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Tales to Astonish 27
"The Man in the Anthill!"


Plot: Stan Lee
Script: Larry Lieber
Art: Jack Kirby
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letters: John Duffy

Dreams can begin in different ways. Those of Henry Pym are confirmed with a cry of success. He has succeeded in reducing a chair to doll size. Once he applies a few drops of his growth potion to the chair, it regains its former size. The scientist has realized his own success. During its return to full size, Pym recalls the science convention from months ago. The others would not recognize his theories as valid, and suggest that he be more realistic in his work. Henry Pym was determined to work on experiments which appealed to his imagination. When asked what experiments those would be, Pym smiles, and vows to reveal it when it was completed.

Months were spent alone in the laboratory, where the serums were perfected, and the ability to change an object's size became a reality. Items could be reduced in size and be shipped at a lower cost. Armies could travel in one airplane. With the success of his serums on the chair, Henry Pym is ready to test them on a living subject -- himself. A few drops of the reducing potion, and the scientist can see himself becoming smaller and smaller in size. The serums work better than expected, too fast for comfort.

In his panic, Pym rushes through the open doorway, and onto his doorstep. With the antidote left on the window ledge, he may never be able to reach it. His small, weak cries are heard by the ants in a nearby anthill. The insects crawl over the ground, and surround Henry Pym. The only place for him to hide is in the ant hill. After entering one of the tunnels, he hopes to find a way out of this nightmarish situation. Before he can get far, the scientist falls down an open shaft, and lands in a sticky substance.

The honey Pym is thrashing around is stored by the ants for food. The more he struggles, the tighter its hold on him. An ant has seen his plight and crawls towards him. The insect tries to pull the scientist out of the honey. Now freed, Pym is surprised to see that the ant isn't harming him. With the other ants closing in, Henry Pym spots a match stick, and hurls a pebble towards its sulfuric head.

The match-head ignites and the fire keeps the ants at bay. After fashioning a makeshift lasso, the scientist climbs upwards, and finds another ant waiting for him. The insect attacks with all of its strength. The human's sole advantage is his brain and its knowledge of judo. He finds a path leading out of the ant hill. Minutes later, the scientist is out, and sees the enlarging serum on the window ledge. With the ants almost upon him, Pym doesn't have it in him to run any more.

Just as all seems lost, the ant who saved him earlier returns to the scene. Pointing to the window ledge, the human hopes that the insect will understand his need. The ant begins the act of crawling up the side of the wall, with Henry Pym perched on its back. He enters the tube containing the serum. SPLASH! He begins to grow. Getting bigger and bigger until he regains his normal size once more. His first act is to destroy the growth serums by pouring them down the drain. The scientist knows that they are too dangerous for anyone to use. At the next monthly meeting of the Science Fellowship, Pym tells the others that his experiments have failed. He agrees that his fellow scientists were correct when they said he was wasting his time. From now on, he would be following more sensible projects. The story of the man in the anthill has ended. The scientist would never step upon an ant hill, knowing that there was an insect to whom he owed his life, and he would follow in their footsteps as the Ant-Man.

This story was reprinted in The Essential Astonishing Ant-Man Vol. 1 (2002).

On the cover of Tales To Astonish #27, Henry Pym screams for someone to save him before the insects succeed in dragging him into the ant hill.

On the splash page, the scientist strives to evade his pursuers through their tunnels.

The experiments of Hank Pym are successful when a chair is reduced in size by his growth serums.

The experiments of Ray Palmer are a failure when a chair is reduced in size, and subsequently explodes.

Both men are determined to prove themselves as scientists. One to his peers, and the other to the woman he plans to marry.

Although not a match for the horde of ants, Hank Pym did receive some help in the form of a match stick.

Tube or not tube. That was the question for the scientist.

Steve Chung
"The Man In The Review!"