Agents of Atlas" Week 4 - Agent Profile: Marvel Boy & a Cryptic Invitation

Last week CBR News was doing the robot as "Agents of Atlas" writer Jeff Parker acquainted us with M-11 AKA the Human Robot. This week Parker plays Ground Control to our Major Tom as he checks back in with the latest Agent Profile for Marvel Boy. Also CBR News feature on "AoA" has caught the eye of a mysterious stranger and we share with our readers the cryptic invitation that he sent us.

Marvel Boy made his debut in the 1950s in issues #3-6 of the Timely-Atlas title "Astonishing" and went on to star in his own self-titled series. It was the character's last known appearance that has many fans puzzled at Marvel Boy's inclusion in the modern day line up of the "Agents of Atlas." "He's probably the character that the most talk has been about since this project was announced," Parker told CBR News. "Didn't he die in 'Fantastic Four' #165? Doesn't the hero Quasar have his bands now- the Quantum Bands? How many Marvel Boys are there? Wasn't one a New Warrior? Wasn't one a Kree Warrior?

"Let's go back to the beginning," Parker continued. "Our Marvel Boy is Bob Grayson, who was born in Germany as the Nazi party was coming into power. His father Matthew was a scientist who built a rocketship so he and his son could flee the Earth for another more peaceful planet without dictators. And that planet turned out to be the 7th one in our solar system, Uranus. Not habitable you say? In fact there was a paradise full of other humans that existed in the life-supporting Omnidome, and they took the Graysons in."

The Graysons' benefactors turned out to be an offshoot of the immortal, earth born, aliens, The Eternals. "They were very advanced, and as Bob grew up they bestowed many of their technological gifts upon him," Parker explained. "As a teenager, he returned to Earth with strength enhanced by pills they gave him, and he could fly and manipulate light in powerful ways thanks to these armbands he wore. He also had a headband that allowed him extra mental abilities such as telepathy."

Bob Grayson returned to Earth and attempted to be a hero, but ultimately his return to his birth planet proved to be his downfall. "The last time we saw Bob he was giving the Fantastic Four a hard time, frothing at the mouth and calling himself The Crusader," Parker stated. "Apparently, the Uranian colonists were in need of medical supplies, so Grayson tried to borrow money from a bank to raise what he needed to help the colonists. It was for nothing, because a vaguely described cataclysm destroyed them. Here's a good webpage that fills in some of that info. Anyway, the wristbands themselves destroyed the Crusader, and that's the last we've seen of him."

The reason behind Bob's strange reappearance among the living in "Agents of Atlas" can be found by probing the mysteries of his past. "Rather than also vaporize continuity that doesn't work for our purposes, 'Agents of Atlas' takes into account all of these major points in Marvel Boy's history and treats it as a mystery story," Parker explained. "So many things don't add up. Why could Marvel Boy never make the bands work to the extent that Quasar could? Since when do ultra-advanced civilizations need our medical help? Weren't those colonists exiles, after all? Heck, how did Dr. Grayson manage to build a spaceship and find them in the first place? To get to the bottom of the mystery, we address practically everything!"

Whatever it was that caused Bob's return, he did not emerge from the process unscathed. "When we meet Bob in the present day, he's a little different," Parker stated. "It takes him a while to get the hang of English again. He's not flying around, he's no stronger than anyone else, and he sure doesn't have those wristbands. He has to wear a suit that keeps him in an environment he can live in -- breathing a mixture of hydrogen, methane and helium -- and a temperature a couple hundred degrees below what we can stand. That looks like a glass bubble helmet, but it's actually a field generated by the suit to hold in the cold and gases. He can reach through it to say, eat dinner. But trust us... you do not want to see Bob eat.

"Nonetheless, Jimmy Woo and the gang are very glad to have their interplanetary pal back even if he has changed," Parker continued. "And there do seem to be some pros to his new condition. His mental ability is much broader than what it was- he has lots of abilities you would associate with 'Grey' aliens. And he hasn't aged nearly as much as we would have expected him to by now. Is he still human? That will be determined by the end of the series."

It will also be determined by the end of the series whether or not Marvel Boy is still a fitting heroic moniker for the seemingly resurrected Bob Grayson. "Just as the team always refers to Gorilla Man as Ken, everyone calls him Bob," Parker said. "The title Marvel Boy seems a little young for him now (and of course, there are others as we mentioned), but we'll leave it to readers to ultimately decide how to refer to him. I like the term one of our yet-to-be-introduced characters uses to refer to him: The Uranian."

Speaking of mysterious characters, this reporter received an interesting bit of mail yesterday. Which is strange, because Comic Book Resources only lists my email address. I suppose since this person is that resourceful, I should share the message!

Mr. Richards.

It has not escaped my notice that you are documenting information relating to The Atlas Foundation. The thoroughness of this feature persuades me to extend an invitation to you and your readers. Stay alert next week. There will be an announcement made by one very loyal to my Order. Exceptional minds shall be led to an offering of what you might call a "decoder ring." I believe you are schooled enough in our methods that you will recognize the announcement when you see it.

Your Humble Servant

That was it. There was no name. The invitation arrived in an odd crimson envelope with a wax seal on the back. Now, I wish I hadn't opened it that way because the seal appeared to be some kind of symbol, but you can't make it out now.

So what do you think? This reporter is stumped. We at CBR News invite you to debate and discuss your theories and interpretations on the enigmatic invite here on CBR's Marvel Comics Message Boards.

PREVIEW: Batman #77

More in Comics