RETRO REVIEW: Four Color Comics #1330 (April/June 1962)

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The Silver Age of Comics was chock-full of guys whose artwork was unique and powerful, and the likes of Jack Kirby or Wally Wood could generate a panel that would blow you away.  The late Gil Kane is among their number as well, with work that could give even a minor character from a relatively minor publisher the kind of rep that’d last nearly fifty years.  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
Gil Kane is awesome.
Very literate for 1962…


Cons

Dell numbering system=nightmare.
A little 60s racism on display.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

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BrainBoycoverFOUR COLOR COMICS #1330
Writer: Herb Kastle
Artist: Gil Kane
Inker: Bob Fujitani
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Don Arneson
Publisher: Dell Comics
Cover Price: 15 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $200.00

Previously in Four Color Comics: Dell Comics was an anomaly, even in the early days of comic publishing, in that they didn’t MAKE comics, they merely packaged and distributed them, mostly for Western Publishing (which later became Gold Key Comics.)  Dell’s flagship title, Four Color Comics, wasn’t a traditional comic book anthology (with multiple stories in each issue), instead serving up a whole issue featuring one character, often a licensed character such as Dick Tracy or Donald Duck.  Four Color was a very prolific title too, sometimes being printed multiple times per month.  Adding to the confusion for collector’s and comic stores, after 1945 or so, Dell didn’t feature the Four Color title on the cover, but, instead, the name of the featured character.  Thus, Four Color #1330 is the first appearance and origin of one of the most interesting of Dell’s sporadic original characters, one Matt Price, the Brain Boy!

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After a fascinating inside-front-cover feature discussing various different types of telepathic powers (using the real-world terminology of parapsychology), we are shown that tragic car crash, wherein Matt Price the elder dies.  Mama Price, however, refuses to take her loss lying down, instead preparing to raise her boy alone…

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Matt’s infant mental acuity is only the first harbinger of what is to come, and as he ages, his exceptional abilities mature as well…

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“YEARS YEARS YEARS.”  I love that montage, for some reason, quickly showing us the passage of time with the least amount of fuss necessary, the kind of conceit that Gil Kane was famous for.  It’s only the first of several such “time passing” panels in the book, leading Matt Price to his senior year of high school.  On the night of the prom, he is approached by a strange man who claims to know about his mind-reading powers.  Tricking him into revealing himself, the stranger claims to be an agent of the United States government.

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Explaining that his department is more than just the study of artifacts and bones, the agent reveals that Price may be the most powerful telepath he’s ever encountered (and, it must be mentioned, a pretty spiffy telekinetic as well.)  As such, his country has use of his skills…

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Interestingly, aside from his supervisor occasionally referring to him as “my fine young Brain Boy”, Matt isn’t all that much of a superhero.  No costume, no official nom de guerre, and his M.O. presages that of one James Bond (whose movie adventures wouldn’t start until the following year, one might add.)  After an intense couple of months of spy-training, our teenage telepath is sent into the field for his first mission: Undercover work in a country that is absolute NOT, under any circumstances, Cuba.

(Important tip:  It totally is meant to be Cuba.)

BrainBoy6Matt finds that spycraft is more difficult in the real world than in his orientation, but thankfully, he’s been sent in with a canny native of Xochtan, Professor Hillary Gomez, but he is identified by one of Xochtan’s own telepathic agents.  Luckily, Matt is strong enough to sense the menacing thoughts around him, and lays a trap…

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Shockingly for a 60s comic, Matt finds himself terribly affected by the death of his would-be assassin, one of the few things he has in common with his big-time super-heroic brethren.  The next day, as Professor Gomez prepares to give his big public speech, Matt finds his powers blocked, as the evil telepath controls the Prof into delivering an anti-American diatribe rather than his expected speech.  Before Price can figure anything out, the situation goes from bad to worse…

BrainBoy8 The evil Warlord known as Droz (formerly of The Road Warriors), his evil plot complete, allows the young American to slink back to his hotel, assuming Matt is defeated.  Things get a little bit awkward, though, when our Brain Boy disguises himself as a native of Xochtan using shoe polish, and sets out to reconnoiter the situation in Not-Cuba.

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Matt’s mighty mind-control mutation allows him to get in and out without dying (which is good, given that his shoe-polish disguise is almost immediately recognized as an amateur-hour stunt, a nice touch), even controlling General Droz’s mind, discovering the astonishing truth: Professor Gomez is alive and being held at the farm of one Dr. Irado!

BrainBoy10Even more incredibly, Irado’s daughter is a telepath as well, one who wants to help her dissident father escape the iron fist of Droz.  Gathering everyone and heading for the airfield, Matt discovers that his chicanery at the palace has been discovered, and Droz’s pet telepath has come looking for him…

…with a full complement of armored artillery and heavy weapons.  So, that’s fun…

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Brain Boy and Ricorta quickly get involved in a telepathic game of chess, pitting tank against tank, until only one remains.  Ricorta gives the order to destroy Price and his defectors, but discovers why the book ain’t called “Telepathic Jerkass Communist Functionary Adventures.”

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As Silver Age adventures go, its remarkably realistic, with a super-duper whose powers don’t overwhelm the story, and that tries to deal with the then-ominous threat of Communist infiltration.  As for the art, both Kane and Fujitani put together an impressive issue, with their art being pretty ill-served by some ham-fisted coloring (as well as the less-than-stellar newsprint of my original copy of this ish.)  Four Color Comics #1330 (aka Brain Boy #1, since Brain Boy #2 picks up exactly where this issue left off) is an interesting case, with excellent art throughout, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s clear why this concept, decades ahead of its time as it was, has been revamped in recent months (though it’s a shame that Kane’s not still here to provide art for the relaunch.)

Rating: ★★★½☆