Brain Boy convinces a skeptic. Artist: Frank Springer.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1962
Creators: Herb Castle (writer) and Gil Kane (artist)
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Dell Comics was an industry leader from the late 1930s to the early '60s, due primarily to its association with Western Printing, licensor of Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and …

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… other extremely lucrative properties. In 1962, the partnership broke up, and Western started publishing its own comics under the name Gold Key. The handwriting must have been on the wall for some time prior to the split, because Dell used that time to introduce one new character after another in an apparent attempt to give itself a few properties that would stay with it after the departure of practically everything it had. Thirteen Going on Eighteen; Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle; and Johnny Jason, Teen Reporter were only a small part of the company's flurry of activity during 1961 and '62. Among the few Dell launches of the period that's still remembered and highly regarded by aficionados is Brain Boy.

This may be because it's the only superhero in the bunch (comic book aficionados tend to be superhero fans), but that wouldn't explain why the series is more fondly recalled than others Dell brought out a few years later, such as Nukla and The Fab Four, which were more firmly rooted in the genre. A more likely reason lies in the writing of co-creator Herb Castle, who is also known to have scripted several issues of Magnus, Robot Fighter. The comics he wrote were genuinely suspenseful, giving the reader an impression there were definite, even palpable limits to Brain Boy's power, and as the story climaxed, he was closely approaching them.

Brain Boy's other co-creator was artist Gil Kane (Star Hawks, Iron Fist), but Kane handled only the character's first appearance, in Four Color Comics #1330 (April-June, 1962), one of the last couple of dozen issues of the series that introduced Little Lulu, Frosty the Snowman, Bozo the Clown and many, many others to the comics-reading public. When the character continued in his own title (#2 was dated July-September of the same year), the artist was Frank Springer, a former assistant to George Wunder on Terry & the Pirates, who later worked on Marvel Comics titles such as Dazzler and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Brain Boy was Matt Price, whose father was killed two months before he was born, in a spectacular car accident that also demolished a high-voltage power line, sending enough electricity through his pregnant mother's body to kill a dozen people. Miraculously, she and Matt both survived, and Matt grew up to be the world's most powerful telepath. He learned early on that kids who can do spooky things get beat up a lot, so he hid his power — but right after he graduated from high school, he was approached by Chris Ambers, also a strong telepath, who recruited him for an agency of the U.S. government so secret, it hid under the name "Organization of Active Anthropologists" so nobody would suspect it was engaged in international skulduggery. "Brain Boy" wasn't a superhero monicker, but just a nickname Chris gave him. Nor did he wear a flashy costume, like other superheroes — he did work undercover, posing as an anthropology student, but wore the same clothes on the job as off.

Herb Castle may have crafted an excellent story, but he was a little weak on science (for example, in a later issue he had Brain Boy observe that dinosaurs had been extinct for "almost a million years"). In this comic's lexicon, a "telepath" was one gifted not just with telepathy, i.e., the ability to exchange thoughts with others, but also with an array of psychic powers. Brain Boy could levitate objects, including himself, giving him the ability to fly; and he could force people to act against their will, or even change their emotional states. But he used a lot of mental energy in doing so and sometimes got very tired — especially when dealing with another powerful telepath, such as his arch-enemy, Ricorta, a South American would-be dictator whom he clashed with no less than three times during his brief run.

In a comic book environment increasingly rife with more flamboyant superheroes (DC Comics already had The Flash and The Justice League of America; Marvel had The Fantastic Four; and even Archie Comics had The Fly), Brain Boy, with his eschewal of such common trappings as costume and secret identity, failed to find an audience. The sixth issue (September-November, 1963) was the last, and Brain Boy was never seen again.


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