When it comes to the history of superhero comics, none have quite the history as that of DC Comics. First founded back in 1934 under the name of National Allied Publications, the company began with a few various comics, but it would soon shake the world with a particular issue of a new title: Action Comics #1, the debut of Superman. From there, they would go on to introduce some of the most famous heroes in comics, such as Batman with his debut in Detective Comics #27 and Wonder Woman in All Star Comics #8. With such a lengthy history to their comics, DC has been able to explore something with some of their heroes: legacy. Now, legacy is explored in many ways. For some, it is how the impact of one hero can inspire others to rise up and join the fight for justice. For others, it is a passing of the mantle, the acceptance of an idea to lead and live. Legacy is a big subject in the DC Universe, and it is one that was explored by writer James Robinson back in the mid-1990s. Within his series Starman, he examines that subject from a variety of ways with his story of a passing of the torch.
In Opal City, Jack Knight spends his days working as a pop culture collector and owner of a collectibles store. He is also the son of Ted Knight, a scientist who was once a superhero known as Starman and a member of the Justice Society. Jack, however, does not fondly regard this. Though he loved his father’s heroics as a child, his own rebellious nature grew and he came to look upon that superhero career with disdain. Thus, he turned to his fascination with pop culture while his brother David took on the mantle of Starman. However, that changes when both are targeted by the son of the Mist, an old arch-enemy of Ted seeking to still tear his life apart. David is murdered, while Jack manages to survive the attack made on his life. Spurred on by his brother’s death and fear for his father’s well-being, Jack takes a prototype of the Cosmic Staff (his father’s signature crime-fighting tool) and sets out to stop the Mist’s plan. Inspired by this burst of heroism, Jack makes a deal with his father: Jack will take on the mantle of Starman and become Opal City’s newest hero, if Ted will use his scientific discoveries to help better humanity. The deal is made, and Jack takes on a name he had once hated. However, threats from the past still linger and haunt the streets of Opal City.
Starman is an exquisite series, in part thanks to the skilled writing of James Robinson. James’s writing stems and shines from the sense of history that he offers. Opal City feels like a place that has existed for a long time, a metropolis that has undergone change and yet still has its roots from the past showing in its present. Its residents similarly have that sense of history to them as well, capturing not only who they are as individuals but the parts they play in the current state of things. For instance, one major player in the series is the Shade. Once a super-villain from the Golden Age who possesses the ability to control shadows, this series reimagines him as a morally ambiguous immortal named Richard Swift. He has lived in Opal City for many years and has seen how things may change yet stay the same. Similarly, he has traded out the hat of villain for a hero, serving as a shadowy guardian for the city and offering Jack advice in his burgeoning superhero career. Tony Harris’s art is also something to behold in this series. In its stylistic flourish, it delivers a striking play of color and darkness. Its hard-edged yet colorful design fits the series’ tone in a way, given how the series plays with brutal action and superhero thrills. Then, of course, there is that subject of legacy.
All throughout Starman, legacy is present. For instance, the old seeds of villainy still spin in the present. The children of the Mist, for instance, still pursue his plans of vengeance against Ted Knight and his family. For another, a contortionist villain once known as Rag Doll became a psychotic madman who preached towards killing and madness, his words influencing countless thugs who wear similar ragged masks. However, the sins of the past are not the only ones that live on. Heroic inspirations still live on in the newer generations, as well. For instance, one of Ted Knight’s old allies was a cop named Billy “Red” O’Dare. Though he has passed away, he is succeeded by numerous children who have joined the police force to continue their father’s legacy. Then, of course, there is Jack Knight himself. When it comes to taking on the mantle of Starman, he certainly pursues it in his own way. He chooses not to use the classic costume, instead opting for street clothes. The most traditionally “heroic” touches are a pair of flight goggle and an old sheriff star pinned to his jacket lapel. His own attitude is that of a deadpan snarker, though there is no denying his pursuit of justice. It may be in a different way than his father’s superheroic style, but he is still taking the torch and letting it light the way. The legacy lives on, for Jack, the O’Dare clan, even the villains inspired by the past. The wheel still turns, and the battle between good and evil continues forward.
DC Comics has plenty of history within its pages from over the many years, and with that comes the legacy from its past. That legacy makes for a major springboard in Starman, which tells a captivating story about the impact of the past as an old hero is given new life by the next generation.