Tales to Astonish
Cover of Tales to Astonish No. 1 (January 1959)
Art by Jack Kirby and Chris Rule
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
Publication date(vol. 1)
January 1959 – March 1968
(becomes The Incredible Hulk vol. 2)
(vol. 2)
December 1979 – January 1981
No. of issues(vol. 1): 101
(vol. 2): 14
Main character(s)Ant-Man / Giant-Man & Wasp
Creative team
Written by(vol. 1)
Ernie Hart
Al Hartley
Leon Lazarus
Stan Lee
Larry Lieber
(vol. 2)
Roy Thomas
Penciller(s)(vol. 1)
Dick Ayers
Carl Burgos
Gene Colan
Steve Ditko
Bill Everett
Don Heck
Jack Kirby
Larry Lieber
Bob Powell
Paul Reinman
(vol. 2)
John Buscema
Inker(s)(vol. 1)
George Roussos
(vol. 2)
Frank Giacoia

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.

Reported circulation[1]
Year Circulation
1960 163,156
1961 184,895
1962 139,167
1963 189,390
1964 207,365
1965 224,346
1966 256,145
1967 269,132

Publication history

Science-fiction anthology

Tales to Astonish and its sister publication Tales of Suspense were both launched with a January 1959 cover date.[2] 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;[3] it fell under the Marvel banner with issue No. 21 (July 1961), the first with a cover sporting the early "MC" box.[4] 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,[5] 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.[3][6]

Ant-Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp

Tales to Astonish No. 44 (June 1963). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.

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).[7] 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).[8] Ant-Man and Pym's subsequent iteration, Giant-Man, introduced in No. 49 (November 1963),[9] 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.[3]

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.

Hulk and Sub-Mariner

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),[10] 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.[3] This early part of the Hulk's run introduced the Leader,[11] 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.[12] 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."[13]

Namor the Sub-Mariner received his first feature in a decade beginning with No. 70 (August 1965).[14] The Golden Age character Byrrah was reintroduced in issue No. 90 (April 1967).[15] After the final issue of Tales to Astonish (which became the solo magazine The Incredible Hulk with issue No. 102, April 1968),[16] 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.[3]

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.[17]

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.[18][19]

Collected editions

The Sub-Mariner feature begins: Tales to Astonish #70 (August 1965). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Mike Esposito.

In other media

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."

See also


  1. ^ Average monthly data from publisher's annual "Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation", as compiled at The Comics Chronicles. Circulation data first included in Statements for 1960. Title became The Incredible Hulk in early 1968.
  2. ^ Brevoort, Tom; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1950s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 72. ISBN 978-0756641238. January [1959] 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. ((cite book)): |first2= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e Tales to Astonish at the Grand Comics Database
  4. ^ Cover, Tales to Astonish #21 at the Grand Comics Database
  5. ^ DeFalco, Tom "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 84: "The first appearance of Dr. Henry 'Hank' Pym in a Marvel monster/suspense title was an inauspicious beginning for a man destined to become...[a] founder of the Avengers."
  6. ^ Daniels, Les (1991). Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York City: Harry N. Abrams. p. 120. ISBN 9780810938212. 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).
  7. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 88: "[Stan Lee] resurrected an earlier concept and...Hank Pym, the reckless scientist from Tales to Astonish No. 27 (January 1962) was back."
  8. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 93: "Janet Van Dyne made her debut as the Wasp in Tales to Astonish No. 44. Based on a story idea by Stan Lee and a script by H. E. Huntley, the Wasp was designed and drawn by Jack Kirby."
  9. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 95: "Stan Lee drastically increased Ant-Man's power's so he could grow to giant-size proportions."
  10. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 102: "Tales to Astonish #60...introduced a new series – The Incredible Hulk – starring the famous character."
  11. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 103: "Since the Hulk was a creature of strength, it seemed only natural that he should have an enemy whose greatest power was his mind. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for Tales to Astonish No. 62, the Leader was once Samuel Sterns, a simple laborer."
  12. ^ DeFalco, Tom (2006). The Marvel Encyclopedia. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7566-2358-6.
  13. ^ Lammers, Tim (June 11, 2008). "Stan Lee Pumped Over Return Of Incredible Hulk". KCRA-TV. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  14. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 109: "Prince Namor replaced Giant-Man as the lead feature in Tales to Astonish No. 70. The Sub-Mariner series was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gene Colan, who was using the pen name Adam Austin at the time."
  15. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 121: "Originally introduced in the Golden Age of comics, Namor's old enemy – Prince Byrrah – finally returned to comics in Tales to Astonish #90."
  16. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 128: "Hailing 1968 as the beginning of the 'Second Age of Marvel Comics,' and with more titles to play with, editor Stan Lee discarded his split books and gave more characters their own titles...Tales to Astonish No. 101 [was followed] by The Incredible Hulk #102."
  17. ^ Tales to Astonish vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
  18. ^ Cowsill, Alan "1990s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 270: "Fan-favorite writer Peter David teamed with painter John Estes for this one-shot that began a series of retro-titled prestige-format specials, including Strange Tales and Tales of Suspense."
  19. ^ Tales to Astonish (one-shot) at the Grand Comics Database