From the splash page of the Marvel Boy origin story. Artist: Russ Heath.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1950
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Russ Heath (artist)
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Marvel Comics has always been enamored of superhero names that contain the word …

continued below

… "marvel" — Ms. Marvel, The Black Marvel, Captain Marvel … This character was the third to be called Marvel Boy, and the company had been producing comic books for only 11 years.

The first two Marvel Boys were short-lived back-page fillers during the early 1940s, when superheroes were crammed in wherever they fit. But this one debuted in his own comic, and in a period when the genre was relatively sparse. Marvel Boy #1 hit the stands in 1950, cover-dated December of that year. The writer was Stan Lee, whose more famous co-creations include X-Men, The Mighty Thor and Doctor Strange. It was drawn by Russ Heath, whose work includes early Mad, DC's war comics, Little Annie Fanny and an even wider variety of other comics. But the artist most associated with the character is Bill Everett, creator of The Sub-Mariner, who drew the majority of Marvel Boy stories.

Like Superman, Marvel Boy was rocketed to another planet as a baby, when the one he'd been born on was struck with a terrible disaster. In his case, the planet he left was Earth, and the disaster was the Nazi take-over of Germany in the 1930s, which resulted in the deaths of his mother and sister. His father, Professor Matthew Grayson, had been working on a uranium-powered rocket, and took their deaths as his cue to take baby Bob and fly off to found a tiny, all-male colony on the Moon. They wound up on Uranus instead — something about an irresistible attraction between the planet and the metal named after it, which didn't have to make sense because it was disposed of in a single panel and the story lurched on. Bob grew up among Uranians, absorbing their high intelligence and telepathic abilities. He took those abilities, as well as pills to give him enhanced strength, with him when he returned to Earth in his spaceship, The Silver Bullet, to deal with a postwar sci-fi style menace that had suddenly popped up. In addition, Dad gave him a pair of wrist bands that could emit "atomic radiance" that would temporarily blind an opponent. After the villain was vanquished, Marvel Boy stuck around and went into superhero work on a regular basis.

Tho new ones were continuing to come out fairly regularly, the heyday of superheroes had been in the early 1940s, and they wouldn't return in a big way until the '60s. Like Fighting American, Captain Flash, The Avenger and most others that started in the '50s, Marvel Boy didn't last very long. With the third issue, the title of his comic was changed to Astonishing. He continued to be its cover-featured star, but only for another four issues. After #6 (October, 1951) it only ran fantasy/horror stories without continuing characters.

Like most old-time Marvel superheroes (the first two Marvel Boys being rare exceptions), he was brought back decades later. After a couple of minor reprints in the '60s, writer Roy Thomas (Infinity Inc., The Defenders) used him as menace of the month in Fantastic Four #164 (November, 1975), where it was established that he'd been in suspended animation since his series ended. Thomas retroactively named his bracelets "Quantum Bands", and retroactively upgraded them to the very source of Marvel Boy's power. Also, Marvel Boy, now re-made into a bad guy, was re-named "Crusader" (no relation). As is the case with many such "revivals", one wonders what the point is, in claiming continuity with the earlier character. In any case, Crusader was killed off in that issue, and unlike many comic book characters, nobody ever bothered to de-kill him.

The Quantum Bands later fell into the hands of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who called himself Quasar. They're still kicking around the Marvel Universe. The name "Marvel Boy" is also still kicking around, and has been hung on a couple of later characters, one of whom had a relationship, not easily articulated, with The Guardians of the Galaxy.

In the ninth issue (June, 1978) of What If (a Marvel comic that explored alternate possibilities of past Marvel Universe continuity, e.g., "what if" everybody knew Daredevil was blind?), writer Don Glut (Dagar the Invincible, Doctor Spektor) gathered Venus, Namora, 3-D Man (no relation) and several others that either had appeared in '50s Marvel comics or were set in that decade, into an incunabular version of The Avengers. Naturally, Marvel Boy was included, and in that context — a 1950s period piece — the character worked without alteration.


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Text ©2003-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.