Another Gold Key character returns to the printed page as writer Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts) and artist Joe Bennett (Iron Man) bring Solar: Man of the Atom to Dynamite Entertainment.
To discover the mystery of the space adventurer’s return, Cosmic Book News M.E. Byron Brewer caught the latest rocket to the outer solar system to exclusively discuss the matter with Barbiere.
Cosmic Book News: Frank, how does it feel to be working with some of these legendary Gold Key characters, bringing them back to today’s comics readers?
Frank Barbiere: It’s a huge honor. The level of talent that Dynamite is bringing to these books is astounding, and to be involved is really a writer’s dream. The characters are just so rich and have so many possibilities — Dynamite has really just let us run wild with our imaginations and craft something we can all be immensely proud of.
CBN: Tell us the basic premise behind Solar: Man of the Atom. Is it a superhero comic, a space comic?
Frank Barbiere: I came into Solar really wanting to focus on character. For me, character is truly what drives a story and gets readers invested. We all know there will be cool cosmic stuff, superheroic elements, but I was mainly concerned with finding something new and exciting in terms of Solar himself. To this end, we’ve introduced a family dynamic to the book that adds a much needed weight to all of the action. We have actual characters who are affected by what transpires, a lot of which is big, fun action on a galactic scale, and to me, that makes it matter. And to return to your original statement, I’d say it’s a superhero space comic grounded by a very human cast of characters. You know, just to work in every adjective we can, haha.
CBN: Tell us about Solar, his character/civilian identity, and his world.
Frank Barbiere: To continue with my previous point, we’ve put a lot of thought into establishing Phil Seleski, the man who becomes Solar. He’s a brilliant scientist who started his own company with his son, Colin, and we see the burden his intelligence has on his family/personal life. Clearly becoming Solar turns his personal life upside down, as well as opening up a whole new world to Phil; imagine an incredibly brilliant man who is fascinated by the entire universe suddenly having access to everything and anything. This is our springboard and we’ve crafted the story from there — how would the actions Phil take reverberate throughout his family, the world, and the universe?
CBN: So tell us about this family, these supporting characters.
Frank Barbiere: The biggest supporting characters are Phil’s adult children, Colin and Erica. They’re twins and have “inherited” different sides of his genius. Colin is a brilliant businessman and has stayed by Phil’s side — together they’ve created a company that’s on the verge of solving the energy crisis … that is, if they can put their differences aside. Erica has been the blacksheep of the family, far more interested in art and being a “builder” — this has lead her to reject the corporate science elements of the family and become an architect, actually separating herself from the family as well as the family business. Events that unfold in issue #1 brings the family back together in an exciting way. There’s a lot of history and emotion tied to the story, and I think readers are really going to care about all three of our characters … and the opportunity to have a “nuclear family” just seemed to perfect to shy away from.
CBN: And first up, the big-bad is … ?
Frank Barbiere: Though it’s too early for us to give away any real answers, we are going to see a dual conflict on the personal level and on an extraterrestrial/galactic level. Clearly Solar has joined an intergalactic community, for better or worse, and let’s just say not every citizen of the cosmos is happy to see him.
CBN: What interests you about this type of character?
Frank Barbiere: Firstly, I love the challenge of approaching such a storied and classic character and turning him loose to a new audience. There’s so much to love about this character, such a rich history, and the excitement and sometimes intimidation of how to craft my own sensibilities into the character are a fantastic inspiration. On top of that, as I’ve said, Solar is a GALACTIC character — he’s a brilliant mind capable of exploring not just earth, but the entire UNIVERSE, and that just opens us up to so many wonderful story possibilities. But most importantly, at the core, I think there is an incredible character in Solar — a man who is given almost god-like abilities, a troubled genius who has been trying to “save the world” and is suddenly given the capacity to do so. Seeing how such a change affects him and the ones around him is the most exciting aspect of the project.
CBN: Where are you getting inspiration for Solar? The Gold Key originals, the Jim Shooter issues or other sources?
Frank Barbiere: I’ve tried to keep it as much of “my own” thing as much as possible. Dynamite has been incredibly supportive by letting me really present my own take, not being bogged down by years of history and continuity, and I think that’s what’s made the whole Gold Key line so fresh and exciting. I’ve done a lot of reading of the classic 60’s Solar, and certainly I’ve mined some fun stuff from there that will be popping up. It’s such good comics and was so innovative at the time — hopefully people will look to our Solar in the same way one day.
CBN: So what does Joe Bennett bring to the table on this book?
Frank Barbiere: Joe has done an incredible job of bringing the script to life. He has a beautiful, cinematic style that reads so well — he’s really a dream to work with as a writer. Each shot is composed in such an exciting, fresh way … readers will be drawn in by his great storytelling and wonderful use of detail. Our colorist, Lauren Affe, has done an amazing job of complimenting Joe’s work and has given the book a beautiful palette that really pops right off the page. Dynamite is coming out of the gate with a beautiful batch of books for the Gold Key launch — I think readers are going to be blown away by the level of quality and craft given to these titles.
CBN: What do you hope new readers discover about this pulp space character?
Frank Barbiere: I’m hoping that readers are excited by the characters we are presenting and become invested in the story we’re telling. We’re working really hard to have an exciting story that MATTERS, not just a generic story that runs a superhero through the machinations of plot. If we’ve done our jobs right, people will be talking about this iteration of Solar for years to come, and hopefully we’ll still be here telling the stories of these characters with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm!
CBN: Frank, any projects present or future you would care to discuss?
Frank Barbiere: I’m currently working on my ongoing title Five Ghosts at Image Comics, which is entering its second year. If you enjoy my work on Solar, I’d recommend checking it out!
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Frank Barbiere for answering our questions during his very busy schedule. Thanks also to Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci who helped make this interview possible.
“Solar: Man of the Atom” #1 hits stores April 16!