It has been called the “ Sandman of superhero comics”. It came out at a time when the only way to read an intelligent, well written comic book was to steer clear of the spandex and capes. It was unique and dealt more with family and legacy than what villain is going to be pounded to a pulp that month. The artwork did not feature characters in tight spandex with lots of pouches, but instead featured art deco stylings and something that could actually be called “cool”. It is one of the most important superhero comics (if not all comics) of all time and is finally being collected in its entirety in a series of omnibuses. It is James Robinson’s Starman.
The character of Starman was not new to the DC Universe at the onset of this book. In fact, there had been several versions over the decades, dating back to the 1940’s. When James Robinson and Tony Harris decided to revamp the character in 1994, they created Jack Knight, the son of the original 1940’s Starman, Ted Knight. This story spun out of Zero Hour, a major DC crossover event which was meant to try once again to fix DC’s continuity problems. It was during this event that Ted Knight retired as Starman and passed along the torch to his son.
The only problem was, Jack did not want to be Starman; he was forced into the role after his older brother was killed. It was this reluctance that gave him a unique spin that has really never been repeated since. This was not a comic book about superheroes; it was a superhero comic book about taking on the family business.
DC’s original collections of Starman were quite poor, with certain issues (dubbed “Times Past”) published separately or not at all. Fortunately, they have finally decided to give the title its due by publishing six hard cover omnibuses, which will collect absolutely everything, including annuals and related miniseries. The first collection introduces us to Jack Knight and his supporting cast, as well as his city, Opal.
It is a comic that is not only important for what it did but also when. At a time when superhero comics were more about the artwork and seeing how many pouches an artist could fit on a costume, James Robinson and Tony Harris came in and did something completely different.
At this point, the only important content missing from the omnibus is the series of prose journal entries that sometimes replaced the monthly book’s letter column. Hopefully these will not be lost, as they were quite interesting and helped make the world of Starman even deeper than it already was. Of course, if DC were to really complete the collection, they would also include the letters column, which were answered by Robinson himself, where he encouraged readers to write in about things they collect or pop culture things they enjoy rather than just praising the comic itself. Sadly, letter columns are nearly always left out of collections, no matter how good or unique they are, so the likelihood of these appearing is highly unlikely. Still, these are small complaints, as the collection looks great and will collect every comic story that Robinson wrote about Starman.
If you were a fan or even if you own all of the trade paperbacks, sell them off and buy this definitive version. If you have never read the series, you owe it to yourself to pick up this new omnibus. It appeals to both those who love superhero comics and those who think they are mindless drivel. It shows what both the medium and the genre are capable of in ways most other titles have not.