Comic book showcase: Doctor Solar

So last week was a success, what other heroes from Gold Key Comics that made their way to other publishers after the company folded can we talk about?

Image result for doctor solar man of the atom

Oh…that works.

Origin and career

The hero shown above is Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom.  He has the honor of being the first original character created under Gold Key Comics after their parent company split from Dell Publishing in 1962.  He first appeared in his own #1 issue in the summer of 1962.

Image result for matt murphy gold key comics

He was created by writer Paul Newman and editor Matt Murphy.  While I can’t find any pictures of Matt Murphy I’ve talked about Paul Newman last week.

Image result for paul s newman comics

The man has the honor of being the most prolific comic book writer in history after publishing over 4,000 comic books over the course of his career and if I ever decide to talk about Silver Age comic books I’m pretty sure his name will definitely be coming up more.

Art responsibilities fell to artist Bob Fujitani.

Image result for bob fujitani

Who was a well established comic book artist who had done work on titles such as Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, and even worked on Black Condor for Quality Comics.

Image result for quality comics black condor

We’ve talked about him on this blog before.

Doctor Solar was definitely a hero for the times.  In the 1960’s the Cold War was in full swing and we came terrifyingly close to ending the world as we knew it in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Image result for the cuban missile crisis

Solar’s origin was a harsh reminder of the dangerous new times we lived in.  He gained his powers after stopping a catastrophic nuclear meltdown that killed his co worker.

SOLAR 1

Despite the fact that the radiation killed Dr. Bently, Solar remained unharmed with the exception of his skin turning green.

SOLAR 1

A fun fact: Doctor Solar didn’t get his costume until issue #5, when his title switched artists and he was drawn by Frank Bolle.

The uniform was designed by the Doctor himself,

Frank Bolle

and actually looked pretty good.

Frank Bolle

As for bad guys to fight, Doctor Solar didn’t bother himself with petty bank robbers and villains of the week.  His principal nemesis was a man named Tanek Nuro, a shadowy power broker who never showed his face.

Image result for doctor solar nuro

The man looks like a cross between Kingpin and Lex Luthor and was one of those villains who never directly interfered with the hero, he just manipulated and created threats for the hero to face.

 Frank Bolle

It’s a good thing that Nuro didn’t engage Solar directly because Solar was a hero who could have probably gone toe to toe with Superman at his most powerful if he really wanted to.  The man’s power set was pretty wide ranging.  From super senses

Solar 17

to energy blasts,

Image result for gold key doctor solar

to size manipulation,

Covers

and the ability to manipulate the environment around him in whatever way he saw fit.

 Image result for gold key doctor solar

The man was basically a god, and with this incredible power came the standard problems of what to do with a man who could vaporize you without batting an eyelash.

Since his body was now a giant nuclear battery he no longer needed food, sleep, or air.  However, like any battery he had to recharge himself and if he used up too much of his power he would die.

Image result for gold key doctor solar

So what happened?

Solar reached his peak popularity in 1965 but then the 1970’s happened and Gold Key went out of business.

Solar would have a brief revival in the 1980’s under Gold Key’s successor company, Whitman Comics,

Spiegle

but he only lasted four issues before the series was cancelled.

Solar took a hiatus in the 1980’s when Whitman went out of business.  He was later revived when Valiant Comics licensed the character and decided to use him in their budding superhero lineup.

 Image result for doctor solar valiant

He kept his costume but his origin was tweaked a bit.

The new Doctor Solar’s name was Phil Seleski.  He was a physicist working on an experimental fusion generator that went critical.  Seleski shut down the reactor but was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation that should have killed him but gave him superpowers instead.

Image result for doctor solar phil seleski

The new Doctor Solar, who just went by the name “Solar” in the Valiant Universe, actually played an important part in the larger story.  After gaining his powers he attempted to use them for good by attempting to destroy the world’s nuclear weapons.

The world’s governments were not partial to Solar’s actions and branded him a criminal.  During their attempt to stop him, Solar lost control of his powers and sucked Earth into a black hole.

Solar then travels back in time and splits into two personalities: Phil Seleski, who remembered everything that happened to Earth when it was destroyed, and Doctor Solar who was a representation of Peter’s childhood hero and believed that Phil was a dangerous criminal.

They meet, they fight, things get weird and very meta.

Eventually everything gets resolved and it is revealed that Seleski didn’t travel back in time, he simply recreated his ideal Earth after it was sucked into the black hole.

It was also revealed that Doctor Solar could split his personalities even further into various forms such as the Destroyer.

Image result for doctor solar acclaim comics

This new Earth would establish the foundation for the Valiant Universe and the new Doctor Solar would play a crucial role.  From fighting evil aliens to defeating a super powered being named Mothergod who just so happened to be a former co worker of his,

Ericapierce.jpg

Doctor Solar was an important part of the Valiant Universe.

In the comics he blew himself up in the year 4000 A.D to prevent an alien invasion of Earth.

Image result for doctor solar valiant death

Solar would live on when Acclaim bought Valiant.  This time the hero’s identity was twin brother and sister Frank and Helena who were given their powers after Peter left them with a portion of his own strength.

Acclaim Comics would go out of business but in 2004 Solar was picked up by Dark Horse Comics.

Image result for dark horse solar comics

Dark Horse published reprints of Solar’s original adventures until 2008 when they started releasing an original series that lasted eight issues.

In 2013 he was picked up by Dynamite Entertainment and had a twelve issue run from 2014 until February of 2015.

Image result for dynamite comics doctor solar

Doctor Solar is, and remains, a pretty popular comic book character.  Like Turok, he was a product of comic book culture during the 1960’s and while he may not be as well recognized as some of his older superhero rivals such as Superman or Batman, I like to think he holds a special place in the hearts of dedicated comic book fans everywhere.

Speaking of legacies, did you know that Doctor Solar was a major inspiration for Radioactive Man, the superhero spoof that is a mainstay on the popular tv show The Simpsons? 

Image result for the simpsons radioactive man

As legacies go…that’s not half bad.

 

Comic Showcase: Turok, Son of Stone

Happy Columbus Day everyone!

Image result for columbus day

For our international readers, Columbus Day is a day for Americans to celebrate the first European to discover the continent of North America and helped kickstart a new age of European expansion into the New World that laid the foundation for modern day America.

Image result for columbus day

However, the truth is a bit more complicated.  Columbus wasn’t the first European to discover North America, that honor belongs to the Leif Erickson and the Vikings.

Image result for leif erikson

Also, Columbus has a REALLY unsavory reputation among the Native American population as a thief, criminal, and as the man who did a lot of terrible things to the native population.

Image result for columbus crimes

Image result for columbus crimes

We would like to avoid talking about Christopher Columbus on this blog so instead we’re going to talk about a comic book starring a Native American.

Image result for golden age comics native americans

Now the history of Native Americans in popular culture runs the gamut from well meaning and respectful to outright offensive but the fact of the matter is that Westerns were really popular in the 1950’s and comic books were nothing if not blatant trend followers.

Image result for golden age comics native americans

Today we’re going to talk about one of the more well known Native American characters in comic books.  Not only was he treated with a surprising amount of respect and dignity, he was one of the greatest examples of the glorious insanity that was so prevalent in the early days of comic books.  Ladies and gentlemen: Turok, Son of Stone.

Image result for turok comics

Origin and Career

Turok was first published by a company called Dell Comics, which got its start publishing pulp magazines in the 1920’s and moved into comics when they became popular.  They have a long and complicated history that we’re not going to talk about here but long story short, they were best known for publishing non superhero comics and at one point in time they were the most successful comic book company in the world.

Image result for dell comics

They made their money turning the old pulp characters into comic books and were most successful with licensed properties like Disney characters and popular tv shows.

Image result for dell comics

Image result for dell comics

Dell also published an anthology series called Four Color Comics and in December of 1954 they published the first appearance of Turok.

Image result for Dell Comics #596

The credits for who created Turok are a bit shady but it is widely believed that he was first drawn by comic book artist Rex Mason (not shown here because I can’t find his picture) and early issues were written by writers Gaylord Dubois, who was well known for his work on The Lone Ranger, 

Image result for gaylord dubois

and Paul S. Newman, who holds the world record as the most prolific comic book writer with over 4,000 published stories to his name of the course of his fifty year career.

Image result for paul s. newman comic book writer

Sadly, I can’t go into any great detail about the adventures of Turok here because unlike most of the characters we talk about on this blog he’s still under copyright and his comics aren’t available for free (we’ll get to that later) but what I can say is that he was a Native American who fought dinosaurs and was therefore awesome.

Image result for turok comics

Under the Dell Comics label Turok and his younger brother Andar found themselves stranded in a place known as “The Lost Valley”, a mysterious place in the wild west of New Mexico.

Image result for turok comics

The Lost Valley was a strange and savage place, a place that time and reason forgot.  There were cavemen, dinosaurs, monsters, and a whole host of other ancient wonders that should have been extinct a long time ago.

Image result for turok comics

It was up to Turok and Andar to survive, thrive, and try to escape the hidden valley and their adventures were so popular that they kept going from the 1950’s all the way to the 1980’s as one of Dell Comic’s most successful and long lived characters.

So what happened?

Turok’s adventures were popular.  His journey as an actual comic book title was long, confusing, and in many ways even more interesting than then the character himself.  So this is going to be one of the longest and detailed “what happened?” segments this blog has ever seen.

If you look at the top left corner of each of the old Turok covers I’ve published you’ll notice that the company publishing him changes between three logos:

Western,

Image result for western publishing logo

Dell,

Image result for dell publishing logo

and Gold Key.

Image result for gold key publishing logo

See, Western Publishing was a separate comic book publisher and was the studio who created Turok.  However, Western had a deal with the much larger and more successful Dell Comics where they would develop and create series that would be licensed and published by Dell Comics.

This deal would continue from 1956 to 1962 with and published over 27 issues of Turok.  However, in 1962 Western decided to leave Dell Comics and published comic books on their own.  Western went on to create their own publishing imprint, Gold Key comics

Sadly, both Dell and Gold Key suffered during the 1970’s due to decreased demand for comic books.  Dell ceased operations in 1973 and Gold Key ceased operations in 1982.  While Western did publish a few more Turok titles under another imprint called Whitman Publishing, it was no longer interested in comic books because they were making more money with toys, tv shows, and their Golden Books series.

Image result for western publishing golden books

Western lasted the longest, but they declared bankruptcy and in 1997 they were absorbed into Golden Books Family Entertainment.

Image result for golden books family entertainment

Golden Books didn’t last long and the early 2000’s they were bought by Classic Media,

Image result for classic media

which was then bought by Dreamworks Animation,

Image result for dream works logo

which was then bought by NBC Universal in April 2016.

Image result for nbc universal

With all this going on you would think that Turok would have disappeared.

NOPE!

In 1992 a small startup company called Valiant Comics picked up three original Gold Key characters to use in their fledgling comic book universe.

Image result for valiant comics 1990s logo

Those characters were Magnus, Robot Fighter,

Image result for valiant comics magnus robot fighter

Doctor Solar,

Image result for valiant comics doctor solar

and Turok.

Image result for valiant comics turok

These titles, along with original Valiant works such as X-O Manowar, Harbinger, and Rai were incredibly successful.

However, Valiant fell victim to some unfortunate corporate problems that are far too complicated to get into here.  Long story short, Valiant was sold in 1994 to a company called Akklaim Entertainment, who was a video game publisher.

 Image result for acclaim entertainment

Akklaim wanted to turn Valiant characters into video games and in 1997 they launched Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.

Image result for turok dinosaur hunter

The game was a hit and spawned a franchise of five more games.

Turok2box.jpg  Ragewarsbox.jpg  Turok 3 - Shadow of Oblivion Coverart.png

Turokevolutionbox.jpg

Turok 2008.jpg

Akklaim would go out of business after some terrible business decisions and Valiant would abandon Turok when it made a roaring comeback in 2005.

Image result for valiant entertainment

Image result for valiant entertainment

Today Turok is no longer a comic book or video game mainstay.  Dark Horse published four new issues of Turok in 2010,

Image result for dark horse turok

and Dynamite published twelve new Turok stories in 2013.

Image result for dynamite comics turok

While Turok is no longer a comic book mainstay he is an important part of comic book history.  He had an incredibly long shelf life as a character, his stories of fighting dinosaurs were epic and awesome, and he played an important role as a publishing mainstay in some of the most important comic book publishers of the past fifty years.

Not bad for one of the greatest Native American comic book characters.