I Think I Still Prefer Robert Hays

This past month, the Fantastic Fangirls challenged themselves and their readers to try something new.  I decided to give DC’s Starman a go.  I was only familiar with Starman as a guest-star in numerous DC comics that I’ve read over the years (the team-up Starman had with Batman is the one that sticks out in my mind the most), but I’ve heard some good things from various people about the book.  People with fairly varied taste in comics all seem to like Starman…so, what the hell was I waiting for?

I tracked down a copy of Sins of the Father, a trade that collects the first six issues (#s 0-5) of Starman, written by James Robinson, with art by Tony Harris.  Now, while I didn’t really dislike the book, I can honestly say: I just don’t think Starman is for me.


In theory, I should have loved Starman.  Starman is one of DC’s legacy heroes, and I love DC’s legacy heroes.  Whether it’s the Flash family, the Green Lanterns, the Arrow clan…I love ’em all.  But, something about the Knight family just rubs me the wrong way.  Ted Knight was the Golden Age Starman, protector of Opal City.  After he retires, his oldest son David inherits the mantle.  Then there’s Jack, the youngest of the Knight boys.  Jack is a stereotypical ’90s disaffected youth.  He runs a junk shop and doesn’t understand why his older brother runs around in long underwear.  Since this first trade is the origin of Jack as Starman, it doesn’t take long for David to be offed and Jack and his dad to get into that whole “I don’t wanna follow in your footsteps, I want to live my own life!” cliche.  Skip ahead, skip ahead, skip ahead.  Jack accepts his place as his father and brother’s successor and even realizes that when he was a little kid he really idolized his dad and wanted to be Starman.

I think one of the problems I had with Starman is that–at least for the first few issues–none of the Knights were the least bit likable.  In the beginning, Jack was kind of an obnoxious little prick who, whether he did it intentionally or not, never missed a chance to take a dig at his brother’s choice of vocation and, by extension, the work his father did back in the day.  David wasn’t around that long, but he came off as the type to rub his father’s love and attention in Jack’s nose every chance he gets.  And Ted?  Holy Jesus, Ted Knight makes Bruce Wayne look like Father of the Fucking Year.  After David gets killed, someone attacks both Ted and Jack.  Ted ends up in the hospital and, when his surviving son visits him, he basically yells at the kid for boring him with the story of his own survival while poor, poor, Plot Devi–err–I mean, David is dead.  That’s some good parenting right there, kids.

I did, however, really dig The Shade, an immortal shadow-manipulator who’s tangled with both the Silver and Golden Age Flashes before retiring to Opal City.  He’s in Opal because it’s “quiet.”  This is true, in essence.  Several characters mention that Opal City has almost no crime, especially nowhere near as much crime–regular or super–as either Metropolis or Gotham City.  Why, then, does it even need a costumed hero?  Anyway, the Shade just kind of wants to be left alone.  But, if something’s going down that may disturb the peace and quiet of his city, he’ll grab his top hat and walking stick (no shit, he has those) and get his hands dirty, which is how he ends up helping Jack track down the people responsible for his brother’s murder.

Then we have the O’Dares, a family of Irish cops.  The O’Dare brothers–and sister, Hope–have sworn to protect Starman, after Ted saved their father’s life back in the day.  In theory, I dig this kind of honor.  There’s a certain Old World nobility to it…or, maybe it just reminds me of a Wookiee Life Debt.  So, after all is said and done, the characters I like most in Starman are a family of Irish cops and a semi-reformed super-villain.

Maybe, at some point in the future, I’ll revisit Jack Knight and the Starman series.  But, until then, this is the only Starman for me:


2 responses to “I Think I Still Prefer Robert Hays

  1. (I’ve had this in my google reader for too long; sorry for the late comment.)

    I think early Starman by Robinson is a little rocky; I don’t think he quite grasped what he wanted to do with the character and themes yet. I think it’s also important to note that at least a few of your complaints are addressed over time, as the book really becomes about Jack Knight overcoming his selfishness and learning how to become a hero. I think all the characters evolve to a degree. You may want to give it a chance sometime again, especially since I bet the trades are pretty cheap on eBay given the release of the ominboo.

    Regardless, good review.

  2. Thanks, Matt.

    I was pretty sure a lot of what I had issues with gets addressed as the series progressed, which is why I’m not completely against exploring the title again at some later date.

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