Nearly twenty years ago, for no better reason than it amused me, and without thought of publication for there was nowhere to publish it then, I wrote the following piece about Starman, as things stood about 2001. It’s sat on my laptop(s) ever since, taking up pixels. I recently rediscovered it, and, realising I’d never posted it anywhere, decided to repair that omission. I have neither updated nor ‘improved’ it in any way, the latter of which may be fairly easy to tell, but it has been very mildly revised, but not in any way as to make me look any cleverer than I was then.
When, in 1956, editor Julius Schwartz agreed to revive The Flash, on condition he was allowed to start afresh with the character, it marked a subtle but signal change in the nature of superhero comics. Since that date, primarily at DC but throughout the superhero industry, characters have become virtual franchises, secret identities coming and going, with only the name eternal.
The development was inevitable, in retrospect. If the mask is the face, what then the importance of the face behind the mask? Soon, even those characters who lack a mask, who are nothing but themselves, and their own name, become only the progenitor of a tradition.
When, in 1996, John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake introduced the new Mr Terrific in the pages of The Spectre, they completed a cycle that, surprisingly, had taken fully 40 years. Michael Holt’s appropriation of the long-gone identity of the late Terry Sloane marked the point at which an entire shadow Justice Society of America, composed entirely of the heirs in the mask of its members, could have been compiled.
If some of those successors were no longer able to play their roles at that time, it is of little matter: each JSA member had had his or her second.
Of those fifteen acknowledged JSA members from the Golden Age, none has had more successors than Starman: the Astral Avenger may have come late to the game, lasting almost 20 years after Showcase 4 before spawning an attempt to flesh out the name, but he has been busy ever since, especially in the last half dozen years.
Writer James Robinson and artist Tony Harris produced a new Starman series which commenced in 1994, in the wake of Zero Hour. It not only drew the four existing Starmen into one single, comprehensible mythos, but added no less than four others to the lineage. Indeed, it’s not too far to go to suggest that Robinson added two more names, future bearers of the line. Though it’s not usual to count future-versions as part of the canon, unless and until the current holder leaves his post, on this occasion it’s appropriate to say that Starman has reached double figures in identities.
Or is it?
The beauty of Robinson’s run has been the elegance with which a mythos has been created. So, paying parallel attention to narrative chronology and the official history as woven together by Robinson, let us examine the Starman dynasty.
The first Starman was Ted Knight, who made his debut in Adventure in 1940, and who was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Jack Burnley. Starman appeared in Adventure until 1946 when his series was dropped. He became a member of the Justice Society of America in unknown circumstances prior to All Star 8, and left, again in unknown circumstances, following All Star 23.
Ted Knight was a socialite, scientist and amateur astronomer, who discovered a source of energy emanating from the stars. Working with Professor Davies, Ted built a device to trap, contain and direct the energy, which he named the Gravity Rod. Using the Gravity Rod, Ted could fly, and could project force fields and force beams, comprised of light and heat. He used these powers to fight evil as Starman.
Needless to say, the bare bones of this origin have been fleshed out down the years. It has been established that Ted built the Gravity Rod on his own, having allowed the claim that Professor Davies was the inventor to disseminate in order to draw attention away from Ted Knight. He had no reason, as such, for becoming a costumed mystery-man, no deaths to avenge etc: he simply did it because it was right.
In the Forties, Ted used to pose as a bored hypochondriac, to accentuate the difference between himself and Starman, in case his absence was remarked upon when the latter was around. His long-term girl-friend, Doris Lee, was the niece of famous G-Man Woodley Allen, who was able to contact Starman with a flare pistol. Starman was given no home base but, in Robinson’s series, it has been clearly established that he lived and fought in Opal City, where his father had been a successful industrialist.
Starman joined the JSA as replacement for Hourman, who had taken ‘leave of absence’. For decades it was assumed that the changeover reflected the cancellation of the latter’s series in Adventure when he was actually forced out by the demand to give Starman – who was expected to be as popular as Superman and Batman – as much exposure as possible. No contemporaneous explanation for the change was given, and it was left to Roy Thomas in All Star Squadron Annual 3 (1984), to provide an account.
In that story, Starman was shown as brash, self-confident, convinced he deserved to be a JSA member, but unable to contact them. Whilst patrolling, he sees, and trails, Hourman, and is thus on hand to pull the latter’s chestnuts out of the fire when his powers fail in battle. Starman accompanies Hourman on the rest of the mission, and is thus showered with Ian Karkull’s chronal radiation, which has the effect of slowing his ageing processes. When Hourman seeks leave of absence to work on the problems with his Miraclo pill, he nominates Starman as his replacement.
Starman was a JSA member for 16 issues, departing abruptly after issue 23, along with the Spectre. This change was enforced by the decision of All-American Publications to sever relations with Detective Comics, Inc., and go it alone. Starman, a Detective Comics character, had thus to be dropped: at least two stories had already been completed featuring him, and Green Lantern was drawn in over Starman (except that in two panels of All Star 26, by an oversight, Green Lantern is shown wielding Starman’s Gravity Rod instead of his own Power Ring!)
No internal explanation was given, and this was again left to Thomas, in the 1985 America versus the Justice Society mini-series to have Starman claim that he retired at that time because of a promise made to his (unidentified) wife, who feared for his life: his return to action in later years was said to have been after her death.
The first Starman returned to action in 1964, in the second JLA/JSA team-up, in Justice League of America 29/30, before going on the following year to share two issues of Brave & Bold, teaming up with Black Canary: their first meeting had, apparently, been in the JLA team-up, she having started her career after Starman’s retirement from comics.
Little was done with Starman after his return in the Sixties. He had up-graded his Gravity Rod, and re-named it the Cosmic Rod: it was now, in effect, a more scientific version of Green Lantern’s Power Ring. There was no sign of Doris Lee, and no personal development for Ted Knight until James Robinson first wrote about him in the mini-series The Golden Age in 1993.
By then, no less than three other Starmen had been tried out by DC. Before carrying on with Ted Knight’s story, let’s briefly review each of these three.
The second Starman had the briefest of careers, appearing and disappearing in a single issue: First Issue Special 12 in 1975. This title was a latter day Showcase equivalent, presenting one-off concepts which (despite the implications of the title) were never seriously intended as on-going series, but instead a series of No. 1 issues.
This Starman was Mikaal Tomas, a blue-skinned alien who fired power blasts from a crystal on a chain around his neck. He was part of an alien force massing on the dark side of the Moon, intent on invasion and conquest but, touched by a conscience alien to his race, Mikaal chose to use his powers to defend Earth, and turned renegade.
The third Starman followed in 1980, the creation of writer Paul Levitz and artist Steve Ditko. Like Ted Knight, he appeared in Adventure, debuting in 467 as one of two new series created when the title slimmed down from Dollar size to the ordinary 32 pages.
Prince Gavyn, an indolent young man, was one of two heirs to a Galactic Empire whose custom was to put surplus heirs to death. Gavyn assumed he would take the throne and commute the sentence on his sister: she was chosen and refused to tamper with tradition. Gavyn was thrown from a spacecraft, but somehow survived and was vested with cosmic powers, which he projected by means of a wooden staff.
Eventually, Gavyn saved his sister’s life and took over the Empire, but in Crisis on Infinite Earths, when his planet faced the wave of anti-matter, he went out to battle it and perished.
The fourth Starman was created in 1988 by writer Roger Stern and artist Tom Lyle in his own series, the first to bear the title Starman. He was Arizonan Will Payton, a long-haired young man who was struck by a bolt of energy accidentally projected from a satellite which had been built to attract that energy. Peyton derived tremendous energy powers, enabling him to fly, project power blasts and also change his features.
His series was, frankly, pretty ropey, and though it sold well enough to last four years, it was never a particularly good seller. In issues 26 and 27, Stern addressed the fact that Peyton had, effectively, stolen the Starman name without having any right to it, by introducing David Knight, son of Ted.
David Knight had supposedly been in Europe and was planning to launch his career as Starman, in succession to his father (who had now died, apparently, of natural causes, which was at odds with the fact that Starman was, as we will see, supposedly alive in limbo with the exiled JSA), when he learned of Peyton’s use of the name. Encouraged by his personal trainer Murph, David challenged Peyton to a duel for the right to the name. Peyton didn’t want to fight: he hadn’t chosen the name Starman, it had been given him by the Press (again), and he hadn’t known there’d been a previous Starman – or even a JSA! But the fight was engineered by Murph, who was really Ted Knight’s old enemy the Mist in disguise, out to steal both Starman’s power in order to become Nimbus, a sort of thinking cloud.
Both Starmen, but principally Payton, defeated the Mist, and David withdrew his claim, on the twin grounds that Payton clearly deserved it more and that his one and only Star Sceptre – as Stern unnecessarily and inexplicably renamed the Cosmic Rod – had been destroyed.
Peyton’s series was cancelled in 1992 and the fourth Starman sacrificed his life to take down Eclipso, God of Rage, in that year’s crossover series, Eclipso: The Darkness Within.
Before turning to Robinson’s long efforts to draw every aspect of Starman into a seamless whole, let us bring Ted Knight’s pre Zero Hour appearances up to date.
The Crisis on Infinite Earths crushed the former Multiverse into a single Universe, in which the JSA had been the heroes of another generation, not another world. In its immediate wake, DC made the first of several efforts to dispose of the JSA for good: in the course of a badly-written and even more badly-drawn adventure, they were drawn into a limbo dimension where, magically rejuvenated, they took on the roles of the Teutonic Gods in staving off Gotterdammerung, forever.
It is this that occupied the first Starman’s time whilst the Will Payton Starman was active: the advice David Knight had that his father was dead could well have been official disinformation about his true fate, which was not properly known to the outside world, but that’s not how it was presented.
A 1990 mini-series set in the previously unexplored era of 1950 showed the JSA facing up against Vandal Savage: Ted Knight, Director of a New Mexico Observatory, is injured and seemingly crippled in the first issue, after which he forced to work for Savage: in the final issue of eight, he returns to action as Starman, to defeat the villain, after which he proposes a return to active duty and the JSA, though this never comes about.
This was followed by a 10 issue series in 1992, ended by possibly premature cancellation. The JSA, released from limbo by a swap with the Crisis leftover Harbinger, retain some but not all of their mystical rejuvenation, and return to action. Ted Knight sits it out, returning to his Observatory, until the last two issues, when his scientific Cosmic Rod is required to defeat the magics of Kulak.
Starman next appeared in 1993’s The Golden Age, a four issue prestige format series written by James Robinson and drawn by Paul Smith. Originally intended as a revision of DC’s post-War continuity, the series was shifted to an Elseworlds project – an intermittent series where familiar heroes are set in a different context – though Robinson chose to stay very close to the ‘real’ world. The effect was that anything ‘established’ in The Golden Age would not have an effect in the mainstream continuity.
The story covered the period from 1946 to January 1950. The War is over and the troops are coming home. Costumed mystery-men, kept out of the War by first Roosevelt’s Presidential Decree, then Truman’s reservations about them, are eclipsed, many of them going into retirement. One previously second rate hero, Tex Thompson, aka Mr America, the Americommando, is lionised: he had gone underground in the SS, and killed Hitler in his bunker in the final days of the War in Europe.
Thompson parlays his popularity into a political career, entering the Senate as a virulent Red-baiter. He heads a project to create a new superhero, one going unmasked, unlike the others, who he attacks, one who will be an American figurehead: Dynaman.
Eventually, the heroes discover Thompson to be the Ultra-Humanite, an evil scientist and old Superman foe, whose technique is to transplant his brain into different bodies. Dynaman is also a transplant – he has Hitler’s brain. In a climactic battle in Washington at the very dawn of the Fifties, Thompson and Dynaman are killed, but several heroes die.
Starman comes into the story in the first and final issues. In the first, he is in a sanatorium. Before the war, Ted Knight had corresponded with Einstein on various theories: some of Einstein’s calculations had gone into creating the Gravity Rod, some of Ted’s into creating the Atom Bomb. Unable to bear the weight of guilt for his part in that, Ted suffered a nervous breakdown. By day he is old before his time, apologetic, weeping, broken: at night, under starlight, he feverishly computes and calculates.
By the final part, he has recovered his reason, and is brought to the final battle as a would-be saviour, physically out of condition but wielding the first, quarter-staff sized Cosmic Rod: it is broken easily, and Starman knocked out, but the shard of the Cosmic Rod is used to kill Dynaman at the end.
In a final sweep-up, Ted is shown to have fully recovered, to have married a plain girl with a great sense of humour.
Lastly came Zero Hour itself, DC’s final serious attempt to dispose of its septuagenarian heroes. Extant kills two members of the JSA and ages the rest, removing all their immunities to the passage of time. Starman remains hale and healthy, but lacks the reactions, physical or mental, to intervene. Recognising the end of his career, at the Hospital waiting for word on two more friends (one dead, one recovering), he greets his two sons. He hands his Cosmic Rod to the elder, David: the younger, Jack, wants nothing to do with it.
Thus we reach James Robinson’s Starman series.
The second Starman series ran for 81 issues (0-80), written by James Robinson and drawn by Tony Harris (approx. 40 issues) and Peter Snejberg (approx. 30 issues). It began immediately after Zero Hour, with the fifth Starman, David Knight, about to go on patrol less than a week into his career, being mocked by his younger brother Jack. David Knight is shot and killed that night, as the prelude to a crimewave sponsored by Ted Knight’s arch-enemy, the Mist: Jack Knight, despite his disdain for the Starman tradition, finds himself forced to take up the Cosmic Rod, first to avenge his brother’s death and then on a full-time basis as the sixth Starman.
The remainder of the series dealt with Jack’s career: his growth, reluctant but sure, into the role, his understanding of the Starman tradition and, finally, his retirement when he becomes responsible for his own son, and his forthcoming daughter.
Early in the series, we learn of another Starman, a mystery figure generally referred to as the Starman of 1951, who appeared in Opal, wearing an orange and yellow costume, fighting crime during one of Ted’s absences through break-down, and who was last seen on New Year’s Day 1952. This Starman is therefore the second Starman, moving everyone else but Ted up a place, and making Jack the seventh.
No-one knows anything about the second Starman, although Ted, in issue 62, admits to knowing more than he’s let on, thanks to Jack: Jack’s final adventure, in issues 77-79, takes him back to 1951 to learn the mystery Starman’s identity: he discovers that there were actually two 1951 Starmen, bumping the line up even further! Thus Jack is the eighth.
In addition, Robinson introduces two new figures to the lineage. The first is the Starman to come, Danny Blaine. Blaine is established as Jack’s successor, not immediately, but very soon after Jack ceases to be Starman: he will go on to be one of the legendary holders of the name, spoken of with similar reverence to Ted.
He is, in fact, Thom Kallor of the 30th Century, aka Star Boy of the Legion of Super Heroes. Jack, displaced in time, meets Thom in the future in issues 49-50. The Shade, an immortal villain who plays a connecting role in much of Robinson’s series, reveals to Thom that, after Jack has ended his duties, Thom will go back in time to become Starman, adopting the name Danny Blaine to hide his true identity from his younger future self until the time came for him to learn it. Thom is afraid of his future: he knows Danny Blaine’s career, including when and how he will die.
When the series ends, Blaine has still not materialised, but he appears in issues 79-80 when he arrives to retrieve Jack from 1951 and return him to his present day: it is Blaine’s last duty after a long, hard life. When he returns to his own time, it will be the day before his death.
This future Starman was Robinson’s present to the DC universe, to be taken up as and when someone wished to do their own Starman series: because of his association with a long-standing DC character, and his intrusion into this time period, he should be regarded as the ninth Starman.
Or should that be tenth? In issue 80, Jack left his role, for good, handing over his Cosmic Rod to, of all people, teenager Courtney Whitmore, the new Star-Spangled Kid. Courtney, created by Geoff Johns and Lee Moder, had had her own short-lived series between 1999-2000 (15 issues) and was a member of the new JSA. She had the Cosmic Converter Belt of the original Star-Spangled Kid, Sylvester Pemberton Jr, who had been transplanted from the Forties to modern times. The Belt had been created by Ted Knight as a another way of using his Cosmic power, and indeed at one point Pemberton had briefly considered adopting the name Starman, before recognising the need for it to stay in the Knight family. Instead, he had become Skyman, and subsequently been killed.
Courtney had been joined by Jack in her debut adventure, and was nominated for JSA membership by him when his own commitments prevented him from being more than a reservist. During the Sins of Youth crossover, all the adult JSAer’s became children and Courtney an adult, using the Cosmic Rod as Starwoman until the crisis was over.
With the clearest possible intimation that Courtney will become Starwoman when she reaches adulthood, Jack bequeathed her the Rod. On this ground, we would perhaps recognise Courtney’s future role as being the ninth Starman, so to speak.
Thus we at last begin…
In 1938 or 1939, Ted Knight, son of Henry Knight, of Knight Industries, Opal City, discovers a source of cosmic energy emanating from the stars, and sets to work trying to contain and use it. In late 1939, after the outbreak of war in Europe, he applies for a military grant to pursue his work, but despite advice and support from New York Industrialist Wes Dodds (his future JSA colleague, Sandman), is unsuccessful.
The following year, he succeeds in building the first Gravity Rod. Excited by the number of costumed mystery men springing up all across America, he designs a striking red and green costume and takes to the night skies of Opal as Starman. He will be Opal City’s protector for the next 45 years, with intervals.
During the Forties, Ted conceals his secret identity by posing as a bored hypochondriac. Despite this, he forms a long-term relationship with Doris Lee. As Starman, Ted establishes a close working relationship with Opal City’s Police, in particular Inspector (later Commissioner) “Red” Bailey, and Patrolman Billy O’Dare.
In 1941, Starman joins the JSA, replacing Hourman, presumably in similar circumstances to those previously established. It is assumed he gains longevity courtesy of Karkull’s radiation, as before.
Starman serves as an active member of the JSA until 1944. As a scientific rationalist, he is one of the few people to deny that his colleagues Dr Fate and the Spectre use magic: Ted believes that they manipulate a form of energy as yet undiscovered by science, but subject to discoverable principles. In 1944, he encounters Etrigan the Demon when battling Nazi saboteurs: Ted’s inability to account for the demon makes the first crack in his belief system.
The following year, Starman witnesses the power of the Atom Bomb for the first time. Unable to bear the weight of knowing that he has contributed, in some small part, to creating this immense, barely controllable form of energy, Ted suffers a nervous breakdown in 1946. He leaves the JSA and is in and out of sanatoria for the next five years. In between times, he continues to serve in Opal.
It is not known whether the encounter with Vandal Savage in 1950 now takes place. The battle against Thompson and Dynaman in Washington is not an official part of Starman’s history, but early in Robinson’s series, Ted alludes briefly to the January 1950 battle, suggesting that some version of it took place.
Early in 1951, Ted’s long-term girlfriend Doris Lee uncovers his secret identity. Shortly thereafter, she is murdered by an unknown assailant. Ted suffers a further breakdown, this time exacerbated by a hatred of Starman and his costume.
Dr Charles McNider removes to Opal and creates the identity of the second Starman. McNider is better known as Ted Knight’s JSA colleague Dr Mid-Nite: his own home city having been calmed, McNider transfers his attentions to Opal to fill-in for his fallen comrade. Out of respect for Knight’s condition, he adopts a radically different orange and yellow costume, and enlists the assistance of minor superheroes to create technology that hides the fact he is blind, which would give his identity away to Ted.
McNider operates as “the Starman of 1951” for between nine and ten months of that year. In or about October, he meets a stranger dressed in Starman’s costume: this is David Knight, displaced in time from 1994. David is unaware of his death, or that he has been transferred to 1951 by the late Kent (Dr Fate) Nelson (who is able to take advantage of Jon Valor’s curse, which has prevented the soul of anyone dying in Opal City from going to its rest).
Shortly thereafter, McNider leaves, to return to his home city to deal with issues arising there. (These issues are not identified but are believed to arise from Dr Mid-Nite having been identified as having brought down, and killed, the Spider, a supposed superhero in Keystone City exposed as a crimelord: the Shade was responsible for the Spider’s demise, having acted to protect his friendly foe, the Flash, and deal with a member of a family pursuing a vendetta against him: to conceal his involvement from the remainder of the super-villain community he left clues suggesting Mid-Nite’s responsibility).
David Knight takes over as Starman, becoming the third Starman.
Between Christmas and New Year, Jack Knight, having recently determined to retire as Starman, is sent back in time by the late Kent Nelson, for purposes unknown. He encounters David, learning his and McNider’s secret, and assists David and Hourman against a plot by The Mist. Jack tells David of his future death. Both conceal their parentage from Ted: however, Ted sees a clue overlooked by the boys, which requires him to resume his Starman costume, to prevent the Mist escaping. The Mist is revealed as responsible for Doris Lee’s death.
On New Year’s Day, 1952, Jack persuades Ted to go to a party, unaware that this is where Ted meets Adele Doris Drew – David and Jack’s mother – who would otherwise have left Opal City for good. David disappears, his time up, the Starman of 1951 disappearing as mysteriously as he appeared. Jack leaves Ted a lengthy secreted note explaining everything: by inference from comments made by Ted a short time before his death, we are led to believe Ted did discover the note.
Jack is returned to his present by the Starman to come, Danny Blaine, aka Thom Kallor. Blaine is much older than when Jack met him as Kallor: he is performing his last act in returning Jack to 2001: when he returns to his own time, it will be to the day before his death.
Ted resumes his career as Starman, but does not return to the JSA: in 1951 they face a Congressional Committee manipulated behind the scenes by Vandal Savage, who uses the Red Menace to cast suspicion upon costumed and masked heroes. Affronted by the demand that they unmask to allow themselves to be investigated, the Justice Society retires and disappears into private life.
With very few exceptions, costumed heroes disappear. Some, like the Jester, who assists Starman in Opal City on one occasion, simply retire having grown too old. Many are forced into retirement by Congress fuelled public opinion.
Ted Knight continues to act. In Opal, he has the support of the Police and the public, and can ride out most storms in public opinion.
In the 1960’s, he teams up with Black Canary, one of the later heroes. The association becomes personal and the heroes have a brief affair, which ends because both love their spouses. The decision is very timely in Ted’s case: the following day Adele announces she is pregnant with David.
Four years later, Jack is born, taking more after his mother. Adele falls ill however, early in Jack’s life and, after a spell in a nursing home, dies when he is still a young child. Ted is left to bring both boys up alone whilst continuing his career. At some point, his identity becomes generally known in Opal.
In or about 1974, Mikaal Tomas arrives on the dark side of the Moon as part of an alien invasion fleet from Talok IV. Mikaal is selected to wield an energy crystal, which is tuned to his nervous system. Affected by the pacifist instincts of his girl-friend, he turns against his people and descends to Earth to defend the planet against attack. After a few forays, the attacks cease. Later, Mikaal learns that a threat to the home planet, which was destroyed, forced the fleet to scatter.
Deprived of any purpose, Mikaal begins to battle crime, meeting both the JSA’s Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. Some people call him Starman: he is the fourth. He drifts, satisfying himself with discos, casual sex and drugs, until he barely knows his own purpose. Half attracted by another Starman, he arrives in Opal City in 1976. There he confronts the last survivor of his race: in mental battle he kills his attacker, only to find that the crystal is now seared into his flesh.
After the battle, he is kidnapped and drugged. He spends the next twenty years or so in captivity, a freak exhibit passed between eccentric collectors, until he is taken by Bliss, an incubus posing as a circus owner, feeding off pain and terror. Mikaal, his memory lost, is exhibited as the Cosmic Geek.
At some unknown point in the Seventies, Prince Gavyn becomes the fifth Starman, enjoying an identical career as previously shown. Becoming Emperor, he marries his childhood sweetheart, Merria, and proves to be a wise and beloved ruler.
Approximately ten years before the current day, the new age of heroes begins with the appearance of Superman. The period from 1951 and the effective end of the first superheroic generation has never been adequately defined: indeed, with every year it gets longer! There have been suggestions of other groups of heroes at different times, but officially, the canonical current day DC Universe has occurred in the last ten years.
A new generation of heroes arises, some – Flash, Green Lantern, Black Canary – adopting the names of heroes of the past. A new team, the Justice League of America, the first of several incarnations, emerges. The JSA emerges formally from its long retirement, although some of its members have been active for longer or shorter periods in the interval.
Faced with a threat that requires a weapon devised by a member of the Seven Soldiers of Justice, the JLA and JSA team up to rescue its members, cast into time and lost in the late Forties. Sylvester Pemberton Jr, the Star Spangled Kid, still a teenager, resumes his heroic career. At approximately the same time, Ted breaks his leg in battle against The British Bat: whilst recuperating, he loans his Cosmic Rod to the Kid, who later works with him to apply the technology to a Cosmic Converter Belt.
Ted is dissatisfied with both his sons: David, away at College, has little contact with home, Jack, still at home, is a surly and unfriendly rebel. Whilst Sylvester’s belt is being repaired, the new Icicle attacks Opal and he borrows the Cosmic Rod to defeat him. Ted asks him to keep the Rod, and take the name Starman but though Sylvester is tempted, he recognises the potential within Jack and refuses. He becomes Skyman, thanks to a chance remark by Jack. Sylvester dies in action without Ted seeing him again.
About five years ago, the Earth is attacked from the Anti-Matter dimension by a powerful being called the Anti-Monitor, an event that is known as ‘The Crisis’. In its wake, the JSA, including Starman, are called upon to enter Limbo to prevent an attack by mystical beings. They are mystically rejuvenated. Meanwhile, on Earth, only Dr Fate is aware of the true fate of the JSA: the member’s families are given no news and are led to believe the heroes are dead. Jack remains convinced his father is still alive.
As the Crisis reaches its peak, the wall of antimatter approaches Throneworld. Gavyn prepares to face it, rejecting Merria’s attempts to persuade him to flee with her. He is afraid of death, but his duty is to his people, who cannot flee. He faces the anti-matter and is destroyed by it: scant seconds later, thanks to the efforts of the heroes on distant Earth, the anti-matter disperses. Gavyn is hailed as a hero by his people, who believe his sacrifice to have been the cause when, if he had delayed even a half minute longer with Merria, he would have survived.
Shortly after the Crisis, Arizonan Will Payton is struck by a bolt of energy that transforms him into a cosmically powered hero. The press give him the name of Starman, making him the sixth. Payton operates mainly in the South West for two or three years. He fights mainly costumed villains, and does well, but is very little regarded.
David Knight, returning from Europe accompanied by personal trainer Andy ‘Murph’ Murphy, prepares to take Ted’s place as Starman. He is enraged to discover Payton already has the name and challenges him to a duel over the right to be Starman. But David is under the hypnotic influence of Murph, who is secretly the Mist: the clash generates energy that the Mist attempts to use for himself, but the two Starmen defeat him. David is clearly inadequate against Payton and concedes. Seemingly resigned, he secretly seethes.
Three years ago, the JSA return from Limbo. They retain some, but not all of the vigour of their rejuvenation, and some return to action. Ted returns to duty in Opal, but doesn’t take account of the wider picture until the JSA are called together during the “Zero Hour” crisis. They confront Extant, who defeats them easily, stripping their rejuvenations from them. Recognising that he is now too old to act as Starman, Ted resigns his role to David, who becomes the seventh Starman.
David is active as Starman for less than a week before he is shot and killed. Unknown to anyone at that time, his soul is caught by an ages old curse made by Jon Valor, when Opal was still Port O’Souls: the curse traps all souls dying in Opal, until proof of Valor’s innocence be found. This enables the late Kent Nelson to use his magics to grant David two favours: the first sends him back to Opal in 1951, where he meets McNider and enjoys his own brief spell of duty as the third Starman, the second enables him to contact Jack, or later Mikaal once a year.
David’s death, and an attack that injures Ted, forces the unwilling, disdainful Jack to take up the Cosmic Rod, although his is the quarter staff length Rod developed by Ted in 1950: he feels an affinity for that. Having ended the crimewave and avenged David’s death by killing his murderer – Kyle, son of the Mist – Jack agrees to become Starman on condition Ted begins developing his cosmic energy for general and public uses.
Though Jack becomes the eighth Starman, he plans not to actually do anything unless it’s forced on him. Ted, however, knows that the life forces itself on you.
Jack discovers Mikaal in a circus and frees him, bringing him home to Ted to study. At the same time, he bumps into an aggressive woman, Sadie Falk, who later becomes his girlfriend.
The Mist’s daughter Nash, initially stammering and hesitant, becomes harsh and purposeful, blaming Jack for her brother’s death. She sponsors a crime wave during which Jack and Mikaal are captured. Mikaal rescues himself by what seems to be a final, cathartic use of his powers: they restore his pre-1976 memories. Jack is raped whilst drugged: Nash becomes pregnant and uses the knowledge of the baby boy against Jack.
Jack grows steadily more confident and used to being, and thinking of himself as Starman. Each year, in an unexplained fashion, he meets David. (It should be noted that two timescales are at work here: Robinson treats each year Starman is published as being a year of time in the story, although that is an impossibility in the overall timescale supposed to apply to the DC Universe).
He gradually forms an uneasy alliance with the Shade, a former villain. The Shade, whose real name is Richard Swift, was born in England in the early Nineteenth Century, and gained dark powers and immortality in about 1841. He has been amoral, and a supervillain, but he has lived in Opal since the late Nineteenth Century, loves the City and is scrupulous not to commit crimes there.
The Shade was a close friend of the late Opal Sheriff Brian ‘Scalphunter’ Savage, who promised on his death to return. The Shade initially considers Jack as a reincarnate Savage, but later identifies Savage with Matt O’Dare, third son of the late Billy, and like his father and his four siblings, an Opal cop. Matt is a dirty cop, until his recognition of his past life as Savage: the Shade assists him in recreating his life.
Eventually, Sadie reveals herself to be Jane Sadie Payton, sister of Will, who she believes still to be alive. She originally got close to Jack to ask him to search for Payton, but surprised herself by falling in love with him, and Jack with her. Jack agrees and, with Mikaal, sets off into space.
En route, the Starmen are transported 1,000 years into the future, to the Thirtieth Century, where they meet Thom Kallor, Star Boy of the Legion. They assist him to penetrate and disperse a cloud of blackness which is the Shade’s shadow, out of control as a result of something done in the late Twentieth Century. The Shade explains that this meeting was fated to be the moment at which he reveals to Thom that, after Jack ceases to be Starman, Thom will go back in time and become Jack’s successor, calling himself Danny Blaine to conceal his identity until it is time for Thom to find out.
Thom is unnerved: he has studied Danny Blaine’s life, knows how – and when – it ends. Jack promises to do everything he can, on his return, to change fate, by curing the Shade: this may free Thom from his inevitable future…
Eventually, Jack and Mikaal trace Payton’s energy signal to Prince Gavyn’s planet. They find Gavyn’s former friend Jediah Rikane acting as Regent, married to Merria but, in practice, ruling the Empire and determined not to relinquish his rule. Payton was found in space and has been kept imprisoned as his energy signature is identical to that of Gavyn.
Gavyn’s old ally M’ntorr avers Gavyn and Payton are one, that Gavyn’s energy, dispersed in the Crisis, reformed and was drawn to Earth because of its resemblance to Ted Knight’s cosmic force. It descended on Peyton, killing him, but adopting his face, form and memories. Payton resists the idea, believing that the memories of Gavyn that insistently break through have been planted in him by M’ntorr, but after Rikane is overthrown, he meets Merria and decides to stay, to explore possibilities.
Jack returns to Earth. He pays his respects at Wes Dodds’ funeral and joins the new JSA, which forms to ensure the proper rebirth of the new Dr Fate, but his concern at missing persons in Opal lead him to go on the reserve list and nominate the new Star Spangled Kid, Courtney Whitmore, in his place.
Opal is racked by a series of explosions as part of the endgame in a long battle between the Shade and his enemy Culp, which employs Jon Valor’s curse. When the dust clears, Valor and the other imprisoned souls have been released, Matt O’Dare lies dying, his traitorous brother Barry is dead, and so too is Nash, killed by her father: her son, who she has named Kyle, has come to his father Jack. The battle climaxes when Ted, dying of phosphorus poisoning, uses a super Rod to lift a bomb-impregnated building, and the aged Mist into orbit, where it will explode without harming Opal: Ted and his archenemy die in the blast.
Matt dies the following day. On his death bed he has a vision of the future, both near and distant. He will return as someone named Tom: Jack identifies him as rather Thom: Thom Kallor, Star Boy of the far future, Danny Blaine of the near.
Jack learns that Sadie has left him, and left Opal: she is pregnant with his daughter and, whilst she can share a superhero’s life, she won’t involve a baby. Now that his Dad is dead, Jack feels his time is over, and he prepares to retire and follow Sadie to Seattle.
He has certain final adventures whilst he is settling his affairs: another outing with the JSA in the Sins of Youth crisis, during which Jack is reduced to bratty boyhood, and Courtney becomes an adult Starwoman, wielding the Cosmic Rod.
He meets David one last time, with Ted now, and learns of Kent Nelson’s magics that have permitted these after-death meetings. He is sent home via 1951, where he uncovers David’s moment of glory as the Starman of 1951, and McNider’s before him, and ensures his and David’s birth. Danny Blaine brings him home from the future and departs to the end of his career.
Jack’s final task is to dispose of the Cosmic Rod: knowing that her future will be glorious, he gives it to Courtney before leaving Opal.
Currently, there is no Starman. Mikaal will remain in Opal for some years, though not adopting the name again, before returning to his home galaxy as a Hero. Danny Blaine will appear, sooner rather than later, but that will be for another writer to depict, in his own way. And Starwoman will have her turn, in time.