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Out of the shadow and into the light – Starslayer #2

March 1, 2011

This one of those issues where the backup grew to greater fame than the feature, kind of like how The Simpsons quickly outpaced its old Tracey Ullman Show stomping grounds. I don’t think anyone would confuse the Rocketeer with the commercial juggernaut that Homer and family has become, but at least people have heard of it. Not a whole lot have heard of the Jolly Roger and its scantily clad captain.

Remember when The Rocketeer hit the theaters? I know I’m getting older when I have to pause and reflect that some folks reading this blog might not have been BORN in 1990, but I was around and aware back in those prehistoric olden times. There was one hell of a marketing campaign for the flick, and it was good to know that a comic book hero besides Batman or Superman was actually getting some time on the silver screen — there was a paucity back then that’s hard to believe in this age of comic-film saturation. Too bad the movie fell like a lead balloon. Or a rocket pack that was out of fuel. It kind of had a Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow thing going on — both were tributes to and evocative of the serials of yore, both were intended to found movie franchises, and both seriously underperformed.

I also seem to recall it getting a few more mentions back several years ago when the first promotional clips for Iron Man premiered — cries of “It looks just like The Rocketeer…” were heard across the internet.

I never actually read any of the original comics that spawned that film, at least until about a week ago. I bought this issue of Starslayer out of a bargain bin just for the curiosity factor. I kind of like Mike Grell’s stuff, and it got my hard earned 50 cents on that recommendation alone. I’m not sure that this issue was the best jumping on point for a reader — it’s exposition heavy, and is perhaps the wordiest per capita/per page thing I’ve ever seen. It measures up well with the preachiest and most verbose of Cerebus comics — Dave Sim would be proud. I’m hesistant to dismiss Starslayer as “The Warlord in space.” There are certainly differences and our hero is pulled from the past into the future instead of into a subterranean realm, but… Well, what the hell — it’s The Warlord in space.

I had no idea going in that the Rocketeer made his debut here, so it was a somewhat pleasant surprise when I saw the back cover:

This opening installment moves incredibly fast, but that too is reminiscent of breathless old serials, where in 15 minutes you could go from a scientist’s lab to a lost underwater civilization. Here the good guys discover the stolen jetpack, get it working and put it to use in the span of 6 pages, all so we can get to the meat, otherwise known as this:

Dave Stevens’ creation has become one of the more well known independent comics properties, largely due to the film adaptation. I hadn’t realized that Mr. Stevens passed away a couple of years ago. It’s always a shame when someone goes so long before their time, but it must have been very gratifying for him to see his comics creation reach Hollywood when Spider-Man, the face of the gargantuan Marvel machine, would take ten more years to reach cinemas.

Still waiting for that Starslayer pic.

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