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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Special: Because YOU Demanded It!

You have to review Starman #27. You just have to.
--Spencer Carnage

Now I am reasonably certain that Spencer, who writes about comics over at Of Course, Yeah!, is not a wide-eyed eight year-old Victorian street urchin standing knee deep in the snow with a quivering lip just hoping for a Christmas miracle. But every time I read that, that's the image I get.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I'm going to shout at Spencer from my balcony to go and find the fattest goose he can--for it's almost Christmas Day! I'm a changed man, Spencer! It's a Christmas miracle!

"Christmas Knight"
December, 1996
Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Steve Yowell
Cover: Tony Harris

For those of you who don't know, Starman is probably the single best super-hero comic of the '90s, and along with Mark Waid's definitive run on Flash can be given most of the credit for Geoff Johns-style trend of nostalgia that holds comics in its powerful claws even today. The whole thing is a great love letter to comics from James Robinson, written before he wrote a movie about how reading comics is utterly pointless, and while you can make a case that everything ties in a little too well, it's phenomenal. And this issue--along with #55--is one of my favorites.

Our story starts off at the home of Clarence and Faith O'Dare, who spend the first few pages tossing around a little banter about "stuffing the turkey," by which I mean... Well, I actually mean filling a turkey with stuffing, but there's also a lot of sexual innuendo...

Slightly creepy....because nothing says Christmas like oral sex.

Mistletoe belt-buckles aside, they're preparing for a Christmas party that features the entire cast of Starman, One of the things Tug said when he got started reading it last year is that everybody in the book is a super-hero, and he's not wrong--especially when it comes to the O'Dares. They're an entire family of supercops, including Hope, the firecracker, Mason, the silent kung-fu beat cop, and Matt, the reincarnation of Western hero Scalphunter. Everybody's a super-hero.

But then there's Jack Knight, the son of the Golden Age Starman and the best everyman super-hero since Peter Parker. The way I feel about him can pretty much be summed up by one of my favorite quotes from the series: "Superman's 'the Man of Steel.' Batman's 'the Dark Knight.' If I'm not careful, I'm going to be 'Starman: The Guy Who Gets Knocked Out And Tied Up A Lot.'" He doesn't have a big tragic flaw or anything, he's just a regular guy. Occasionally petulant and often wrapped up in his own concerns, but a stand-up guy nonetheless, with a Cosmic Rod and a decent sense of right and wrong.

Which is why, when everyone else is gathering for the Roast Beast down at Supercop Central, Jack's listening to a sob story from a homeless guy dressed as Santa. The guy's crying his eyes out on a park bench over losing a locket with the last picture of his family he has, and there's Starman, feet on the ground, leaning on his Cosmic Rod, rolling his eyes as he realizes that of course he's going to help this guy, because it's Christmas and it's the right thing to do.

It's beautiful.

Steve Yeowell's pencils are great in this issue, filling in for Tony Harris, who stands as not only a great artist but a heck of a nice guy. That's one thing you can say about Starman: It's not just a great book to read, but between the incomparable Tony Harris, the unpronounceable Peter Snejbjerg, and great fill-in guys like Yeowell, it's a fantastic book to look at too.

Anyway, while the rest of the cast hangs out getting priceless gifts from the Shade, Starman rolls around Opal City shaking down homeless guys for information--and emptying his pockets so they can get a hot meal and a room for the night--with Santa Pete in tow until he finally gets to Tolk, the guy who rolled Pete for his locket, and his deformed hench-muscle Crab Hand. They're dealt with handily, and Jack returns the locket to Pete without even having to cut off his hair. At this point, I start getting a litty misty, because Pete thanks Jack, refuses his offer of money, and then walks off into the snow, telling Jack that his one Christmas wish has been fulfilled.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. Jack Knight is apparently the Zack Morris of the DC Universe, and in a plot development exactly like the one in the Saved By The Bell Christmas episode, Jack catches up with Santa Pete and takes him to dinner with the rest of the Starman Family. Merry Christmas, one and all!

Teacher says...It doesn't have the Ghost Rider, or MODOK, or even an appearance by the one and only True Santa, but for pure It's A Wonderful Life-style holiday cheer, it's one of the best Christmas comics I've ever read. Predictable? Sure. But really, who wants a shocking twist ending in a story of being a decent guy and looking out for your fellow man?

Besides J.M. DeMatteis, I mean.

More ISB Yule Logs:
| Ant Man's Big Christmas |
| Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #17 |
| Santa Saves the DC Universe! |
| The Worst Christmas Song Ever |
| A Marvel Comics Christmas: Marvel Team-Up #127 and Marvel Two-in-One #8 |


Blogger Julio Oliveira said...

I really like Starman. I think that it brought something to comics that didn't exist before or at least wasn't a common thing. Like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing brings poetry, Starman brings nostalgia, but not the bad comicbook nostalgia that makes anyone undo every change that occurred on the last 30 years. No, it brings a real nostalgia, not for old comics but for old times, old movies, old paintings, even old attitudes. A nostalgia that doesn't necessarily make you wants to things be that way now. You just want to absorb the past for what is, the past

12/21/2005 9:29 AM

Blogger Jhunt said...

Jack Knight is awesome, but nobody can take the title of The Guy Who Gets Knocked Out And Tied Up A Lot from its original owner, The Spirit.

That guy's the Eric Lindros of costumed crimefighters.

12/21/2005 10:27 AM

Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Yay! It is a Christmas miracle! Now, if only someone could do something about that crotchety old man who runs the orphanage that I stay at.....

Shine your shoes, guv'nor?

12/21/2005 12:29 PM

Blogger Kevin Church said...

Best Superhero Comic Of The 90s:
Not Starman. I'm sorry, but when you've got Morrison's JLA and Moore's Supreme out there, it's hard to come close at all.

I also think that Robinson deserves to be beaten with pipes for the shitastic Comic Book Villains and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen screenplays.

12/22/2005 2:07 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Don't you get snarky with me, Kevin, or I'll take my Goddamn monkey comics right back.

You'll get no argument from me that JLA and Supreme are awesome, but Supreme suffers from having a lot of bad art and getting cancelled in the middle of the run. I re-read it last week, and "The Story of the Year" is amazing, but there are a few missteps--Jim Starlin's art in the Darius Dax issue, for instance, could've been a lot better.

And don't forget that Starman went for over eighty issues, which is twice as long as JLA even if you count the Mark Waid fill-ins, and a lot longer than Supreme.

I'm not saying it's definitive, but there's a case to be made for "probably."

12/22/2005 8:48 PM

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