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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 365: Starman #80

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Starman #80, which was published by DC and is cover dated August 2001. Enjoy!

Man, I dig that car

Comics fans who began reading in this decade or at the end of last decade might wonder what the big deal is about James Robinson, because they were never privy to Nineties James Robinson, who wrote a bunch of excellent comics, including Starman, a masterful series that managed to be nostalgic yet forward-looking while somehow integrating several odd strands of DC history into it. In the last issue, Jack Knight – Starman – decides to leave his home, Opal City, and head to San Francisco, where his girlfriend and their child are now living. This is a big deal, as Jack loves Opal and has never conceived of leaving it, but his love for Sadie is so great that he decides to stop being Starman and move away. He’s narrating this page, obviously, and on the previous page, he said he was going to make like a banana, hence the way the page begins. In a few words, Robinson manages to capture the feelings of anyone who has ever left home – Jack cries, but doesn’t look back, because he knows that the future is limitless. It’s a wonderful way for the series to end, and the fact that DC can’t use Jack Knight without Robinson’s permission means that he’s been happily living in San Francisco for the past decade.

The series’ second main artist, Peter Snejbjerg, finishes up the run with a beautiful drawing of Opal and the surrounding countryside. There’s a reason Opal City has no suburbs and the plains start immediately outside of it, but I’m not going into it here. Snejbjerg never made Opal quite as Art Deco as Tony Harris, the original artist, did, but you can still see how unusual the buildings of the city are. Snejbjerg is quite good at using shadows, and he highlights the architecture by inking parts of the buildings heavily to make the features stand out more clearly. The road and the telephone poles lead our eye out from the city to Jack’s station wagon (I’m sure at some point we find out what kind of car it is, but I can’t remember and I don’t really need to know right now – it’s probably a Studebaker or a Packard or something like that) as he leads us off the page – it’s not a terribly clever design for the page by Snejbjerg, but it is quite effective. The literal road is hidden from us as the page ends just as Jack’s “road” is hidden from us. Notice that Jack is a terrible father – that kid is probably three years old or younger (comic book time being what it is), yet he’s riding in the front seat with no car seat. Really, Jack? Make sure your kid is safe, man! Gregory Wright colors this page well, as Opal is all sleek blue and even the browns look modern, while the greens of the surrounding countryside stand in contrast to the city, balancing the modernism of the city with the nostalgia that suffuses the entire series. In one image, Robinson, Snejbjerg, and Wright manage to evoke the tone of the entire series. That’s not bad.

Starman is a wonderful comic, and you should all go read it. Macht schnell!

Next: Hey, it’s the last day of the year! I can’t believe I made it. To celebrate, we’ll look at the last page of my favorite runs in history. Yes, sharp readers will notice I’ve already featured this issue’s first page, but I love it so much! Find it in the archives to prepare yourselves for tomorrow!

14 Comments

I’m not afraid to admit it: Starman is the only series that made me cry. Both this issue and Ted’s funeral scene were among the most powerful I’ve ever read. Regardless of whatever else Robinson has done since, this comic run will always hold a special place in my heart. I finally got the sixth and final omnibus of Starman this Christmas, and I forgot how sprawling and weird and wonderful the Grand Guignol was.

What is the reason why Opal doesn’t have suburbs? I didn’t even know there was an important reason for it, I thought it was just ’cause Robinson wanted to give the city a very 1940s feel.

The funeral scene did get me teary-eyed too, although it wasn’t the only series to do so.

FS7: Dang, you called my bluff. I could have looked it up, but I didn’t feel like it, and I don’t remember exactly. It has to do with the way the city was founded, with all the Satanic rituals and the blood seeping into the soil, so that the land was cursed and nothing was built there except the city, which was part of the ritual. It helped the Bad Dwarf (Culp?) encase the city in that black dome during the Grand Guignol. Something like that!

Oh! Thanks, man. When you said you didn’t want to talk about it I thought you meant just on the actual article. Sorry about that.

FS7: Well, it’s not terribly germane to the page, so I didn’t feel like getting into it, but I also didn’t want to get into it because it would mean I’d have to do some research. BLECH! :)

Thirding the made-me-cry bunch. Also, the Devoted Father moment in Hitman

FS7: I’ve teared-up a couple other times, but flat-out crying has only ever happened for Starman. I’ll say that there’s a moment in the Ultimate Death of Spider-Man that got to me where a little kid give Aunt May a hug. Kid who collects Spider-Man is another one. We3 chokes me up some… of course, Batgirl’s eulogy for Supergirl in COIE is a tearjerker.

Kabe: That’s another good one.

Someone needs to do a Tearjerker Countdown on CSBG.

This is my second-favourite series finale of all time, right after Hard Time and just ahead of Hitman and The Spectre.

A favorite of mine back in the day. When DC made the (incredibly brilliant) decision to collect this series and all related tales into hardcover, I snatched them up and read and enjoyed the whole series all over again.

Such a great series. With a fantastic ending. With serialized stories we tend to never get a true ending, so DC allowing Robinson to finish his story, and leaving Jack in peace, is a big deal (at least in my view).
Can’t believe tomorrow will be the last Frantic. Hopefully, without writing these articles daily, it gives you more time for CYSO, Greg.

Terrible-d: I’ve been trying to keep up with other stuff, but you’re right – doing these daily is difficult and time-consuming. Of course, I just reached “S” in my back issues, and there’s a LOT of great and long series that begin with “S” that I want to feature in Comics You Should Own. I’ve been working on my post for Sandman for two months now, but it should be up soon! But then I go right into Sandman Mystery Theatre (probably), and down the line there’s Shade, this series, Swamp Thing, Suicide Squad … too many to mention!!!!!

I wasn’t aware DC couldn’t use Jack Knight without Robinson’s permission. How’d he manage to get that deal?

Lee: Beats me. I don’t think DC is handing out those kinds of sweetheart deals any longer. I remember reading about it years ago, but I don’t know if anyone uncovered how he managed to swing it. It’s nice that he did, though!

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