Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Classics - Brain Boy #6

Today's "Classic" comic is an obscure one that I had almost forgotten about.

A few years back my friend Rolf mentioned it in an email, and it jogged my memory. Brain Boy was a short-lived Dell comic that caught my interest - though I'm not sure why.

The title character is Matt Price, a normal-looking blond hero who wears normal clothes - no super-hero duds for him. Even his powers are (visually) bland - he is telepathic, can control the minds of others and levitate (with some difficulty). He's recruited to work for a secret government agency - and that's about the size of it.

I suspect I was drawn to the comic by the title and the cover painting - but what probably caught my attention was the surprisingly horrific story inside.

The issue was apparently written by Herb Castle and drawn by Frank Springer, although there are no credits listed. Cover dated September-November 1963, the issue is surprisingly copy-heavy - almost a third of each panel is filled with dialogue or captions. Springer's art is strong as always, but he doesn't get much room to maneuver here.

The story begins quietly, as Brain Boy goes on vacation. After several harrowing adventures (in previous issues) he decides to get away from it all, so he travels to a lodge by a secluded lake in Canada.

There he finds the residents acting strangely, carrying out odd missions and resisting his telepathic powers. The mystery revolves around the lake - something about the water seems to sap the will of everyone who comes in contact with it.

It's a story reminiscent of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the hero can tell everyone's acting strangely but he doesn't put the pieces together until it's almost too late.

There are a couple of genuinely horrific scenes in the story, including one where Brain Boy is in a rowboat on the lake and a dozen residents swim after him like zombies, tying to pull him into the water. OK, it doesn't sound scary when I write it out, but it was scary to my 7-year-old self (and it's still a creepy scene today)!

The secret to the mystery (which I won't reveal just in case someone out there actually manages to track down a copy) is a clever bit of science fiction storytelling, and very effective.

I remember looking for more adventures of Brain Boy after this issue, but I never found one - and for good reason. This was the last issue in the series.

It's probably just as well. Soon they would have put Brain Boy in a standard costume and had him fighting corny villains. Perhaps it's better for his run to have ended on such a satisfyingly creepy note.

Grade: B+



Anonymous said...

I remember buying this as a kid and even then knowing it was sooooo weird I had to read it. I'm stoked that you picked this one. There are so many odd comics like this that they need more spotlight. I would love to know the story how this book was thought up. Maybe TwoMorrows Publishing will do a spotlight issue on this kinda stuff.

Thanks, Chuck,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch

Chuck said...

Thanks, Beau! It's a tribute to the creative team that this series is still fondly remembered, even though it was just a blip on the comics horizon. Good stuff!