What the Great Marvel Insect Rebellion of 1963 Shows Us About Henry Pym

Journey Into Marvel – Part 67

The Scarlet Beetle readies his forces.

The Scarlet Beetle readies his forces.

Extremites, mark this down. Tales to Astonish #39 is where Ant-Man jumps the shark. Stan Lee and Larry Lieber present us a story, that is so ‘off the wall’ hilarious, the world of Ant-Man has nowhere left to go.

In this story, we see what happens when the human world and the insect world collide.

Following the B-Movie vein that inspired Ant-Man from the outset, Stan and Larry present us with a beetle — an honest to God ‘red beetle’ — that has been touched by radioactive experiments. Through mutation he has grown a brain with the capacity for human thought. This beetle uses his intelligence to inspire a revolt against mankind. At one point he, and I assume he is a ‘he’ although his sex is never pointed out — this is the 60s after all— tells the insect hordes to “take back what is theirs.”

Grasshoppers go on rampage. Termites consume all wood. Bees harass the police. The world is crippled… or, you know, New York. Marvel World.

While all of this is going on the Scarlet Beetle captures Antman, who he calls the ‘overlord and tyrant of insect kind,’ steals his enlarging spray, and makes himself human sized. The insects are going haywire— except the loyal ants, of course. There’s a human sized beetle running amok and Ant-Man is trapped in tunnels, deposed.

Sounds like the makings of a battle that PeterJackson would want to direct, right?

It’s even better.

Jack Kirby presents us with a panel that shows a legion of ants declaring war against hordes of insects led by the Scarlet Beetle. The ants cover the Beetle in honey. Grasshoppers are destroyed by ant hordes and the bees are drawn into an dog fight with a cotillion of flying ants. It’s an epic show down that has been inevitable from the first panel of the first Ant-Man story.

Hank Pym’s manipulation and respect for this world has made him into a demigod. But he’s not really a superhero is he? He’s just a guy who figured out how to utilize a part of the world no one else has thought to use.

It’s this realization that I had — about mid story — that ruined my respect for Ant-Man. How can we call Ant-Man anything more then a manipulative scientist?

Stand up to the Henry Pym tyranny!

Stand up to the Henry Pym tyranny!

Only an issue ago I discussed what makes Dr. Doom a villain.One of the things I noticed was his way of using science to manipulate people to do his bidding. How is Henry Pym any different?

Hank commands the ants to do his will. In some stories he even calls them his slaves. Here he uses both telepathic control and shear force to coerce the ants to defeat their brethren when they should be right there revolting against humanity with the rest of the six legged creatures.

The Scarlet Beetle has legitimate grievances: the unfair way insects are destroyed by human boots, or magnifying glasses, or in his case, radioactive experiments. That’s worthy of a protest.. We as humans —the care takers of Earth — owe respect to the underlying creatures.

It’s amazing how only eleven pages of comic, for that’s all this story is —that’s shorter then the normal fourteen— can be this meaty. I recommend that everyone look this one up.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds

Story I Read:The Vengeance of the Scarlet Beetle” (Tales to Astonish #39 Jan 1963)

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

Pros: The loopy idea, the creative way all the insects control humanity, the authenticity and sympathy of Scarlet Beetle.

Cons: Spiders are not insects, the cover shows a gigantic Scarlet Beetle marauding New York like Godzilla, but in the story he’s only human sized. I am disappointed.

Next Review:The Return of the Wizard!” (Strange Tales #104 Feb. 1963)

Last Review:The Return of Doctor Doom!” (Fantastic Four #10 Jan 1963)


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on February 14, 2015, in Ant-Man, Marvel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I would love to see a Hollywood A-lister deliver some of those lines with a straight face: “Humanity wouldn’t stand a chance against an organized attack by the insect world!”

  2. The Scarlet Beetle must be something of a cult favorite among comic book creators, as the character has been brought back a surprising number of times over the years…


    The cover to Tales To Astonish #39 is pretty darn cool. “Today, Central Park! Tomorrow, the world! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!” 🙂

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