Almost Hidden – Roger Stern and Tom Lyle’s Starman
Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.
I want you folks to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.
I had more than a few requests for Roger Stern and Tom Lyle’s run on Starman. I can’t think of how to split the series up, so how about we just pretend that it would be an “Absolute” edition and we can just say “reprint the whole run!”
An interesting aspect of Stern and Lyle’s run on Starman is that they wrote and drew every issue of their 25 issue run – no fill-ins for either one of them. Pretty impressive.
Starman was an clever concept by Stern. While the character was being developed, DC decided it would make sense to tie him in with Invasion!, before Invasion! even BEGAN! And sure enough, Starman was probably more tied into Invasion! than any other title – even those written by Keith Giffen (architect of Invasion!)!
The basic concept of the book is something fairly similar to what Dwayne McDuffie would later come up with for Static. For years, comics have had the “new Spider-Man” – comics meant to evoke the early Ditko/Lee Spider-Man stories about a “normal” person suddenly given powers. That idea was used a lot before Starman and it has been used a lot since (Kyle Rayner is a good example). And it should, because it’s a great idea.
However, what made Starman a bit different was that he was a good deal more meta-fictional about it all. Here was a guy who, once he had powers, actually STUDIED superheroing and based himself on what he thought a superhero SHOULD be. You rarely see that level of self-realism from superheroes (similar heroes like Nova and Darkhawk tended to play it by ear). McDuffie took that idea to another level with Static when he had Static actually acknowledge the FICTIONAL construct of the superhero and use that to influence his actions – while in Starman, the influence is actual – he studies “actual” superheroes, not comics and movies.
Tom Lyle co-created Starman with Stern, and he does a generally good job on the series, although he gets a good deal better as the series goes on. Lyle had only being working as a regular artist for a couple of years (at Eclipse Comics – Airboy, for instance) so he definitely had a lot of growing to do as an artist, but to his credit, he did the work and by the time he finished the run he was basically the polished artist that he is today.
Here’s a sampling from the first issue so you can see how Will Payton is compelled to become a hero…
The villain Deadline, introduced in Starman #15, was perhaps the longest lasting contribution to comics from Starman. He’s a neat villain (Stern also did a nice job using DC continuity to bring in good unused characters like the mercenary villain Bolt and the scientist Kitty Faulkner and her alter-ego Rampage!)….
Finally, in Lyle’s last page as artist of the book, in #25, he debuts Starman’s much cooler looking costume…
I know this series gets overshadowed by the James Robinson/Tony Harris Starman series (which IS a better series than this one, don’t get me wrong), but that’s a shame. There are room for both of these series out there!