|Tales to Astonish|
|Publication date||(vol. 1)|
January 1959 – March 1968
(becomes The Incredible Hulk vol. 2)
December 1979 – January 1981
|No. of issues||(vol. 1): 101 |
(vol. 2): 14
|Main character(s)||Ant-Man / Giant-Man & Wasp|
|Written by||(vol. 1)|
Tales to Astonish is the name of two American comic book series, and a one-shot comic, all published by Marvel Comics.
The primary title bearing that name was published from January 1959 to March 1968. It began as a science-fiction anthology that served as a showcase for such artists as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, then featured superheroes during the period fans and historians call the Silver Age of Comic Books. It became The Incredible Hulk with issue No. 102 (April 1968). Its sister title was Tales of Suspense.
A second Marvel comic bearing the name, reprinting stories of the undersea ruler the Sub-Mariner, ran 14 issues from December 1979 to January 1981. A superhero one-shot followed in 1994.
Tales to Astonish and its sister publication Tales of Suspense were both launched with a January 1959 cover date. The early run of the first volume of Tales to Astonish ran from issues #1–34 (January 1959 – August 1962), initially under Atlas Comics, the 1950s forerunner of Marvel; it fell under the Marvel banner with issue No. 21 (July 1961), the first with a cover sporting the early "MC" box. It contained science-fiction mystery/suspense stories written primarily by editor-in-chief Stan Lee and his brother, Larry Lieber, with artists including Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, Don Heck and Paul Reinman. One such story, "The Man in the Ant Hill", in No. 27 (January 1962), introduced the character Henry Pym, who would be repurposed eight issues later as the superhero Ant-Man. Anthological stories continued to appear as backups until Tales to Astonish became a superhero "split book" in 1964, when it began featuring one story each of Giant-Man and the Hulk.
Following his one-shot anthological story in No. 27 (January 1962), scientist Henry Pym returned donning a cybernetic helmet and red costume, and using size-changing technology to debut as the insect-sized hero Ant-Man in No. 35 (September 1962). The series was plotted by Lee and scripted by Lieber, with penciling first by Kirby and later by Heck and others. The Wasp was introduced as Ant-Man's costar in issue No. 44 (June 1963). Ant-Man and Pym's subsequent iteration, Giant-Man, introduced in No. 49 (November 1963), starred in 10- to 13-page and later 18-page adventures, with the rest of Tales to Astonish devoted to the anthological science fiction and fantasy stories the comic normally ran. Aside from Lee and Lieber, occasional writers included Ernie Hart, under the pseudonym H. E. Huntley, Leon Lazarus (#64, February 1965) and Al Hartley (#69, the feature's finale, July 1965). Artists of the latter part of the run included Ditko, Ayers, and two veterans of the period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comic books, Carl Burgos and Bob Powell.
The backup feature "Tales of the Wasp" (#51–56) used the superheroine as a framing device for anthological science-fiction stories, having her relate tales to hospitalized servicemen and the like. The Wasp also starred in two subsequent solo backup stories. All were scripted and penciled by Lieber.
The Hulk, whose original series The Incredible Hulk had been canceled after a six-issue run in 1962–63, returned to star in his own feature when Tales to Astonish became a split book at issue No. 60 (October 1964), after having guest-starred as Giant-Man's antagonist in a full-length story the previous issue. The Hulk had proven a popular guest-star in three issues of Fantastic Four and an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. His new stories here were initially scripted by Lee and illustrated by the seldom-seen team of penciler Steve Ditko and inker George Roussos. This early part of the Hulk's run introduced the Leader, who would become the Hulk's nemesis, and this run additionally made the Hulk's identity known, initially only to the military and then later publicly. The Abomination first appeared in Tales to Astonish No. 90, and is introduced as a KGB agent and spy. Stan Lee chose the name "the Abomination," which he realized belonged to no other character, before conceiving the character's background and appearance. Lee recalled that he simply told artist Gil Kane to "make him bigger and stronger than the Hulk and we'll have a lot of fun with him."
Namor the Sub-Mariner received his first feature in a decade beginning with No. 70 (August 1965). The Golden Age character Byrrah was reintroduced in issue No. 90 (April 1967). After the final issue of Tales to Astonish (which became the solo magazine The Incredible Hulk with issue No. 102, April 1968), the Sub-Mariner co-starred in the split-book one-shot Iron Man and Sub-Mariner No. 1 before going on to his own 72-issue series.
Giant-Man and Wasp were featured prominently in the Sub-Mariner stories in issues #77-78, steering their return to The Avengers in #26 of that series. Stan Lee had originally removed all Avengers with their own series/serials from the team ten issues earlier to make continuity easier to maintain. Wasp had been at a cruise ship swimming pool when she went to alert the Avengers of Namor's activities in #77, explaining why she was dressed for swimming in The Avengers #26.
A second volume of Tales to Astonish, using the cover logo Tales to Astonish starring the Sub-Mariner, ran 14 issues (December 1979 – January 1981), reprinting edited versions of Sub-Mariner #1–14 (May 1968 – June 1969). All but the last issue ran 18-page versions of the originally 20-page stories, with panels and text reworked to condense the plot. That last issue also included three Sub-Mariner pinups, one by character creator Bill Everett, reprinted from Marvel Mystery Comics No. 9 (July 1940); one by penciler Jack Kirby and inker Sol Brodsky, reprinted from Fantastic Four No. 33 (December 1964); and a new one by artist Alan Weiss. Covers repurposed the original art, with the premiere issue's image flipped 180 degrees.
Tales to Astonish vol. 3 No. 1 (December 1994) was a 72-page one-shot special starring the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, Ant-Man, and the Wasp in the story "Loki's Dream" by writer Peter David, with painted art by John Estes.
In the 2015 film Ant-Man, after showing archival footage of Hank Pym/Ant-Man in action, Darren Cross jokes that the whole idea sounds like "tales to astonish."
January  saw the birth of two titles that would each have a place of importance in the coming age - Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish.
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Marvel was bursting at the seams with superheroes. To accommodate all the characters clamoring for action, [Stan] Lee was obliged to put two stars into several of the comic books, each one taking half the pages for his own separate story. The Hulk returned to join Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish No. 60 (October 1964).