Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Comics of Yesteryear: Starman volume one

Comic connoisseurs have fond memories of James Robinson’s excellent nineties series Starman. I loved it too, but at the same time, it offered a hint of sadness for me. You see, Jack Knight was the replacement for one of the first DC heroes I fell in love with as a ten year old: Starman.

He had no relation to any previous incarnation to Starman. He didn’t need it. Much like DC’s Silver Age characters featured new heroes with old names, so did Will Payton. Instead of any kind of cosmic device, he gets hit by a ray frm the sky that apparently kills him. He wakes up in a morgue, unharmed, and with great levels of power. With his sister’s encouragement, he uses his stellar powers to become Starman, hero of Denver.

Written by Roger Stern, fresh off of his Marvel runs on titles like Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man and soon to be Superman writer, and illustrated by Tom Lyle, contributor to Impact’s The Comet, John Ostrander’s Punisher, and numerous other short runs on various books for the next decade. They weren’t out to innovate the way the later Starman’s creative team was. They wanted to complete a successful superhero book and that they accomplished with gusto.

To modern readers, Starman’s first couple issues might seem right at home, but at the time I thought they were rather strange. The first two issues were spent doing little more than learning his powers (flight, energy projection, super strength, facial reconstruction) and how to use them to fight crime. Issue three finally brings his first super-villain, the rather lackluster Blue Devil foe Bolt. The end of that issue does show us his first villains uniquely his own: the Power Elite. They attack just as the Invasion crossover starts. (And this is where I first bought the book back in the late eighties.)

The story gets thrown to the side for a two issue team-up with Firestorm that leads to Starman taking a major role in the battle against the Dominators’s invasion force. I ate it up as a kid, but I can clearly see now where Stern’s plans get back-burnered in favor of a crossover event. But they still maintain the fun, exciting spirit set up by the previous few issues.

After Invasion, the Power Elite storyline returns. This is when the book really shines. Issues seven and eight wrap up the Power Elite story with a (literal) bang. The team of Stern & Lyle really come together with these issues. They would continue for another dozen or so issues before Lyle left for greener pastures. Stern would disappear a few issues later.

I really don’t want to go in to too many details about this book. While it does get in to the angst that started to really bury comics in the late eighties in to the nineties, Starman still carried the fun but semi-real style that DC cultivated post-Crisis. Sadly, DC has yet to add (or even mention it as a potential addition) to its Showcase line of black and white reprints. You can still find most of these issues for a buck or under in any number of back issue bins. You should go check them out. You might just like ’em. Recommended.


Hydrargentium said...

Hey, Starman rocked. I'd never even heard of the newer one, but the original really was just that: original. I will throw in a slight spoiler here, about how much I loved the fact that he lost his sense of smell because he forgot to use it. Très cool.


jessy k. said...

i got issues 1-25 hardcover bound- one of my fave series that'll probably never get a reprint..