From The Oklahoman
By Matthew Price
Acting Assistant Features Editor
Given powers by a dying alien, Richard Rider became the embodiment of the Nova force. Most recently, he’s been at the forefront of the heroes repelling the incursion from the arch-villain Annihilus. Richard Rider will star in his first annual Wednesday, as he battles a techno-organic virus.
Ain’t it Cool News called “Nova” “without a doubt, the best Marvel ongoing series of the year.” Marvel.com named Nova one of Marvel’s top-10 heroes of 2007. But Nova taking charge of a strike force taking on galactic threats, as he did in the recent “Annihilation” saga, was a long time coming. For much of his publishing history, Nova has been a second-tier character, though one with devoted fans.
“The Man Called Nova” launched in 1976, written by Marv Wolfman (“Teen Titans,” “Tomb of Dracula”) with art by John Buscema (“Avengers”) and Joe Sinnott (“Fantastic Four”). The cover proclaimed “In the marvelous tradition of Spider-Man!” Clearly, there were big plans for the Man Called Nova.
In Nova’s first issue, Richard Rider is a 17-year-old from Queens, N.Y. After being harassed by the school bully, Richard retreats to the ice cream shop. It’s there that the everyday teen is hit by the energy beam that gives him the power to become Nova.
Doug Smith, owner of the comprehensive fan site about Nova at www.novaprimepage.com, says he was a fan from the very beginning, when at age 12 he picked up “The Man Called Nova” No. 1 from the local grocery store.
“I was sitting on the floor making my pile of new comics when I saw something new,” he said. “It was an incredible cover of a super-hero flying through the air surrounded by a montage of cool action scenes. And it was a first issue! I knew this because it told me so in great big bold letters. I had never collected a series from No. 1 and had never been able to follow a super-hero from his first appearance.”
Smith said while Nova’s costume drew his interest, Richard’s personal life made Nova all the more intriguing.
“Richard Rider turned out to be me! I could relate to him on a level that I had never been able to before. Rich was an average kid trying to get through school and life the best he could. To me, he wasn’t a loser. He had a girlfriend, friends, a normal family life, etc. His biggest failing was a lack of self-confidence,” Smith said. “And being in junior high at the time, I could really relate to that.
“And suddenly, Rich Rider is granted super-powers along with that great uniform! It was the ultimate wish fulfillment for a young reader like me. The best part was that Nova was still Richard Rider. His personality didn’t change with the new powers. He didn’t all of a sudden have all the answers and all the confidence in the world but he still was determined to use his powers for good. I loved that!”
Despite strong feelings from many fans, sales weren’t strong enough to maintain “Nova,” which was canceled after the 25th issue. The character guest-starred in “Fantastic Four,” “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Rom” before finally being depowered.
The character remained dormant for six years before being revived in the pages of “New Warriors.”
“Rich’s powers were reactivated when a hero named Night Thrasher dropped him off a building,” Smith said. “Night Thrasher gambled that his actions would jump-start the powers and Nova would join his new team, the New Warriors, in gratitude. Although angry at being almost killed, Nova agreed since Rich had missed being Nova more than anything. Nova was a member of the New Warriors for years until he was called back to Xandar to fight in the Annihilation War.”
It was the Annihilation War stories, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning that moved Nova up to A-list superhero status.
“‘Annihilation’ … and the (new) ‘Nova’ series have elevated Nova to a whole new pay grade. Richard Rider, unlike a lot of comic book characters, has been allowed to evolve,” Smith said. “He’s no longer the young, unsure hero he started out as and he’s not the brash, angry member of the New Warriors that he became years later. The current Nova series has Nova in situations far beyond what he’s ever encountered before and he has grown into a fine leader and hero with the core foundation of the character intact.”
It’s Nova Week at Nerdage, Matthew Price’s blog about comics, video games and more at blog.newsok.com/nerdage