Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #52

Credits:

Cover Date: February 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky

“The Black Knight Strikes!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Dick Ayers

What’s Going On?

Professor Garrett became the Black Knight specifically to get revenge on Giant-Man. Can Giant-Man defeat a villain that can fly?

Details:

  • Professor Nathan Garrett was caught selling scientific secrets to the Communists. He was arrested, but the Communists posted his bail and he fled the country under a fake passport.

  • In the rural Eastern European town that he took refuge in, Professor Garrett decided to spend his time trying to create a winged horse. He succeeded.

  • Garrett later returned to the US to become a super-criminal: the Black Knight!

  • Specifically, he was looking to get revenge on Giant-Man! While his weapons did a good job handling Giant-Man at first, the Black Knight seemed completely unprepared for him to change his size.

  • Giant-Man handled the Black Knight pretty easily, but the villain ultimately got away.

Is It Good?

No, this is pretty bad. Henry Pym continues to be a boring hero, and the Wasp is getting more vapid and shallow with each appearance. The Black Knight has a pretty good character design, but Nathan Garrett is idiotic. None of these characters are likable right now, so when a plot is this silly, it is more aggravating than it is fun.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of Professor Nathan Garrett, the Black Knight. He had a genetically-engineered flying horse, a lance that has an acetylene torch inside it (and a machine gun!), a paralysis ray gun, and an itch ray gun.
  • Either Garrett is particularly uninformed, or it is not common knowledge that Ant-Man and Giant-Man are the same hero.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • “I mean, sure, a horse with wings couldn’t fly. But what if they had hollow bones to make them lighter? And were smaller? And, naturally, they would need to be shaped differently —- and their pectoral muscles would need to be disproportionately large. They’d need tail feathers for flight, too. Oh, wait. I’ve ‘invented’ birds. Never mind.”

  • Despite being a cliche, you don’t often see a villain give an honest-to-goodness monologue. Bless his heart for choosing to brag instead of finishing off Giant-Man.

  • This may be the lamest super-villain weapon I’ve ever seen. Itching powered would have been bad, but creating a ray gun that makes people itch is just an underwhelming use of evil genius.

  • The “Wonderful Wasp Tells a Tale” back-up story gives us this fantastic panel. I just like the idea of a plant sitting in a throne and demanding to be worshipped.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • The Wasp tells Pym that she saw a man on a flying horse. He dismisses her story. He then hears about the flying horse on the radio; he still doesn’t believe Janet. He only acknowledges that she told him the truth after confirming it with his ants. No, he doesn’t apologize.

  • The Wasp’s role in these comics has quickly gone from “Giant-Man’s partner” to “heavy-handed flirt that doesn’t actually do much else.” She could have buzzed inside the Black Knight’s helmet at any time during this fight and caused him all sorts of problems, but instead, she sat down and waited for a good time to pinch a horse.

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