Tall Tales of Super-Sized Superheroes!
For all the changes the modern world has introduced, a few things remain constant…one of which is our near-universal fascination with GIANTS. From fairy tales to American folklore, 50’s films, and freakish professional athletes, giant humans represent a kaleidoscope of mankind’s dreams and nightmares. Whether symbolizing a young America’s can-do spirit, a woman’s wrath, or mankind’s blundering, hubristic power, giants simultaneously embody our brightest aspirations and darkest fears in a way few mythic figures can.
In the case of superhero comic books, that balance leans toward the “darkest fears” end of the spectrum, though comics aren’t without their heroic giants. One of the first (if not THE first) person to achieve extra-large hero status was Hank Pym, a scientist who created size-altering “Pym Particles”. Beginning his heroic career as Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #27 (1962), Pym went on to become a founding member of the Avengers. In Tales to Astonish #49 (1963), Pym switched gears to become the much more impressive Giant-Man.
Pym changed his name to Goliath in Avengers #28 (1966)…
...which lead to yet another identity switch in Avengers #59 (1968) when his burgeoning mental problems trigger the creation of “Yellowjacket” and a return to his status as a shrinking hero.
Resuming Pym’s role as Avengers Big Man was Clint (Hawkeye) Barton, who temporarily abandoned his bow-and-arrow shtick to become the new Goliath in Avengers #63 (1969).
Some years later, Hank Pym’s ex-lab assistant Dr. Bill Foster used his former employer’s technology to become Black Goliath, who made his debut in Luke Cage, Power Man #24 (1975). Black Goliath went on to star in his own (short-lived) series, then changed his name to “Goliath" some years later. Unfortunately, Foster was recently killed by a clone of Thor (don't ask) in Marvel’s Civil War event.
On the DC Comics side of the aisle, a radioactive meteor gave young Gim Allon the power to grow to immense size, as well as membership in the Legion of Superheroes as Colossal Boy. Seen here on the cover of Adventure Comics #341 (1966), the character was later known as “Leviathan” and “Micro-Lad” in various re-launches of the Legion concept.
Volcanic gasses were responsible for Hollywood actress Rita Farr’s size-changing powers. Farr (no relation to Jamie) was labeled a “freak” and driven out of the movie biz, eventually joining her fellow outcasts and their wheelchair-bound mentor in the X-…uh, I mean the Doom Patrol. Codenamed Elasti-Girl, she eventually married her teammate “Mento” in Doom Patrol #104 (1966), unwittingly opening herself up to even more ridicule as “Mrs. Mento”.
As the godson of the Golden Age Atom, Al Rothstein echoes the diminutive hero’s costume design as the Atom-Smasher, thoroughly living up to the last half of his name on the cover of JSA #12 (2000).
As one of the most inappropriately-named covers in comics history, More Fun Comics #54 (1940) featured the terrifying (and decidedly NOT FUN) image of a gigantic Spectre crushing enemy forces like toys. The immensely powerful Ghostly Guardian could adjust his size at will, at times assuming planetary proportions to battle cosmic supernatural threats.
It’s with the grim sight of the Spectre that we transition into the darker aspects of comic book giants who, despite their dedication to justice, still trigger fear and chaos.
A good example of this dichotomy is the cover of Adventure Comics #315 (1963), as a “Titanic Superboy” urges tiny onlookers (including Clark Kent?!) not to panic. Gee...why would they panic?
Taking a page from Clifford the Big Red Dog, normally cute and cuddly Krypto trashes the Kent homestead as “The Colossal Super-Dog” in Adventure Comics #262 (1959).
Action Comics #325 (1965) turns out to be a “humongo-sized hat trick” when the cover story of a giant baby Kal-El is followed by tales of a titanic teenage Superboy as well as an adult “Skyscraper Superman”.
At the sight of a 200 ft. tall Kryptonian baby, it's time to rest our reeling psyches and come back tomorrow for part two of They Might Be Giants, the story so BIG, I needed two days to tell it!