Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Marvel Masterworks: Ant-Man/Giant-Man

As you probably know, I'm a huge Avengers geek. And for me, the appeal of the Avengers was always about 4 characters, two of which I've written about extensively in the past (Captain America and Iron Man) but two of which I'm going to talk about today: Giant Man and the Wasp.

Don't ask me why, I just love these characters. The idea of being incredibly small, of exploring the insect world on their level, is just a great idea and showcases Stan Lee's science fiction roots at a level unseen anywhere outside the fantastic four.

Before being seen exclusively in the pages of the Avengers, Giant-Man and the Wasp were seen in one of Marvel's anthology titles of the day, Tales to Astonish. The first story featuring Ant-Man's alter ego, Henry Pym, isn't a superhero story at all, but a horror story.

In "The Man in the Ant Hill" scientist Henry Pym tests his shrinking serum on himself for the first time and ends up unable to reach his growth serum, trapped in an ant hill on the run from a horde of creatures who want to eat him. Creepy stuff.

Luckily the potential for super-heroism occured to the folks at Marvel so when we see Henry Pym again 9 issues later, he's developed his patented helmet to let him CONTROL ants, and the ant-man is born.

Now you might not know this, but Stan wrote a LOT of different kinds of comics in the 50's and early 60's, before superheroes caught on again and one of his strengths was the romance/soap opera comic (those of you who have read a lot of early Stan Lee are doubtless shocked by this). So as the ant-man began to find his footing, it was decided he needed a love interest.

But not some retiring, fainting female, a "partner in peril" as she is referred to on the cover of her first appearance. You guessed it, the Wasp. Still not done tinkering with the character, two issues later, Ant Man becomes Giant Man.

Marvel Masterworks is one of my favorite Marvel lines right now. They take classic comics and reprint them in full color, on glossy paper, in library-quality hardbacks. Even for die-hard Avengers fans like me, these early Tales to Astonish stories were too expensive to pursue in the 70's and 80's. The Marvel Masterworks titles give me a way to pick them up relatively cheaply.

If you'd like to see a bit of Marvel history, and one of the most unusual heroes ever created strut his stuff in some rare solo appearances, pick up this great title.

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