Monday, November 5, 2012

Rings Around Uranus!



Covers by Mark Djurdjevic

While attending the Cincinnati Comix Expo a few months ago, I picked up a number of trades priced very, very nicely. One collection I gathered up was Marvel Boy: The Uranian, which featured a new three-issue story about the revised 1950's superhero by Jeff Parker and Felix Ruiz. Jeff Parker is the writer who has done a magnificent job reigniting interest in these vintage properties in his work in Agents of Atlas.

What we get in the new stories here is a new look behind the scenes at what was really going on during the "origin" of Marvel Boy. Being a 21st Century comic, the story is much more bleak one than the spry sci-fi classic of the original, but it does offer true insights into one of Marvel's most complex characters. Robert Grayson is a man who carries a lot on his shoulders.

He is attempting to validate the decisions of his father, a man who abandoned his home planet because he found it too dangerous for him and his son, and he is attempting to further the shadowy goals of the alien race that effectively raised him and sent him on a mission back to his home world, ostensibly to help his fellow Earth men. But as usual there is much more and as this story unfolds Grayson gleans that the aliens have darker ambitions.

It's a solid enough modern story. The sweep of the events it tries to cover makes it more dependent on plot than most modern comics, but that's music to my tired eyes. There's some stuff that actually happens in these issues, and by the end, the reader is set up for what comes next.   There is though a sense of shame about the earliest roots of the character when he was named "Marvel Boy", hence in these more sophisticated times we must call him "The Uranian", a strange name evocative of very little actually other than its otherness.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

George Perez and Joe Sinnott

But the truth told, I would not have picked up this collection for all its virtues if it hadn't also contained the vintage Bronze Age seminal two-part story from Fantastic Four #164 and #165 ( written by Roy Thomas and drawn magnificently by George Perez and Joe Sinnott) featuring the reemergence of Bob Grayson into the Bronze Age of Marvel Comics, and dubbing himself "The Crusader".

It's a tragic tale, but it's an important one as this story set up scores of stories dealing with the technology which powered Marvel Boy, and this was the same equipment which made the career of Wendell Vaughn, later called "Quasar" so important. No superhero at Marvel was more  intriguing to my mind than Quasar. This saga created by Mark Gruenwald, of nice guy trying his best to finish first, but always trying to do good was a ray of sunshine in a decade of comics overwrought with over-sized pistols and abundant bladed weapons.

Quasar was a great superhero, a hero who properly carried on the legacy of another superhero by the name of Marvel Boy.

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6 comments:

  1. I must be out of touch at 30 because the Uranian sounds like the dumbest name ever.

    Those FF issues are from my favorite period. I read the issues 160-200 over and over and over again as a kid, but I never really got into Quasar.

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    1. It is a pretty dumb name.

      And that period of FF is pretty darn good. In fact I think that the FF have more really good and some even great periods than any comic at Marvel. They bring out the best in the talent they attract.

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  2. I'm sure that in Victorian and Edwardian England "Uranian" was a code-word for male homosexual, like "invert". After the Rawhide Kid post, I thought that was the connection.

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    1. I didn't know about "invert". Sheesh! A culture has more words for those things which fascinate us, and think of all the euphemisms for homesexual. There's definitely a fascination with it, if a lack of regard in many quarters.

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  3. I was almost a little disappointed when I learned that it wasn't the real Marvel Boy who met his end as the Crusader. I'm curious to pick up The Uranian and see how it meshes with the character from the Agents of Atlas series, if at all.

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  4. It's ret-conned into the Atlas world pretty well I guess since Parker is the mastermind of both. I really liked the Agents of Atlas which was the last new superhero comic I really enjoyed before abandoning the whole magilla several years ago now.

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