Sunday, August 10, 2014

Another Atomic Superman

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom Archives Volume 1: written by Paul S. Newman, Matt Murphy, and Otto Binder; illustrated by Bob Fujitani and Frank Bolle (1962-64; reprinted 2010): The rising tide of super-hero sales at the beginning of the 1960's (and the Marvel Era) floated new titles at companies other than DC and Marvel, though most would sink pretty quickly. Not Gold Key's Doctor Solar, though, which persisted with new issues through the 1960's and in reprints throughout the 1970's.

Blessed with terrific painted covers by first veteran science-fiction magazine cover artist Richard M. Powers and then George Wilson, Doctor Solar looked unusually adult-oriented for its time. And for the first few issues, The Man of the Atom doesn't have a superhero costume. He does turn green when using his powers, but there's no hulking out.

Solar (yes, that is his real name) goes by the moniker 'Man of the Atom' once he starts running around in a costume. Exposure to radiation gave him a wide array of vaguely atomic powers which tend to grow in variety and scope from issue to issue. And as he's radioactive most of the time, Doctor Solar has to avoid human contact except when he's wearing specially created clothing. It really interferes with his dating life.

For the most part, the stories here are enjoyable -- a bit staid, perhaps, both on the writing and drawing sides, but fun nonetheless. The very matter-of-fact styles of interior artists Bob Fujitani and later Frank Bolle ground the often cosmically bizarre situations in reality. At times, the comic seems more like a pitch for a live-action series along the lines of The Six Million Dollar Man, especially in the earlier, 'plainclothes' issues. Recommended.

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