My association with Starman goes back to 1974. I remember reading both “The Case of the Camera Curse!” (Adventure Comics #66) and “The Menace of the Invisible Raiders” (#67, first appearance of Starman’s arch villain The Mist) reprinted in two of those “100-Page Super-Spectaculars.” Unfortunately, Starman became one of those characters (along with Doll Man, Kid Eternity and Blackhawk) whose stories I would read only once as a kid. I didn’t think too much (or too often) about Starman for the next two decades, not until James Robinson’s post-Zero Hour series.
A couple of years after that series began, I responded to an ad in Comics Buyer’s Guide from a seller looking to get rid of a book I wanted. When I got in touch with him and discovered he lived only a half hour or so away, we decided to meet in person. He was in his 70s and was a big fan of the Justice Society of America having read their adventures in All-Star Comics during his boyhood. He was aware of Starman’s new popularity, but was unwilling to concede that there was anything special or overlooked in the Golden Age stories.
A couple of years later, DC released the first (of two) Golden Age Starman archives and I was able to read for myself that his assessment was correct. The stories were very well-drawn (by artist Jack Burnley), but they were deadly slow-moving, almost like drawing room dramas with a brightly-clad super-hero. Starman wasn’t given much of an origin in his first story (Adventure Comics #61), just a single page (a single panel, really) in which he reveals: “For thousands of years, man have spoken of the mysterious powers of the stars—but I am the first to discover that radiated starlight can be harnessed and used scientifically.” Starman’s complete origin story would not to be told until All-Star Squadron #41, but honestly, there’s nothing there that an imaginative kid of the ‘40s (or adult of any decade) couldn’t have figured out for himself. In his introduction to Golden Age Starman Archives v1, even Jack Burnley admitted: “I hope comics readers will give him a better reception in 2000 than he got from the kids nearly sixty years ago. The many followers of the ‘new’ Starman series can now see how he got his start.” My favorite stories of Ted Knight, the original Starman, are his three team-ups with the Black Canary (the third of which was revealed decades after the fact).
The first two were presented in The Brave & the Bold #61 and #62 (1965) by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. Inspired by the new series, I bought the first of these as a backissue sometime between 1994 and 1997. [I didn’t notice until yesterday that B&B #61 incorporated the exact same origin panel from Adventure Comics #61.] Even though both characters were married at the time, it wasn’t too much of a reach to extrapolate that Starman and Black Canary were having sex “off panel.” My suspicions were confirmed in Starman Annual #2 (1997)… although how Jack Knight found out about it I have no idea.
I find it interesting how many Starmrb DC has has over the years. The legacy ones like the Knights make sense, but also giving it to unrelated guys like Mikaal Tomas and Will Payton. Was the name just too tempting to abandon? Was it done for trademark reasons? Now I'm curious.
I always assumed it was trademark reasons, Randy, but I don't know that for a fact.
Two other minor names DC keeps resurrecting are Huntress and Manhunter. Neither has as many uses as Starman, but they're up there.