For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Avengers: Tales to Astonish

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

At the dawn of the Marvel Age of comics, Stan Lee needed berths for his growing roster of super-heroes so he repurposed his horror and science fiction anthologies to begin housing the newcomers. The titles Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and Strange Tales started with one heroic feature and within a few short years, housed two. Back in 1994, to retain trademark to the titles, the House of Ideas released one-shots under these names, using several of their stellar writers, paired with painters, and using the classic title’s characters. Initially, these were 64-page prestige packages, complete with acetate covers, making an event out of these books. Now, for the first time, Marvel is releasing Avengers: Tales to Astonish, containing these stories.

Avengers: Tales to Astonish

Avengers: Tales to Astonish


Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish simultaneously arrived in January 1959 and in 1962, TTA had a story about Hank Pym, a scientist who could reduce his size to that of an ant. It sold well enough and as Lee cast about for new ideas, Ant-Man seemed a natural. In time, he was partnered with Janet Van Dyne, first his girlfriend and then his partner, the Wondrous Wasp. Soon after, Stan added the Hulk to the second half of the book, keeping the character around after his solo title lasted a mere six issues.

As a result, Peter David, who was writing the Hulk’s book in the 1990s, combined the trio and set them against Asgard’s Loki. Painted by John Estes, “Loki’s Dream” involves a sadistic killer who claims to be descended from Loki going on the rampage. As the jade-jawed giant and the six-inch tall heroes tried to take him down without loss of human life, their mission gets complicated when a mad Viking enters the mix.

Tales of Suspense

Tales of Suspense


Following on the heels of Ant-Man’s arrival in TTA, Tales of Suspense welcomed Tony Stark and his iron alter ego. Just under two years later, Iron Man welcomed Captain America to the back of the book. Both heroes had deep ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. and its director Nick Fury so writer James Robinson wisely used the agency to propel the story. With painted art by Colin MacNeil, the heroes are asked by Fury to protect the attendees of a peace conference. A new terrorist group called DANTE (whose acronym is never explained) using technology from Stark Enterprises and led by an ex-Nazi special agent Emil Stein, intend the keep Japan and the USA from forging deeper ties. The abiding friendship between Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Nick Fury is nicely on display here.

Strange Tales

Strange Tales


Strange Tales initially was the home to the Human Torch, a solo feature for the youngest member of the Fantastic Four. Most issues also featured his sparring partner the Thing, exploring their unlikely friendship – a precursor to the forthcoming revival of Marvel Two-in-One which will feature both. In time, the Torch welcomed Doctor Strange to the rear of the title before he himself made way for Nick Fury. Kurt Busiek mixes magic and science here with painted art by Ricardo Villagran, then best known as my inker on DC’s Star Trek.  Tall tale swapping with the Torch’s one-time college roommate Wyatt Wingfoot goes from friendly to deadly when their words create horrific realities. As it turns out, an insidious evil was trapped within the words “Once Upon a Time” and he finally escaped. The heroes turn to the Sorcerer Supreme for help and Fury also makes an appearance as does the Yellow Claw, a 1950s nemesis.

The three stand-alone stories work as a tributes to the early days of Marvel, while contemporary talents show what can be done with done-in-one stories that are fun to reread.

Purchase

Avengers: Tales to Astonish

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