Jai Nitz Rediscovers Kirby's "Silver Star"

In November, Jack Kirby fans will once again get a chance to go stargazing with classic Pacific Comics hero, the Silver Star. Written by Jai Nitz and featuring interior art by Johnny D., "Silver Star" ties into Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek's "Kirby: Genesis," a title which revives a plethora of underused Kirby material and designs. The original Silver Star book starred Morgan Miller, the first of a new breed of Homo-Geneticus. Accompanied by fellow Homo-Genetici Norma Richmond and Big Masai, Miller protected the world from amazing super-powered dangers only Kirby could dream up.

"Silver Star" was revived in the '90s for Topps Comics by "Kirby: Genesis" scribe Busiek, and now, Jai Nitz is ready to spin his own tales featuring the most powerful man on Earth. Nitz spoke at length about the new Dynamite Entertainment series with CBR News, detailing his overall plan for the character, where the title falls in Kirby canon, one of his favorite moments from the classic series and the challenges in reviving Morgan Miller for a modern audience.

CBR News: Jai, tell us a bit about your work on "Silver Star." What's your overall plan for the series and how does it link into the events going on in "Kirby: Genesis?"

Jai Nitz: My overall plan was to tell the story of the most powerful man in the world and what happens to him when the world passes him by. I saw Silver Star as the prototype for Miracle Man or Dr. Manhattan. It's funny, but I think Kirby touched on a lot of the same themes as "Miracle Man" and "Watchmen" years before either [through his work with] Silver Star. I got to have conference calls with Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross to help tie my book into the ongoing events of their "Kirby: Genesis" story. It was really cool getting to work with both of them to find the right voice for my book and make it harmonize with theirs. I think they'll blend seamlessly when you read them.

Considering the limited canonical history of "Silver Star," where does this series pick up? Are you basing the character's history off of the Pacific Comics issues, or is the Topps Comics one-shot material in as well?

We (me, my editor Joe Rybandt, and Kurt) were adamant that this would not be "Silver Star #7" or anything like that. Also, we steered clear of the Topps Kirbyverse. It's funny -- Kurt wrote that Topps issue of "Silver Star" back in the 90s, so Kurt was in a unique position as the only other [non-Kirby] guy to write Silver Star other than me. His advice was invaluable in making the Kirby issues cannon, but not getting bogged down by them.

Let's talk about the Silver Star himself, Morgan Miller. He was originally a government agent who was appointed the task of fighting other super-powered beings after being transformed into a genetic mutant himself -- which one would assume is no easy task. How do you get to the core of the character and his motivation throughout the book?

Kurt had a nutshell idea of who he thought Silver Star was. I had a counter-nutshell idea. Alex really helped me mentally blend together the direction Kurt envisioned with the turn I wanted to take. Both of them said something that made the character click for me, and when I put their advice together, it all fell into place. I got to combine the best elements of Kirby's Captain America, the X-Men and Fantastic Four with the concept of Dr. Manhattan to really flesh out Silver Star. His motivation is to make the world a better place without destroying what mankind does. That's a tall order for someone who can reshape molecules with his mind.

In addition to Morgan, we've got his fathe,Dr. Bradford Miller, and two fellow "Homo Genetici," Norma Richmond and Big Masai. How big a role will these original Pacific Comics characters be playing in your series?

Norma Richmond is the lynchpin of the first story arc. She doesn't get a lot of on-panel time during the first few issues, but her presence is always felt and she's the primary motivator for Silver Star. Big Masai makes a quick cameo, but I'm saving him for future issues beyond the opening arc.

How does it feel to be working with these Jack Kirby creations? At the same time, how are you able to bring your own take on the character to the book?

I love working on Kirby creations. Jack brought so much to the table that you could focus on one aspect or one small concept he created for several issues. Now, Jack wouldn't have wasted more than a few panels before moving on to the next concept, but I have the luxury of time. I read a lot of interviews with Jack, and one thing that came up [again and again] since the sixties was how other people were handling his creations. To paraphrase one interview, one creator was so proud of showing Jack his work on Jack's creation and claiming how it was in the "Kirby tradition!" Kirby just shook his head and said that the kid didn't get it. The "Kirby tradition" was to make something new. So I've been trying to add a ton of new concepts and characters to the book. The good news is that I can create a new character and still use a Kirby design or concept that no one has seen in a comic before, so it's new for me and new for Kirby. It's great.

As a creator, what has your process been when taking some of these notes and translating them into this new series for this character?

I've tried to make as much of this my own as possible. If people wanted to read Jack Kirby's complete vision, they can go read the "Silver Star" TPB or "New Gods" or "The Demon" or whatever. I'm not deluded to think my best day is better than Kirby on his worst day. That said, I know what today's comic reading audience expects and I feel like I can deliver it. I want "Silver Star" to be sophisticated and entertaining and engaging. I want to have big ideas and small human moments between superhuman beings. I want to bring today's sensibilities to Jack's work.

You've done quite a bit of comic book work in recent years, but most well known is your writing on Green Hornet -- how did your previous experiences writing that hero help inform your work on "Silver Star?"

I think it's like comparing apples and monster trucks. One character is a street-level activist hero., the other character is a god. I wanted to push that intense power angle, so I put on my superhero driving gloves and put the pedal to the metal. I went back to my superhero writing days and I looked at the stories that resonated with me. Why do I like "Zenith" by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell so much? What is it about "Planetary" by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday that I keep coming back to it time and time again? But besides that, I've written a lot of material for Dynamite over the last two years and I'm a lot better as a writer because of it. I think I'm a much better comic book writer, regardless of the genre/character/tone because of experience.

Do you have a favorite moment from the original "Silver Star" ongoing? Are there any subtle points in your book that old fans of the character should keep an eye out for?

It's weird, but my favorite thing about the original Silver Star was that he'd collapse into this mental fugue-state trance and just lay there. I love the idea that the most powerful man in the world might just sit there like a sack of potatoes for a period of time, and no one can snap him out of it. That comes up in issue one.

In bringing "Silver Star" and his co-stars into the modern world, what's been the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge was finding the tone of the book from the onset. Like I said, I had a plan that I thought was really brilliant, so I pushed it hard on Kurt and Alex. They had different ideas about the book. At first I resisted and pushed harder. Then I stepped back, took a look at the Eisner-winning advice I was getting and listened to their concerns. Then the story really clicked for me and I found a place in the storytelling where we could all have our cake and eat it too. From that moment, each issue has been a breeze. I just got the complete first issue from Johnny D., and it's going to rock.

"Silver Star" hits stores in November

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