The First Silver Age Marvel Super Hero

Just as DC/National Comics and other outfits were still dabbling with super hero characters as the 1940s transitioned into teh 1950s, the same was true of Timely Comics, which would one day become Marvel. The firm has lasting success with three characters throughout the 1940s: the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner and Captain America. But all three of them had given up the ghost, as had dozens of lesser lights who never made it that far. But there must have been some sense in the air that a more science fiction-based super hero might be the thing that people would respond to, as Timely (on the cusp of rebranding itself as Atlas) created its own answer to Captain Comet at around that same time. This was Marvel Boy.

MARVEL BOY #1 appeared on the stands towards the end of 1950 without any particular fanfare, and it introduced a new young hero, one whose relatively-limited powers came as a result of his upbringings on the far-off planet of Uranus. Who created the character and wrote this initial issue is uncertain, but the artwork was provided by Russ Heath, one of the most accomplished draftsmen in the field of comics, though these were still early days for Russ. Regardless, it was a good looking strip. It would become even better looking with its second issue, when the Sub-Mariner’s creator Bill Everett took over both writing and illustrating it.

Unfortunately, Marvel Boy wasn’t a huge success, and with the third issue his self-titled magazine became ASTONISHING. While Marvel Boy still filled most of its pages, the sense of it was more in line with one of the many horror anthologies now filling up the newsstands, horror having become a very popular genre in that period. Marvel Boy’s adventures took on a darker tone as a result–he stopped referring to his outer space background so much, and instead dealt with terrors on Earth, often in the guise of an insurance investigator.

Marvel Boy lost his cover spot in ASTONISHING with issue #6, which would be the final issue to carry his adventures. Afterwards, ASTONISHING became a typical Atlas suspense/horror anthology series and ran for many years. But fans remembered Marvel Boy, at least one of them did: Roy Thomas.

Roy began reprinting the Marvel Boy stories in Marvel’s assorted giant-sized reprint titles such as MARVEL TALES whenever there was an odd hole in the page count that needed to be filled. This carried on for some years, but so far as I can tell, those reprints didn’t garner much fan attention. Somewhat more successful was when Roy resurrected the character as an antagonist for the Fantastic Four in two issues of their series in the 1970s, #164-165, The first part of that two-parter was one of the earliest FF issues I read, and I was subsequently knocked out to later learn that the villain had at some earlier point been a Marvel hero.

Marvel Boy’s story wasn’t quite over yet. In years thereafter, his jeweled bands were passed on to a new character who took on his costume and called himself first Marvel Man and then later, Quasar. Even later, writer Jeff Parker recast Marvel Boy as The Uranian as a part of the Agents of Atlas, and revealed that the version of the character who had battled the Fantastic Four had been merely a duplicate.

While Marvel Boy never quite made the big time–QUASAR having his own 60-issue series is probably his strongest legacy–he did and does continue to make sporadic appearances throughout the Marvel Universe. And he has the distinction of being the first new super hero to be introduced by Timely-Atlas-Marvel after the close of the Golden Age (albeit closely enough where you could just about consider him the last Golden Age super hero instead.)

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