Wednesday, May 25, 2011

31 Days of Comics #25

Starman #35
By Keith Giffen, Peter David, Jason Pearson and Bruce Patterson

The unexpected success of Justice League International, and it’s refusal to take all these complicated superheroics seriously, had a number of delightful side effects, like this random issue of Starman.

The eighties Starman comic is the most average superhero comic of its era, with the most competent and dull creators in Roger Stern and Tom Lyle. It lasted 45 issues, and I once had a dozen or so, but I got rid of them years ago.

All except for Starman #35, because it still makes me laugh.

Keith Giffen’s Justice League success meant he could do damn near anything he wanted in the DC Universe, so you would often see him pop up as a plotter or penciller on the oddest DC titles. You could never predict where Giffen would show up next, but his unmistakable humour and naively influenced art were always welcome.

So if Giffen wanted to do an issue of bland old Starman, a comic that had just about the height of mediocrity and would be taken out behind the chemical sheds and shot in less than a year, it was probably something worth reading. Even if it did have Mr Nebula, the Cosmic Designer – the silliest of JLI’s silly characters in it.

The worlds of silliness that Justice League International would sometimes take a detour through are often held up as its worst feature, but at least it was something different for a change. There have been decades of awful teeth-grittingly serious stories about the greatest super-team ever, it’s hard to begrudge a few years of nonsense.

So Mr Nebula is a pisstake of Galactus who descends on helpless worlds and redesigns them until they’re utterly FABULOUS. Starman runs into Nebula’s faithless herald The Scarlet Skier, and ends up roped into a ridiculous fight with Mon-El, who was still bumming around the outskirts of the DC universe as the righteously named Valor.

Giffen is joined in all this craziness by the amusingly chunky art of Jason Pearson, and the scripting of Peter David, who never met a pun he didn’t want to have a long and passionate affair with, so they’re a good fit.

Giffen’s sense of humour has come back into fashion, and there are plenty of people who remember all that eighties JLI silliness with real affection, and series like Justice League: Generation Lost have been busy re-incorporating many of the major aspects of the earlier series.

To be honest, I’m happy enough to stick with the old stuff, and things like this issue of Starman. That JLI tone is really hard to nail, and even the original creative team of Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire have had difficulty regaining that fire in the last few years, largely because Andy Helfer was always the fourth vital ingredient, and modern editors are too timid to tell the old guys to cut back on the words.

Whenever I put together a pile of comics to sell off, Starman #35 always starts on the sell pile, but always ends up back in a box somewhere. And while I might be bored with more recent attempts, there are many more oddities like Starman #35 still to be found. (I’m still finding new iterations of the JLI #1 cover out there.) They’re always worth a laugh.

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