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VALIANT SOLAR

THE SECRET ORIGIN OF SOLAR -- PART 3 of 4
THE DOCTOR IS IN!

DR. SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM, created in response to the atomic traumas of the early 1960s, was revived by Jim Shooter for his new Valiant line, a line that revolutionized –- and almost destroyed -– the entire comic book industry.

“When I read the early Solar stories,” JIM SHOOTER recalls, “I didn't think they were great stories. Mostly it was a failure of execution. Because if you sit down, let's just look at the Jim Shooterfacts, let's take a look at this guy. He's a scientist, he's kind of a regular guy. He gets affected in some kind of atomic accident, he becomes this kind of god-like being.”

The problem with Solar’s original series, according to Shooter, was that the creators “didn't think through what it MEANS to be a GOD. And so what we're trying to do here is take what was begun in the sixties, and give it a little more thought. And kind of play it out the way it would play out. Keep the huge-scale fantastic power... and address the human ramifications.”

Shooter’s revamped version of the SOLAR character was a central figure in the Valiant line. Each of the first 10 SOLAR issues contained one chapter of the character's engrossing new origin, written by Shooter with gorgeous art by Barry Windsor-Smith. Shown below are Smith’s pencils for a key panel, followed by the finished art.

VALIANT SOLAR
The new SOLAR origin, which debuted in Valiant's SOLAR MAN OF THE ATOM #1, was written by Jim Shooter and Bob Layton, penciled by Barry Windsor-Smith, inked by Layton, and colored by Janet Jackson.
VALIANT SOLAR
Here's the cover of the Italian edition of SOLAR MAN OF THE ATOM #1:
VALIANT SOLAR
In Valiant's second new SOLAR issue, writr Jim Shooter made the most blatant reference to the original series possible –- he showed an actual SOLAR comic book cover:
S3
Below: SOLAR #15, cover painting by George Wilson:
SOLAR
Shooter put his criticisms of the original series in the mouth of his re-imagined Dr. Solar, who complains about the absurdities of comic book physics in these panels from Valiant's SOLAR #3, art by Don Perlin, Bob Layton and Thomas Ryder:
SOLAR

"It was just bad writing, of course." What did Solar’s first writer, Paul S. Newman, think of Shooter placing his criticisms of Newman’s work in the new Solar’s own mouth? Shooter found out when Newman bust into his office one day.

According to Shooter, “[Newman] came into my office, confronted me, growled right in my face. ‘Bad writing?’ he harrumphed, in high dudgeon. Then he called me a whippersnapper or some such. Then he laughed. Ha-ha. Gotcha. Paul said he really liked what I was doing with Solar. We immediately became friends.

What Shooter was "doing" was adding an interesting psychological dimension to the Solar character by splitting him into separate beings, one a manifestation of the other's subconsious. It went like this:

SOLAR
Below: SOLAR #6, cover painting by George Wilson:
SOLAR

Valiant’s re-imagining of the character didn't forget about his previous Gold Key stories. For example. Solar's arch-enemy, Nuro, caught the Man of the Atom in an energy-draining, metallic spider-web in Solar Man of the Atom #19...

SOLAR
... a trap echoed by Shooter and Barry Windsor-Smith in Valiant's SOLAR #7:
SOLAR
SOLAR NUMBER TEN

“When I arrived (at Valiant), the average title sold 25 to 30,000 copies,” says Kevin VanHook, Valiant writer/editor. “Orders for Solar #10 totaled 40,000 copies, and that was their biggest sale yet.”

SOLAR #10, a landmark issue featuring the climax of the Man of the Atom's new ten-part origin story, had an all-black cover that symbolized the enormous black hole accidentally created at the end of the story (by Bob Layton and Jim Shooter, art by Windsor-Smith and Layton), as Solar absorbs the power of an entire star, then overloads:
SOLAR
CONTINUED...
Solar's Big Buirnout




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