Wednesday, April 8, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe, June 1963, part 1


This issue introduces us to the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android, a pair of villains who will become regular members of the FF’s Rogue’s Gallery.

The Thinker’s shtick is pretty much just being really, really smart. As a precursor to taking over New York City, he figures out a way to manipulate the FF into temporarily breaking up, then uses a power outage to gain entrance into the Baxter Building. Once there, he equips a small army of gangsters with advanced weaponry invented by Reed. He also uses Reed’s notes on DNA research to create the powerful (and visually cool) Awesome Android.

In a nice series of vignettes that manages to generate some real emotion without getting too corny, Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny all soon realize they miss each other. But when they return to New York and get back together, they find themselves locked out of their own headquarters. In yet another fun Jack Kirby action sequence, the four heroes have to work together to bust into the building and defeat the Thinker, the Android and the ray-gun-wielding mobsters. It’s all very well-choreographed—each of the four (even Sue) is given something useful to do. And, of course, the Thinker meets his final defeat because it turns out that Reed Richards is even smarter than he is.


Hank’s got a girlfriend!!! Hank’s got a girlfriend!!!!!

We actually get some back story on Henry Pym in this issue, with a flashback that tells us he was once married to a girl named Maria. Maria was from Eastern Europe and she had defected to America. But soon after she and Hank are married, Communist agents kidnap and kill her.

Back in the present, Hank is feeling lonely and missing his wife. He also realizes he’s had too many close calls and needs a partner to back him up while he’s fighting the bad guys.

Well, as luck would have it, he soon meets Janet Van Dyne, who reminds him of Maria AND is anxious to avenge the recent murder of her father by an alien being.

So Hank implants tiny wings in her shoulder blades that will sprout whenever she uses the shrinking gas. And thus the Wasp is added to the pantheon of Marvel heroes. She and Ant Man team up to whip the murderous alien.

Janet’s addition to the cast is a step up for the Ant Man stories. Hank had gone far too long without a supporting cast and Janet proves to be a nice fit for him. The two are soon falling in love with each other, with Janet’s free-spiritedness providing a nice balance for Hank’s more staid personality. The two really never grow into strong enough characters to make their solo stories as memorable as those we see in the Fantastic Four or Spider Man, but they do eventually become an important and engaging part of the Marvel Universe as members of the Avengers.

Next week, we’ll finish up June 1963 with a look at what Thor, Iron Man and the Human Torch are up to.

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