Comics : Tales To Astonish (Vol. 1) #57

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

These early issues are always fun because they often play fast and loose with characters whose abilites had not necessarily been established. (A good example is the first appearance of the Beetle in Strange Tales #123, who originally is portrayed as having enough power to, perhaps, take on the Thing!) In this issue, the way Spider-Man uses his Spider-sense to pinpoint an opponent (the Wasp) who is too small to see struck me as unique, though maybe there are examples of this later.

Also, these issues often surprise you with "firsts". I believe that this is the first major guest appearance of Spider-Man in another regular-size comic (not counting brief appearances in issues like Strange Tales #115). It is certainly the first appearance of the Wasp's stingers and the first time the Wasp experiences her natural distaste for spiders, a gimmich that reappeared in a number of stories.

Nothing really significant here. Just good old-time Silver Age Marvel fun.

In Detail...

"On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man"
Tales To Astonish (Vol. 1) #57
Jul 1964 : SMURF 014.800 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears, Ant-Man, Wasp
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Dick Ayers
Inker:  Paul Reinman
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 Reprinted In: Essential Ant-Man #1
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #6
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #8
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1975
Articles: Egghead, The Wasp

Before Tales to Astonish branched off into The Sub-Mariner #1 and The Incredible Hulk #102, and before either one of those characters were appearing regularly in it, this comic featured the adventures of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Ant-Man was scientist Henry Pym and the Wasp was socialite Janet Van Dyne. This was before the days of the couple's marriage, back when thought balloons would be filled with each character professing a love for the other that they could not speak aloud. In an attempt to shake-up the character, Marvel transformed Ant-Man into Giant-Man in Astonish #49, though he actually was both characters and would assume either great or microscopic height in a single story depending on which best suited him.

This issue began with Henry Pym providing the Wasp with her very first "stinger", a device that issued a powerful blast of compressed air (and was composed, of course, of those unstable molecules that allowed it to shrink along with her). But the action soon shifts to Giant-Man's arch enemy, Egghead. The mad genius has found a way to communicate with ants and he relays a false message to them which he knows they will relay to Giant-Man. The message? Spider-Man is looking for Giant-Man and spoiling for a fight. Fooled by the false message, Giant-Man and the Wasp decide to strike first by finding Spidey and knocking the stuffing out of him.

The wasp sets out to look for Spider-Man and, amazingly, finds him swinging around town almost immediately. She decides to use her new wasp sting which knocks Spidey sprawling. Recovering nicely, Spidey uses his spider-sense to locate the Wasp, then uses his webbing to entrap her. That's when Giant-Man enters the scene and the brawl is on.

Egghead's master plan turns out to be more than getting these heroes to fight each other. He hopes most of the police will be assigned to the streets surrounding the fight to try to maintain order. He then plans to rob an armored car which will be highly vulnerable as a result. Egghead's plan works to perfection. (Fortunately for him, the brawl takes place on the west side of the city, as he wanted, while the armored car approaches from the east side of town.) He and his thugs stash the armored car in their very large (but, of course, inconspicuous) truck and take it to their hide-out.

By this time, Giant-Man, Spider-Man, and the Wasp have figured out that they have been duped and they track Egghead down to his lair where each contributes to the beating-up of the henchmen and the apprehending of the arch-criminal. At the end of the adventure, Giant-Man allows that Spider-Man seems to be a pretty nice guy but the Wasp shivers in revulsion. It must just be that natural antipathy between Wasps and Spiders but she simply cannot stand him.

In General...

The first meeting between Spider-Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp is nothing to write home about. The truth is the Ant-Man/Giant-Man strip in Tales to Astonish was never all that impressive which is why it was destined to be cancelled in a year's time, replaced by Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner (in Tales to Astonish #70, August 1965). This is only an average Giant-Man story which makes it a below-average Spider-Man tale. The only real positives are the introduction of the Wasp's sting and the amusing mutual dislike between Spider-Man and the Wasp. "Of all the nasty, hateful, unpleasant people I've ever met" the Wasp says of Spider-Man, because, after all, "wasps and spiders are such natural enemies".

Overall Rating...

Two Webs.