Tales to Astonish by the 37th issue was basically the Ant-Man book. He gets the longest features and he’s regularly spotlighted. The problem with that is there are only so many ways to make a guy who can reduce himself to the size of an ant heroic. Mostly, he has been fighting communists and trying to keep his formula a secret from anyone who might use it for ill (mostly meaning communists). But he’s also taken on a bit of street crime as well. So it is in issue 37 where we might think for just a moment Ant-Man was getting a unique villain by the name of The Protector.
The Protector has a unique costume, uses a disintegration ray to bully jewelry store owners into paying him protection money, and more or less has all the hallmarks for what could be a repeat villain or even a potential nemesis for Ant-Man. That’s not what happens here though. Henry Pym is getting his news from ants on the ground who are near police stations and when he hears about a disturbance at a jewelry store he rushes over there. Turns out there is a bully named The Protector who is shaking down jewelry store owners for cash. If they don’t pay, he wipes out the jewelry in the store. Never mind that if the store owners have no jewelry they can’t pay protection money. Either way, Henry “Hank” Pym is going to put a stop to this criminal.
Fun fact, did you know you could “rent a jewelry shop”? Neither did I but that’s what Pym does. When The Protector comes to shake Henry down, he has a plan and it involves ants. We’ve definitely seen this story before. The ants signal the police and of course The Protector is ultimately caught. Not only that but The Protector turns out to be the jewelry store owner who Hank first talks to. He made it look like he had been attacked by The Protector so no one would suspect him. Then he would act like he was disintegrating the jewels but in fact he was stealing them. It’s not a very inspired twist here but with thousands upon thousands of comic stories written in the 616 continuity they can’t all be winners.
In my opinion a much better scheme would have been to “rent a jewelry store” steal the jewels and then skip town. Considering how fast Hank was able to do that, it had to be less work than this whole disguise and fake out thing. Ant-Man will eventually get better and more interesting stories but for a while we’re going to be stuck with this kind of action for him.
We do at least get to see his catapult again although it was never clear how exactly he could fly for however long it takes for him to get all over the neighborhood just by being shot out of a tiny cannon.
Next up on the reading list we’ll be revisiting Johnny “The Human Torch” Storm in Strange Tales #103.