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Jack Knight as Starman, in his Civvie Spandex.

James Robinson's most famous series for DC Comics, Starman was one of the steps away from the Nineties Anti-Hero and into The Modern Age of Comic Books. The series followed Legacy Character Jack Knight, son of the Golden Age Starman (there were plenty of others) and something of an Author Avatar. Jack is a reluctant newcomer at first, but over the course of the series, his character develops into something akin to old-school heroes while maintaining a distinct personality.

Starman is also notable for Robinson's dusting off of plenty of older characters. Golden Age Card-Carrying Villain The Shade, for instance, returned as an Anti-Hero, complete with Belated Backstory. The entire Starman legacy was touched upon, with most of the characters involved (especially the original, Ted Knight) growing out of the one-note molds from their original stories. Along the way, Ted Knight's colleagues in the Justice Society of America were highlighted and brought back to prominence, eventually leading to the highly popular JSA title. (Jack was briefly a member, and new-JSA founder Stargirl carries on his legacy.)

Jack Knight first appeared in Zero Hour #1 (September, 1994) and soon graduated to his own title. The ongoing lasted for 81 regular issues (October, 1994-August, 2001), though numbering begun with #0.

List of Starmen

The book makes extensive use of previous Starmen. For a brief list:

  • Ted Knight. The original version. First appeared in Adventure Comics #61 (April, 1941). A scientist testing his equipment while serving as a hero. Served as a member of the Justice Society of America. Father of Jack.
  • Starman of 1951. A mysterious character taking up the identity. Eventually revealed to be Doctor Mid-Nite/Charles McNider, a fellow member of the JSA. The concept of an established hero using the Starman identity in the 1950s was inspired by Detective Comics #247 (September, 1957). In said story, Batman claims the mantle.
  • Mikaal Tomas. First appeared in First Issue Special #12 (March, 1976). A blue-skinned alien, scout of an invasion force. Decided to side with Earth against his people. Originally a one-shot character.
  • Prince Gavyn. First appeared in Adventure Comics #467 (January, 1980). A member of an alien royal family. Condemned to die to prevent him from claiming the throne against the senior heir. The near-death experience activated superpowers within him.
  • Will Payton. First appeared in Starman vol. 1 #1 (October, 1988). A regular human mutated by a space-faring bolt of energy.
  • David Knight. First appeared in Starman vol. 1 #26 (September, 1990). Son of Ted and older brother of Jack. Claimed the mantle of his father and served as a rival to Payton.
Tropes used in Starman (comics) include:
  • All There in the Manual: Important bits of backstory which pay off in the "Grand Guignol" arc are found only in the first Shade miniseries and in various text stories, not to mention the re-used Backstory from Robinson's The Golden Age miniseries.
  • Anti-Hero: The Shade.
    • Jack starts out at this, but by series end is sort of an anti-anti-hero.
  • Arch Enemy: The Mist. But in one conversation with his dad, Jack names a rival junk dealer as his Arch Nemesis.
  • Artists Are Not Architects: Used deliberately. Robinson goes for a retro look, and relies on Rule of Cool with some Hand Wave explanations.
  • Author Avatar: Jack, for James Robinson.
  • Avenging the Villain: Nash takes up the identity of The Mist and becomes Jack's archenemy after he kills her brother Kyle.
  • Belated Backstory: The Shade, as mentioned above.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Heavily implied between the Mist's children Nash and Kyle in issue 3.
  • City of Adventure
  • Civvie Spandex: Jack's superhero suit consists of a leather jacket, a pair of goggles and whatever else he happens to be wearing at the time.
  • Clear My Name: Jack and Captain Marvel are called on to clear the name of the aging Bulletman, who stands accused of being a Nazi agent during World War II.
    • This is why the Pirate Ghost is watching and helping Starman; he says he wasn't guilty of the crime he was accused of.
  • Closed Circle: The final arc has a shield placed around the whole city to keep anyone but the heroes of the story out.
  • Continuity Porn: Perhaps the poster child for this trope in DC comic books. Notably, not only does Starman rely on the greater DC canon, but it has its own strong internal canon as demonstrated in the last few arcs, wherein every Checkhov's Gun is set off.
  • Cool Old Guy: Both Ted Knight and Wesley Dodds qualify in spades.
  • Crash Into Hello: Jack's first encounter with Sadie is when he bumps into her at a carnival. She chews him out and is gone in two panels.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Shade, ultimately.
  • Dating Catwoman: Averted. Jack's archenemy, the Mist, raped him and gave birth to his son without his knowledge.
  • Dead Guy, Junior
  • Dead Person Conversation: Every real-time year included one issue where Jack talked to his brother, who died in the first issue. Later conversations would also include other deceased DC characters, including their father Ted.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Shade.
    • Jack gets in plenty of riffs of his own as well.
  • Death by Origin Story: Jack's brother David
  • Death Is Cheap: Jack's back before the end of one issue via a cloned body.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Averted with Stargirl, who only took the name after Jack retired; she was Star-Spangled Kid when they first met.
    • Played straight with the one-off "Stargirl" of the 1940s, who was Ted Knight's girlfriend.
  • Eviler Than Thou: The original Mist.
  • Exiled From Continuity: Jack hasn't appeared for quite a while, even though his writer is still pretty active at DC.
    • This is deliberate: Robinson actually has a contract with DC stating no one else may use Jack. That way he avoids having some other writer make drastic changes to the character or what not now his day is done. But he did bring Mikaal back for his Justice League run.
      • He has shown up a couple of times, but only in crowd shots at weddings and funerals, and an occasional flashback image. The last image of him is most likely Sue Dibny's funeral in Identity Crisis.
      • Notably, when the 81st issue was released as a Blackest Night "zombie title tie-in, Jack didn't even appear--it featured the Shade and Black Lantern David Knight.
    • Inverted with "Sand and Stars" where Robinson was very keen on making sure Wesley Dodds stayed in continuity since his book Sandman Mystery Theatre was placed in the Vertigo imprint where characters usually separate from DC canon.
  • Fan of the Past: Jack
  • Flying Firepower:
    • Mikail Tomas: the current Starman has a body which is specifically built for outer space. In addition to being able to fly and survive in a vaccum, he can project energy blasts.
    • David Knight: Starman II, uses the Gravity Rod, which grants flight and the ability to absorb and fire solar energy.
    • The Cosmic Staff, the main weapon used by Starman III (Jack Knight) and Stargirl, grants flight and the ability to project cosmic energy.
    • Ted Knight: the original Starman, used both of the aforementioned weapons.
  • Fight in The Nude: The Mist kidnaps, drugs, and rapes Jack, takes his clothes and his gear, and forces him to fight through a maze full of mooks. He succeeds.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Flash Back: If we had a Loads and Loads of Flashbacks trope, this would qualify.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: Ted Knight
  • Foe Yay: After becoming the new Mist, Nash refers to Jack as "my love" several times.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Ted again
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Averted, as Jack's bomber jacket and aviator goggles are specifically meant to offset the odd conditions of flying with an extremely bright staff.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Jack could be the poster boy, at least early on in the series. He is told, point blank, by the ex-girlfriend he is trying to romance again (using his becoming a superhero as evidence of his newfound maturity) that "You may be a hero, Jack Knight, but that still doesn't make you a nice person."
  • Grand Finale: Grand Guignol. It even has 'Grand' in the title!
    • (Technically, it's not the actual end of the series, but I think it still counts. It's near the end of the series, is 13 issues long, follows-up on so many things introduced prior in the series, and — as its name implies — is pretty grand. The remaining issues bring closure to the series, but are more lowkey; Grand Guignol was pretty much the big endgame event.)
  • Happily Ever After
  • Happily Married: At the end.
  • Heel Face Turn: Matt O'Dare
  • Heroic BSOD: As explained in flashbacks, Ted's response to his role in the creation of the atomic bomb. It forced him to live for years in a mental institution.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ted Knight, after learning he has cancer.
    • Not to mention Good Grundy dying (or becoming the thuggish villain Grundy we're more familiar with) after saving people from a collapsing building.
  • Historical In-Joke: Mikaal claims to have inspired the David Bowie classic Rebel Rebel. Wait... no.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: At first.
  • (Jack) Knight In Sour Armor: To put it mildly, Jack has a very caustic personality.
  • Legacy Character: Jack is actually the sixth or seventh Starman, depending on how you count; the series inspired many other DCU Legacy Characters.
    • Legacy characters are the main point of the series, and a lot of the action is driven by Jack interacting with all of them, even going out into space and back in time to do so.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In this case, against Captain Marvel. Needless to say, Jack is horrendously overmatched.
  • Limelight Series: For the entire Starman legacy, but most of all for the Shade, who got two minis of his own as a result - a four-issue one during the series' run, and a twelve-issue one as part of DC's big 2011 relaunch.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The Shade's Backstory is borrowed from a Charles Dickens novel.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Charity's fortune-telling place. Possibly subverted, as she tells Jack she moved in normally.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Myth Arc: The series as a whole was written as such, with several mini-arcs as well.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted with Mikaal.
  • Not So Different: Nash lays this trope at Jack's feet. Jack spends several issues trying to convince himself she's wrong.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted with the O'Dares, a family of cops that assist Jack. They start by capturing the Mist while Jack fights the Mist's son, and they keep that level of competence for the entire series.
  • Put on a Bus: Jack at the end of his series, at James Robinson's request.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: When Jack is drugged into unconsciousness and raped by Nash, the second Mist, the scene occurs from his point-of-view as a very strange erotic dream. Additionally, while the implication is there in the initial scene, it isn't until many issues later that the series confirms the fact that a rape occurred with a Wham! Line.
  • Rape Is Okay When Its Female On Male: Averted, somewhat. It's not played as remotely okay but at the same time there's not much angst about it either as Jack finds out about it through a letter, sent to him by his would-be arch-enemy, confessing to the rape and telling him that she had his son and is going to train him to be a supervillain.
  • Red Skies Crossover: The cosmic rod fails in one issue due to the Genesis event... and it is never spoken of again.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Subverted in-series. As part of Jack's original bargain to take up his father's job as the town superhero, Ted had to agree to find applications for the cosmic energy he had discovered and harnessed apart from making weapons. By series end, Ted had apparently patented a number of technologies that would revolutionize the world... but the idea never quite took in the shared universe.
  • Reincarnation: Used in one or two cases, depending on how you count it. Matt O'Dare was the DC Western hero Scalphunter and would later go on to be reincarnated as Thom Kallor aka Starboy of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Retcon: If you want to keep track of them all, you'll need a scorecard. Many of them were Author's Saving Throws to redeem older characters.
    • Probably the most notable was a hint from fortune-teller Charity that Jack would someday meet an old friend of his father's. The hint was originally meant to refer to Hawkman but Robinson's plans to revitalize the character in Starman were sidelined. Charity even tells Jack later that their paths have changed and he might never meet "the winged hero" after all.
  • Science Hero: Ted Knight, who can still use his knowledge to pull off an Indy Ploy when cornered by the new Mist.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Shows up quite a bit, especially with Jack. At one point he compares the original JSA to the Mercury Seven.
    • This even happens in Jack's internal monologues, where he ponders how he always equated maturity with enjoying the musical numbers in Marx Brothers movies that weren't Chico and Harpo goofing around with the instruments.
  • Shallow Love Interest
  • Shout-Out: More than a few. One example: the "Powdered Toast Man" graffiti and drawing of Ren on a lamppost at the end of issue 1.
  • Shrinking Violet: Nash, for much of the first arc — until Jack kills her brother and she becomes The Mist.
  • Something Completely Different: The issue featuring Space Cabbie. (That's right, Space Cabbie.)
  • Star Power: In a crossover with Batman and Hellboy, a group of neo-Nazis build a machine to collect power from the stars in order to awaken an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Super-Hero Origin: The first arc, naturally, plus several in Flashbacks.
  • Time Travel: Several instances.
    • Jack and Mikaal travel back in time and visit the planet Krypton, before it blew up. Later in the same arc, they travel to the future and team up with the Legion of Super-Heroes.
    • The Legion team up came first; the Krypton story came right after.
    • Jack and his brother David, ripped from time before his death, by Doctor Fate are sent back to the year 1951 to help protect Opal City at a time when Ted Knight was still in an insane asylum.
  • To Hell and Back: Jack, The Shade and Matt O'Dare do wind up going to Hell at one point.
    • Well, a Hell. DC has several.
  • Uncancelled: Came back for one issue thanks to the Blackest Night event; Jack was absent and the story focused on the Shade and Hope O'Dare.
  • What Could Have Been: The producers of Smallville had plans to adapt the series for television at one point.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Mist again.
  • Writing for the Trade: Lots of six-issue arcs.
    • Subverted with a lot of one-shots and smaller arcs thrown in. The trades pre-Omnibus were notoriously difficult to keep straight.