Welcome to the first part in a series that will be running every so often over the next few weeks — The Starman Chronicles! I’m a huge fan of various obscure comic book heroes and the Prince Gavyn Starman certainly fits that bill. I first encountered him way back in the amazing year that was 1979. I was approaching my 7th birthday and I was a huge fan of comic books — I’d been reading Adventure Comics during its run as a “Dollar Comic” and when the title shifted to a more standard 32-pager with issue 467, I kept reading, even though they jettisoned my favorite strip (the Justice Society). I fell in love with Starman and over the years I bought many (well, not many – he never popped up all that often) books just because this version of Starman appeared in them. What I plan to do is put my thoughts about Gavyn’s “classic” adventures here on the blog, beginning with his first appearance and ending with DC Comics Presents # 36. I don’t think I’ll continue on to his later appearances in the Jack Knight Starman series or things like the Rann-Thanagar War, even though some of those were really great. I’m sticking strictly with his original run and when we reach the end, we’ll move on to other things.
Besides, this series will probably only be of interest to me, anyway! LOL
Adventure Comics 467 (Cover Date January 1980)
Written by Paul Levitz, Art by Steve Ditko and Romeo Tanghal
Before we talk about this story, let me say that DC did a big promotional push for this series in its various titles. This month there was a full-page ad that ran in all their books. It showed the cover of the issue and had these words: Double Dynamite! It’s TWO sensational heroes in ONE book! Monthly magic at its mightiest!! The star-spanning adventures of the Solar Sentinel who defends the world that has sworn to kill him! Who is Starman? On sale throughout the universe October 25!! Don’t dare miss it!!
It’s an odd pairing, the relatively dour Starman and the rather silly Plastic Man but it works. These are good stories!
In this opening tale, Starman is flying through space when he comes across a ship that’s flying out of control. We immediately learn that Starman is a heroic sort as he corrects the ship’s course and then accepts an invitation to board the vessel from its thankful crew. On board he meets Lord Protector Oswin, Guardian of the Galactic Rift and Elect of the Empire. That’s quite a mouthful! Starman introduces himself by saying, “Starman will have to do, I fear… for I find names and titles tend to confuse the question.” That’s an interesting part of this story — we’re not told Starman’s real name in this issue. Or the next one. It’s not until his third story that we even find out his real name! A curious but effective decision on the writer’s part.
We quickly find out that Oswin isn’t a nice person. A man named Jediah Rikane is being tortured on the ship and Rikane hopes that Starman will rescue him. Rikane’s thoughts reveal that Starman has been around for a few weeks and is “already half-way to becoming a legend.” We learn that Starman has performed a dozen impossible rescues and saved an innocent man from execution on Kydalh, the prison asteroid. These “untold” adventures have always tantalized me!
Through Rikane, we learn that the soon-to-be-crowned new Empress sent Rikane into the field to uncover a plot against the throne. Rikane was captured on the moon of Xall and became a pawn of Oswin’s. During this flashback, we get our first look at the Empress and her companion Lady Merria — both will become more important later on.
Oswin, meanwhile, is demanding to know how Starman’s powers work. The two fight and during the battle, Starman finds Rikane and rescues him. We get to see a few of Starman’s powers — flight, the ability to survive in space, solar energy blasts and enhanced strength. Starman takes Rikane to a “crystalline rock” that turns out to be the hero’s base of operations. He shares this home with a green-skinned alien named Mn’torr. Rikane swears loyalty to Starman and we’re promised that our hero is about to embark on an adventure that “may cost both our lives to finish!”
Levitz packs a lot into the nine-page story and the artwork is quite good. Ditko’s pencils are slightly lost beneath the heavy inks but I found that it actually takes away some of the more… um… rough elements that Ditko’s artwork had at this period in his career.
While we don’t get a whole lot of answers about who Starman really is, we’re introduced to several characters and to the basic nature of this space-based empire. It’s kind of an old-fashioned story… people’s dialogue and thoughts are pretty expository, which was the writing style of the time. But if you like bronze age heroics, it’s not a bad way to kick off the series.
We’ll be back with more in a few days!