There are a few names of living creators that have stood the test of time when it comes to comic books.
Among them is Jim Starlin.
Starlin is a steadfast pioneer (from the early 70s with slated projects reaching shelves as we speak) who has never turned his back on comics and continues to find more stories to tell in a medium in which he believes to be the finest.
In the 70s and 80s, Starlin established himself as the preeminent space saga storyteller, whether it was his methaphysical trips into space (Warlock and Captain Marvel) or the spanning space sagas that are all-or-nothing showdowns (Silver Sufer and Dreadstar).
First and foremost, Starlin is making a step towards establishing his name among today’s comics elite. For those who read Gambit, you will find your favorite Cajun rendered by him on at least two covers so far.
Starlin said he was waiting for pages to come in from an Acclaim project (Unity 2000) and Mike Marts, associate editor for Gambit and a former associate at Acclaim, asked him to do some covers and he obliged.
The next project you should be looking for is The Spaceknights limited series (published this August), story/script by Starlin and story/art by Chris Batista.
Jim said that was yet another happy accident. “I did a few Gambit covers and X-Men pin-ups for him. He had this project going on,” Starlin said, “and to be truthful, I’m just a hired gun.”
Starlin said that Batista had a solid plot for the story and he filled in some structure here and there.
“I came in to do the job of putting the story together so it would work in a comic book,” he said. “I’m adding a few things to it, but it’s not my stuff as much Chris’s.”
The plot centers on the Son of ROM, although, due to copyrights and licensing agreements, ROM is never actually mentioned. “We had to refer to him as Artur the Savior throughout the thing,” Starlin said. “There’s a statue that looks very similar to ROM in the background… [ROM’s son’s] armor looks a lot like ROM, but modified so that there’s no trouble with lawsuits or anything like that. You’d recognize him as the son of ROM.”
Starlin admits to not really knowing much about the silver-plated spaceknight. “I never really thought much about ROM one way or the other,” Starlin admits. “I was sort of getting out of Marvel about the time they were becoming popular. To tell you the truth, I don’t know that much about the characters and I depend upon Chris for background information on it.”
To follow up, Starlin is going to get reconnected with a name he’s made famous: Captain Marvel. In Captain Marvel #11, Starlin is going to add his own definitive style of art to the name he made a name. Starlin said that he enjoys working with Peter David and doesn’t mind just supplying the visuals.
In anticipation of the Avengers Forever maxi-series’ finale, Marvel asked Starlin to helm the new Captain Marvel series. “That I wasn’t really interested in doing,” he said. “I asked to do another project and they said, ‘Why don’t you do this Captain Marvel instead. I said, ‘No, been there, done that. Let’s just forget the whole thing.'”
Almost 20 years of time between the Death of Captain Marvel, Starlin said that Mar-vell remains his favorite character and DOCM his favorite story.
He said that the events surrounding DOCM were a strange mixture of personal and professional.
“Marvel wanted to get rid of [Captain Marvel] because no one knew how to write him,” he said. “I had taken him off into this metaphysical realm and other writers never quite got it.”
Fearing they would lose the name to antiquity, they wished to make a new Captain Marvel (i.e., Monica LeBeau, a.k.a. Photon). Starlin made a deal to do the graphic novel in exchange for Marvel publishing Dreadstar in the Epic line of comic books.
Starlin’s father had also recently died of cancer and he says that writing the graphic novel was a “sort of therapy.”
In the same spacefaring vein, Slave Labor Graphics will be compiling and reprinting the massive Metamorphisis Odyssey, the story that was the prologue to the Dreadstar series and was originally published in Marvel’s Epic Magazine in the early 80s.
Why take a look at the 20-year old sprawling masterpiece?
The story is Starlin at his best. An ancient being named Aknaton is of a race fighting a race called the Zygotians. The Zygotians are ultimate consumers, who take over entire planets, drain them of resources & inhabitants and then ultimately leave them a lifeless husk in space. Aknaton has seeded various races with genetic alterations centuries before in order for them to help him in his quest to fight the Zygotians in the present. The story is about the gathering of these beings and their showdown with the Zygotians. Among those collected is someone Starlin has made famous and been made famous by: Dreadstar.
Starlin admits to some naivite in his writing at the time. In order not to spoil the ending for those who have not read it, Starlin says that his simplified solution to the conclusion of the story was rather “cute in retrospect,” but far from where he is today.
And the artwork is gorgeous here. Starlin used fully painted pages for his art (adding new pages never before seen), something at the time was not all the rage necessarily and over a decade before Alex Ross became a household name. Why was the story painted?
“It was an extension of the art.” Starlin said. “Today, I really see comics much more as a product than it was back in the 70s. There were all these young guys coming in at that point who were coming in to be artists.”
One force maybe not so familiar behind this story is the invisible hand of now-departed Archie Goodwin, the editor-in-chief of Epic at the time.
“There were people who would come in and work for [Archie Goodwin] that wouldn’t work for Marvel,” he said. “There was always a certain group there that thought the Marvel Style was something they would ever touch. With Archie there at the helm, they got to do some experimental stuff and get paid for it.”
Inevitably, Dreadstar will rear his head again as well. Slave Labor will reprinting the entire Dreadstar series in black and white, allowing a new generation to enjoy Starlin’s storytelling.
But soon, Starlin hopes to have a whole new Dreadstar story ready for viewing within the next year. It’s tentatively titled Class Warfare. It’s 25 years after the Bravura Dreadstar mini-series. Vanth Dreadstar has fell out of favor with the planet and starts to wander. He finds a new system run by “vary, unsavory” characters. Dreadstar decides to overthrow the rulers of the system to save it. In the meantime, three genetically altered children (done to save the system) are coming to the same system and will cross paths with Dreadstar. Starlin said he sees it as a six-issue series and hopefully published by Slave Labor.
Though Starlin cringes when he hears it, he has placed himself within the fourth decade of producing comic books. His presence in the medium is explained quite easily.
“I’ve made more money in novels than I did in my entire career in comics. The few years I did novels, they paid off so well, I don’t have to be a slave to doing comics,” Starlin said. “But I’d rather do comics than novels. If I wanted to do it just for the money, I’d run off and do another novel. I just don’t have the juice for it. I’m really not interested in it. It’s a love for what this medium is.” – MDT