Agent of An Alien Power: Jeff Parker Talks Marvel Boy

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In the 1950s, a strange visitor from another planet came to Earth with powers far beyond those of mortal men. No, not THAT strange visitor; this was Marvel Boy, a young man in short pants who wore wrist bracelets he used to project energy and incapacitate evil-doers.

Marvel Boy is now back in the present day as part of the Agents of Atlas, and this month, Agents of Atlas writer Jeff Parker takes Marvel Boy solo in Marvel Boy: The Uranian, a 3 issue limited series that explores the background of Marvel's 1950s Alien Avenger. Broken Frontier caught up with Parker to talk about the mini-series.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Marvel Boy is the first Agent to get his own solo mini. How did this come about, and what makes Bob Grayson the right character to start with?

JEFF PARKER: I believe it was suggested because of Marvel's 70th Anniversary, and the company is making use of it's older characters with that. Whatever, I was happy because I've had a lot of Bob's back story that I've wanted to get into ever since the first Agents of Atlas miniseries. 

Bob is a perfect character to examine, because he's in a very different place as a person during the 50's as compared to now. He's discovering his home world and trying really hard to be a super hero in a time that doesn't seem to want one.
BF: A lot of Bob's background was initially spelled out in the early issues of Mark Gruenwald's Quasar series, although you later modified some of that to enable Bob to function as his own character. Will this miniseries be drawing on some of those past stories to flesh out his background?
JP: In a way, yes. There's one detail from that that I explore from another angle, the idea that Bob would have been a Jewish German before growing up on Uranus. The Quasar stuff made him Jewish through both parents, but going back to the source material, it seems implied that it would be through his mother, who is conspicuously missing when Professor Grayson takes his son into space. So I focused on that direction.

BF: Do you plan to get into the perspective of someone raised in an advanced alien culture, as Bob was, on some of the more barbaric events in human history, like the Holocaust?

JP: Not at this point, but the important thing to take away here is that his father fled the Nazis on Earth to end up with Nazis on another planet. You can always justify the differences [between the two versions of Marvel Boy's history] by the fact that a lot of the Quasar Marvel Boy data is coming from an unreliable source, Bob's duplicate.

In this mini, we also see more about how the plan to make a second Marvel Boy (who became The Crusader) comes about.

BF: Have you had any thoughts about Bob meeting up with Quasar and confronting some of the differing impressions Quasar may have of him?

JP: Well...no.

BF: Marvel Boy was one of the few superheroes to be created by Marvel/Timely in the 1950s, a period in which the genre had largely grown dormant. Do you see anything that sets the character, as he was originally created, apart from the Marvel heroes of the Golden Age or the 1960s?

JP: Bob doesn't have the tragic hero aspect that Silver Age Marvel heroes do. He has tragedy in his past, but he wasn't old enough to consider it. He's very idealistic and pure in that respect.

BF: Do you see any elements of paranoia/fear in his makeup, given that he came to Earth in a time of the "Red Scare", and when the idea of alien invaders and UFOs was running across popular culture?

JP: Yes, you'll see that in the mini, definitely.

BF: Are there plans for more solo Agents of Atlas miniseries?
JP: Maybe! Or maybe just a new ongoing...

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