For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill

Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill


In the early 1960s, Stan Lee was churning out short stories for the horror and science fiction and western and war titles with astonishing speed. Even he had his limits and often generated an idea and turned it over to his brother Larry Lieber to complete. Such was the case with “The Man in the Ant Hill”, a variation on Richard Matheson’s story The Shrinking Man, which he adapted into the successful 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man. The story of Henry Pym, who found a way to reduce his size, was just another in a long line of stories for Jack Kirby to draw, running in Tales to Astonish #27.

Tales to Astonish #27. Cover by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers

Tales to Astonish #27. Cover by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers


What made this story memorable, though, was that it was published shortly after Stan and Jack also produced Fantastic Four #1. Its sales success encouraged publisher Martin Goodman to order up more superheroes. Stan clearly thought Pym in costume would fit the bill, the latest in a line of pint-sized heroes, which dates back to the Golden Age and Doll Man and more recently DC Comics’ successful revival of The Atom. Now sporting a red and black costume complete with jazzy helmet, the Ant-Man was born.

Poor Hank Pym has been through the emotional wringer ever since and is due for some love and respect this summer as he is brought to screen life by Michael Douglas in this summer’s Ant Man. Marvel is also issuing Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill, collecting that seminal first appearance along with his solo feature from issues #35-59.

Tales to Astonish #35. Cover by Kirby & Ayers

Tales to Astonish #35. Cover by Kirby & Ayers


While the FF, Spider-Man, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and others arrived and were immediately taken into readers’ hearts, Ant-Man struggled for not acceptance but relevance. As Peter Sanderson wrote in The Marvel Heroes, “Lee and his collaborators never came close to the level of inspiration they achieved in other series, Ant-Man contended with various unmemorable Communist agents, the criminal scientist Egghead, whose head was shaped as his name suggests, and even the Scarlet Beetle, a mutated bug out to conquer the world. Pym was Reed Richards without foils for his personality; a dry unemotional scientist with little audience appeal.”

Ant-Man faces Egghead in Tales to Astonish #38. Cover by Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky

Ant-Man faces Egghead in Tales to Astonish #38. Cover by Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky


Lee himself wrote, “I loved Ant-Man, but the stories were never really successful. In order for Ant-Man to be successful, he had to be drawn this small next to big things and you would be getting pictures that were visually interesting. The artists who drew him, no matter how much I kept reminding them, they kept forgetting that fact. They would draw him standing on a tabletop and they would draw a heroic-looking guy. I would say, ‘Draw a matchbook cover next to him, so we see the difference in size.’ But they kept forgetting. So when you would look at the panels, you thought you were looking at a normal guy wearing an underwear costume like all of them. It didn’t have the interest.”

If that’s the case, then why recommend you buy this collection? Because it’s a chance to witness the evolution of a hero, an opportunity to watch a number of writers and artists ply their trade as the marketplace changed seemingly overnight.

And because of Janet Van Dyne.

Tales to Astonish #48. Cover by Kirby & Brodsky

Tales to Astonish #48. Cover by Kirby & Brodsky


This volume also does present the first appearances of numerous mainstays such as the Human Top (now Whirlwind), the Porcupine, and the Black Knight. The series also featured a variety of talent that Stan tried to keep busy and not everyone adapted to the new paradigm of storytelling. Stan, Jack, and Dick Ayers kicked things off but quickly, Lieber took over scripting and Don Heck signed on with issue #41. We have here some of the last stories from Ernie Hart, writing as H.E. Huntley, beginning with issue #44, introducing Janet Van Dyne, a vivacious woman seeking justice for her murdered father. With art by Kirby and Heck, she agreed to drink Pym’s serum and become the Wondrous Wasp.

She brought a vitality long absent from the strip and credit should go to Hart for that. Sanderson noted, “…she quickly evolved into a witty, flirtatious character, the opposite of the rather stiff, cerebral Pym. The interplay between their personalities gave new life to the series.” She was so popular, Lee used her as host to the title’s backup stories before she was given the slot for her own solo adventures.

Tales to Astonish #49. Cover by Don Heck

Tales to Astonish #49. Cover by Don Heck


Even she couldn’t use her sting to goose sales so Lee tried a new trick, letting Pym develop a formula to increase his size and suddenly he was now the 12-foor tall Giant-Man in issue #49. Lee, Kirby, Heck, and Ayers all take turns telling their exploits and you can see an early guest shot from Spider-Man while the volume concludes with a confrontation with the Hulk, setting up his solo series the following issue. Giant-Man and the Wasp would last only another ten issues before being replaced by Sub-Mariner but their story was far from over and some rarely seen material is in line for inclusion in a second volume.

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Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill

Classic cover from the Grand Comics Database.

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