Tag Archives: Tony Harris

Today’s Super Comic — Starman #37 (1997)

starman_vol_2_37Starman had an annual tradition. Once a year, Jack Knight would spend an issue chatting with his deceased brother, David, in a dreamlike realm that may or may not have been an actual dream. Each occurrence was titled “Talking with David, [year].”

Pretty much the entire issue would be rendered in black and white except for David in the classic Starman costume, which received full-color treatment. These talks were a clever way to chart Jack’s growth as a superhero and a man by taking a dialogue-oriented break from the action.

The best iteration I’ve read so far is in issue #37, in which the brothers share a meal with the deceased members of the Justice Society of America, including Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite, the original Black Canary, and others. These first-generation superheroes take turns sharing their wisdom with Jack, while D-list Golden Age hero Red Bee provides some tension with his inexplicably rude behavior…which winds up tying into his own bit of wisdom.

As a special treat, the final page eschews the black-and-white motif with a full-color painted splash page, capping the issue with a suitably vintage look.

Writer: James Robinson

Artist: Tony Harris

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Cover: Tony Harris

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Starman Omnibus vol. 3 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

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

Today’s Super Comic — Starman #12 (1995)

starman_vol_2_12Starman has been a hard series to put down. It evolves with every issue, building on itself almost like a novel. Previous events are never forgotten—they enrich later issues.

Issue #12 opens by addressing a major event in an early issue, when the new Starman killed a bad guy but promised himself he would never kill again. Well, that’s certainly a nice sentiment after the fact, but he still killed a guy and the law has to do its thing. The judge clears Jack of any wrongdoing, and it’s nice to see that Jack’s legal innocence doesn’t entirely clear his conscience. It’s a great weight off, though, and the high point of a day that ends up with him trying to escape a new super-villain without his cosmic staff or any clothes.

The new villain plays nicely into the book’s generational theme, giving us the daughter of Golden Age villain the Mist vs. the son of the Golden Age superhero Starman.

Writer James Robinson employs an interesting technique in this series every now and then, one that wouldn’t normally work in monthly comics. In narrative captions, he flat-out tells us what will happen in Jack’s future. In this issue, we learn Jack will have a daughter years later, he’ll receive a gift from his dead brother, and he’ll visit outer space. Without any specific details, these tidbits tease future stories without really spoiling anything, and they give the sense that Robinson has an exciting grand plan mapped out. And I believe him.

Hmm…sleep, or keep reading…?

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. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Starman #4 (1995)

starman_vol_2_4Jack Knight has agreed to serve as Starman on an as-needed basis, but he’s really kind of hoping the need never arises. For now, he’s just trying to rebuild his collectibles store…but he learns that, as his father says, when you’re a superhero, “the weirdness finds you. Like it or not.”

Issue #4 shows us a single weird night for Jack as he’s working to restore a sense of normalcy. He receives an unexpected visit from the immortal Shade, a former villain who now just wants Opal City to remain a tranquil place. And an old rich guy sends a henchman to find a particular magic shirt that has wound up on Jack’s collection, and to retrieve it by any means necessary.

James Robinson’s writing is in top form here, as he continues to steer everything away from conventional black-and-white superheroics. With each issue, he reinvents the preexisting Shade into a character that might as well be his own creation, and one who operates under a unique morality that he’s developed throughout the course of his lengthy life. Also, Jack’s confrontation with the henchman reaches an amusing resolution that’s free of fisticuffs and perfectly in character for this new Starman.

The art by Tony Harris is equally engaging. Harris gives Opal City enough meticulous detail to make it feel like a place rather than a mere location name, and his splash panel of Shade’s entrance is memorable.

Fantastic stuff all around.

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. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Starman #0 (1994)

starman_v-2_0I found a bunch of Starman trades in a secondhand bookstore, which is rather appropriate, considering this particular iteration of the character. So I had to buy them, and now I’ve got yet another series I’m reading/rereading.

This is the Starman series by writer James Robinson and artist Tony Harris, which was highly acclaimed when it came out in the ‘90s. I bought the first two omnibus collections a while back and was impressed with them, and now I’ve got the later issues (still need to track down the middle ones, though).

The series starts with issue #0, as this was one of the new titles launched after DC’s Zero Hour crossover. I don’t remember any of those others, but Starman feels special right from the start. Robinson and Harris introduce us to a new fictional city, Opal City, and its new protector—David Knight, the older son of the original Starman (cue the David Bowie song).

With his father retired, David takes up the mantle. He’s the typical DC Comics legacy hero…until he’s assassinated right off the bat, setting events into motion that will force younger brother Jack to reluctantly assume the superheroic identity.

Jack has no interest in being Starman, and he even has some disdain for the concept. He’s a geek for antiques and collectibles, and he’s perfectly happy running a store full of them. But a hallmark of a great story is when the hero doesn’t get what he wants, but gets what he needs (cue the Rolling Stones).

Jack Knight will become a superhero, and he will carry on his father’s legacy. But as of this premiere issue, he’s not nearly there yet. And that’s a great start.

I’m looking forward to rereading these early issues and reading the later ones for the first time.

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. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up