Promotional art by Michael Komarck for Dark Horse Comics' Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1 (July 2010)
|Publisher||Gold Key Comics
Dark Horse Comics
|First appearance||Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (Oct. 1962)|
|Created by||Paul S. Newman
|Alter ego||(Dr.) Raymond Solar
Frank and Helena Seleski
|Notable aliases||Doctor Solar
Man of the Atom
|Abilities||Convert body into any form of energy
Generate, manipulate, absorb, & convert energy
Fire energy blasts
Solar is an American fictional comic book superhero created by writer Paul S. Newman and artist Matt Murphy. The character first appeared in Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1 in 1962 by Gold Key Comics and has since appeared in other incarnations in books published by Valiant Comics in the 1990s, Dark Horse Comics in the 2000s, and Dynamite Entertainment in the 2010s.
Gold Key Comics
Solar was created in 1962 by writer Paul S. Newman and editor Matt Murphy, along with illustrations from artist Bob Fujitani for the Silver Age comic book publisher Gold Key, a new company formed by Western Publishing who, earlier that year, had ended its business arrangement with Dell Comics. The character premiered in issue #1 of Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom in Summer 1962 (cover date October 1962) in the first batch of comics released by Gold Key, with Solar being Gold Key's first original character. Though Gold Key did not have as large a distribution network as Dell Comics, the Gold Key comics stood out on the newsstand shelves due to their cover art and a 12 cent price (Dell Comics sold for 15 cents). The first two issues of Solar appeared with cover paintings by Richard M. Powers; beyond the second issue the cover paintings were done by George Wilson. The interior artwork in the first several issues also had unique features: the superhero, Dr. Solar, did not have a costume until the fifth issue, rectangular word balloons and no black holding line around each panel. Following from practise of Dell Comics, and thanks to Western Publishing's reputation of publishing other children-friendly books, Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom was able to be distributed without the Comics Code Authority symbol. The original creative team of writer Paul S. Newman and artist Bob Fujitani lasted until issue #5 when Frank Bolle took over the art work. With the exception of issue #7 written by Otto Binder, Newman wrote the comic book until issue #10 when Dick Wood took over for the remainder of the series. Other artists that contributed included Mel Crawford, Win Mortimer, Alden McWilliams (issues #20-23), Ernie Colón (issues #24-26), José Delbo (issue #27).
The popularity of this original series peaked in 1965. With a price increase to 15 cents with issue #25 in 1968 and a general decline in sales in the comic book industry in the late-1960s, Gold Key cancelled the series in 1969 with the final issue being #27. In one of Gold Key's few cross-overs, Doctor Solar re-appeared in the 1975 comic book The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor #14. In the early-1980s, with another industry contraction, Gold Key withdrew from distribution to newsstands and began publishing comics under the Whitman Comics imprint distributed to retail stores (e.g. department stores, toy stores, specialty comic book stores) in poly-bagged packages of three comic books. For this purpose, Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom was restarted at #28 (cover date April 1981) with Roger McKenzie writing and Dan Spiegle drawing. This initiative was short lived and the series was cancelled again after only four issues.
Solar next appeared in 1991 when Valiant Comics restarted the series with a new premise. Western Publishing had been distributing Valiant's Nintendo and World Wrestling Entertainment comics and agreed to allow Valiant to license characters from the Gold Key library. Valiant intended to use successful Gold Key characters to launch a superhero line of comics and spin-off original characters under the direction of editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, who had previously, unsuccessfully launched the Marvel Comics superhero line New Universe. With Valiant's video game and wrestling comics experiencing limited success, they launched the new line in 1991 with Magnus, Robot Fighter, followed by Solar, Man of the Atom a couple months later. The new Solar series began with three multi-part stories all written by Jim Shooter: "Alpha and Omega" with artwork by Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton, spanned the first ten issues and told of the origin story of how the protagonist, Phil Seleski, became Solar, until the time he accidentally destroys the world; "Second Death", with artwork by Don Perlin, Bob Layton and Thomas Ryder, spanned the first four issues and tells of Seleski's attempt to prevent another version of himself from destroying the world; "First Strike", with artwork by Don Perlin and Stan Drake, spanned issues #5 to #8 and follows Solar as he fights spider aliens. These first year stories included first appearances by Eternal Warrior, the Harbinger Foundation, Geomancers, and the X-O Manowar armor - all of which would be spun off into their own series.
With its US$1.75 cover price and benefiting from Valiant's heavy promotion of its superhero line and its combined direct and newsstand distribution network, Solar was returning a small profit with print runs of approximately 60,000 copies of each issue in the first year. The second year began with two tie-in issues with the "Unity" storyline with Solar appearing in the other Valiant titles that also tied into that storyline. The popularity of "Unity" significantly raised demand for Valiant products, including new issues and back issues. Solar's print run rapidly grew to peak at 360,000 copies of issue #23, which by that time had a cover price of US$2.25, in mid-1993. Following Shooter's ouster from Valiant Comics in 1992, Kevin VanHook took over the writing job and Solar editor Bob Layton also became Valiant's editor-in-chief. Steve Ditko pencilled issues #14 and #15 before Pater Grau took over until #35. During that time Solar appeared in other Valiant titles, such as Archer & Armstrong, Rai, Secret Weapons, X-O Manowar, and Harbinger Files, as well as Deathmate and The Chaos Effect. After Acclaim Entertainment took over ownership of Valiant in Summer 1994, VanHook continued as writer but the penciller job was divided between Andrew Wendell and Louis Small until issue #41 at the end of the year. Stephen D. Sullivan wrote the next two issues with Scott Rosema as penciller, followed by two issues by writer Christopher Priest and penciller Rik Levins. Acclaim launched a publicity strategy, dubbed "Birthquake", in which they attracted high profile comic book writers and artists to work on their titles. Dan Jurgens took over writer and penciller, with Dick Giordano as inker, beginning with issue #46 until issue #51 when Tom Grindberg took over as penciller for four issues. As sales continued to fall, Tony Bedard took over as writer from #52, with Aaron Lopresti, Mike Manley and Jeff Johnson dividing the penciller job, until the series was cancelled with issue #60 in 1996.
Acclaim cancelled the remainder of the Valiant titles in 1996 and restarted a select few under a new creative direction with Fabian Nicieza as editor-in-chief. They published the one-shot Solar, Man of the Atom with a May 1997 cover date. Written by Warren Ellis, with Darick Robertson as penciller, the issue was met with above average sales. It was followed by a second one-shot Solar, Man of the Atom: Revelations (cover date November 1997) by Jim Krueger, Patrick Zircher and Jimmy Palmiotti. Acclaim's final attempt at Solar was the four-issue mini-series Solar, Man of the Atom: Hell on Earth by Christopher Priest, Patrick Zircher, ChrisCross, and Romeo Tanghal. While Acclaim continued to publish comics for several more years, the rights to Solar lapsed and reverted to Classic Media which acquired Western Publishing's properties in 2001.
Dark Horse Comics
Amid an industry-wide resurgence in popularity in publishing high quality reprint collections, such as Marvel Golden Age Masterworks and the DC Archive series, Dark Horse Comics acquired the rights to reprint Dell and Gold Key comics. Dark Horse published a four volume hard-cover series that reprinted the entire Gold Key Doctor Solar series, including his appearance in The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor #14, with the first volume being released in 2004 covering issue 1 to 7. The second and third volumes were released in 2005 and covered issues 8 to 22. The final volume was released two years later, in 2007, covering issues 23 to 31 and the Dr. Spektor issue.
In 2008 Dark Horse Comics announced that the company intended to publish an original Solar series, as well as other Gold Key characters. A year later, at the San Diego Comic Con Dark Horse announced Jim Shooter would be the new series writer. The new Solar series ran eight issues, plus a preview issue. A trade paperback collection was released that collected the preview issue and #1-4 of the comic in its first volume, and the remaining issues (#5-8) in its second volume.
In 2013 Dynamite Entertainment acquired the publishing rights to Solar, Turok, Magnus: Robot Fighter and Doctor Spektor. Dynamite released a Solar: Man of The Atom ongoing series which lasted for twelve issues from March 2014 to February 2015.
Fictional character biography
The original Doctor Solar was a physicist named Dr. Phillip Solar who attempted to assist fellow worker Dr. Bently avert an imminent meltdown of the nuclear power plant where they worked, which had been sabotaged by Dr. Rasp, agent of an evil mastermind named Nuro. Bently lost his life trying to prevent the meltdown while Solar absorbed a massive amount of radiation in the process. He survived and discovered that he had gained the ability to convert his body into any kind of nuclear energy. Using his new powers, Solar began searching for Nuro, who would become Solar's nemesis. Nuro used a robot double of himself called Orun and later transferred his mind into it, calling himself King Cybernoid.
Doctor Solar did not gain a superhero costume until the fifth issue of his comic, with which he became known as "The Man of the Atom". In addition, his skin turned green whenever he used his powers.
The new version (now known simply as Solar) was a physicist named Phil Seleski. Seleski was a fan of the Gold Key line, especially the adventures of Doctor Solar. One day, Seleski and his colleagues were testing a new type of fusion reactor. When an accidental breach threatened to obliterate the entire area, Seleski rushed to shut down the reactor. He succeeded, but he was exposed to lethal doses of radiation in the process. Amazingly, the exposure didn't kill him but instead gave him the ability to manipulate all forms of matter and energy. Seleski tried to use his powers for the good of mankind by attempting to destroy the world's supply of nuclear weapons. However, the U.S. government attempted to stop him and their efforts caused Seleski to lose control of his powers, which in turn caused Earth to fall into a giant black hole.
Seleski was thrown several weeks back in time. The guilt over his role in the destruction of his world caused him to split into two beings: Doctor Solar, who believed himself to be Seleski's childhood hero; and Phil Seleski, who retained all the memories of the original. Seleski sought to prevent the accident that gave him his powers from taking place. His efforts were complicated by the presence of Doctor Solar, who was convinced that Seleski was a dangerous criminal. Eventually, Seleski convinced his alter-ego that they needed to work together, and the two of them fused with the past version of Seleski and prevented the accident. In the process, they discovered that Seleski's fusion reactor was actually a "wish machine" that allowed anyone within close proximity to change the universe in any way they saw fit. Before the original accident, Seleski wished that he could become his childhood superhero. As a result, the reactor simulated the events that gave the original Doctor Solar his powers. Seleski also found out that he didn't travel to the past but instead recreated his universe after falling into the black hole. However, this universe was now populated by a large number of super-powered beings. The revelations inspired Seleski to take up the mantle of his childhood hero, becoming known as Solar, Man of the Atom.
Solar went on to have several adventures, fighting a wide variety of threats such as the Spider Aliens, malevolent Harbingers and Mothergod. He survived for several centuries and blew himself up in 4000 A.D. in an effort to stop the Spider Alien invasion of Earth.
The Seleski twins, Frank and Helena, were transformed into the Acclaim Universe's Solar after Phil Seleski left them a portion of his powers.
Powers and abilities
Dr. Solar is a trained scientist, specializing in nuclear physics. Due to his being irradiated, Solar has become a living nuclear battery whose his skin turns green whenever he uses his powers or absorbs large amounts of radiation. Solar can draw upon his stored-up energy at will, releasing and directing it into virtually any form he chooses and can also use it to defy gravity, thus enabling him to fly. Solar can also manipulate matter at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. Solar is also able to travel through time if his energy levels are high enough. However, Solar has to periodically recharge himself with radiation if his energy levels become too low after using his powers for too long.
Solar wears a uniform lined with cadmium and lead to protect others from radiation poisoning along with a visor to shield his eyes and conceal his identity. His belt contains radioisotope pills or capsules which he swallows in order to boost his energy levels in an emergency.
- Valiant Comics
- Alpha and Omega hardcover slipcase (March 1994) - Collects # 1–10 (back-up stories); written by Jim Shooter; art by Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton
- Alpha and Omega trade paperback format edition (March 1994)
- Second Death trade paperback (September 1994) - Collects # 1–4 (lead stories); written by Jim Shooter; art by Don Perlin and Bob Layton
- Dark Horse
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom ISBN 1-59307-285-6 (reprints #1–7)
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom ISBN 1-59307-327-5 (reprints #8–14)
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom ISBN 1-59307-374-7 (reprints #15–22)
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom ISBN 1-59307-825-0 (reprints #23–31, Occult Files of Dr. Spektor #14)
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom Volume 1 ISBN 1-59582-603-3 (reprints Free Comic Book Day: Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom/Magnus, Robot Fighter and issues #1 - 4 of the Dark Horse Comics series Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom.)
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom Volume 2 ISBN 1-59582-921-0 (reprints issues #5 - 8 of the Dark Horse Comics Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom series.)
- Conroy, Mike (2002). 500 Great Comic Book Action Heroes. New York: Barron's. pp. 36, 104, 127, 174. ISBN 0764125818.
- Irving, Christopher (October 2002). "Unlocking the Mystery of Gold Key Comics". Comic Book Artist (22): 16–31.
- Holland, Steve (2009). Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History. New York: Collins Design. pp. 100–103. ISBN 9780061684890.
- Newman, Paul S. (2010). Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. (1 ed.). Milwaukie, Or.: Dark Horse. pp. 6–9. ISBN 9781595825865.
- Barry Windsor-Smith (w), Barry Windsor-Smith (p), John Floyd (i). Archer & Armstrong 11 & 12 (June & July 1993), Valiant Comics
- Bob Layton (w), David Lapham (p), Tom Ryder (i). Rai 0 (November 1992), Valiant Comics
- Joe St. Pierre (w), Joe St. Pierre (p), Bob Wiacek (i). Secret Weapons 1 & 2 (September & October 1993), Valiant Comics
- Bob Layton (w), Mike Leeke (p), Kathryn Bolinger (i). X-O Manowar 13 (February 1993), Valiant Comics
- Jorge González (w), Rik Levins (p), Kathryn Bolinger (i). X-O Manowar 29 & 30 (June & July 1994), Valiant Comics
- Dave Cockrum (p), Gonzalo Mayo (i). Harbinger Files 1 (August 1994), Valiant Comics
- Bob Layton (w), Jim Lee (i). Deathmate Prologue (September 1993), Valiant Comics
Gonzalo Mayo & Jimmy Palmiotti (i). Deathmate Blue (October 1993), Valiant Comics
Bob Layton (w), Bob Layton & Scott Williams (i). Deathmate Epilogue (February 1994), Valiant Comics
- Bob Layton (w), Bernard Chang (p), Jerry Ordway (i). The Chaos Effect Alpha & Omega (June & November 1994), Valiant Comics
- Szadkowski, Joseph (January 21, 1995). "Valiant effort shakes market and 'Birthquake' rumbles on". Washington Times. p. B2.
- De Haven, Tom (August 18, 2011). "Five Aspects of the Reprint High Renaissance". The Comics Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
- Smith, Andrew (March 2012). "The Growth of Reprints". Comics Buyer's Guide (1687). Retrieved June 12, 2014.
- San Giacomo, Michael (July 30, 2008). "Journey Into Comics: Magnus, Solar to Return at Dark Horse". Newsarama. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- "After Much Speculation, Dark Horse Announces the Return of Turok, Doctor Solar, Magnus, and Mighty Samson" (Press release). Dark Horse Comics. August 5, 2009. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "NYCC 2013: MARK WAID & GREG PAK Headline DYNAMITE's GOLD KEY Revival". Newsarama.com. 2013-10-11. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
- Layton, Bob (September 24, 2003). Valiant Days, Valiant Nights - A Look Back at the Rise and Fall of Valiant. Interview with Ryan McLelland. Newsarama. Archived from the original on November 9, 2009.
- Frank Plowright, ed. (2003). The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide. Slings & Arrows. p. 189. ISBN 9780954458904.
- Lavin, Michael (1998). "Comics publishers in decline: A tale of two companies". Serials Review 24 (3/4): 94–106. doi:10.1080/00987913.1998.10764469. ISSN 0098-7913.
- Doctor Solar at the Comic Book DB
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom (1962 Gold Key series) at the Comic Book DB
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom (1991 Valiant series) at the Comic Book DB
- Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom (2010 Dark Horse series) at the Comic Book DB
- International Hero Gold Key Dr.Solar page
- International Hero Solar, Man of the Atom page
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia article on Doctor Solar