at times, so it’s not completely useless, but it makes him look like a tribute to Russian architecture more than a top.

  • Henry Pym applied for a job to better stake out the Human Top’s robbery target. Why wouldn’t he just shrink down to ant-size? Why bother with the job?

  • Why does the Wasp think ants can chew through pavement? Maybe a better question is how these ants successfully do it!

  • Henry Pym is a brilliant scientist, and he concocted a new formula to increase his speed and reflexes! Naturally, like any responsible scientist, he experiments on himself, with no regard for the consequences.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Thank goodness the Wasp is only superhero-ing to impress Henry Pym! I was worried that she actually had agency!

  • My understanding of “sahib” makes it seem like more of an Indian subcontinental term of respect than something obviously racist. Still, it seems awkward for Jan to be calling Henry sahib, doesn’t it?

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