There’s been a lot of buzz about writer Frank (Five Ghosts) Barbiere of late. As in literally. I keep hearing “Frank Barbiere this” and “Frank Barbiere that.” All good. Likewise, Dynamite’s Gold Key revival has been a surprise hit thus far, with some sturdy characters getting a fresh update. So Barbiere’s take on Solar: Man of the Atom along with artist Joe Bennett definitely qualifies as a buzz book.
The first issue of the book is out today, and Dynamite provided this preview and interview with Barbiere conducted by Jim Kuhoric.
Q: he Gold Key characters have such an incredibly rich history in comics. Were you a fan of Doctor Solar before you took on creating this new incarnation for Solar Man of the Atom series?
A: I was familiar with Solar from seeing him a lot in the 90’s, but I was never really a reader of the book. When I started talking about the gig, I went back and read a whole lot–I really wanted to absorb what worked, what was fun, and what the aesthetic of the book was. That was really important because it ended up being crucial to us finding a way to subvert a lot of elements of the book–something that I think is really exciting and hopefully helps us bring Solar to a whole new generation! There is, of course, a caring reverence and I certainly have a strong fondness for the 60’s stuff–it was my favorite of everything I read.
Q: Solar has the potential to be a tremendously powerful character. I thought it was a brilliant stroke to avoid the “superman complex” by having the character be unstable and struggling with his control. What can you tell us about Solar’s struggles coming up in the series?
A: I love the idea of this great power being unstable–a concept I clearly didn’t even, but as you mentioned, works so well in grounding the character a bit. We’re going to be exploring what the “cost” of being Solar is as both he, and our new female Solar, learn to control the powers and really push them to their limit. There is going to be that implicit danger of discovery, the knowledge that at any given time the power could nuke the planet, and those are some pretty exciting stakes to me!
Q: You did both the writing and the lettering for the new series. One of the things I really enjoyed about the first issue was the creative use of lettering placement and the communication of action through mathematical and chemical formulas. What was your inspiration for that novel approach?
A: I enjoy being able to letter my own work because it’s another part of the creative process–it give an almost tactile element to my writing, working it into the art, and I’m always struggling to find new and fun things to do. I was a big fan of how in Bendis’s NEW AVENGERS they would always label the spell that Dr. Strange was using–I thought it would be really fun to try to have the equations that Solar was using in his head (he is a genius, after all) to rationalize the way he’s trying to use his powers.
Q: The artwork of Joe Bennett is really incredible. As a comics fan I was immediately drawn in by the creative panel placement and the fantastic art. This is the way Solar should look! You must be thrilled with the pages. What did you think when you saw the first art samples coming in?
A: I was blown away! There’s always the fear in starting a new project that the art won’t live up to your expectations, but Joe completely has blown us away. He has taken my scripts and created such a dynamic, iconic look for the book–I really can’t just say enough good things. To that end, I’m also really excited that colorist Lauren Affe (whom I have worked with on Five Ghosts) is on the book–she has done amazing work that just makes the art pop off the page and gives the book such a fun, colorful identity. A writer is only ever as good as the artists and colorists working on their stuff, so I’m flattered and humbled by their awesome work.
Q: How does Solar fit into this new Gold Key Universe that is unfolding at Dynamite? Are all four books – Solar, Magnus, Turok, and Doctor Spektor happening in the same shared universe?
A: It is a shared universe. We are planting some seeds and having some fun, but right now the focus is really to build our own characters and not feel bogged down by continuity. Solar is certainly the most “superheroic” of the books, and that gives it its own flavor, but we’ll be seeing some stuff tie in very concretely down the road! Readers who are attentive and read the whole line will start seeing some fun stuff taking shape!
Q: What can you tell us about the current story arc and what is in store for Solar in the upcoming issues? Are there any villains from the past on tap to challenge the good doctor?
A: I’m always mining the original Gold Key source material to find some fun stuff to put in. The first arc is very much the story of our new, female Solar (who we will officially unveil in issue three) and she is going to be facing a powerful threat and putting her powers to the test by the fourth issue. We purposely really wanted to take our time and grow these characters organically–it’s been a blast and I think readers are going to really love our new Solar and appreciate the time we’ve taken building her character and the world that shapes her.
With variant covers by Rob Liefeld and more.
“This all started with an accident…”AN ALL-NEW CORNER OF THE GOLD KEY UNIVERSE! Flooded with experimental radiation that grants him unbelievable powers, the brilliant-and-obsessive Dr. Phil Seleski seeks to unlock the secrets of the universe, begrudgingly becoming a “hero” along the way. But can a single man be trusted with near-limitless abilities? What will this mean to the ones he loves? And will his choices lead to utter chaos and destruction? Brilliant writer FRANK BARBIERE (Five Ghosts) and JOE BENNETT present the Man Of The Atom as you’ve NEVER imagined!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.