[GoH] One foot in horror: Ant-Man

“Gutter of Horror” is a Brazilian column from Dinamo Studio website that talks about horror comics.
This is the translated version of the article.

He has two movies and was and important part of the last Avengers film (not the original one, but you know what I mean). In the comics, he is a founding member of The Avengers. But what many people may not know is that Ant-Man started as a horror character in a short story.

First, let’s dive in into some historical context: well before the publisher we know as Marvel Comics existed, there was a man called Martin Goodman. Goodman was the owner of Red Circle Publishing, an umbrella brand that included several publisher companies.  In the 1930s and 1940s, Red Circle published mainly books and pulp comics by sharing many of the same staff for its various companies. One of those companies was Timely Comics.

At that time, we didn’t have horror comics per se. What we had was a mixed bag of genres, including some related to horror such as crime, supernatural stories and, of course, the weird menace type stories that were very popular (more on that here). Superheroes were created in this mixed bag, so it borrowed a lot from several genres in pulp, including horror. Story and character elements like science gone wrong, giant monsters, people that become weird creatures, aliens and mythical creatures were just a few examples of the things that transitioned to superhero comics.

Timely published several comics, but through the 1940s the flagship titles were superheroes like Captain America, Namor the Submariner and The Human Torch (the original, not the Fantastic Four one). But after World War II, like most of superhero comics, the Timely heroes ended up dying out. Captain America ended with issue #75 (1950) after been renamed Captain America’s Weird Tales for 2 issues – with the last one being just a anthology issue with mostly horror stories and no superheroes. Namor and Human Torch comics finished the year before with Sub-Mariner Comics #32 and Human Torch Comics #35. Another publication, Marvel Mystery Comics (previously Marvel Comics) became the horror Anthology Marvel Tales. By 1951, Martin Goodman started to use the logo of his newsstand-distribution company: Atlas.

Martin Goodman was not exactly an innovator, but he followed trends, which were his successful route until then. And in the 1950s E.C. Comics titles were the  trend, so Atlas published several horror, western and horror titles, such as Adventure into Mystery, Adventures into Terror, Amazing Adventures, Astonishing, Marvel Tales, Mystery Tales, Strange Tales, Uncanny Tales, among others. Goodman tried to revive some superhero titles like Captain America but without success. Some titles like Amazing Adventures ended up being re-titled as Amazing Fantasy - title that later would introduce us to Spider-man; others such as Tales of Suspense, Journey into Mistery and Tales to Astonish transitioned to Marvel Comics keeping the names and helped introduce many of the Marvel Characters we know today. And one of them was Ant-man.

When Marvel began “officially” in the early 1960s1, the company was in a transition. Titles inherited from Atlas included horror, western, humor and romance titles, but Stan Lee decided to follow another trend: the revival of superheroes made by DC Comics, which were rebooting characters such as The Flash and Green Lantern. Maybe because of that transition, basically all the first heroes from the Marvel Universe had one foot in horror – Fantastic Four were a bunch of weird monsters, so as The Hulk. But unlike them, Ant-man actually started as a horror story.

In 1962 issue #27 from “Tales to Astonish” featured a short story titled “The man in the Ant Hill” that was about Hank Pym, a scientist that developed a formula capable of reduce the size of objects – and another one that enables him to return to normal size. Putting just a few sips of the reduction serum on his arm, he shrinks - just to realize that he had left the back-to-normal serum far from his reach. The journey to get there and return to his normal size putted him in many problems, such as being followed by ants, which appeared giant to him. After almost die, Pym manage to get to the serum and returned of his normal self. After this little adventure (see what I did there?), Hank Pym decided that his invention was too dangerous and threw the serum out.

It was only eight issues later that Hank Pym was reintroduced, this time as a superhero, with an uniform and a codename. Some issues later, we were also introduced to Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s girlfriend and also the superhero Wasp. Both became regulars on Tales to Astonish, that was not a horror comic anymore - much like Tales of Suspense and Tales do Astonish which became the house of Iron Man and Thor, just to name a few. And the rest is (Marvel) History.

Rafael Algures is a Bachelor of Philosophy specialized in Neurosciences of Language. He is also a copywriter, content and science writer, and a comic book creator. His latest work, “Gutter of Horror: Transition”, is available at Amazon – digital and paperback.

Further reading: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, by Sean Howe


1. The name “Marvel” was already used by Martin Goodman in some publications since at least 1944, were we could read “A Marvel Magazine” on some covers.