Monday, June 20, 2011

If You Blinked You Missed: Starfire

In the spring of 1976, science fiction comics were risky business. Star Wars was a year away, Captain Marvel (Marvel's sci-fi hero) was hanging on, and the acclaimed mags like Killraven/War of the Worlds (in Amazing Adventures), Deathlok (in Astonishing Tales), and Warlock were breathing their last. At DC, though, Green Lantern/Green Arrow was coming back with a strong sci-fi vibe, which gave us hope. Sword and Sorcery mags like Conan and Red Sonja were doing well, but DC's answers like Beowulf and Claw were hitting the skids.

But DC decided to give Starfire a shot anyway. Now, this isn't any relations to the Teen Titan's beloved Koriand'r of the 1980s and beyond. This wasn't even the Russian super-hero the Titans fought in the late 60s. This Starfire was a lady. A combination Red Sonja and Killraven with a touch of Planet of the Apes. Excellent ingredients, don'tcha think? Created by writer David (Claw, Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle) Michelinie under the editorship of the great Joe Orlando, Starfire was gonna have to be pretty cool. The best thing to happen to the mag, though, was nabbing Mike Vosburg (aka Voz) as designer/penciler. Vosburg had a unique style, great storytelling skills, and drew some of the most beautiful women to grace the comicbook page. Though Starfire went through four writers (Michelinie, Elliot S! Maggin, Steve Englehart, and Tom DeFalco), three editors (Orlando, Jack C. Harris, and Denny O'Neil), and two inkers (Bob Smith and Vinnie Colletta), Voz stayed on for the entire eight issue run (May 1976-July 1977) giving the mag a consistency that most other comic mags of the day lacked (artists usually switched titles more than the writers did).

Starfire was the story of a half-breed slave girl on an unnamed planet who learned that her destiny was to free her people from the bondage of the warring, world conquering aliens known as the Mygorg and the Yorg. As Ol' Groove has already hinted, the ideas here weren't new, but they were craftily mixed together to make something fresh and fun. Check out the first ish (including the "official" behind-the-scenes editorial)...

See? Ol' Groove wouldn't jive ya about a cool comic, baby! And hey, what about Starfire's snazzy threads? Well, here's the skinny on the Siren of Sword and Science's original outfit straight from the ever-gracious and generous Mr. Mike Vosburg, himself (from a quickie interview with yoors trooly via e-mail):

"... I did create (okay...I "borrowed" the design from something Guido Crepax did called Valentina) her costume and look. The costume for her love interest with right out of Errol Flynn's Robin Hood. But in those days, you were the set designer and costumer when you took on a series."

Not only did Voz share that info with Ol' Groove but he attached scans of the Valentina strips that inspired Starfire's costume. Dig it, Groove-ophiles!

As Starfire's adventures continued and writers and editors came and went, several issues were intended to mark "new directions" for our Siren of Sword and Science. This usually meant that sales weren't great and things were being shaken up to boost them (imagine that!). It even meant that Starfire's Crepax-inspired outfit would be replaced with something new...

In spite of (or because of?) all the changes, Starfire finally succumbed to poor sales and was cancelled with ish #8. She's made cameo appearances here and there over the past few decades, naming her as everything from a Michael Moorcock inspired piece of an "Eternal Champion" to a figment of another character's (Nightmaster's) imagination.

Before I go, Ol' Groove needs to remind you (or call your attention to, as the case may be) Voz's new blog, vozwords. It's been over there in the Mind-blowing Blogs section for a couple weeks or so, and according to Mike a lot of you have been visiting his insightful and illuminating blog. Thank you! If you haven't visited vozwords, please do yourself a favor and hie thee over there. You'll no doubt be entranced by the wealth of info Voz shares there, from full-out lessons on comicbook storytelling to the stories-behind-the-stories of his amazing covers and storyboards for HBO's Tales from the Crypt--and there's lots more groovy stuff on the way.


  1. Never in a million years would have connected STARFIRE to VALENTINA! The things you learn here! Wow!

  2. Notice the production mistake on the cover of #1 -- something's missing. (I remember hearing that it merely got mislaid in the paste-up process.) Did any retailers refuse to stock the comic? I'll bet not a single one.

  3. According the letters page in issue #3, the book WAS approved but the seal fell off somewhere between production and the printer. From the look of the layout, I'm inclined to go along with what you've heard--that they forgot to put the seal on at all.

    And, like you, I doubt it made an ounce of difference to the retailers. Took a long time for the industry to learn THAT lesson, huh?

  4. Great post! It brings back memories of the summer of 1981 (I think), when I ordered this blind from a used comic dealer's catalogue - paid about $2 for the entire run.
    It really surprised me when I pulled these from the box - not at all what I was expecting. Even so, I do recall spend a few lazy afternoons reading through the whole series (with a stack of other "old" comics).
    Also, I'm not one of those knee-jerk Colletta bashers, but his inking on the series was only serviceable as I recall - it would have been better if Smith had inked the entire run...

  5. I love the costume in B+W but in color I can't stand it, the color is too bright, she looks like a sideshow act. It's the same reaction I had to Clea's purple costume.

  6. Actually seeing Angelique Travere dressed as the character was her best momment back a Phil Sueling Comic Convention about the time



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