Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Starman!

According to the 1976 Super DC Calendar, December 18th is the birthday for the Golden Age Starman, Ted Knight.

From Starman Annual #2, art by Gene Ha.
Starman teamed up with Black Canary on several occasions outside of their usual adventures with the Justice Society of America.  In case you missed it, I posted their first pairing in The Brave and the Bold #61 yesterday.  Much more interesting, though, and more scandalous is that the two engaged in a short-lived extramarital affair as depicted in the pages of James Robinson's Starman series.  And I assure you, I will get around to reviewing that eventually.

I haven't read many Starman stories from the Golden Age, but I always, always liked the character.  First his costume--what's not to like?  The fin on his cowl reminds me of '50s or '60s science fiction helmets, like that worn by Adam Strange.  But the cape is classic '40s mystery man!  The color pattern--red, green, and yellow--so garish, so in your face, but they're not obnoxious, they just work together really well.  See Robin and Mister Miracle for confirmation.  And then there's the gun holster on his hip!  Or is it a holster for the Cosmic Rod?  It's incredibly visually striking because it's incongruous to the rest of his costume.  It's brown leather, and it looks like something a military officer would have.  The eye is as drawn to that weapon holster as it is to the star emblazoned on his chest.

Then there's the Cosmic Rod (or "Gravity Rod"), which is nothing short of sci-fi perfection.  A magic wand, essentially, with a science-y heft and the ability to move matter and fire energy rays.  Seriously cool!  It also has the added joke benefit of looking like a sex toy, which, to me, is just one more thing to love about it!

Equally as cool as the costume and the gadget is the type of character Ted Knight represents.  He's a scientific-minded genius who constructs the mode of his super-power.  He reminds me of the Marvel heroes that would follow him, such as Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym.  Where many Golden Age heroes acquired their gifts through chance or birth, like Green Lantern, the Flash, and Superman, Starman was self-made, in the same vein as Batman, and later Iron Man and Ant-Man.

I think Starman is too often forgotten or shortchanged.  This version especially, as the '90s Jack Knight who headlined his own book for a decade is so well remembered now.  The thing is, the original Starman had such an iconic look and power set that I'm surprised he didn't takeover as figurehead of the Justice Society.

In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths world where Superman didn't come into being until the era of the Justice League, I think Starman would have made a great substitute for Superman.  His powers are hardly the same as the Last Son of Krypton, but he has that striking costume, a brilliant mind, and extraordinary abilities of a hero that could have united others around him.

Credit for Starman's creation is attributed to artist Jack Burnley, as well as writer Gardner Fox and a host of editors including Whitney Elsworth.

Happy Birthday, Teddy!