This coming May, comics will be Solar-powered. Solar: Man of the Atom, that is.
As announced at the 2013 New York Comic Con, Dynamite Entertainment has acquired the rights to the iconic Gold Key heroesand will be ushering them back to comics in a slate of new series that will launch in 2014. In May, Five Ghosts writer Frank Barbiere will take the reigns of one of Gold Key’s most popular characters with the launch of an all-new Solar: Man of the Atom series. Although his name is not as well-known as the other writers on the new Gold Key titles, Barbiere has made up for that with the successful Five Ghosts series he’s done and reportedly wowed series editor Nate Cosby with his take on the pulp science hero.
Combining superheroes, space and family into a unique package, Barbiere’s Solar: Man of the Atom series is set to launch in May and Newsarama spoke with the writer about his take on on good Doctor Solar, the pulp roots of the characters, and applying hard science to his science-fiction story.
Newsarama: First off Frank, how’d you come to be involved with Dynamite’s relaunch of these Gold Key characters?
Frank Barbiere:Both Nate (Cosby, my editor on the project) and Nick (Barrucci, the CEO of Dynamite Entertainment) really enjoyed Five Ghosts and reached out to me. It was definitely flattering, and I was excited to hear what they had for me to work on—I was floored when they extended the offer to be involved with the Gold Key launch. It's really exciting to be a part of something like this and to get in on the ground. Also, the level of talent they are bringing to this launch is amazing and I'm very humbled to be involved.
Nrama: Although Solar has been around for decades, I imagine quite a bit of our audience never heard of him before now. With that in mind, how would you describe the character and the kind of stories he engenders?
Barbiere: Solar was originally a “pulp science” comic in the 1960's, and he actually didn't even have the costume for the first few issues. There was a lot of fun “we don't really understand science” hijinx going on, and ultimately it turned into a superhero book to compete with the superhero boom of the late 1960's. I think a lot of people are more familiar with the 90's Valiant version of the character, which was also a pretty unique take by Jim Shooter. Solar definitely is pretty striking and iconic with his bright red costume, and I think being an “omnipotent” type character with a great deal of power is exciting...it's about finding threats and ways to make him interesting that drew me in, and hopefully will connect with readers.
Nrama: What drew you specifically to working on Solar: Man of the Atom?
Barbiere: I initially had a crazy pitch for Turok that I wanted to run by Nate and Nick, but when Nate asked me what I thought about Solar I started putting ideas together and it really clicked. I think having a character with such a massive power set and a bit of mystery to him is really exciting, and when I started putting the character through the idea mill a lot of interesting things started popping up.
Nrama: Without spoiling things too much, can you maybe tell us what is the heart of the story you’re hoping to tell here?
Barbiere: A lot of writers tend to focus on crazy, big external threats—this is a character with some pretty god-like powers (he can manipulate all forms of energy), so it becomes “What can we throw at this guy?” I decided to start by giving the character an actual “character” foundation, in this case a family. There's a very important central supporting cast that works into the book that has turned it into a character drama, as well as a superhero science story.
Nrama: Solar is a character who has had several incarnations, from Gold Key to Valiant, Acclaim and even Dark Horse. What are you looking to as the basis for your take on the character?
Barbiere: I took a little bit of everything and really just applied my own sensibilities. I've been reading a lot of the 60's Solar as I think that's the most “fun,” and want to definitely try to put a lot of fun Easter eggs and elements from there into our book. I think that take was the most appealing to me with my current sensibilities/interests as it had that pulp infusion that just can't be reproduced.
Nrama: In some incarnations, science has been a big concept of this series – is that the case with your take on this?
Barbiere: Absolutely. It's humbling and fun to write a character who's a “genius” and it really brings a lot of different elements into play. But for me, it's really thinking about who this character is, how he would relate to others, and how his “genius” would affect his interpersonal/familial relations. This really is the core of my take on Solar, and I'm excited to take readers along on what's definitely going to be a wild and unexpected ride.