The Starman Chronicles Part Four

Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_470Adventure Comics 470
“To Die A-Borning…”
Written by Paul Levitz, Art by Steve Ditko & Romeo Tanghal

“The origin of Starman… Revealed at last!” proclaims the opening page and for the most part, that’s what we get. In our last issue, we were watching in flashback as Prince Gavyn was shot out into space, part of the Imperial tradition of executing everyone else who has a claim to the throne when a new Emperor or Empress has been chosen. Gavyn survives, however, and is found by a green-skinned entity who calls himself  who declares, “I am neither creature nor hallucination. I am merely a searcher after certain truths. Trusts I fear I shall never find… because of you! You screamed, as you should recall… and I listened, breaking a vow of meditation that has endured for millennia.”

Mn’Torr states that he now feels a sense of responsibility for Gavyn and goes on to imply that Gavyn is some sort of mutant that has the ability to survive in the depths of space. He helps Gavyn design the Starman costume and gives him a set of gauntlets that helps refine his abilities.

And what are Starman’s powers? We get a full description in this issue! Here’s how Gavyn explains them:

“I don’t know how you figured out that my body converted stellar radiation into bio-energy, but you certainly were right. Before I knew it, I was soaring through space more freely than a shark in the sea… channeling the stellar radiation through those fancy gauntlets into bursts of heat or light — or micro-radiation… and also managing to absorb the ‘deadly’ blasts of all sorts of radiation-based weapons. It’s quite a bag of tricks… even if we did discover that my powers get weaker the more insulated I am from the stars.”

We also get to see Starman take part in what appears to be his first ‘adventure,’ taking on an Asteroid-Viper that’s terrorizing some miners. It’s a nice, quick action sequence that shows off our hero’s powers quite effectively.

Elsewhere, we have Mn’Torr reminding Gavyn that he could easily seize the throne if he wanted to… but Gavyn reiterates that he’s fine with his sister having power. He has a new set of responsibilities now and he’s embracing his role as Starman. He does reiterate that he loves his girlfriend and she declares the same but it’s left a bit unclear as to the future they might have at this point since he remarks that even she refers to him as Starman and not Gavyn now, which Mn’Torr says is because everyone but Gavyn recognizes the fact that his old life is dead.

Well-written and some really strong Ditko artwork. At this point, I was left thinking that the future was wide open and curious to see what kind of direction we were going to go in. We’re warned that Oswin is coming back next issue as the main villain so we do know that we’re not completely leaving Throneworld behind… but we’ll see exactly what that means in our next installment!

The Starman Chronicles Part Three

Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_469Adventure Comics 469
“Death In A Dark-Starred Void!”
Written by Paul Levitz, Art by Steve Ditko & Romeo Tanghal

“At last! The origin of Starman!” exclaims page one and it’s a doozy! Merria passes out from the shock of seeing our hero alive and we’re then treated to a flashback explaining how all of this came about. On page two we finally learn that Starman is actually Prince Gavyn, one of many who has a claim to the Imperial Throne. Since the Emperor was fairly young and healthy, Gavyn never seriously thought about ascending to the Onyx Throne and instead focused on competing in Gravity Ball tournaments.

Until… he discovered that the Emperor was dead. Under Imperial tradition, the council votes to pick one of the heirs to take the throne. The rest are executed to prevent any chance of civil war. Gavyn and his sister, Clryssa, talk about the old traditions and Gavyn promises that if he is picked, he will change the laws and spare his sister’s life — of course, we already know from pervious issues that Clryssa is about to named Empress, so that promise won’t come to pass.

We also learn that Gavyn and Merria are lovers, which explains why she was so moved by his return from the dead.

Back in the modern day, Merria revives and begs Gavyn to not fight his sister for the throne. He laughs and says “The stars really are mine now, more than they’ll ever be Clryssa’s — even if she is Empress.” He is here to protect his family, not battle them, it seems.

In more flashbacks, we see that when the council picks Clryssa to rule the empire, Gavyn begs her to do for him what he had promised to do for her — save his life. She refuses, citing the traditions of their people. In the aftermath, Gavyn rejected a chance to lead a rebellion, choosing to remain faithful to his sister. He is then jettisoned into space, where he is obviously supposed to meet his demise.

But… something happens to prevent that. We’ll learn what it was in our next installment.

The basic premise of the series is fascinating to me — that all other heirs would be killed and that his own sister would be unmoved by the loss of her brother. I suppose she’d grown up in this society and had always known it would be a possibility. Gavyn, though, seems a bit more soft-hearted.

Merria is okay at this point but hardly exciting — she’s very much the “Silver Age Girlfriend” that we’re all familiar with. Clryssa is more interesting to me, if only because of her willingness to throw her sibling into space to uphold tradition.

Not a whole lot of Mn’Torr here, though more will be coming in future issues…

Solid story and art — the creative team is finding its groove.

I mentioned in part one that DC was really pushing this series in its marketing — this issue has TWO ads for Adventure Comics. A half-pager that promises “The senses-shattering origin of the solar sentinel Starman begins here!” and then a full-page ad that offers a subscription to Adventure Comics. Starman, Plastic Man and editor Len Wein all appear on the ad, with Gavyn proclaiming “Adventure Comics is finally available via star-spanning bonus subscriptions!”

Good times. A 12 issue subscription would cost you only $4.00.

Plastic Man dominates the cover but Starman looks great in the lower right corner!

The Starman Chronicles Part Two

Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_468Adventure Comics 468
“Uneasy Lies the Crown”
Written by Paul Levitz, Art by Steve Ditko & Romeo Tanghal

We return for the second Starman adventure and this time around we get to see our hero depicted by Jim Aparo on the cover! Very snazzy.

Once again, Starman’s real identity is not named. We do finally get to see his unmasked face, though — on the very last page of the story!

In this one, Starman is headed towards Throneworld, a “fabulous floating palace,” where the lords of the realm have gathered for the coronation of the new Empress. We’re told that Starman has a “subconscious sense of direction,” though it doesn’t always work the way he’d like. Starman also spots the Empress, Lady Merria and Lord Oswin, all of whom are present for the festivities. The royal family has the imperial mark tattooed on their forehead and when we see Starman without his mask, we can’t help but notice that he shares this mark… Hmm!

Oswin has a plot to control the Empress by attuning the crown jewels to the modifications he’s made to the crown itself. Starman wants to keep this from happening and this requires him to break into the protective Well of Gravity. Mn’Torr arrives to help him with this and we learn that Starman draws his powers from the stars themselves. He also absorbs the energy that is fired at him by the guards and transforms it into his own power.

Mn’Torr’s role as Starman’s teacher and confidante is reinforced here — we still have no clue about an origin, mind you, but things are slowly coming together.

At the end, Starman meets Lady Merria face-to-face and when she demands to know why he’s addressing her in a familiar manner, he responds “I of all people have that right, Merria–! It seems we meet again in a lifetime that I thought we would never share!” Then we have Starman push his mask off, revealing a handsome face with the imperial mark.

Merria’s shock is almost palpable. She exclaims “By the lost homeworld! It’s YOU!! You did it — You’ve come back to claim the throne!”

Quite a cliffhanger! So now we know that Starman has a claim to the throne and that everyone assumed he was dead. Clues, people! Levitz was sprinkling them throughout. Once again, I’m impressed by how much story is crammed into 8 pages. The art is more “Ditko” this time around and it looks quite good. This series is some of the last Ditko art that I really loved, to be honest.

Next time around: the origin begins!

The Starman Chronicles Part One

Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_467Welcome 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

Let’s begin!

Adventure Comics 467 (Cover Date January 1980)
“First Encounter”
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!