Stardust deals with a bunch of bad guys. Artist: Fletcher Hanks.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Fox Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Fletcher Hanks
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When a cartoon character is called a "wizard" you never know. He might be a mere superhero, like The Wizard. Or he might be a "real" magic user, perhaps dressed in a get-up like Mickey Mouse in …

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… "The Sorceror's Apprentice", such as (lacking the Fantasia motif) the title character in Wizards. Stardust was a future hero with awesome powers, but it's hard to see what his creator, Fletcher Hanks (Fantomah, Big Red MacLane) had in mind when he put that word in the character's subtitle.

Of course, it's often hard to figure out what Fletcher Hanks had on his mind, if one makes the mistake of applying rational analysis to his work. He's been compared with Basil Wolverton (Spacehawk, Powerhouse Pepper) in terms of effectiveness while scorning traditional standards of grace, beauty and logical storytelling (tho not quite at Wolverton's level of talent), but anyone looking too closely at his work is bound to see its many flaws.

Stardust's series opened in Fox Feature Syndicate's Fantastic Comics #1 (December, 1939), where the cover and lead story featured Samson. Others debuting in that issue include Yank Wilson, by Jack Farr (Super-Sleuth McFooey); Flick Falcon, by Don Rico (Lorna the Jungle Girl) and Hanks's own Space Smith, which he did under the name "Hank Christy". Other pseudonyms he used include Henry Fletcher, Barclay Flagg and Bob Jordan.

There was no origin story, either in that issue or in any other. It was simply announced in the news that Stardust would soon arrive on Earth, and put an end to the activities of "spies and grade-a racketeers". At an emergency meeting of The Secret Army of Spies and Terrorists, several ways of dealing with the threat were discussed, but as the radio blared on about all the things he could do and all the possible harm he was invulnerable to, they finally decided it was useless, and agreed to carry on as usual. They even decided to go ahead with their plan to bump off the president before Stardust got there.

But Stardust manifest himself to their hired would-be assassins, appearing suddenly in a star-shaped burst of energy (his characteristic method of arriving), and prevented the evil deed. Then he stopped a couple more of their evil plans and mopped up the villains themselves, using whatever powers he needed at any given point in the story. Then he flew away before anybody even had a chance to thank him.

That set the pattern for his stories. From his Secret Observatory on a private star (the future equivalent of a private island, no doubt, at least if you don't know too much about astronomy), he'd see a situation that needed to be taken care of, take care of it, and disappear before anyone could say thanks. Nothing was ever hard for him, and the bad guys were never anything but ugly and thoroughly wicked. He did this in every issue of Fantastic Comics until #16 (March, 1941). After that, he was gone. Fletcher Hanks wrote and drew all of his 16 stories.

In 2008, Image Comics (Spawn, Witchblade) picked up Fantastic Comics for one more issue, where Fox had left off, more than a half-century earlier. Tho he hadn't been in all of Fox's 23 issues, Stardust was among the heroes revived for Image's Fantastic Comics #24, as were aviator Captain Kidd and flag-wearer Yank Wilson. This time Stardust's story was written by John Keatinge (Ant) and drawn by Michael Allred (Madman).

Unless you count a couple of other, even more minor characters named Stardust, that's all that's been seen of Stardust in recent decades.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fox Feature Syndicate