Comics


In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader Tommy R. wrote in to ask, “When were Pym Particles first described as being key to these shrinking/growing abilities? In Hank Pym’s first appearance, it’s a “potion” or a “serum” that enables him to change size, but at some point it became “Pym Particles” that were behind the technology. When the concept of “Pym Particles” first show up?”

Excellent question, Tommy. It’s something that I was shocked over the fact that I truly had no idea. I had a rough estimate in my head that it had to be around the late 1970s/early 1980s, but I was really not sure. Heck, even now, I’m not POSITIVE that the answer that I’m giving today is correct. I’m sure enough that I’m, you know, giving it, but if you told me that you found a different reference that predated what I’m going to show you, I wouldn’t be shocked (although I would be surprised as, again, I’m pretty sure that this is correct).

As you may or may not know, Hank Pym actually debuted as a NON-superhero character. He first showed up in Tales to Astonish #27 as a traditional scientist character who got caught up in a fantastic science fiction premise. In this instance, it was that he invented a shrinking serum (and its responsive growth serum)…

Naturally, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (the creative team for the first story) realized that, hey, shrinking powers worked out okay for that Ray Palmer guy (who debuted just a couple of months before Hank Pym did) over at DC Comics, so they decided to make Hank Pym a superhero. He returned to Tales to Astonish in issue #35 as the amazing Ant-Man.

Again, he used the two serums to shrink and return to his normal size…

Naturally, that caused a bit of a problem because, come on, he’s going to dip serum on himself every time he needs to turn into Ant-Man or back to his normal self?

So in the next issue, they turned the serum into a releasable gas form…

Soon after, it obviously occurred to Stan and Jack that, hey, we’ve already established that Hank has a growth serum, why only use it to bring himself back to normal size after he shrinks down? Why not have him use it at normal size to become a, dare I say it?, Giant-Man!

That was pretty much it for the next few decades. It was either a serum or a gas, but that’s all it ever was. Like when Hawkeye took over as Goliath briefly (in one of the most awkward series of panels imaginable, as it’s all “It’s too bad Hank didn’t want to become Goliath again, and I just made this brand-new costume.” “Yep, well, I guess I’ll put the costume and this serum in the closet over here.”) it is still just a serum.

Later, when Scott Lang became Ant-Man, it was just a gas. Nothing about particles…

So when did the change happen? Read on to find out!

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