Comics

Kirby 100: The Man in the Ant Hill

See how Hank Pym went from shrunken scientist to costumed Avenger!

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1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

Jack Kirby drew hundreds of pages of anthology comics in the early 1960s—scientists ran afoul of aliens and monsters got loose across one-off stories. Most of the characters in those books never featured more than once…with the exception of Ant-Man.

But before he had his super moniker, he was just another protagonist in the 1962 anthology story “The Man in the Ant Hill,” found in TALES TO ASTONISH #27.

Tales to Astonish (1959) #27

Tales to Astonish (1959) #27

  • Published: January 10, 1962
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciller: Steve Ditko
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

From the start—the cover featured giant green ants pulling a man into a dark hole—this story jumped right into the scares, especially for the myrmecophobes (people with a fear of ants) in the reading audience.

In the pages of this would-be one-off, the action moved back in time to show a scientist named Henry Pym using a newly developed formula to shrink a chair before restoring it to normal size. Moved by his success, Pym thought back to the derision he suffered from his colleagues for choosing to follow his own unique scientific interests.

In need of a human guinea pig, the wayward scientist used a few drops on himself—and shrank down much faster than expected. As he struggled to climb to the window sill where his growth serum sat, a nearby ant colony sent out its troops to investigate the potential intruder.

In an attempt to escape the insect onslaught, Hank jumped into a nearby ant hill, fell down a pit, and landed in a pool of honey. To his shock, an ant helped him out of the sticky (and potentially lethal) trap…but Pym saw no such compassion from the horde at-large.

After spotting a match, the microscopic scientist threw a pebble at it to ignite the flame. And thanks to a makeshift rope—and his knowledge of judo—Hank Pym escaped the ant hill and returned to the surface.

Unexpectedly, a single ant followed him out of the mound. Exhausted, Pym nearly surrendered to the bug—before realizing that this ant saved him moments before. Hopping onto the creature’s back, he rode up the wall to the growth formula. When he regained his usual size, Pym dumped his serums down the drain and—seemingly—gave the project up forever.

…Until TALES TO ASTONISH #35 came out a few months later! Turns out, Hank couldn’t get his diminutive friends off his mind, and—continuing his studies—developed a helmet that allowed him to communicate with the critters.

Tales to Astonish (1959) #35

Tales to Astonish (1959) #35

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Around the same time, the U.S. government tasked the scientist with making an anti-radiation formula, though a malevolent foreign regime wanted access to the study. When a team of agents came for the material, Pym donned a suit, put on the helmet, and used the shrinking serum to escape undetected—before defeating his foes one-by-one. And with that act against evil, Ant-Man was born.

His journey continued in TALES TO ASTONISH, where he soon welcomed The Wasp. The insectoid duo later helped form the original Avengers and began their decades of adventures together—all thanks to the minds of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more Kirby klassics! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.