WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Justice League #8 by James Tynion IV, Mikel Janín, Jeromy Cox and Tom Napolitano, in stores now.
There have been several DC heroes over the decades who've gone by the Starman moniker, but it's the Will Payton version of the character the current Justice League arc is using. It's not a choice made at random, either, as writer James Tynion IV cites a cosmic fascination as the reason he was chosen.
Well, everything we knew about Payton becoming Starman takes a drastic shift in Justice League #8. While a lot of the fan-favorite character's history is kept intact, Payton's backstory is now changed up regarding the source of his powers, and it seems to have intrinsically tied the hero to the fate of the multiverse.
Created by Roger Stern, Tom Lyle and Bob Smith in 1988, Will Payton was struck by a rogue cosmic beam of energy in the Colorado Rockies after it deflected off a satellite known as the Stellaron-5. He was thought dead, but soon reawakened with powers of flight, invulnerability, the ability to create blasts of energy and mild shapeshifting, all which led to him becoming a Superman-like figure in Starman. He'd go on to help the Man of Steel and the League, before it was revealed his energy source was actually the essence of an alien prince named Gavyn (a previous Starman), leaving both him and Will jostling to dominate the body hosting them.
However, we can scratch all this from DC lore, or at least most of it.
Justice League #8 reveals the rogue cosmic energy beam was actually part of the Totality (an energy source that acts as a battery of creation), ripping through space and time. It struck the Stellaron-5 and then hit Will, turning him into a superhero as we already knew. But now, a time traveling Lex Luthor kidnaps and tortures him, extracting information on the Totality and equipping the villain with the cosmic knowledge to try to own and harness the Totality's power.
Eventually, Will escaped Lex's imprisonment, found the League and allowed Martian Manhunter to probe his mind so they could get on the same mental level as Lex. This is something Vandal Savage achieved and which the Flash was privy to recently. And like the latter, it seems Will didn't know how to process the information, or he may not have even known he held secrets which could reshape reality. One has to wonder if the conniving Lex tricked a mind-wiped Will into thinking he escaped, so he can act as an unwitting trojan horse to help Lex steal the Totality. After all, if you escape Lex's clutches, chances are he let you go as part of a bigger plan.
In Will's original origin, the mysterious engineers who were in the Utah base in charge of the Stellaron-5 were trying to create a new race of Supermen. In the current Justice League series, this same society still existed in the past, but were led by Lionel (Lex's dad). They're tied to the mysterious Legionnaires club where Lex found the cosmic doorknob that set him off on this journey, so it seems this shady cadre is also being rejiggered along with Payton's origin story.
How they're tied to Will in the aftermath of his "birth" is something that will surely be explored in future issues. The old stories had them hunting him down, so it's likely they monitored him before Lex got involved. Given their old ambition of creating super soldiers to control, there's also the possibility they, and Will, could be linked to Doomsday Clock's Superman Theory the United States has purportedly been implementing to become the ultimate world power.
Could Starman have been the early template for this project? We don't yet know, but what's for certain is that Will's origin is set to impact the DCU, big time, redefining him as someone who went from just another superhero, to quite possibly one of the keys to saving a dying multiverse.