BRAIN BOY and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS
I mentioned in my previous post how comic books influence my writing to this day. The tropes of metamorphosis and super humans possessing extraordinary powers have always been favorites of mine.
Growing up in the fifties and sixties, there were a ton of comic books available to eager, adventure-seeking geeks like me – just like today. A couple of short-lived, relatively unknown, comic books that I enjoyed as a kid were Brain Boy and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
Brain Boy, published by Dell Comics in the early 1960s, only lasted six issues (although Dark Horse Comics recently rebooted the series). I’m not sure if its early demise was due to not being very good or what. I remember liking it a lot because it was somewhat unusual in that the hero didn’t wear a costume or mask to conceal his identity (much like the Fantastic Four in their first two or three issues).
Teenager Matt Price had been endowed with amazing mental abilities due to a horrible accident. Still in his mother’s womb, his family is struck by lightning which leaves his father dead and his still-to-be-born self changed forever. He can read minds, levitate objects and fly.
Recruited by a secret telepath organization dedicated to fighting evil, Matt becomes Brain Boy and battles international crime and, in one issue, reanimated dinosaurs. Ha!
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was published by the defunct Tower Comics from 1965 to 1969 (it too has been brought back several times over the years) and some it was illustrated by the late, great Wally Wood. Taking cues from the popular spy dramas of the time like the James Bond movies and the television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents followed the adventures of a group of United Nations-sponsored super heroes.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. was an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves (of course!) and originally featured the heroes Dynamo (whose super strength came from wearing the Thunder Belt; NoMan, who was an android with a brilliant professor’s brain uploaded into him and who wore a cloak of indivisibility; Menthor, who wore a special helmet which increased his mental abilities to be much like those of Brain Boy’s; and the Thunder Squad, made up of the agents Guy, Dynamite, Kitten, Weed and Egghead. What a hoot! They all battled the evil Warlord and his minions, Demo and the Iron Maiden (a woman in very form-fitting armor).
Though not nearly as well written as the Marvel and DC comics at the time, these two series appealed to me just because they were so fantastic and action-packed. Their super-hero exploits were simply what they did on their day jobs. The interesting thing about Menthor, however, was he was, in fact, an agent of the Warlord but when he put on the helmet, he became a good guy. That was cool and had a little more depth and conflice then a lot of comic book heroes at the time.
In bringing my own characters to life, I often rely on the crazy stuff that inspired me as a kid, updated to an adult world. I’ve been told THE SIXTH PRECEPT would make a good graphic novel and that’s something I do think about. In the meantime, I’ll use my own super-power, which all of us possess–imagination. That really is the best.