Friday, May 20, 2011

Among Us Walks…a Goliath! (Or, How I Came to Know Dr. Henry Pym)

Doug: A very long time ago I gave you a preview of an essay I'd written for inclusion in Assembled! Volume 3. Well, as I originally wrote the content over five years ago, and the Thor movie has come and gone and there's been no word of any release date for this tome in time for the Captain America movie (Assembled! Volume 2 came out with the release of Iron Man), I'm going to assume it's on the editor's far-back burner. So, at the encouragement of my partner, whose work did make it into Assembled! 2, I am going to begin a series of posts that will publish my two essays here in installments. Up first is my perspective on Hank Pym. I'll follow this up later in the summer with my take on the wedding of Crystal to Quicksilver (an essay I also previewed on this blog). So without further ado...

Some things fade from memory relatively easily. Others tend to leave our consciousness in a “cloudier” fashion, with shades of “Hmmm… I seem to recall…” Then there are those moments that remain vivid – those historical “moments in time” where you recall a setting, a song playing on the radio, those in whose company you were, and topics of conversation. My love for comic books started with a “moment” like that (although I’m lying just a bit – I really don’t remember if I was six years old or seven, but that’s just a detail) when a neighbor girl gave me a copy of Marvel Triple Action #13. Unbeknownst to my childish eyes, the book was actually a reprint of a tale of yore, in this case Avengers #19 – the coming of the Swordsman! Who can forget the menacing yet smirking visage of our felonious blade-wielder, and the groovy Don Heck “floating heads” cover (only the second example of such, in what has become an Avengers tradition)? I sure couldn’t, and I was hooked – the nobility of Captain America, the deception of the Swordsman (I didn’t know the word “smarmy” at the time, but it would sure fit that guy), the aggression of Hawkeye and Quicksilver toward their leader, and that crazy thing on Wanda’s head all just left me in awe. I had to know more – these Avengers were fun!

Hank Pym, however, never seemed to have much fun. The next time I came across the team proved to be the most impactful, for me and perhaps for Hank as well: Marvel Triple Action #22 (cover dated November 1974, and reprinting Avengers #28). “Wow!” said my youthful brain. A giant, a Goliath! At this point my experience with the funny books was still limited – now two Avengers issues, a JLA/JSA team-up, and maybe an Archie or Tom & Jerry or some such thing. I was ecstatic to see “my” Avengers again and with new characters (at least they were new to me). This Pym fella, though seemed like a moody dude. But the Collector was cool (weird, though)! Upon further inspection I picked up what we now of course know: Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne had left the Avengers in an earlier story (you mean – there’s more?!?), Jan had returned in a previous issue and had gone missing, and now Hank was back to fetch her with the Avengers’ help.

Right from the get-go, Hank seemed like such a tortured soul. As I said, at this point I’d had no exposure to Marvel and all its angst – this seemed like a guy genuinely down on his luck and desperate. Early in Avengers #28 (henceforth, I’m moving away from the Marvel Triple Action numbering), in regard to a call to the team for help in finding the missing Jan, Hank said,

“I had to reveal my true identity. Secrecy means nothing now! Not when Jan may be in danger! …If only I hadn’t let her transform herself into the Wasp once more! I should have insisted we stay in retirement! But I had no choice! The need was there – and at heart, we’ll both always be – Avengers (page 2)!” 

Hawkeye reluctantly went to fetch Dr. Pym, and upon their return greetings with the rest of the Kooky Quartet were exchanged. Of course, nothing is easy and Hawkeye asked for proof that Pym was truly Giant-Man. Cap agreed and asked Pym to prove himself before they embarked on their search for the Wasp. Hank told Cap, “One of the reasons I resigned from the Avengers was – I realized that changing size so often was dangerous to my body! The unimaginable strain might some day be fatal (page 5)!” Nevertheless, protocol is protocol. Despite a warning that 25 feet was now the only height he dared attain, a brief step into the alley (after donning some new duds sewn by Wanda “in case you ever did return (ibid)!”) proved Hank the real deal.

Doug: Stop back by on each of the next five Fridays for more of me and Hank Pym!


david_b said...


Ah, many thanks my friend for bringing back a character whose grown (no pun..) very close to our hearts for so many years.

Even weirder, I'm collecting some of the Marvel Universe figures (around the uber-cool movie Fantasticar in my office..) and I'm now on the hunt for the Walmart Exclusive Blue/Yellow Goliath released in 2009. Just how coincidental is that..?? Adding that to the custom Antman (and box) a top customiser in the Mego Forum's finishing for me now, 2011'll definitely be a 'Hank Pym Summer' for me.

Rereading your earlier post on Hank in Avengers 28, you really pinned his personality well, in both halves of the story. Hank had an intense presence, regardless of his self-doubt or raw determination, manifesting quite well a guy who alternately creates, then becomes victimized by his own chemistry and scientific achievements.

Quite frankly, up until the Vision took over as the Avengers book 'mainstay', it was Hank early on that gave the team it's unique flavor or chemistry, differing it from the FF or X-Men, especially when the 'Big 3' were absent. It was his brooding smirk, under the 'always-cool' covered eyes. It just yells 'Marvelmania' and sucks me right on in.

And of my earlier mention of intensity, it was very difficult for me to accept his blandness once he came to the WCA pages. A reformed, relaxed Dr. Pym.., dating Tigra, and without need of any alter-identies..? Perhaps, but I missed his earlier Silver Age glories as an original Avenger.

Bring it on, Doug..!!

Inkstained Wretch said...

Ah, the Marvel reprints. Some of the first comics I ever bought were those Avengers reprints, "Marvel Triple Action" and "Marvel Super Action."

I was so young, I didn't realize they were reprints either. I just thought that Marvel was always printing great comics featuring the Avengers. I think it was decade before I realized that I was reading the classic Roy Thomas stories that defined the Avengers and team mags generally.

Marvel Super Action also featured Hulk stories as a back-up feature. I later learned these were reprints of original stories from British comics and had art by Dave Gibbons.

We were spoiled back then ...

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