Some years back, Scott Shaw!’s column on CBG covered a bizarre-sounding story in which a teenage psi spy battles a psionic T. rex for the fate of the world. It intrigued me enough that a few months back I checked to see if the Brain Boy series had ever been reprinted, and yes, it had. So I ordered the Brain Boy Archives, and I’m glad I did.
The series premise is pretty straightforward. An electrical accident while young Mary Price is pregnant triggers a mutation (not actually called such); her son Matt develops TK and telepathy in childhood, as well as being all-around super-smart (this came out about a year before Charles Xavier debuted in X-Men in case you were wondering). After Matt graduates high school, Chris Ambers of the Organization of Active Anthropologists meets him and demonstrates he’s also a telepath. The OAA is a front for the branch of the Secret Service that recruits psis as spies and Matt is the most powerful telepath Ambers has ever met. Hence getting the nickname “Brain Boy.”
Before long, Matt’s off to Xochtan, an anti-American nation (not part of the Communist bloc, just generally nasty) whose own telepaths have taken out several previous American agents. Matt discovers the big bad is Ricorta, a military leader and a powerful telepath in his own right. Over the course of the story Matt outwits Ricorta, rescues a prominent scholar and escapes Xochtan along with Maria, a Latina telepath.
That story, by Herb Castle and Gil Kane, appeared in Four Color. Brain Boy almost immediately jumped to his own series (Frank Springer handled the art) where in Brain Boy #2 he investigates the mysterious disappearance of several jet planes. It turns out Ricorta’s defeat was only temporary and he has a “provoke nuclear war, rule in the ruins” plan under way.
And then in #3, we get the T. rex. Chris sends Matt to Alaska, where several researchers have gone missing (the opening pages show someone unseen taking over some of the men, who walk off into the snow). As the scientists were studying whether Boznian nuclear tests were affecting the climate, is it possible the Boznians are behind it?
Matt soon finds people acting strangely, some under mental compulsion. He eventually follows some of the mind-slaves to an icy cave which also holds a living tyrannosaurus. Matt can’t put it all together until he realizes the tyrannosaurus isn’t enslaved by the mind-master, it is the mind-master. Tyrannosaurus mentalis, it turns out, ruled the Earth for thousands of years until the Ice Age killed them off. The last survivors hid in suspended animation until the Boznian tests warmed the climate and thawed one of them, Trax, out. Can Matt stop Trax from reviving the others and reclaiming the planet?
That pretty much established the structure for the remaining three issues. Open with a bizarre mystery, have Matt investigate, discover the truth, then find a way to stop the threat. Springer’s art isn’t stellar but he does a good job making Matt’s levitation look like it’s not just “flying.”
A couple of the stories show some clever touches. In a later battle against Ricorta and his robot guards, Matt takes over the dictator and has him order the robots to let them go free. Oops: Ricorta, no idiot, previously gave the robots fail-safe instructions to ignore him if he ever gives a command like that.
The one fly in the ointment is the way Castle writes Maria. She’s a telepath, she knows Matt’s secret, but she still spends most of her time nagging and grumbling like a typical Silver Age girlfriend.
Dark Horse revived Brain boy a few years ago, but I have no particular urge to check it out. What was fresh and novel back in ’62 is unlikely to look so cool today.
#SFWApro. Art by Frank Springer.