Thursday, July 26, 2018

Short Lived Comic Series #8 - DC Comics' Starfire

 No, not that Starfire.  This was long before Marv Wolfman and George Perez introduced the world to the orange-skinned, scantily-clad alien in the New Teen Titans.  No, back in the mid-1970s, DC was publishing a lot of new and unique comic book titles in an apparent attempt to vary their titles beyond the superhero, war, and horror stories currently being published.  The first issue, cover dated September 1976, introduced readers to the newest sword and sorcery heroine - Starfire!

Starfire only lasted eight issues.  Whether this was due to the numerous changes in the editorial and writing staff in those few issues, or whether the comic fandom of the mid- to late-70s just wasn't ready for a female-led sword and sorcery title (hmmm, Red Sonja anyone?), who knows?  But the character was DC's second, out of three, to carry the name Starfire.  The first was the Russian superhero introduced in Teen Titans #18 back in 1968, and the third (and probably most famous) is the alien Koriand'r from the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans series of the '80s and beyond.  After the cancellation of her series, Starfire seems to have been lost to obscurity, appearing only a few random times over the past 40 years (the most notable appearance being shortly after the cancellation of her title, she appeared in Star Hunters #7 in 1978).

As with comics back in that day, Starfire's origin story did not take 6-issues to tell.  In the first issue, readers quickly learn that Starfire was a slave who, upon her eighteenth birthday, was to become a concubine for the slavers, an alien race known as the Mygorg.  She attempts to escape, but is quickly caught - at least, until the human priest, Dagan, shows up and rescues her!  Knowing nothing but slavery, she assumes Dagan is her new master - - but he teaches her not just what freedom means, but how to fight for it!  In just one issue, readers discover not only Starfire's origin, but the background of her planet, the slavers, and the humans' fight for freedom from the Mygorg and their enemies, the Yorg.  But as with any freedom, there is a price to pay, and by the end of the first issue, Dagan is killed and Starfire cries out for vengeance of her fallen love.

The first issue of Starfire was written by David Micheline with art by Mike Vosburg and Robert Smith.  Micheline and Vosburg stayed for the second issue, but Smith was replaced by Vince Colletta.  By the third issue, Micheline (one of Starfire's creators) was gone, replaced as writer by Elliot Maggin (known later as Elliot S! Maggin - don't forget the exclamation point!).  These three managed to hang on to the title through issue five, but with the sixth and seventh issues, Steve Englehart took on the writing chores, while the eighth and final issue was written by Tom DeFalco.  Thus, while the art team remained consistent with issues two through eight, the title seemed to have a rotating door of writers, which I'm sure played a small part in the title's early demise.

While there is a continuing story of Starfire's journey to free her world (which, by the way, is NOT planet Earth, as is stressed a number of times in the letter columns - but sadly, we never get to learn exactly what planet it is, and whether it is past, present, or future, as the series ends before those secrets are ever revealed), each issue does have a self-contained story.  Starfire also gains some supporting characters, but the only ones who remain with her to the end are the somewhat self-serving Moonwatcher and the silent giant, Thump.  Ultimately, Thump's backstory plays an important part in Starfire's fight against the Mygorg and Yorg, but I have to wonder if that was the original author's intention when the character first appeared (since writers changed to often throughout the 8-issue run).

The first issue totes the series as "A New Epic of Swords & Science," and by the end of its short run, readers do get their fill of not only sword-fights, but sorcery and science as well.  In fact, when Starfire and her team finally locate the lair of the Lightning Lords, it becomes clear that this world is not a true barbaric world after all - - at least, at time it was not.  It would have been interesting to see what other revelations we would have learned about the world, the time, and the people had the series been given a chance to continue.  But, alas, Starfire's ultimate fate, and that of her world and fellow humans will forever remain a mystery, lost in the world of comic purgatory...

RATING:  6 oily bath pellets out of 10 for taking a chance on a female-led comic book at a time when there were very few such comics on the shelves!

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