Sunday, August 9, 2015

Solar Reflections Two!

With the second volume of Doctor Solar Man of the Atom we are getting a full-fledged superhero, a bright and shiny man in red who saves the day when it's needed. The adventures though in this volume also explore the unique nature of Doctor Solar, putting him through a wide range of transformations, not for Solar are the machinations of sundry super-villains but rather it is often  Solar battling against the peculiar side effects of his own awesome power.

Frank Bolle
All the stories here were drawn by Frank Bolle, an artist with a flair for the real but lacking the oomph often associated with superheroes. The writing on this series transitioned in the tenth issue with the ubiquitous Paul S. Newman giving way to Dick Wood.

In these stories Doctor Solar is pitted against Nuro time and again who fights most often by proxy and very often using machines. The first of these is a device which challenges the reality people see, but Solar is able to fend off these threats and save Blue Valley. Then it's a computerized robot named Transvac which is able to absorb energy including the energy which comprises Solar himself, but that energy is possessed of a min which uses strategy to escape. Then for a couple of issues Solar has to contend with an overabundance of energy which swells him to gigantic proportions. It is through the steady and reliable help of his best girl Gail he often found his way to return to some semblance of humanity, whether in scale or temporally.

For Gold Key, a company that clearly didn't get the whole superhero zeitgeist, Doctor Solar Man of the Atom is an anomaly. Other superheroes from the company were either parodies of the form (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Owl) or firmly rooted in science fiction like Solar (Magnus, Robot Fighter). It's Solar's magnificently resplendent red costume which has made him an iconic hero worthy of revival over the decades. Sure the nature of the hero, a many torn asunder by the power of the atom and reshaped into something akin to a god is fascinating, but without that costume it's all for naught.

More reflections next week.

Here are the covers in this collection, all by the great George Wilson.

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