Typical Starman cover. Artist: Jack Burnley.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creators: Gardner Fox (writer) and Jack Burnley (artist)
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By 1941, the takeover of the American comic book by superheroes was well advanced. In fact, Starman, a creation of writer …

continued below

… Gardner Fox (The Flash, Doctor Fate) and artist Jack Burnley (a DC regular who had already drawn Superman, Batman and other high-profile features), was no less than the third of that genre to head up DC's Adventure Comics.

Starman was millionnaire Ted Knight, whose life didn't seem to have much purpose or direction, unless you count his activities as an amateur astronomer. That interest led to his invention of what he called a "Gravity Rod", which could harness that universal force in various ways, and which was powered by cosmic radiation. He decided to use his invention for the benefit of mankind — not in any ordinary, time-tested way like founding an industrial empire to hire thousands of workers and create billions of dollars in new wealth, but in the rather inefficient way of keeping it to himself and becoming a superhero. He wore the usual flashy skin-tights, but eschewed a mask, possibly on the theory that even with his face hanging out, nobody would ever associate the fearless adventurer Starman with a useless fop like Ted Knight.

Starman's series began in DC's Adventure Comics #61 (April, 1941), where he immediately displaced Hourman from the cover. A few months later, in All Star Comics #8, he replaced Hourman again, as a member of The Justice Society of America, simultaneous with Dr. Mid-Nite replacing Green Lantern. Clearly, the publisher fully expected the new character to live up to his name and be a star.

And so he was — for about a year, after which he lost his cover spot first to a relatively minor character called Manhunter and then to a resurgent version of Adventure's first costumed character, The Sandman. Starman continued in the back pages until #103 (April, 1946), after which characters from More Fun Comics (Aquaman, Superboy, etc.) moved en masse into Adventure and most of those already there moved to the land of defunct comic book heroes. Starman lost his Justice Society membership at the same time, as he and The Spectre were replaced by Mr. Terrific and Wildcat.

He was gone until the August, 1964 issue of Justice League of America, where he participated in the second annual team-up between that group and the Justice Society. The following year, he and another JSA member, The Black Canary, had a two-issue adventure in The Brave & the Bold, which was then being used for team-ups between DC characters chosen pretty much at random. After that, he appeared sporadically as a JSA member, or as a guest star with various other DC heroes. At one point early in the revival, he upgraded his Gravity Rod to a more powerful "Cosmic Rod". Also, Ted Knight was retconned into a cousin of Sandra Knight, who went by the superhero name Phantom Lady.

He retired from superheroing about 1973, when the JSA got a new ongoing series, and passed his Cosmic Rod on to The Star Spangled Kid, another '40s relic who had recently returned to DC's superhero milieu. Later on, he modified the Cosmic Rod so the Kid (now calling himself "Skyman" after the old Columbia Comics character) could wear it on his belt instead of having to tie up one of his hands carrying it.

This Starman had nothing to do with the Starman that ran a dozen issues in Adventure Comics starting in 1980, or with the Starman who had his own DC title in the late '80s. But he was the father of the Starman who operated during the '90s. He continued as a retired superhero and founder of a superhero dynasty until the December, 2000 issue of his son's comic, when DC finally killed him off.


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Text ©2003-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.