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Tales to Astonish

Tales to Astonish
Tales to Astonish #3 (May 1959). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Chris Rule.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
Schedule monthly
Format Ongoing
Publication date Jan. 1959 - March 1968 (becomes The Incredible Hulk vol. 2)
Number of issues 101
Main character(s) Ant-Man/Giant-Man & Wasp
Creative team
Writer(s) Ernie Hart, Al Hartley, Leon Lazarus, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Penciller(s) Dick Ayers, Carl Burgos, Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Don Heck, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, Bob Powell, Paul Reinman
Inker(s) George Roussos

Tales to Astonish is the name of two American comic book series and a one-shot comic 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 #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 (Jan. 1959 - Aug. 1962), initially under Atlas Comics, the 1950s forerunner of Marvel;[3] it fell under the Marvel banner with issue #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 #27 (Jan. 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 and Giant-Man

Tales to Astonish #44 (June 1963). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.

Following his one-shot anthological story in #27 (Jan. 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 #35 (Sept. 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 #44 (June 1963).[8] Ant-Man and Pym's subsequent iteration, Giant-Man, introduced in #49 (Nov. 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, Feb. 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 #60 (Oct. 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 #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 #70 (Aug. 1965).[14] The Golden Age character Byrrah was reintroduced in issue #90 (April 1967).[15] After the final issue of Tales to Astonish (which became the solo magazine The Incredible Hulk with issue #102, April 1968),[16] the Sub-Mariner co-starred in the split-book one-shot Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 before going on to his own 72-issue series.[3]


A second volume of Tales to Astonish, using the cover logo Tales to Astonish starring the Sub-Mariner, ran 14 issues (Dec. 1979 - Jan. 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 #9 (July 1940); one by penciler Jack Kirby and inker Sol Brodsky, reprinted from Fantastic Four #33 (Dec. 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, #1 (Dec. 1994) was a 72-page, squarebound, 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 (Aug. 1965). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Mike Esposito.
  • Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales to Astonish
  • Marvel Masterworks: Ant-Man/Giant-Man
    • Vol. 1 collects Henry Pym story in Tales to Astonish #27 and Ant-Man/Giant-Man feature in #35-52, 288 pages, March 2006 ISBN 978-0785120490
    • Vol. 2 collects Giant-Man feature in Tales to Astonish #53-69, 304 pages, February 2008, ISBN 978-0785129110
  • Essential Astonishing Ant-Man Henry Pym story in Tales to Astonish #27 and Ant-Man/Giant-Man feature in #35-69, 576 pages, February 2002, ISBN 978-0785108221
  • The Superhero Women: Featuring the Fabulous Females of Marvel Comics includes Ant-Man and the Wasp story from Tales to Astonish #44, 254 pages, November 1977, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671229283
  • Marvel Masterworks: The Incredible Hulk
    • Vol. 2 collects Giant-Man feature in Tales to Astonish #59 and Hulk feature in #60-79, 266 pages, December 2004, ISBN 978-0785116547
    • Vol. 3 collects Hulk feature in Tales to Astonish #80-101, 288 pages, January 2006, ISBN 978-0785120322
  • Essential Incredible Hulk
    • Vol. 1 includes Hulk feature in Tales to Astonish #60-91, 528 pages, February 1999, ISBN 978-0785164173
    • Vol. 2 includes Hulk feature in Tales to Astonish #92-101, 520 pages, September 2001, ISBN 978-0785164180
  • The Incredible Hulk includes Hulk stories from Tales to Astonish #60-74 and #88, 253 pages, July 1978, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671242244
  • Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of the Marvel Comics Villains includes Hulk stories from Tales to Astonish #90-91, 253 pages, October 1976, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671223557
  • Marvel Masterworks: The Sub-Mariner
    • Vol. 1 collects Sub-Mariner feature in Tales to Astonish #70-87, 224 pages, May 2002, ISBN 978-0785108757
    • Vol. 2 collects Sub-Mariner feature in Tales to Astonish #88-101, 240 pages, June 2007, ISBN 978-0785126881
  • Essential Sub-Mariner Vol. 1 includes Sub-Mariner feature in Tales to Astonish #70-101, 504 pages, September 2009, ISBN 9780785130758
  • Marvel's Greatest Superhero Battles includes Sub-Mariner story from Tales to Astonish #82, 253 pages, November 1978, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671243913

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. 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. 
  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. Harry N. Abrams. p. 120. ISBN 9780810938212. Marvel was bursting at the seams with superheroes. In order 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 #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 #27 (Jan. 1962) was back."
  8. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 93: "Janet Van Dyne made her debut as the Wasp in Tales to Astonish #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 greates power was his mind. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for Tales to Astonish #62, the Leader was once Samuel Sterns, a simple laborer."
  12. ^ DeFalco, Tom (2006). The Marvel Encyclopedia. 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 March 10, 2013. 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 #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 #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

External links