There is one story from this issue of the anthology Tales to Astonish that can be considered important to 616 continuity. Although, if you skipped this one, it probably wouldn’t make much difference. Still, Marvel counts this one as in continuity and there are a couple of things of note here.
The story that counts in 616 continuity is the one called The Girl in the Black Hood. This story is about a full grown woman, not a girl. This sexist titling is unfortunately common during the 1960s Marvel era. Nevertheless, the story is about a woman named May Dusa. She is a photographer who takes amazing pictures but never lets anyone see her face. A small time crook plans to rob her and get a good look at her face. In a twist that will surprise no one now but might have surprised some seven year old kids in the 1960s, the woman has snakes for hair and is Medusa.
It’s the kind of short, somewhat silly type of story that frequently appeared in Tales at the time and I can’t blame the creators for lack of cleverness. They were cranking out a huge volume at the time and not all stories can be winners.
There are two things I think are important here. First, Don Heck who will go on to do the Iron Man series is the artist and this is a nice example of his work. Secondly, the story takes place in the 1920s. Like the Sub-Mariner appearing in The Fantastic Four established the 616 timeline back to the 1940’s this issue takes us back to the 1920’s so we know 616 is at least that old.
To me it is not clear if this “May Dusa” is the prototype for Medusa that will appear in the pages of The Fantastic Four and other books or not. This story may set up the Gorgons but if so, I am not sure how this story accomplishes that. There is still plenty of reading to go though, so we’ll see when we get there.
Next on the reading list is The Incredible Hulk #2.
Tales to Astonish is an anthology book and several characters make their debut for the 616 universe in the pages of these comics. In issue 30 there is a character appearance that will come to be important many years later. It is not The Thing From the Hidden Swamp. That Thing from the hidden swamp is not The Thing from the Fantastic Four either. The story we care about is also not the “Gorilla-man” who is shown on the cover either. Neither of those stories contributes to 616 in any way thus far.
The final story of the issue, the one we care about is called Quogg. This is an oddball story about a three-time loser who is a criminal. He is committing crimes somewhere near an African outpost. While looking for shelter he is told by the people of a native village he should not go past a fence in the jungle because Quogg lives there. The thief decides the perfect hideout would be behind that fence so he lies to the natives and tells them he won’t go in there. The next thing you know he is jumping the fence and sees a hut where he can take shelter. He builds some perimeter defenses and plans to live in the hut. Unfortunately for the thief, it turns out the horrible monster Quogg is the hut and the man is now trapped.
This story is almost completely irrelevant to 616 but Quogg will make a return way off in the future in Monsters Unleashed #3 in 2017. Until we get to that issue, you can forget about Quogg, he is not very important.
We are about to encounter a significant force in the Marvel 616 Universe though.
There is only one story in this issue of the anthology series Tales to Astonish that matters in Marvel 616 continuity. This is the story shown on the cover, that of the Space Beasts in When the Space Beasts Attack.
The story centers around a group of aliens who seem like they can overpower Earth easily. Their weapons can disintegrate buildings and tanks. Everything seems like it is going the alien’s way when it is discovered that the alien weapons only work on non-living material. The humans realize this and fight back. All in all, this would be a very forgettable episode in 616 continuity but it will come back to be relevant.
However, it’s going to take a lot of patience to know why. The Space Beasts will not appear again until the pages of The Punisher #12 in 2009. This is the one and the only reason this story is relevant so there is not much to say on the subject here.
When we get to that one, I will be sure to link back to this post to remind you who these guys are but it’s going to be a while before we get there.
Next on the reading list is Tales to Astonish #30 (E story).
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.