Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Starman Omnibus Volume 1

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Size: pages
Price: 49.99

1994 was not a good year for comics.  Any way you analyze it, there wasn't much going on.  It was a couple of years after the Image Comics launch, and while the speculators were still active, and comics sales were  still on the ups, we all know what was looming ahead for the comics industry.  In 1994, I was excited for things like the launch of Generation X – the next X-Men title – the upcoming Age of Apocalypse storyline that would roll through 1995.  I wasn't reading any Spider-Man books at the time, which was lucky because the Clone Saga was just beginning.  I wasn't reading any DC Comics, only Marvel and Image.  I was 17 – young and stupid, as evidenced by the fact that I wasn't reading Starman when it was published by DC Comics in 1994.

Starman was written by James Robinson (currently writing Superman) with art (mostly) by Tony Harris (currently doing art for Ex Machina and the upcoming War Heroes from Image) and I don't remember it launching at all.  I do remember back in the 1990s seeing covers from time to time and being turned off by the painted covers.  It would be years before I would give DC Comics a try, and even more years before I would recognize my enjoyment of the Golden Age heroes of DC Comics, as I read them today in Justice Society of America.  If only my younger, stupider, less mature self had given Starman a chance, he would have been the coolest kid on the block.  But alas, I didn't and now I'm playing catch up.  I had heard of the Starman Omnibus Volume 1 at the beginning of 2008 and was told by many trusted comics advisers that this would be a book I'd have to read, with it collecting the first 16 issues of the series in one hardcover edition.  After a few delays, it's finally upon us and after reading the complete first volume, I don't think there was another option for the July iFanboy Book of the Month.

Starman Omnibus Volume 1 begins with issue #0, a hold over gimmick of the 1990s, but Starman probably goes down in history has having the best issue #0 ever.  It begins with Starman, David Knight, son of the Golden Age Starman Ted Knight being assassinated high above Opal City, his home city that he's sworn to protect.  This is the first strike in an attempt against the original Starman, Ted Knight, by his mortal enemy The Mist.  With Starman dead and chaos erupting across Opal City, Jack Knight, Ted's other son reluctantly takes up the mantle of Starman and that's where the story begins and takes off.   Reading volume 1 of Starman led me to be enraptured by the story, finding myself fascinated by several things.

The first fascinating aspect of Starman I found was the main character of Jack Knight.  Admittedly, to anyone who's read Starman, this is quite an obvious thing to be interested in, but I don't think that lessens the allure for a new reader like myself.  Jack is the type of reluctant hero that we've read many times over, but I have to admit, reading the reluctant hero as James Robinson writes him, was like learning a lesson in how to write the reluctant hero.  A engaging family dynamic places Jack as the "no good" son of Ted Knight.  With his brother as Starman, Jack pursues a life as a store owner, selling antiques and collectibles.  When his brother dies and his father (and home city of Opal City) is attacked by The Mist, Jack is forced into grabbing the cosmic rod and fighting back.  Shunning the traditional costume of Starman, Jack grabs a pair of goggles, a t-shirt and a leather jacket (with a star on the back and a Crackerjack's Sheriff Star on the front), Jack becomes the Starman of the 1990s.  What I found fascinating about Jack was that after the initial fight and his acceptance of becoming Starman, Jack continues his life as "junk dealer."  Never once, with the power of the cosmic rod at his hand, does Jack allow it to go to his head.  He's actually quite grounded and as close to an everyday guy as they come.  This characterization immediately makes Jack both relatable and likable, so much so that I couldn't stop reading the book to see were his adventures would take him. 

The other fascination I had with Starman wasn't so much with a specific character, rather the world of characters around Jack Knight.  Of course there is his wise mentor in his father, Ted.  But we're also provided a rich, eclectic grouping of characters like The Shade, who behind Jack Knight, stands out as the most intriguing and engaging character.  A former Golden Age villain who lives in Opal City and is very protective of it, emerges as an ally, and at no point are we aware quite exactly what his angle is, but apparently he's immortal or at least has been around for a very long time, so long in that in a fill in issue, we see him hanging out with Oscar Wilde in the 1800s in Opal City.

I have to pause for a moment to celebrate the fact that within the first year of this comic being published, there was an entire issue devoted to a supporting character hanging out with Oscar Wilde.  I may not have realized how awesome that was when I was 17, but I sure can appreciate it today.

In addition to Shade, we have a simpler version of Solomon Grundy, who was a character I honestly hadn't expected to show up, and has barely shown to be of any importance in this first volume, but I'm sure that he'll be featured in the collections to come.  And like any classic DC hero, the city in which Starman lives is a character in and of itself.  Opal City is drawn and presented by Tony Harris in an Art Deco style, with a rich thought out history that shows that Robinson was very cognizant of the power of the city behind the hero.  Starman is interesting from an artist endeavor as well, showcasing the early work of Tony Harris, which is very different from his current style as evidenced in the pages of Ex Machina.  In the pages of Starman we get a looser, more cartoony style from Harris, but with hint at the refined style he currently draws in.  If you're a fan of Harris, Starman is absolutely a must have for your library. 

The emergence of the Omnibus from DC Comics is a nice addition to one's library.  While not as oversized or sexy as the Absolute editions, in terms of collecting a classic title in hardcover, I don't see how you can go wrong with this format.  The printing is beautiful, I love a good hardcover, and wow, the cover by Tony Harris captures the spirit of Starman completely.  I am definitely looking forward to the future volumes and having this fantastic series on my shelves for years of enjoyment.

Ron Richards
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I had heard about this book coming for months, but just now read this write-up, and immediately went to amazon and ordered it.  Thanks, Ron!

    I did really enjoy Robinson’s Golden Age, and love Johns’ JSA with its legacy themes, so this seems like a winner for me.

  2. i got this book on amazon a couple of days ago and just loved it

    my favorite issue is the one where everything is black and white except for David(i think it’s #5)

  3. Hey it’s the book of the month for Around Comics AND iFanboy!

  4. Good choice, I just wish I had waited one more week to pick this up so I could get the big discount…ah well…

  5. Starman this….Starman that….

    Starman Starman Starman STARMAN!!!!!

    I cant take it anymore!? If it’s not this site, it’s pulpsecret talking about Starman. If it isnt pulpsecret it’s ign.com If it isnt ign.com it’s some other person telling me to buy Starman!!

    I dont wanna read it, I cant take all the hype anymore….I cant spend anymore money on good books….*goes in fetal position*

  6. This is probably the best selection for book of the month yet.

  7. I picked this up when it came out never having read any Starman but knowing full well how many people loved it.  Turns out I’m pretty much like everyone else.  The early issues didn’t grab me that hard but by the end I was flying through the issues.  I’m sad that the next volume doesn’t come out for quite a while because I’m afraid of losing the momentum you bring by shotgunning 16 issues in a row.

  8. I borrowed almost the entire series in single issue form slowly throughout the last year or two of high school, and it never ceased to amaze. I’ll wait until the price goes down or I find this on sale to buy, though. I’m a cheap bastard.

    So, Absolute editions are sexy now? I must be frequenting the wrong websites. 

  9. do you think this will come out in paperback in a few months?

  10. Man, now I have to get this.

     Great write up BTW Ron.

  11. Posey007 – This "omnibus" format is new for DC.  They’re just starting with it, using it for EX MACHINA and Y THE LAST MAN and GOTHAM CENTRAL and STARMAN as the test beds.  All of these are books with trade paperbacks printed already.

    On the other hand, GC and STARMAN have been out of print, I think.  So it would make sense to stick with these thicker books.

    Then again, DC also announced a new format for TRANSMETROPOLITAN collections last year that still haven’t panned out.  Maybe there’s a TRANSMET Omnibus HC series to come next?

    Crap, I haven’t answered the question yet. I wouldn’t count on there being a STARMAN TPB.  While reaction to STARMAN has been so positive that I have to imagine the sales are strong enough to warrant a TPB collection, I tend to think that sales aren’t going to be so high that DC would bother with a TPB collection that has a smaller profit margin.

    Also, we’ve seen what DC is planning on printing in the TPB and HC formats through Q1 of 2009.  They’re printing volume 2 of STARMAN in HC.  There is no sign of a STARMAN TPB Volume 1.

    I’d buy the HC.

     

  12. thanks augie

  13. I just bought all of the issues. Does the omnibus have much as far as extras go that should convince me to doubledip?

  14. Amazingly enough, I thought I would give Starman a try when it first came out. I was blown away. It is pretty amazing that James Robinson manages to accomplish the kind of super-hero comic that equals a great ensemble dram or sitcom. The characters and city are amazing. My favorite issues are the Talking With David issues. Once a year, David Knight finds Jack. David is all in color, Jack and everything around him are all in black and white. The Times Past issues are pretty cool, too. Except for The Shade/Oscar Wilde issue, I have a seperate stack of both storylines. The Times Past are all in "chronological" order. The only gap of issues I have is the Sandman team-up crossover. I just started getting the trade paperbacks from DCBS. The only added bonus to the first trade paperback was Mike Allred’s introduction, but it was worth it. If you haven’t ordered the Omnibus from DCBS, I would recommend it. Keep looking if you don’t see it right away. You can’t beat 40% off.   

  15. PymSlap (@alaska_nebraska) says:

    So, Wade Von Grawbadger, we meet again . . . 

  16. I never read this series when it first came out, but there’s a really good series of articles that talks about the entire series. From the synopsis alone, I find myself intrigued by this book and I’ll buy it as soon as I get extra cash.

     As for the articles I read last year, check out Scott Tipton’s Comics 101:

    http://www.comics101.com/comics101//?mode=project&action=view&project=Comics%20101&chapter=123 

  17. I’m glad whenever someone mentions Starman, cuz its one of the true masterpieces to come out of the crapfest that was mainstream comics in the early 90’s. It really feels more like a vertigo book or a cool indie comic and the more people reading it the better!!!
     

  18. It’s nice to see Starman getting some love these days. It was one of those books that never had a wasted issue and I always felt like it didn’t get enough recognition. I’m glad I got on that bandwagon when it was still being published.

  19. Just finished this omnibus and everything everyone has said was correct.  Wow was this amazing.  I read through the first 11 issues without even realizing it.  And then the end story was amazing.  Worst part?  The next volume isn’t due out till January…

  20. i just got this today and i am TOTALLY loving it. such a good series. i wish i didnt haveta wait so long for the next volume…..but its definately worth it cuz this is just such an awesome series