Friday, September 21, 2012

Starman #0

 Dave sez, this was originally posted at Player Affinity.

September is Zero Month! DC Comics wraps up the first twelve months of The New 52 with the line-wide Zero Month. This is the first Zero Month since October of 1994. College freshmen this year were born in 1994, and are probably unfamiliar with what a zero issue is. Beloit College produces an annual mindset list for faculty to better relate to incoming freshmen. If there were one for comic book editors and writers, an item such as books like Zero Hour, Zero Month issues, Year One annuals, Final Night, Armageddon 2001, Legends and Crisis on Infinite Earths have all been single volume works collected in trade paperbacks or hardcover editions. They have not been seen firsthand as single issue monthly installments.

One of the finest zero issues to be produced in the fall of 1994, and one that still stands the test of time, is Starman #0, by Earth-2 writer James Robinson!

Lasting only 80 issues from October 1994 to August 2001, this is another book that today's college freshmen are more likely unfamiliar with. Starman #0 has been collected in the Starman: Sins of the Father trade paperback as well as the first Starman Omnibus hardcover and most recently the first Starman Omnibus trade paperback. The second volume Starman Omnibus trade paperback releases this month.

More familiar is Robinson's recent work on the New Krypton storyline; his run on Justice League of America featuring Dick Grayson as Batman, Donna Troy replacing Wonder Woman and Mon-El standing Superman; and, his Cry For Justice mini-series with Green Lantern leading a Justice League composed of co-hort Green Arrow, Freddie Freeman's Captain Marvel, Supergirl, the Ray Palmer Atom, Mikaal Tomas Starman and Congorilla with a fleeting cameo by Batwoman.

Earlier this month, Robinson's Earth-2 #0 was released. Eighteen years earlier, in October 1994, Robinson took a small corner of the DC Universe and re-imagined it. He had virtually the same clean slate and blank page as today. He started by making the location the most important character of Starman.
Opal City, Maryland becomes as much a character in the pages of Starman as Ted Knight and his son Jack. Opal's founding and founder are clearly defined from the start. Burnley Ellsworth is an homage to Starman artist Jack Burnley and editor Whitney Ellsworth. Robinson must know the Golden Rule: location, location, location. Superman and Metropolis are as much connected as Smallville was connected to him as Superboy; as Gotham City to Batman; Central City to Barry Allen, Keystone City to Jay Garrick and Coast City to Hal Jordan. From the start, Robinson is taking a minor character in Starman and elevating him to major status.

One of the major differences between The New 52 Earth-1 and Earth-2 is the absence of the Trinity. There is no Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman on Earth-2. Sidekicks Robin and Supergirl have crossed over and become Huntress and Power Girl. Robinson is familiar with this kind of change, too. David Knight took over as Starman from both his father and the '90's meta-human hero Will Peyton. Peyton's Starman lasted 45 issues from 1988 to 1992. Robinson's revival picks up only two years after Will Peyton's adventures were cancelled. David Knight made a guest appearance to reclaim the mantle of Starman. Here, it is his. He is immediately killed by a sniper's bullet.

Superman has his Luthor; The Batman has The Joker; Wonder Woman has The Cheetah. Starman's opposite is The Mist. He is very much like The Joker, he doesn't have an alter ego. He could be known by only one name, Kyle. The Mist has come to Opal City and take his revenge on Ted Knight by taking every thing important and valuable from him piece by piece before finally killing Knight himself at last. His son, Kyle, and his daughter, Nash, are partners in his scheme. After murdering David, Kyle visits Jack at his antique store to kill him as well.

Here is the difference between a character created by James Robinson and a character created by someone like, say, Geoff Johns. There are a couple of characters that Johns has either written or created that come off as bitter fanboys mocking the comic book reading audience. Superboy/man Prime and David Gates are two familiar examples. What was disappointing to the point of abandonment with Justice League was that David Gates appeared to be a fanboy, to the point of writing a book supporting the team's debut adventure. When he learned that the Justice League was the cause of his terminal illness, he turned against them violently. Jack Knight was no Starman fan. He mocked and ridiculed his brother wearing the classic costume. But, his affinity for old things is more of a respect equal to his contempt for the Starman legacy.

He smartly deduces that Kyle is no customer, when The Mist's son comes in to his shop. After being shot in the leg and his arm singed, Jack escapes as Kyle blows up the store.

Meanwhile, at the Knight Observatory, Nash watches as it explodes, and Ted is knocked down by a falling brick outside.

The Mist's plan seems to be unfolding smoothly. Except for Jack's escape from Kyle.
 There were other characters rebooted and relaunched with the October 1994 Zero Month following DC Comics' Zero Hour event. Hawkman was one of the major revisions. Manhunter, Fate, Lobo, Guy Gardner: Warrior, Aquaman all received the Zero Month treatment. The Trinity, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman along with The Flash, Green Lantern and Green Arrow all got zero issues. The most enduring character was the Jack Knight Starman. Even in spite of his whole history now being erased from current continuity by DC's The New 52 relaunch. Not every DC character receieves the omnibus treatment. Jack Knight, Earth-2 and Golden Age history have been Robinson's defining work.

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