NATURE BOYMedium: Comic books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1956
Creators: Jerry Siegel (writer) and John Buscema (artist)
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Superhero fans, who make up the bulk of comic book readers today, tend to think of the 1950s as a vast wasteland in comics history, the time between the superhero efflorescence of the early '40s and its resurgence in the '60s, which only a few hardy survivors — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their hangers-on, Aquaman and Green Arrow, all DC Comics
characters, successfully spanned. But quite a few, including Plastic Man and Johnny Quick, very nearly made it from one period to the next; several, such as Sub-Mariner and The Flame, were revived during that time; and even a few new ones, like Captain Flash and The Avenger, popped up between the demise of The Justice Society of America and the rise of its '60s counterpart, The Justice League. Nature Boy was part of that last group.
Nature Boy started out as young David Crandall, whose privileged upbringing as the son of the wealthy Floyd and Myra Crandall was reminiscent of Firebrand, The Green Lama and any number of other well-monied 1940s super guys. His good fortune continued when, in adolescence, he was washed overboard during a storm at sea, and a horde of supernatural monarchs came to his rescue. This group consisted of Kings Neptune (the only one with the same name as an actual ancient god), Gusto, Fura, Electra (no relation) and Friga; and Queens Eartha, Allura and Azura. Their realms were the sea, wind, fire, lightning, cold, Earth, love, and the sky, respectively. Together, they ruled all the forces of Nature; and all Nature was what young David was able to call on, by the time they were through with him, whenever he needed assistance — hence the name, Nature Boy. Since this happened in a comic book, naturally, he put on a skin-tight costume and took off on an evil-bashing career. He didn't wear a mask, but otherwise, was a superhero through and through.
This story was written by Jerry Siegel, who, aside from co-creating Superman himself, was responsible for The Spectre, The Star Spangled Kid and others. The artist was John Buscema, who later rose to fame at Marvel with his work on The Avengers, The Silver Surfer and more. It was published by Charlton Comics in Nature Boy #3 (March, 1956). The first two issues, titled Danny Blaze, were about someone else entirely. (Danny, a fireman but no relation, sank without a trace, by the way, but was notable for a back-pages kid in #2, Li'l Nero, who, judging from the name, apparently liked to provide employment for guys like Danny.)
Nature Boy #3 had a story in its back pages about The Blue Beetle, reprinted from an old Fox comic book. He'd eventually wound up at Charlton after Victor Fox's properties were scattered following his bankruptcy and disappearance years earlier. This was the last of several stories Charlton published about that character before launching a new Blue Beetle in 1964. Elsewhere in those back pages was a filler about Nature Man, who may have been intended as Nature Boy's future self, but was never developed beyond that initial two-pager.
Another variation on the Nature Boy theme was Nature Girl, who was seen in a one-page filler in #5. It may have been a teaser for future developments, but that, dated February, 1957, was the last issue. Other creators who worked on Nature Boy during his brief run were writer Joe Gill (Nukla) and artist Rocke Mastroserio (Gunmaster). As of #6, the title was changed to Li'l Rascal Twins, one of whom was a ringer for Super Brat, but who had no other superhero connection. The only time Nature Boy was seen again was in 2002, when AC Comics (Femforce), where no superhero is left behind if they possibly can help it, reprinted one of his stories.
By the time Charlton was through with the character, DC had revived The Flash in a new incarnation — which is regarded by many if not most genre buffs as the beginning of the end of the superhero drought. They scarcely even remember Nature Boy.