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Tales to Astonish

Comic Books

Publisher: Marvel

Appearing just after the debut of the Fantastic Four two months earlier, Tales to Astonish #27, cover dated January, 1962, could have been just another in the endless series of early Marvel horror/sci-fi titles. And two of the stories are just that, pleasantly thrilling, but similar to many others that the publisher was offering at the time. But the featured story, "The Man in the Ant Hill", is much more, as it marks the first appearance of Dr. Henry Pym, the man who would later, as Ant-Man, become one of the founding members of the Avengers. The lurid cover art, drawn by Marvel legend Jack Kirby, shows a man being dragged into an anthill by sinister ants, pretty normal cover fare for a typical Marvel “monster” issue. There was little to suggest that the issue would become one of the “key issues” of the Marvel Age; in fact, the re-appearance of Henry Pym as Ant-Man would not occur until eight months later, in Tales To Astonish #35. Truth is, the story in #27 was intended as a one-off story! But the future Ant-Man’s origin is all here: Mocked by other scientists for his outlandish theories, Dr. Henry Pym develops a means to shrink matter. However, he accidentally shrinks to ant size and must fight for his life to survive. Barely managing to get back to normal size, he vows to destroy his serum, a vow that lasts only until Stan Lee begins casting about for more superhero ideas! Eight issues after this debut, Pym is brought back and given the superhero identity of Ant-Man as well as a love interest (and future partner), socialite Janet Van Dyne. Over the course of the series and the character’s key role in the Avengers, he would shift his powers towards growth under the identities of Giant-Man and Goliath, create the homicidal robot Ultron, marry his partner, the Wasp, and later divorce her, suffering multiple personality breakdowns along the way. Although Ant-Man’s first appearance preceded that of Thor, Iron Man, and the X-Men, the value of TTA #27 in recent years has been less than the origin issues of those other superheroes. Still, Overstreet ranks the issue #10 on its Top 50 Silver Age Comics list. A copy in GD 2.0 grade currently fetches a bit over $1,000, but a Near Mint copy (NM 9.4) realized $200,000 in 2013, in large part because the issue is so rare in that grade. Expect the value of the issue in all grades to increase with the recent film devoted to Henry Pym and his Ant-Man alter-ego.

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