It seems no matter what, you can’t keep a good comic book down.
Last year, Dark Horse Comics announced that it would be reviving the flagship characters of the Silver Age publisher Gold Key. Names like Doctor Solar and Magnus Robot Fighter are familiar names to comics fan, both those that read the characters in their original incarnation as well as their popular relaunches in the mid-90s by Valiant Comics. Now, after years of absence save the reprints of classic stories (also by Dark Horse), these iconic creations are coming back to comic shelves.
And they’ve got an old friend to help them.
Jim Shooter is known as many things in comics; he was one of the youngest comic writers ever hired – working on DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes as only a teen, before moving on and upward to assuming the role of Editor-In-Chief at Marvel Comics in the 1980s. He was at the forefront of the foundation of Valiant Comics which brought these characters back the first time, and as they return again in the 21st century he’s coming with them. But now by working with Dark Horse Comics, Shooter has set aside the editorial and business side of things to allow him to focus solely on the comics themselves – using that same mind that made him a name in comics so many years ago.
Leading of this return is Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. Illustrated by comics veteran Dennis Calero, Doctor Solar shows the creative team boiling the character down to his essentials and breathing new life into a character that has always been on the bleeding edge of technology. With the series set to debut on July 14th, we talked to Shooter about the book and his long history with the characters.
Newsarama: Jim, what can people expect in the new Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom series?
Jim Shooter: Well, here are some excerpts from my series overview that may shed some light:
Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom brings all the mind-bending potential of cutting edge science to bear in thrilling, epic-scale super-hero action.
Imbued with godlike power during the catastrophic failure of a thermonuclear fusion experiment, Doctor Solar is now the world’s only hope against science run amok. Don’t think it hasn’t. Supercolliders in use today could conceivably create black holes, magnetic monopoles or so-called “strange matter” that could destroy the planet. Transhuman, or “H+” engineering, nanotechnology, humankind’s increasing ability to impose its will on nature, and more present terrifying possibilities, including the means to empower evil. With the fantastic strength and awesome energies at his command, Doctor Solar battles super-enemies and forces beyond ken to defend our very existence.
Immeasurable might, amazing intellect and profound knowledge of the factors that shape the universe make Doctor Solar nigh invincible, the “God of Energy.” But he is a man as well. His humanity is what keeps us safe from him.
His greatest power is focus. Solar is a hero like no other.
Our intent is to bring the original Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom, created and set in the 1960’s, into the Twenty-First Century, honoring the core concepts, updating the science, ratcheting up the human drama and making the action far more spectacular.
Nrama: Thanks for giving us a glimpse at that. No hero is complete without a nemesis – or two. Can you tell us who or what Doctor Solar is up against?
Shooter: Whitmore Pickerel is merely a catalyst, a hack sci-fi writer who acquires the power to create life—but he uses it selfishly, foolishly and dangerously. His first, inadvertent creation, Leviathan, is an immensely strong, nearly invulnerable warrior-gladiator from a future world, a junk-fiction character brought to life. But, once manifest, Leviathan is alive, and as real as we…or, at least you are. So then what? What do you do with an eight-foot tall, quarter-ton superman who can’t get enough to eat and has a very hostile disposition? I’ve seen other stories of characters created from the mind, and generally, they vanish into nothingness in a burst of pixels when it’s convenient. Nah. This guy’s here to stay. What’cha going to do, Doctor Solar? No containment on Earth can hold this guy. Kill him? Or maybe he’ll kill you.
Nrama: In reading up on this relaunch, I heard mention of another character named Glow. Can you tell us about that character?
Shooter: Glow is the Siren of Venus, a young woman built like Dolly Parton but more so, who is the ultimate, shall we say friendly party-girl. Pickerel created her on purpose, for his own, selfish, puerile purpose. But, once she’s alive, she’s, well, alive, and many the things about her that seem so appealing on the printed page don’t work out so well in reality. And she has a mind of her own. Screw what Pickerel wants.
Nrama: I’ve always admired your strengths at determining the root of a character and writing with that instead of all the accumulated continuity and baggage that may not fit with it. What would you say are essentials for Doctor Solar?
Shooter: Thanks. Doctor Solar must be quite a remarkable guy. Someone that powerful who doesn’t exploit his absolute supremacy must have a disciplined mind and a noble spirit.
I find the statement “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” to be nonsense. Power doesn’t corrupt, it magnifies—if you’re a noble person, acquiring power means you can do more good. Mother Theresa or Albert Schweitzer given great power would worry me not at all.
However, jerks, including jerks who are well-behaved because they’re powerless, become mega-jerks or monsters given power—and that sometimes makes for a good story, so the old saw hangs around.
Anyway, I’ve been saying “power magnifies” for decades. A few jerks who once worked for me have oft represented that thought as their own, but, whatever, I can’t have been the first person to reason it out, so no harm no foul, I guess.
Doctor Solar is a brilliant man who knows himself. Good thing for the rest of us.
Nrama: And it’s that brilliance that has made him impossible to forget. What do you think it was about these characters and stories that make them ones people can’t seem to forget and always want to revisit?
Shooter: They are absolutely, profoundly iconic characters. Doctor Solar is the premiere archetype of energy-empowered characters, characters with godlike power and real-science-based characters. That floats my boat.
Nrama: When you previously plotted Solar and these other Gold Key characters, you were in a far different place: the EIC of a fragile new publisher launching a company and a line at the same time. Now you’re backed by the long-running Dark Horse company, whose prepped people a bit by reprinting the classic comics. Logistically – behind the scenes – how is that effecting what you write?
Shooter: It’s great to have help. Mike Richardson has been nothing but good to me, and has offered great ideas and solid support. Chris Warner does much of the heavy lifting with regard to the art, contributes a good bit and backstops me when I have senior moments. I can focus much more on the writing and creating this time.
Nrama: Looking at yourself, where do you think you’ve changed as a writer from your previous times on these characters? Are you influenced by different things, interested in different takes or nuances on these characters?
Shooter: I hope I’ve gotten better. I hope I know more, understand better and see farther. I think so. Times have changed and I think I have evolved with them. Yes, I have some different, better insights this time—I hope. I should. Not only do I stand on the shoulders of giants, but I have a little, additional piggy-back boost from myself, since I had a crack at these characters once before. This is the time, this is my moment. This is it.
Check back with Newsarama.com later this month as we talk to Jim about Magnus, Robot Fighter and the next wave of Gold Key characters hitting comic shelves.
What other Gold Key characters would you like to see?