The Ballad of the Star Brand


WARNING: for best results, the following column is to be read in the voice of Sam Elliott, with a soundtrack as akin to an instrumental version of the theme from Rawhide or "Big Bad John" as possible. The proprietors of iFanboy cannot be held responsible for enjoyment of this column if read in any other way.

In 1986, or so I’m told,
Marvel said they were turnin’ twenty-five years old
and since no easy celebration came to mind,
they decided to create an entire new line
(…of comics, that is. A new line of comics.)

The New Universe it was cleverly named,
and it promised Nothing was gonna Ever Be The Same
Tied-in stories that passed in real time
in a world that looked just like yours and mine…
…just with superpowers. (Like Heroes, but interestin'.)

They had lofty ambitions to kick it “new school,”
and this shared universe had a shiny crown jewel,
a book about a supercharged tattoo
that could be passed by touch from me to you
called the Brand…. the Star Brand.

At the helm of the book was the boss, Jim Shooter,
with a pen that was gold and a heart that was pewter
He stood eight stories tall and ate sharks for lunch
Nothing’s ever certain, but he had a hunch
about the Brand… Star Brand.

Ken Connell, the hero, was a dickish mechanic
who was tall, thin, and blond and looked pretty Germanic
Didn’t know what to do with the power he got
so he screwed it all up way more often than not
with the Brand… that damn Brand.

Ken’s life was a mess without the powers, brother;
living with one gal, sleeping with another
When he didn’t fly around picking terrorist fights
he’d peep in on gals as they changed for the night
with the Brand. (Flight has its advantages.)

One time, he left Earth fast, without keepin’ track
of where he was goin’, so he couldn’t get back
When you’re just a sixth grader, that takes some digesting;
it was no Watchmen, but it was pretty interesting,
that Brand. That Star Brand.

For a few months there, Star Brand would treat ya
to art by the younger of the John Romitas
but the budget for that just couldn’t last
and soon big names were a thing of the past
for the Brand… the Star Brand.

Sure, you got a mixed bag of some of the greats
from Keith Giffen pencils to Cary Bates
Roy Thomas stepped in once to lend a hand,
but even Roy Thomas couldn’t save the Brand….
…that’s the Star Brand. (I think I mentioned that previously.)

Jim Shooter got canned around issue nine
And that’s when the book really saw its decline
John Byrne took over, with his industry clout
that shoulda been great, but it didn’t work out
for the Brand… or the brand.

Turns out ol’ Byrne was an eager rebooter
ready to wipe off the slate of Jim Shooter
You’d think that’s when it woulda gotten better
But Byrne dropped most of the cast altogether
and kept the Brand… just the Star Brand.

Dunno why it seemed like the smart thing to do
to make the whole book about the damn tattoo
but they ditched Ken Connell, and then what they did
was give ultimate power to his unborn kid
Baby Brand. (If you say so, fellas.)

See, Connell had tried to get rid of the Brand
By transferrin’ it off the palm of his hand
onto some hunk o’ metal he had lyin’ around
which, as it turns out, makes it blow up the town
…ka-boom. Adios, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh blew up in a special called The Pitt,
a really depressing little nugget of shit
that I have a grudge against ‘cause I got it on Christmas
and spent the whole day crying, “What the hell is this?”
…Ho ho ho! Ever’body’s dead!

Right away, Kenny Connell’s unborn baby
put his fist through the guts of Ken’s special lady
and flew off into space at the age of one day
while us twelve year olds sat there and squawked, “What the hey?!”
…Is this the Brand? Did I buy Star Brand?

After that, the book’s fortunes got really dire;
all I know’s that I dropped it like it was on fire
It lasted another six bimonthly chapters
but I’d be damned if it’d be my captor,
that Brand. (Lawn-mowin’ dollars come hard, amigo.)

I thought I was always a big fan o’ this book,
but it turns out I’m wrong, now that I take a look
Seems a measly eight issues is all I ever had,
most of ‘em from after it started goin’ bad
…sorry, Star Brand. Nothin’ personal.

Yet, when I look back on my misspent youth,
Star Brand’s what I think of, and that’s the plain truth.
It had such potential that only got squandered,
and that there’s a fear that I bet we’ve all pondered.

Jim Mroczkowski heard a Taco Bell commercial on the radio fifteen years ago that has always stuck with him, because in that commercial Shaquille O’Neal was rapping about chalupas, and in so doing found himself having to pronounce “tortilla” so that it rhymed with “Shaquille-a.” Jim Mroczkowski finds himself feeling a certain kinship with Shaq this afternoon. Couplets of praise or haikus of constructive criticism may be transmitted in the appropriate venue.


  1. That was…..awesome. Wow. 

  2. I would like a dramatic reading, please.

  3. Not sure if it’s the Sam Eliot reading, but this sounds awesome. I’m sad I only picked up issue one.

  4. I read this in a slightly different way that the preferred method. I read it in the voice of Johnny Cash, while his backing band played a mean ol country tune in the background. Really fun stuff!

  5. @comicBookchris – I did the same, to the (approximate) tune of "Boy Named Sue." Works out nicely.

  6. Excellent presentation! AlthoughI have to say my opinion is totally opposite. I think the book only got good AFTER Byrne took over.


    Next up I call for an Epic Sonnet dedicated to the wonder that was KICKERS INC.

  7. Wow….This really does work when you think of it as Sam Elliott. Fantastic article.

    Can we bring back the mini’s just this once so we can hear this ala the Beyonder song? 

  8. I remember The Pitt (not to be confused with the Image book), and it is probably one of the most miserable comic book experiences of my life.

  9. Jimski, you have outdone yourself. I totally sang that whole thing out loud here at work.

  10. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Jim, you entertained as you educated and reviewed. Nicely done!

  11. Jimski, you continue to tenderly milk my nostalgia gland.

    After Star Brand*, I spent the next the next 20 years looking for a FWB that quacked like a duck. Comics implanted in my brain the ideal of a perfect woman that real life couldn’t deliver. Disappointment ensued.

    *non-editor’s note: The Star Brand most recently appeared in Warren Ellis’s New Universal.

  12. If you’re wondering what Star-Brand was like, think Greatest American Hero meets Miracleman meets Falcon Crest. If you don’t understand the references then just stay the hell away from me, kid.

  13. It also works if you hear it in your head to the tune of the theme of "The Beverly Hillbillies".

  14. Nine year old me kind of thought those first few issues of the Star Brand were awesome.  

  15. comicBOOKchris & CaseyJustice: Me, too. With cheesy backing vocals going "Star Brand!"

    Good one, jimski. 

  16. As Sam Elliott, "Sometimes you get the Brand, and well, well sometimes the Brand, it gets you."

  17. It’s too bad cowboys don’t cry because if they did, I reckon they’d get a little weepy right about now with that fine tune of yours.

  18. This might be the best thing I have ever read.

  19. Wow.  I had never heard of this book before, but I feel like I should apologize to your childhood, since John Byrne clearly isn’t going to.

    Well played.

  20. No-Prize to anyone who can name the character who brought the Brand over to 616 in the 90’s!

  21. @CaseyJustice, are you looking for Quasar?

  22. I have the original issue #1 of star brand and boy did I love the character. He reminded me alot of myself at the age of 9 (except I didn’t wet the bed) XD. Over the years of rereads I definetly found it more and more absurd how he could bag a hottie like Ducky. (don’t ask)

  23. @powerdad – Ding ding ding!

  24. Hey, I got a "DING, DING. DING"!  Wow! Cool!  Thanks, CaseyJustice!

  25. This book is something that can make us excite. I am hoping for a movie of this though I know that this will need a lot of personal loans for promotion and advertisements.