5883 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Marvel Boy of the 1950s (Atlas Comics)

Marvel Boy

(Bob Grayson profile #1 - 1950s version)


“Giant meteors ! Quick — more power from the atomic repulse guns ! We’ve got to stop them before they pulverise the Earth !”


Context

This profile is for Marvel Boy (Robert Grayson) as published by Timely Comics during the early 1950s. It’s thus the Golden Age  version of the character.

He was a two-fisted, sharp-eyed, science-minded, bright super-hero from another planet. Though *of course* he looked like an handsome blond, White young man.

His legacy was surprisingly large. Beyond the modernised version of Marvel Boy as The Uranian, he directly inspired Quasar (Wendell Vaughn). Who in turn had an impact on many aspects of the Marvel Universe.

Though the events in comics during these years aren’t directly in continuity, they inform the current Marvel Universe. For fans of vintage stories, this profile will discuss adapting the depicted event so they can be in continuity with the Marvel Universe.


Advertisement


Background

  • Real Name: Robert “Bob” Grayson.
  • Note: Nobody ever calls him “Robert”, including his father. But his monogrammed pills box reads “RG”.
  • Other Aliases: The Great Grayson (as a circus performer).
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Professor Matthew Horace Grayson (father), mother (name unrevealed, deceased), sister (name unrevealed, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Both the Grayson Lab on Uranus and what seems to be New York City on Earth.
  • Height: 5’10” Weight: 170 lbs.
  • Eyes: Quite blue Hair: Quite blond


Powers and Abilities

Bob Grayson has a bunch of relatively low-key abilities :

  1. He can run faster and fight a little harder than mortal men.
  2. He has high levels of intelligence. His IQ is 360.
  3. As long as he takes his pills to retain his Uranus-developed qualities, Marvel Boy seems abnormally strong, tough and swift. But whether he has actual superhuman strength is unclear.
  4. He also demonstrates tremendous athletic abilities. Enough to be hired as a circus aerialist and high wire performer.
  5. In keeping with his general Apollonian look, he is charismatic. The authorities will easily trust him… unless the story says they won’t.
  6. In the same vein, he seems to be a genuine hit with women. It is common for a female admirer he just met to risk her life to provide him with vital information about some nefarious plot.
  7. On Uranus, Marvel Boy is often aided by the members of his youth patrol. Which seems to be a paramilitary organisation of volunteers with access to armed spaceships.
  8. He also demonstrated the ability to commit long documents to memory with perfect recall.

Advertisement


“Mental telepathy”

Furthermore, he has a power of “mental telepathy”. It allows him to speak all languages known by the people he’s interacting with. It can also perceive surface thoughts.

Marvel Boy’s “mental telepathy” includes a heightened sixth sense. Using it, he can jump to correct conclusions based on very little information. In DC Heroes RPG terms, this is chiefly modelled by his WIL. But the GM should also consider making small alterations to the plot to better correspond to Marvel Boy’s hypotheses, thus making him intuitively correct.

In particular, the “this is likely a Communist plot !” hypothesis should always be correct. Even if it makes no sense.

Marvel Boy once briefly used his mental telepathy to control a weak-willed zombie. But this is unusual (Power Stunt in DC Heroes, a form of Heroic Feat in DC Adventures).

Wonder of the Atomic Age

Originally, Marvel Boy takes special uranium pill daily. This is because Earth’s atmosphere is somewhat toxic to him. If he cannot, he will lose his Uranus-developed qualities and might eventually develop a fatal medical condition.

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson) and his father

This is what we’ve built in his game stats since it’s the original concept. However, it keeps changing. By the next story in the same issue they already work differently.

A common variant is that taking a pill turns Bob Grayson into Marvel Boy, complete with costume. There’s a vague implication that he’s not just changing into costume by taking a capsule, but has an alter-ego.

A No-Prize Hypothesis  is that there are two kinds of capsules. A low dosage allows his Uranus-developed powers to fade but protects his health. And a high dosage restores his Uranus-developed powers.

In Marvel Boy #02, swallowing an uranium pill apparently allows him to fly (conservatively modelled as Jumping) and basks him in an energy aura. This too was reminiscent of a super-heroic alter ego.

Atomic kit

Marvel Boy sports less-than-lethal weapons. These are wristbands with large gemstones that can project a dazzling beam of light. These bracers were built by his father, who forbade him to kill except in defence of innocent life.

Marvel Boy (Timely Comics) using his bracers' flash power then his fists

He also has a flying saucer, of course. This spacecraft is practically silent, but could reach the distant planet Astros within minutes. Yet it took an hour to go from New York City to Sicily (about 4,500 miles, or 7,000 kilometres).

By the second issue it becomes a sort of large starfighter rather than a saucer. It then retains this general look for the rest of the run. One of the last stories reveals that it is called the Silver Bullet.

The Bullet can hold about three weeks of provisions. It also carries a small stock of scientific and exploration supplies such as oxygen masks, Geiger counters, radiation suits, etc..


History

Bob Grayson was born around 1931. He was the son of Professor Matthew Grayson, a semi-famous atomic scientist at Van Dyke University.

His mother and older sister were killed in 1934. A Nazi anti-aircraft battery mistook their plane for a military craft and shot it down.

This tragedy led Professor Grayson to the conclusion that Earth was a horrible place. He saw it as unsuitable for raising a child. His experience with the Great Depression may also have shaped his reasoning.

Being a genius with special theories about atomic energy, Grayson built a nuclear-powered rocketship in secret. His goal was to leave Earth with his son and live on the Moon.

However, as it was about to reach the Moon, the rocket was suddenly attracted toward Uranus.

(In the story this because the uranium aboard the rocket’s was attracted toward the vast masses of uranium on Uranus. Like iron by a magnet. Beyond the imaginary physics this is folk etymology. Uranus is not believed to hold special amounts of uranium. The mineral was simply named that way to honour the recent discovery of the planet.)

Exploring Uranus

Landing on Uranus, Grayson and his young son made a staggering discovery. The atmosphere was breathable, the gravity close to 1G, and the environment somewhat Earth-like. Furthermore it was inhabited by human-looking people. These were kind, noble, peaceful and ultra-intelligent. And they all looked like White men, of course.

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson) fights pirates (cover illustration)

Representatives of this perfect civilisation telepathically learned English within instants. They could thus greet the Graysons. Over the year, they helped Professor Grayson build his lab and raise his son, thanks to their median IQ of 356.

Professor Grayson did not plan to abandon Earth, though. Bob grew up to possess quasi-superhuman abilities thanks to Uranian education and training.

(The concept of leaving to raise a son in an unearthly environment, making him a formidable specimen, is close to the origin of Doc Savage. Which of course was later brought back in homages, such as Tom Strong.)

A continental op

When Bob reached his 20s, his father asked him to return to Earth. The mission was to save it from self-destruction by combating all evil elements, political and criminal.

Professor Grayson was now too old to make the trip back. But he prepared special pills for Bob to withstand the Terran atmosphere. Plus a flying saucer and non-lethal weaponry.

What spurred the older Grayson into action was the emergence of a new continent on Earth. This triggered tectonic catastrophes, plus a claim-staking race between Cold War militaries. However, it was the heimatloss  pirate Count Varron, whose ship had been caught by the emerging land mass, who first laid claim to it.

Bob Grayson’s flying saucer soon investigated the new continent.

Return to Earth

Marvel Boy soon met the natives. This civilisation had been trapped underground 1,200 years prior, and had adapted to life under the sea. However, the pirates attacked them to stake their claim to the land. Shocked by this brutality the natives sunk the landmass they had raised. They also abandoned their plans to return to surface life.

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson) face closeup

(This story could still be in continuity, with the natives being a lost Atlantean colony or an Inhuman offshoot (like the Bird People who adopted Red Raven). And the “continent” being just a strategically-placed island).

Bob Grayson then became a science journalist, for the American Daily Monitor.

After he arranged for an interview with one Professor Heathrow Vance, he saw Vance gain powers in an accident. Professor Vance became the villainous Great Video. But Marvel Boy foiled him and depowered him.

Astrosmash

Professor Grayson then detected large meteors headed for Earth. He had his son investigate. Marvel Boy determined that it was a plot by the Astro-Men. Their leader, Saramin, Emperor of the Seven Orbits of the Universe, was bombarding Earth. It was done using giant blasting guns to propel bits of the Astro-Men’s planet, Astros.

The Astro-Men captured Marvel Boy. But he escaped and returned to Earth just as the first meteors hit, with devastating effects.

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson) splash page

Briefing the United Nations, Marvel Boy had them combine global knowledge of atomic energy. They thus built super-cannons that could destroy the incoming meteors. The dastardly “Eastern Union” refused to join the effort, but the repulse-guns were successful.

When the Astro-Men invaded they thus encountered stiff resistance from the UN. Ultimately, Earth’s air forces were victorious. Emperor Saramin was captured.

At this point the despicable Eastern Union launched an all-out assault against the United Nations. Marvel Boy swiftly flew to Astros with Saramin. From there they launched more meteors at the fiendish godless Communist aggressors, pummelling them into surrendering.

Horrified by the damage wrought to Earth — as Astros had never known total war — Saramin had his Astro-Men come live on Earth to help with the rebuilding.

(Fitting this story into continuity also requires lowering the scale. For instance a week of skirmishes in the Vienna/Bratislava area after a large alien ship attacks Vienna. In this scenario, Marvel Boy helps repulse it by having serious Austrian men in lab coats build an anti-orbital cannon. The repentant aliens then come live in Austria.)

I’m into insurance

Marvel Boy then became an insurance investigator for Amalgamated Insurance Company. He was sent to investigate suspicious fires at a circus.

Grayson was hired as an aerialist (heh 🙂 ) as his cover. Discussing with equestrienne Starr Ryder led him to suspect Marvo the Mind-Reader of wrongdoing.

Marvo tried to kill him by stealing his uranium pills. But Grayson nevertheless exposed his schemes. Ryder then established herself in Los Angeles and became a contact of Marvel Boy, seemingly having a romantic interest in him.

(For some cheap non-canon fun, the Bonham Circus featured in the story could be a predecessor of the Circus of Crime in the early Marvel Universe.)

Fire in the hole

Starr Ryder and another young Angeleno, Pete Mason, learned that immense underground fires raged in Pennsylvania coal mines. These couldn’t be put out. They summoned Marvel Boy from Uranus to investigate.

Our hero soon discovered that the fire might destroy the entire American coal reserves. Worse, if the two main fires met in New York, the entire state could be blown up

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson) at the rocketship base

Correctly assuming that such a fire could only be a Communist plot, Marvel Boy arrested the scheming mine owners. He then blasted the main fire using crushed uranium capsules. Conventional firefighting could handle the rest.

Bob Grayson’s next insurance investigation was about one Omar Khayam Rasch. He was the head of a spiritualist cult. Rasch was the main beneficiary of too many life insurance policies. And the owners of these had a marked tendency to die.

The ostensibly Middle-Eastern Rasch inevitably turned out to be the head of a criminal Satanist Muslim death cult. So I guess it was a Tuesday. Grayson discovered this thanks to a female admirer within the cult. Marvel Boy presented a tight case to his employer and the police. The cult was taken down.

Return to Uranus

As it turned out, even the perfect Uranian society was not immune to the dreadful perils of Communism engineered by evil foreigners. Marvel Boy determined that the rabble-rousers were backed by spies from the planet Satana. Tuesday again, I reckon.

After violently dispersing the crowds, Marvel Boy left for Satana. There he assaulted guards and kidnapped the Princess.

He also discovered that Satana’s orbit was decaying. As a consequence, the locals were scheming to invade Uranus before their home world plunged into their sun. But stalwart Uranian scientists could then devise a solution to stabilise Satana’s orbit. Marvel Boy sent the Princess back with the equations.

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson)'s rocket ship

Marvel Boy then stopped a Communist plot involving bombs planted in major FBI installations. Some time later he flew to Sicily to rescue Starr Ryder’s father. This archaeologist had been capture by a vampire, Madame La Morte.

Meanwhile, back on Uranus, the water commissioner had enlisted the help of the police to deprive the citizens of water. A terrible drought ensued. Marvel Boy :

  • Exposed the awful scheme.
  • Reestablished the inflow of water.
  • Vanquished the rogue police with the help of his youth patrol.
  • Arrested the water commissioner.

A man of two planets

In 1951, Ms. Diana Frost requested the services an insurance investigator. The police did not believe her fantastic story about being harassed by the ghost of her father.

Within hours, Marvel Boy discovered that the “ghost” was the still-living Mr. Frost. He was in cahoots with the family doctor to kill Ms. Frost. It was she who had inherited everything from Mr. Frost’s late wife. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if not for this meddling kid !

Marvel Boy’s next case involved the kidnapping of Dr. Noiro, a key scientist working on atomic research. Then the resurgence of an ancient Native American curse killing White men who approached the Grand Canyon. This was all an alien plot masterminded by Origin Rex, an agent from another constellation. And presumably a Communist.

Rex kidnapped Marvel Boy. But the hero escaped and nuked the Grand Canyon with the help of the US military. He then arrested Origin Rex. Marvel Boy had deduced that the quasi-human crypto-commie had been Dr. Noiro all along. Because it is “Orion” spelled backward !

The further adventures

Rogue Uranians attempted to extort atomic secrets from Marvel Boy. They kidnapped Professor Grayson in his lab, and a young Uranian named Lilli on Earth. But Marvel Boy turned the tables on the guys on Uranus. He then beat them up until they agreed to send a message to Earth. This lured their accomplices into a police trap.

Marvel Boy (Bob Grayson) and a senator

Marvel Boy was next sent to debunk the act of an amazing magician. This man turned out to be a powerful time traveller.

Then he once again ran into a dastardly Communist plot. A mind-controlling pen was being used to force an American millionaire to send enormous checks to the Soviet government.

Finally, Bob Grayson foiled the plot of Professor Diminutio. He was an alien scientist who had invented a special fabric. Such garments would suddenly and forcefully shrunk when in contact with human flesh. Diminutio’s plan was to have clothing made out of the fabric so as to murder the entire American population through their attire.

However, Marvel Boy recognised the material. He then tricked Diminutio, arresting him and seizing his stocks of fabric.

And that was it… until, as usual, Roy Thomas  brought him back after a fashion.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

Marvel Boy is a clear-eyed, superiorly intelligent and dedicated Hero. He’s fearless and quick-thinking. Grayson is at once a fighter, a technologist, a leader, an investigator, etc. as well as a superior specimen endlessly struggling for the common good.

The super-hero stories are often hybridised with other genres. Marvel Boy will thus commonly act like a daring air ace sort of hero. Or a daring two-fisted international adventurer. In the detective-type stories, he becomes an observant sleuth who explains how he pieced together the case in a huge word balloon at the end.

One of his few distinctive features (aside from his strong Apollonian vibe) is that he’s a positivist  hero. He’s striving for SCIENCE! and the wonders of modern atomic energy. His solutions often involve “atomic science”. He’s also quick to show disdain toward the supposedly supernatural.

Other traits

Unlike many 1950s American comic book heroes, Marvel Boy III is not actively xenophobic. It, uuuhh, just turns out that the Communists, Muslims, Indians, etc. he encounters are all intrinsically and irredeemably evil, vicious and murderous.

Marvel Boy (Timely Comics) back alley brawl

Originally, Marvel Boy is ethical in his dealings with everyone. But he soons aligns with the Atlas Comics anti-Communist screed. This means that normal rules of conduct cease to apply when it comes to Communists (or quasi-Communists). And that Uranus suddenly ceases being a perfect society as the evils of Communism threaten everyone.

Marvel Boy doesn’t have a secret ID. People know that Bob Grayson of Amalgamated Insurance is the science hero from Uranus.


Quotes

“I’ll do my best, dad ! Good-bye !”

“These men are evil ! They would kill all who stand in their way !”

“What in the great universe hit me ?”

“But you blinded yourself to the possibility that some freedom-loving citizen might get wise to your devilish plot before it matured ! Well, I’m that citizen, Mr. ex-water commissioner !”

“Jumpin’ thunder ! That rock didn’t just bounce down here by itself ! Someone is still alive up there ! Well look out mister – here I come !”


DC Universe History

In the DCU, Marvel Boy could replace the “Starman of 1951”. In the DCU this Starman was an alternate identity briefly used by Bruce Wayne (pre-Crisis) or Charles McNider (post-Crisis). It was involved in a few time-travel adventures with modern bearers of the Starman name.

Marvel Boy (Timely Comics) back alley changes puff of smoke

In this hypothesis, Starman (Bob Grayson) would have been active for a few years. He would have been sent to Earth from Uranus to hold the line after the Justice Society disbanded. He chiefly would have fought against… wait for it… Communists.


Comic book history notes

Bob Grayson was the third Marvel Boy. He followed on the heels of two brief-lived versions of Marvel Boy (Martin Burns) published by Timely Comics.

He was a bit Superman-like and started in his own title. By issue #03 Marvel Boy became Astonishing. Which is not to be confused with Astonishing Tales, a later Marvel publication.

The super-hero books were not faring well in the post-war environment. The key hero titles at Atlas, inherited from Timely (Human Torch, Captain America and Sub-Mariner) had been recently discontinued. Marvel Boy was an early attempt to bring super-heroes back. But by issue #7 Astonishing had become a basic short-horror-stories-with-shock-ending anthology Ă  la EC Comics.

Atlas would make other attempts, such as bringing back some flagship Timely heroes in Young Men. But the resurgence of the super-hero genre would have to wait until 1956 and the arrival of Barry Allen, the new Flash, in the pages of Showcase. Which is the usual date for the start of the Silver Age .


Sharing



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Marvel Boy

Dex: 07 Str: 05 Bod: 05 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 06 Wil: 10 Min: 06 Occupation: Hero, Insurance investigator
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 017 HP: 050

Powers:
Comprehend Languages: 12, Data storage: 05, Jumping: 05, Mind probe: 01, Running: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Comprehend Languages is Contingent Upon Mind Probe.
  • Data Storage has No Transfer.
  • Mind probe is limited to superficial thoughts.
  • Jumping is Minor Marginal.

Skills:
Acrobatics (Athletics, Climbing)*: 07, Military science (Demolition): 06, Scientist: 06, Vehicles (Land, Space): 04

Bonuses and Limitations:
Military Science is Contingent Upon Scientist.

Advantages:
Attractive, Confident (Professor Grayson – his father), Familiarity (Insurance fraud), Language (Uranian language), Popularity, Sharp Eye.

Bonuses and Limitations:
Sharp Eye only applies to spotting clues in detective stories.

Connections:
Youth Patrol (High), Amalgamated Insurance Company (Low), American Police Forces (Low).

Drawbacks:
Attack Vulnerability (-1CS OV/RV vs. Blindside Attacks), Oblivious, Loss Vulnerability (when breathing Earth’s atmosphere Marvel Boy must take his uranium pills every day lest all of his Attributes drop to 02 and he loses all of his Powers).

Bonuses and Limitations:
Oblivious only applies when attempting to detect traps and ambushes.

Equipment:

  • WRISTBANDS [BODY 12, Flash: 08].
  • SILVER BULLET [BODY 15 STR 12, Flight: 38, Radio communications: 20, Sealed systems: 16, Loss Vulnerability: Flight drops to 13 in an atmosphere, Advantage: Headquarters (Confined)].
  • “Hydrogenised uranium capsules”. Beyond the properties discussed in the main body of this article, Marvel Boy has used his pills for the following stunts :
    • 20 capsules crushed into powder and jammed into a fissure exploded when exposed to flame (Bomb: 15).
    • He once had a young woman take a capsule, which boosted her STR score. Let’s say Enhance (STR): 01 (cap is 05).
    • It is implied that the pills can let him function without sufficient food and water.

Knockout attacks

Formally, Marvel Boy’s Attack Vulnerability should be handled as a Genre Rule. Everyone in the Genre is vulnerable to being bushwacked and hit on the head. This is a common Genre Rule in 1940s and 1950s adventure and super-heroes comics.

This entry treats it as an attribute of the character for convenience’s sake.



Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Marvel Boy (Robert Grayson) (Atlas Comics 1950s) — Averaged PL10.2

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
01 (04) 03 02 (04) 02 02 (06) 04 01 (04) 01 (02)

Powers

Uranian ● 34 points ● Descriptor: Physiology
– Enhanced Strength 03, Enhanced Agility 2, Enhanced Fighting 4, Enhanced Awareness 3, Enhanced Presence 1.
– Leaping 5 (Limited 1 (5 uses per adventure)).
– Speed 3.

Mental telepathy ● 9 points ● Descriptor: Telepathy
– Comprehend (Languages 3).
– Mind reading 2 (Limited 1 to Surface Thoughts).
– Benefit 1 (Marvel Boy’s intuitions are strangely accurate, and the GM should support that).

Devices

Wristbands ● 15 points (Removable) ● Descriptor: Uranian technology
Dazzle (Visual) 9

Silver Bullet ● 57 points ● Descriptor: Uranian technology, vehicle
Gargantuan Size, Strength 12, Flight 12, Movement (Space Travel 2), Communication (Radio) 5, Immunity 8 (All environments, all suffocation, starvation/thirst).

“Hydrogenised uranium capsules” ● 3 points ● Descriptor: Uranian technology
– Immunity 1 (These seem to allow him to function without sufficient food and water).
– Array that is Limited 2 (Unreliable – one use per adventure):

  • Burst-Area 1 explosive Damage 14, Limited 1 (must be prepared then placed by hand using Technology (Demolition).
  • Enhanced Strength 1. This likely doesn’t work on himself.
  • And possibly others.

Combat Advantages

Close attack 3, Defensive Roll 3, Ranged attack 3, Takedown.

Other Advantages

Attractive, Benefit 1 (Advised by Professor Grayson), Benefit 1 (Widely admired), Connected, Contacts, Eidetic Memory, Extraordinary Effort, Language (Uranian).

Skills

Athletics 5 (+9), Close combat (Unarmed) 2 (+11), Deception 3 (+5), Expertise (Insurance) 4 (+8), Expertise (Physics) 8 (+12), Insight 6 (+10), Investigation 12 (+16) (Limited 2 to Search), Perception 5 (+9), Persuasion 4 (+6), Ranged combat (Wristband flash) 6 (+11), Technology 4 (+8) (Limited 2 to Operating, Demolitions), Vehicles 4 (+6) (Limited 1 to land and space vehicles).

Offense

Initiative +4
Unarmed +11, Close, Damage 4
Wristbands flash +11, Ranged, Dazzle 9

Defence

Dodge 10 Fortitude 08
Parry 11 Toughness 03*/06
Will 09

* Without Defensive Roll.

Complications

  • Bushwhacked! Marvel Boy’s Perception bonus when it comes to detecting ambushes and attacks from behind is zero.
  • Lack of Uranian atmosphere Outside of an Uranian atmosphere, Marvel Boy must take his uranium pill daily or lose both his Powers.
  • Our hero! Marvel Boy is a goodie-goodie, driven to help and protect his fellow man. Except, of course, Communists.

Powers Levels

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 10, Dodge/Toughness PL 8, Parry/Toughness PL 9, Fort/Will PL 9.
  • Points total 215. Abilities 32, Defences 22, Skills 25, Powers 43, Devices 75, Advantages 18. Equiv. PL 15.

Notes

The Investigation (Search) Skill models his ability to spot minute clues when he’s a detective story. GMs should thus let him use this instead of Perception even if it’s more of a visual scan than a physical search.

The Unreliable Limitation to Jumping represents the fact he doesn’t use it much even when that would be advantageous.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Boy and Astonishing comics in the Golden Age proto-Marvel Universe.

Helper(s): Gareth Lewis. One illustration by RonnieThunderbolts.

Writeups.org is a non-commercial, community site

We chat and work at the DC Heroes Yahoo! group .