Today’s Super Comic — Starman #21 (1996)

starman_vol_2_21Sandman’s “Sand and Stars” storyline gives us a team-up with thematic weight, as the new Starman meets the original Sandman, Wesley Dodds.

This Sandman has nothing to do with the Neil Gaiman lord of dreams version. Dodds was just a detective with a sleeping-gas gun and gasmask—he’s a character who straddled the line between the masked mystery men of the 1930s and the early superheroes of the 1940s. As a member of the Justice Society of America, he worked with the original Starman, Ted Knight, the father of this series’ Starman.

The elderly Sandman is an excellent choice for a team-up with Jack Knight, who also doesn’t fit the mold of a typical superhero. (One point of common ground: They both eschew the standard cape-and-tights look.) By this point, Jack’s affinity for old things is well established, and here’s one of the very first superheroes—though Jack is more excited to meet Dodds’s wife, acclaimed author Dian Belmont. Nevertheless, Dodds serves as someone from Ted Knight’s past that Jack can genuinely admire and connect with.

The entire four-part storyline is excellent, and the inclusion of an airship is an appropriately retro touch. But the second part, in issue #21, highlights an interesting character element—Jack’s fear of growing old, a reminder of which is staring him in the face when he’s with the octogenarian Dodds. Jack’s father should already be that old, though comic book mechanics have delayed that…but it’s coming. And later, if he survives all the criminals, super-villains, and death rays, old age will eventually come for Jack, too:

“…I must one day face the old man who will look out from the mirror. And I hope, at least, that old man has a young heart.”

It’s a mature fear for a superhero, and one anyone over 30 can relate to.

Writer: James Robinson

Artist: Tony Harris

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Starman Omnibus vol. 2 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up