Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #63

Credits:

Cover Date: January 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone

“The Gangster and the Giant!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Carl Burgos

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Carl Burgos

Inker: Chic Stone

“A Titan Rides the Train!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: George Roussos

What’s Going On?

In the Giant-Man & the Wasp’s story, they defend a neighborhood from a protection racket. Why does that require superheroes? It doesn’t, really.

In the Hulk story, the Hulk battles a Humanoid, created and controlled by the evil Leader!

Details:

In the Giant-Man and the Wasp story:

  • The police ask Giant-Man and the Wasp for help stopping a protection racket run by the Wrecker.

  • To catch the Wrecker, Giant-Man decided to buy a store in the Wrecker’s territory, and the owner is too happy to sell.

  • When the Wrecker’s men show up to shake down the new business owners, Hank and Jan beat them up.

  • The Wrecker decides to pay the store a personal visit, which is exactly what Giant-Man and the Wasp were hoping would happen!

  • It doesn’t take much for Giant-Man to defeat the Wrecker, who turned out to be the guy who sold Hank the hardware store. The end.

In the Hulk story:

  • The military wants to transfer one of Bruce Banner’s inventions to another base, and they want him to accompany it so he can explain how it works.  General Ross and Major Talbot still suspect Banner of being a spy, though, so he will be closely monitored.

  • Little do they realize that the Leader is also taking action! He is sending his mentally-controlled Humanoid to steal Banner’s nuclear secrets en route.
  • When the Humanoid attacks Banner’s train, he panics and transforms into the Hulk.

  • Before the Humanoid can get a good look at Banner’s invention, it is attacked by the Hulk.

  • However, the composition of the Humanoid allows Hulk’s blows to be absorbed without damage.

  • During the fight, the Hulk noticed that Banner’s invention was coming loose and would set off a nuclear bomb if left alone.
  • The Hulk endured the Humanoid’s attacks until he could toss it from the train. He then removed Banner’s invention from the train before it could explode.

  • In the end, the Army finally caught up with a Hulk-free Bruce Banner, hanging out by his missing invention. However, Major Talbot suspects Banner of being a Soviet spy, and he locked Banner in a train car at the beginning of this issue. Talbot has Banner arrested for…um…escaping train jail, I guess?

Is It Good?

It’s a tale of two stories! The Giant-Man story was bad and dumb in an amazing variety of ways —- enough to keep it entertaining, in spite of itself. The Hulk story was much better, mostly because it feels like Stan and Steve are getting a better feel for the character. I am also enjoying the issue-to-issue continuity in the Hulk stories; while they can act as stand-alone stories, they also feel like parts of a larger whole, and that’s not something Marvel’s other titles (except maybe Spider-Man) have.

Continuity:

  • The Wrecker in this issue is not the super-villain who uses an enchanted crowbar to fight Thor. This is just a guy wearing a hood.
  • Giant-Man can now go from giant-sized to ant-sized and back again in less than a second. We don’t know what his size-changing speed was before, in case you were wondering.
  • Giant-Man has apparently worked hard to become more agile/less clumsy in his larger sizes.

  • Giant-Man is back to doing reckless things, like launching himself across town, with the assumption that he’ll be able to find a flying ant to ride before he lands.

  • The “will-they-won’t-they” subplot continues, as Hank is only able to express his love for Jan when she is unconscious.

  • We have a Giant-Man and Wasp pin-up in this issue. Nick Caputo credits Carl Burgos for the Giant-Man and Wasp drawings, but he suspects that Jack Kirby probably did the police officer and the backgrounds.

  • This is the first full appearance of the Leader, and we get our first good look at him and his origin story in this issue. He was a dumb laborer that was exposed to gamma radiation, and is now brilliant. He has chosen to use his intelligence to build a spy ring to…make money? His motives are not entirely clear.

  • The Chameleon survived the bomb blast last issue by hiding behind a rock. Just in case you were worried about him.

  • This is the first appearance of the Leader’s Humanoids. They seem to be robots that the Leader can mentally control, and they broadcast what they see to his machines.

  • It’s been hinted at a few times since the Hulk got his feature in Tales to Astonish, but this is the clearest way it’s been stated: the Hulk does not possess Banner’s intelligence.

  • It looks like the trigger to the Hulk’s transformations is changing again. A few issues ago, stress would transform Banner to Hulk and Hulk back to Banner. Now, it looks like stress triggers Banner-to-Hulk transformations, and relaxing changes him back. It’s taken a while, but I think we are finally seeing the “classic” Hulk transformation triggers!

Comics Are Goofy:

  • I wasn’t sure when I recently read Avengers #12, but this confirms it for me: Stan Lee honestly wanted Giant-Man’s nickname to be the Master of Many Sizes and/or High Pockets. Those are both so terrible that I can’t help but love them.

  • Secret identities are hard.  (Try using her superhero name when she’s wearing the costume, Hank!)

  • What do you expect crooks to do? Wait patiently for the police to catch them?

  • Wait…this plan involves actually buying a storefront in New York City? How much disposable income does Hank Pym have? Did he need to take out a loan? Why would a bank give a scientist a loan to buy a hardware store? How is this a practical plan?!?

  • I love a protection racket that wants victims to sign a contract, like extorting them to sign a contract is any less of a crime than racketeering.

  • “So mad he cant see bear traps” is my new standard of measuring anger.

  • Apparently, muscles can make Hulk fly now? Why even bother with this explanation? Why not just say he landed and jumped back up?

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