The 1990′s was, let’s admit it, a bad time for comic books.
With variant and lenticular covers drawing in the speculator boom, very little attention seemed to be directed toward the quality of the work inside. While I have in the past talked at length about Astro City and Kingdom Come as being two of the biggest steps forward in comics in the 1990′s, I have neglected a third, Starman.
An unlikely comic from DC Comics during it’s ‘Zero Hour’ company-wide relaunch, Starman is the brainchild of writer James Robinson and Tony Harris as penciler with Dan Jolley on inks. The series was a brilliant introduction of two concepts that may seem like obvious successes today but at the time were groundbreaking. The first was to build a bridge to the past of DC Comics in the 1940′s. By introducing a lineage of heroes following the legacy of the original Starman Ted Knight, there was a feeling of something larger than just a monthly comic. Starman was a view into the guts of the DC Universe. The second concept was in making the main character not only a reluctant hero but also very ‘down to Earth’ and human. This was first implemented by Stan Lee in Marvel‘s 1960′s comics and never really felt at home in DC… until Starman.
Our hero Jack Knight was a nostalgia buff who was only interested in anything retro. From vintage art to the shirts he wore, he preferred to live in the past. Strangely this nostalgia did not extend to the ‘family business’ of being Starman. Only after his brother’s death does Jack take up the mantle of hero and go into battle. But he refuses to don the tights and instead wears his distinctive leather jacket and goggles to keep his home Opal City safe.
In addition to the straight-forward stories, Starman featured ‘one-off’ tales involving other Starmen from the past and future. This allowed the readers to take a bit of break in the action and again build upon the tapestry of the DC Universe‘s history. In the past this series was collected in trade paperbacks that attempted to separate the flash back issues from the main story lines, unfortunately creating a break in the natural narrative. However, DC Comics has recently released the first in a series of over-sized hardcover collections that will run in sequence.
The series is important because it created its own unique following, and it was richly deserved. Starman made comics cool again. The series ran for 80 issues and covered Jack Knight‘s entire super hero career. Finally all 80 issues are getting the treatment they deserve.
If you are new to comics or missed out on this series when it came out, this collection is not to be missed. If the collection is successful, we may even see the ‘missing adventures’ of Jack Knight in the near future. With James Robinson taking over the writing chores on Superman this year, anything is possible.