Four Color #1330 (Brain Boy #1), April-June 1962
“A car carrying Mary Price and her husband Matt blows a tire…” When high voltage power lines fall onto the stricken car Matt is killed, but Mary lives and gives birth to a baby boy. It soon becomes clear, however, that the child—also called Matt—is not entirely normal. His brain can “do things other brains [cannot]…” Bullied at school, Matt quickly learns to hide his powers.
At the high school prom Matt is approached by the mysterious Chris Ambers, who is head of the Organization of Active Anthropologists. He knows all about Matt and his amazing brain. In fact, Ambers is in charge of training telepaths for the US government. After three months of training, Matt is given his first assignment: infiltrate a music festival in the small South American country of Xochtan where something is due to happen that threatens to discredit the US.
In Xochtan Matt quickly comes to realize that General Droz is a bad guy, but is unsure exactly what the plan is. He is attacked in his room by a gun man, but uses his power to get the guy to kill himself!
At a major speech the next day Matt discovers he can’t read composer Gomez’s mind: someone is blocking him—another telepath! Just them, Gomez is assassinated by a pair of Americans. General Droz condemns the US in international news broadcasts. Matt is mocked by his telepathic foe, Ricorta. He has failed in his mission!
The next day Matt covers himself in brown shoe polish and steals a military uniform. The power of his brain allows him to levitate unseen across the Xochtan capital, and he tricks his way into Droz’s palace. He is discovered, but again his mighty brain comes to his rescue as he orders the enemy to stop all movement. He probes them and finds that Gomez is actually still alive and hidden at a farm run by a Dr Irado.
At the farm Matt meets Maria, Irado’s daughter, whom he quickly identifies as a fellow telepath; one not at all sympathetic to Droz’s regime. She agrees to help him get Gomez out of Xochtan and back to the US. Meanwhile, Droz has found the frozen guards and orders an attack on the Irado farm.
As the tanks rumble into view, Matt is telepathically contacted by Ricorta who gloats. A mighty battle ensues with the telepaths controlling the tank drivers and gunners, destroying everything in their path. Eventually, Matt makes good his escape and makes it to the airport with Gomez, Maria and her father. They all fly to the US—and freedom.
For a comic with such a silly title this is actually a pretty solid read, and would have made a great action film. Sort of James Bond with mind-reading. The set-up—a secret government organisation that trains telepaths to protect against enemy telepaths—is a strong one, and really interesting with a load of potential. Mind you, there ought to be limits, but Matt’s powers seem to be rather flexible, with his brain able to get him out of any threat.
The idea of Matt disguising himself with boot polish is ridiculous, and not a little racist! The scene where he gets a guy to kill himself is genuinely shocking—and this was 1962 don’t forget. Heroes that kill may be old news now, but this must have been something of a first for a super-hero in the sunny days of the Silver Age.
The real news here is the artwork: it’s drawn by a certain Gil Kane. And while Bob Fujitani’s inks don’t do his work many favours, Kane’s talent shines through, the storytelling fluid and clear. The ending, with the big tank battle, is almost cinematic.
Whether it was the notion of the writer, Herb Kastle, or Kane, there’s a really odd method depicting the passage of time. In several panels, there is the word “years” repeated over and over—and that’s it! It’s like the comic equivalent of old films where calendar pages would fall to the floor.
Recently reprinted in a single volume by Dark Horse, Brain Boy is perhaps worth a quick look.
Images ©2012 the copyright holder