Avengers Vol. 1 No. 12

THE AVENGERS Vol. 1 No. 12
January 1965
"This Hostage Earth!"
Written in the Marvel manner by Smilin' Stan Lee
Illustrated in the Marvel tradition by Dazzlin' Don Heck
Delineated in the Marvel style by Darlin' Dick Ayers
Lettered in the nick of time by Swingin' Sam Rosen

Giant-Man is working in his lab (again!) when he receives a Cybernetic
Alarm from the ants living far below the surface. The ants are in a
panic, indicating some great danger. Giant-Man decides to call an
Avengers emergency meeting, although the Wasp suspects that the other
heroes won't take well to being summoned on account of a bunch of
ants. Sure enough, when Thor, Iron Man (traveling via his built-in
roller skates!) and Captain America arrive, they are highly skeptical
of this alleged emergency. Giant-Man points out that it could have
something to do with the Fantastic Four's enemy the Mole Man, but Thor
reminds him that Mole Man and his entire underground kingdom were
destroyed in his last battle with the F.F. Irritated, Giant-Man
finally tells the other Avengers to get lost, and that he'll
investigate this situation by himself.

Miles below the surface, we see that Giant-Man's hunch was correct:
The Mole Man survived his battle with the Fantastic Four, and has
rebuilt his underground empire. Now he and his subterranean slaves
have built a gigantic Atomic Gyroscope, which will cause the Earth's
rotation to gradually speed up, eventually destroying all life on the
surface. It was this acceleration that the sensitive ants picked up on.

Back in his laboratory, Giant-Man tells the Wasp to shrink down to
ant-size with him so they can investigate. But it turns out that she
is just as skeptical of the situation as the other Avengers were, and
doesn't think it's worth missing her hairdresser appointment. So
Giant-Man goes alone to the ant-hill where the alarm came from. As he
enters, he feels the entire hill start shaking and then collapse,
sending him tumbling down a vast chasm. He's able to stop his fall by
growing to giant-size and bracing himself against the walls of the
tunnel. Giant-Man works his way down to the bottom, where he hears the
sound of a massive turbine, and sees a barrier made of beams of light
blocking his path.

Not far away, the Mole Man's sensitive ears pick up the sound of
Giant-Man pounding on the barrier, and he leads his mindless minions
to investigate. The dwarf-like Subterraneans swarm over Giant-Man like
Lilliputians over Gulliver. He grabs a slab of rock to block the
energy-rays they fire at him, then uses it to smash the tank they send
after him. But the Mole Man sneaks up behind and fires a stun gun that
brings the giant Avenger down. The Subterraneans bind him and carry
him away.

On the surface, the effects of the Atomic Gyroscope are becoming
noticeable. Office workers in a skyscraper feel the building swaying;
seismographs all over the world are going berserk; even the famous
Tower of Pisa is leaning farther than usual. At their headquarters,
the Avengers realize that they should have listened to Giant-Man's
warning. They have to find him, since he may be the only one who knows
the nature of the menace. As acting chairman, the Wasp decides to use
their Image Projector (seen in issue &3) to quickly search for
Giant-Man's whereabouts. While her real self is safe in Avengers' HQ,
a projected image of her is sent below the surface, following the
signals from Giant-Man's antennae. She soon spots the light-barrier,
and the Mole Man's rebuilt kingdom. The Mole Man detects this new
intruder, but the image vanishes before he can intercept it. Knowing
that he's been found, the Mole Man decides to strike first, and he
sends a squad of Subterraneans to the surface in a mole-like
tunneling machine.

At the Avengers' mansion, the team is trying to figure out the best
way to reach Giant-Man at the Earth's core. Captain America remembers
Tony Stark's new transistorized fox-hole digger, and Iron Man says he
can modify it to reach the Mole Man's lair. But before they can act,
the Subterraneans come bursting up from the floor. The Mole Man's
soldiers are puny, but armed with high-tech weaponry. One uses a
magnetic device to grab Captain America's shield, but Cap is unfazed;
he simply lays into them bare-handed instead. The Wasp targets another
Subterranean, but he sprays her with choking gas; luckily, Iron Man is
able to disperse the gas with a blast of compressed air. But then Iron
Man is menaced by a Subterranean with a flame-thrower; the Wasp
returns the favor by using her "sting" to make the enemy drop his
weapon. Thor, meanwhile, is smashing weapons right and left with his
hammer, and Cap's ricocheting shield takes out several more. Just as
the Subterraneans seem on the verge of surrender, they are surrounded
by a blinding mist. Rick Jones (where'd he come from?) manages to turn
on the exhaust fan, but by the time the mist clears, their foes have

The Avengers decide to continue with their original plan, and Cap and
Rick go to Tony Stark's warehouse to get the transistor tubes they
need to boost the power of the fox-hole diggers. When they arrive at
the warehouse, they see a group of thieves making off with Stark's
equipment. Cap lays into the thugs, but gets caught by surprise when a
big brute named Monk emerges from the shadows and tags him in the jaw.
Rick jumps in to help, but is no match for the burly crook. But by
this time, Cap has recovered, and takes out Monk with a couple of
well-placed punches. Rick is embarrassed at being taken out so easily,
but Cap assures him that the important thing is to learn from his

At Tony Stark's weapons factory, Iron Man is working on the machinery,
while Thor is anxious to get moving; he feels guilty for not heeding
Giant-Man's warnings earlier. Captain America and Rick Jones return
with the transistors, and soon the device is completed. Thor has used
his hammer like a divining rod to pinpoint the location where they
must dig. He and Iron Man fly the machine to the proper spot, while
the others follow in a chartered jet.

Down below, the Mole Man is angered to see his defeated troops return.
He can't understand why they gave up, or how they escaped the
Avengers. Suddenly, a figure appears and announces that he is the one
who brought the troops back. It is the Red Ghost, the communist agent
who fought the Fantastic Four on the Moon many months ago. He has the
power to become unsolid, and has since learned how to use that power
on others as well, which is how he slipped the Mole Man's troops back
under the surface. The Red Ghost has decided that the Super-Apes he
employed in the past were too unpredictable, and he wants to form an
alliance with the Mole Man instead. An alarm goes off, signalling the
approach of an enemy, and the Mole Man says that the Red Ghost can
prove his worth in the upcoming battle.

The Avengers' makeshift tunneling device carries them to the Mole
Man's domain, and Iron Man leads the charge with a cry of "Avengers
Attack!". Thor easily clears the light barrier with his hammer, but
then Captain America spots the Red Ghost aiming a ray gun at them from
a ledge above. Iron Man uses his magnetic repulsor to deflect the
shot, which leaves a smoking crater in front of the heroes. Before the
Red Ghost can fire again, Iron Man hits him with a sound blast that
staggers him and causes him to drop his weapon. A tank enters the
fray, with what looks like a giant fly-swatter mounted on the front.
Iron Man holds the weapon back and tells the others to go look for

But the Wasp has already flown ahead and found her partner, trapped by
an anti-cybernetic ray. She dodges the gunshots of the Subterranean
guards, and then flips the switch to free Giant-Man. He brushes aside
the Mole Man's guards with a sweep of his hand, then he and the Wasp
rush to rejoin their comrades.

Meanwhile, the Mole Man unleashes a barrage of Hyper-Ionic Missiles at
the Avengers. Thor deflects them back to the source with his hammer,
but the Red Ghost uses his power on himself and the Mole Man, so the
missiles pass through harmlessly. Iron Man wrecks the missile
launcher. More Subterraneans show up, but he and Thor tear up a slab
of the metal floor and wrap the enemy soldiers up in it. By this time,
the Mole Man and the Red Ghost have reached the controls of the Atomic
Gyroscope, with which they can destroy the Earth. The Mole Man says he
will kill all but one of the Avengers, and the remaining hero will
deliver his demand for unconditional surrender to the surface-dwellers.

Unknown to the villains, however, an ant-sized Giant-Man is crawling
around inside the Gyroscope controls, switching connections and
causing the device to short-circuit. The Gyroscope stops moving, and
the Avengers move in to capture their foes. Unfortunately, the Red
Ghost's power to become unsolid makes it impossible to stop their
escape. But Thor uses his hammer to destroy the Subterraneans'
war-machines, and the Avengers seal the tunnel behind them, which will
prevent them from invading the surface again.

The next day, the Avengers meet up again, and the Wasp says that
they'll have to give an official apology to Giant-Man for doubting
him. Back in the ruins of the Mole Man's empire, the two villains
argue over which of them is to blame for their defeat.


Plot-wise, this is a pretty standard issue; the "underground invaders"
theme is reminiscent of the Lava Men from issue #5, and the Red Ghost
seems to have just been tossed in for the heck of it. But the emphasis
on characterization helps it to stand out, with Thor's arrogance and
Giant-Man's anger over not being taken seriously (another
foreshadowing of the inferiority complex that will cause him so many
problems in the years ahead). Don Heck continues to do nice work on
the art side. His high-tech gadgets aren't as inspired as Kirby's, but
he's very good at staging action. The Red Ghost has this great
arrogant sneer plastered to his face; appropriately, he resembles a
long-haired Nikita Khrushchev.

Wasp Watch: Jan comes across pretty well this issue. She rather rudely
dismisses Giant-Man's warnings of impending disaster, but so does
everyone else (and she's the one who rescues him later). I love the
scene where she and Iron Man take turns helping each other out, which
makes her seem like an equal part of the team. We even get to see her
taking her turn as Chairman, although she doesn't actually get to do
much in the way of giving orders (the Chairmanship will eventually
become a much more significant job, and Jan will have a turn at it
again in the 1980s).

On the "All About the Avengers" page, there's a letter from none other
than George R.R. Martin, who went on to become a well-known author
(anyone who's read his "Wild Cards" books will not be surprised to
find out that he was a comics fan!). He praises the Heck/Ayers art
team, and lists his favorite and least favorite villains, suggesting
that the likes of the Thinker, the Mole Man, the Puppet Master, and
Diablo not make any more appearances (Stan responds that it's too
late, as most of those guys had either already reappeared or were
about to). In the "Special Announcements" section, we're told that in
the debate over whether they were using too many guest-stars, the
pro-guest-star contingent was slightly ahead. We also find out that
Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade will be playing a bigger part in
future issues (personally, I think they're kind of lame... the Newsboy
Legion could totally kick their butts). The "Mighty Marvel Checklist"
includes FANTASTIC FOUR #35, SPIDER-MAN #21, X-MEN #9, THOR #112,

- JKC -