Tales to Astonish is an anthology comic book that has tales of terror, aliens, horror, and superheroes. This issue has four comic stories plus one prose story. There is a story about an alien trying to conquer a planet, a story about a mean jockey who learns his lesson thanks to a talking horse, the story of a cursed mirror, and the prose story tells about a boy who accidentally creates an unbreakable bubble.
There is also one more story. The first story is the only one that matters in 616 continuity. That is the first story that stars Henry Pym called The Man in the Ant Hill. This character will go on to fame as one of the founding members of The Avengers and will also have some extremely disturbing moments as in the future he abuses his wife. This troubled background is probably one of the main reasons Henry Pym is not the Ant-man used in the Marvel movies and instead, we get the much more likable Scott Lang.
Anyway, this story does introduce us to Ant-man, although before he has a suit and cybernetic helmet. A seemingly mad scientist, Henry Pym has created a solution that can shrink anything. This is a major triumph for Henry because the scientific community has thus far seen him as a crackpot. Henry imagines using his formula for military purposes like transporting an entire army in a single airplane. But first, he must test it on a human.
As any good mad scientist would do, he immediately uses it on himself. He is shrunk down to the size of an ant. He goes outside and realizes he can’t get back to get the antidote to his serum. Henry finds himself near an anthill and is attacked by several ants. He ends up in a pool of honey but a friendly ant pulls him out of it.
A group of other ants is about to attack when Henry finds a matchstick and uses a rock to light it. He then makes a lasso and climbs his way out of the anthill. But before he gets to the top a single ant attacks.
To me, this is the best part of the issue. Henry realizes, “But I have one advantage! A human brain…”
At this point, I am thinking, yes, he is a smart scientist he must have some intellectual way out of this dilemma. Then comes the next panel where Henry Pym proudly proclaims
“…which has learned the art of Judo!”
He throws the ant over the side and makes his escape.
A fortunate circumstance occurs and Henry encounters the ant who helped him before. The ant lets Henry get on his back and he makes it up to his serum and can grow to full size. Henry decides to destroy his serum and never let any human use it again. The story ends with Henry lying to the scientific community, saying he was wrong about his theories and notes that Henry Pym never steps on an anthill again in his life.
So what is significant about this story? Of course, Henry Pym will rise to become Ant-man. We also see a few things established about him. He has a temper, and this will become a theme for him. He is not highly respected in the scientific community although he is right. This is another theme that tends to follow Henry. And, we see that he has a relationship with ants. Almost as if he can communicate with them. This will be essential to his character in the future.
While this could have been a throwaway one-off story, it is significant in 616. Mostly, in the future things will be added to Henry aka Hank Pym, including the ability to grow large as well as small and a love interest. Ant-man, unlike in the movies, in the universe of 616 is a founding member of the Avengers and the universe does not move forward without this little story. Tales to Astonish will also, in the future introduce several other heroes so we are not done with this title yet. Not by a long shot.
Next on the reading list, we go back to Reed and company with Fantastic Four #3.