Comic Book Casting: The STARMAN Television Series

Starman4Every Monday here at iFanboy, we look at comics’ greatest characters and stories and try to imagine what they’d be like in film or television. From the story concept to the people in charge and all the way down to who’d play who, we do it and we call it Comic Book Casting.

Starman. He’s one of DC’s original Golden Age heroes and he carved out a tradition of Starmen as the mantle was passed down to his sons and on from there. Although not the first nor the most recent incarnation, the 1990s version — Jack Knight — is head and shoulders its most popular, and critically acclaimed. It showed the overlooked son of the original Starman take up the family business but do it on his own terms; trading in the tights and finned helmet for a jacket, some goggles and the original Cosmic Rod. This incarnation, created by James Robinson and Tony Harris, thrived for seven years in its own series which has been featured as Book of the Month on two occasions, and even produced several standalone podcast episodes spotlighting it.

Robinson and Harris’ Starman series took a straight, reality-based look at the super-heroics of the DC and was, in a way, a bellwether for the coming advent of modern superhero storytelling with the post-bankruptcy Marvel and the rise of Geoff Johns at DC. In the early 2000s Warner Bros. even did some development on a television series for Starman by the same people who  developed Smallville, but after the poor performance of the Birds of Prey television series it was cancelled.

But that doesn’t mean Starman couldn’t live again once more. And we here at iFanboy are looking into the well-remembered series and laying out a game plan for how it could work. Warner Brothers, pay attention.

The Concept:

It’s tough to grow up in the shadow of a famous father. For Opal City’s Jack Knight, it forced him down a rebellious path that put him at odds with his father, the original Starman Ted Knight. Although fascinated by the superheroic world and adventures that his father experienced, those same experiences — and the absence those caused — made Jack hold his father and his career choices with a high degree of animosity. While Jack begins to carve out a life for himself as the propreitor of an antiques and collectibles store, it’s Jack older brother David that takes up the mantle of Starman — and died in the process at the hands of one of his father’s biggest foes, the Mist. The death of Jack’s brother, pulls him reluctantly back into the family fold and he takes up the mantle but recasts the name in a new way. Casting out the idea of a uniform, Jack’s Starman costume consists of regular street clothes with a leather jacket and sheriff’s star on the label. Bereft of powers himself, Jack picks up his father’s cosmic rod and finishes the look with a pair of goggles to shield his eyes from the immense light the staff puts off. Clad as his own man, the new Starman seeks to take on old foes of his father and new ones as defender of Opal City.

Robinson and Harris’ early work on Starman lays out a fabulous template for how the concept could work as a television series. The idea of families in superhero comics, be it the Knights and Starman to their villainous analogues in the Mist and his children throw off a unique vibe. And the inclusion of the Shade in a foe-turned-mentor for the Knight family is icing on a cake making this a gripping piece of fiction begging to be told in television form.

The Showrunner:

Starman is a unique kind of comic series, taking the baton from straight-up classic superheroes but melding it with real world problems, real world solutions and real world aesthetics. For this I’d draft in Mark Goffman, political scientist turned Hollywood TV writer. Goffman’s worked on everything from Touched By An Angel to Law & Order: SVU, but it’s his years working under Aaron Sorkin with The West Wing and Studio 60 which makes him stand out to me. Goffman’s got a real ear for dialogue, but he also knows action as seen from his recent work on The Beast and White Collar. He’s currently pegged as the showrunner for Fox’s upcoming Sleepy Hollow series, while also working on the intriguing John Stamos-fronted pilot I Am Victor which hasn’t yet been picked up.

The Cast:

Starman / Jack Knight – Niall Matter: Niall Matter might be a complete unknown unless you watched Syfy’s Eureka, but if you did you’ll see an excellent young actor who can handle action scenes, complicated dialogue and do it with a bushel-full of personality and witty barbs to make him perfect to play Jack Knight. Some people  might say you need a “name” actor to carry a series, but DC’s previous works with Smallville and Arrow seem to disprove that theory completely.

Ted Knight – Robert Forster: Forster is one fo the great overlooked actors in modern times, and he’d be a perfect fit to play the Golden Age Starman and be a gruff and sometimes distant father for Jack Knight.

David Knight – William Moseley: David is a small but pivotal role for Starman, with his death putting Jack on the path to taking on the Starman mantle for his own. I’d pick this Chronicles of Narnia alum to play the chosen son of the Knight family, and be an interesting difference between he and Jack Knight.

The Mist  – Lance Henriksen: The Mist is one of Starman’s quintessential foes, but just as Ted Knight grows old so does the Mist. When Jack Knight’s time as Starman begins, the Mist is a decrepit older man with dementia but still quite dangerous. I’d love to see Henriksen return to television for this role and really give something for Knight to be  scared of.

Nash – Angela Sarafyan: I first discovered Srafyan as the bookish lab tech in The Good Guys, but her good looks and competent acting skills in later work made her my first and only choice to play Nash, the daughter of the Mist. Nash and Jack Knight have a very complicated relationship as the series open, and for a time she’s in effect the Joker to Jack’s Batman, and also mother to Jack’s child.

Doctor Phosphorus – Jared Harris: There’s more to Starman’s rogue’s gallery than the Mist family — Dr. Phosphorus is a sizable threat to Starman as well as other heroes in the DCU. I’d love to see the vengeful doctor look to Jack Knight as a pawn to recover his humanity, and Jared Harris would be perfect for it. If you don’t believe me, watch his incredible roles in both Fringe and Mad Men.

Ragdoll – Alan Tudyk: Ragdoll’s an old-ball character, and Alan Tudyk is an odd-ball man. I’d love to see Tudyk, who played the creepy robot villain in I, Robot, take on this second villain role and really show how menacing he can be.

The Shade – Dominic West: Ah, The Shade. The immortal Golden Age foe of the original Starman, and an unlikely mentor for Jack Knight and protector of Opal City. Dominic West has faltered somewhat from his heights as the lead in The Wire, West still has it when he has the right part to play and I think as the Victorian Richard Swift he could steal the show if Jack Knight doesn’t watch it.



  1. Perfect casting for Jack. Zane was my favorite character on Eureka. Niall had a small part in Watchmen too if I’m not mistaken. Big love for Lance Henriksen and Jared Harris. Those two are really scary guys. I think I might go with someone like Benedict Cumberbatch as the Shade though. Dominic West could certainly do the job but I still see him as a little more of a hard ass and less a gentleman. And Dickey Swift is nothing if not a gentleman.

  2. Every pick has left me with a grin on my face. Great choices all round!

  3. Yes to all of this, I feel like this is the prefect casting article. Good concept, good casting (although I don’t know the showrunner), good synopsis. Starman would be prefect for tv. I feel like this would show DC’s edge over Marvel, the enormous variety of characters and settings; Starman being a great example of this. Although I’ve got to ask: What network would this be on? NBC? AMC? FX?

  4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS would be my choice for THE SHADE

  5. Brad Dourif would make a fantastic Mist / Ragdoll.