Tuesday, January 6, 2015

BATMAN LEADS AN INTERESTING LIFE : HE'S A STARRRRR-MAN ...

If you were a reader of James Robinson’s literate and encyclopedic take on DC’s superhero heritage, the 1990s “Jack Knight” incarnation of the Starman character, then you were introduced to “The Starman of 1951.” The mysterious figure who operated briefly in the Starmans (I’m sorry, the correct technical term is “Starmens”) stamping grounds of Opal City ended up resolving into one of the series’ multitude of touching resolutions and meditations on family. Also he had a gear-ass costume. And that’s the whole story of the Starman of 1951.

But no wait! You may share my surprise at having learned that Robinson, rather than constructing the character out of whole cloth, borrowed the shortest-lived Starman from Detective Comics vol.1 No.247, “The Man Who Ended Batman’s Career.”

What makes it embarrassing is he has an erection.
Hiding behind a cover which buried the lede, the story debuts Robin’s new senior partner, a figure in a striking yellow, purple and orange ensemble who zapped around town in his hovering, star-shaped starship. Summoned by a star-signal and armed with unerringly accurate star-darts, Starman defended Gotham rather than Opal City and, more to the point, was actually Batman. Hey, who’s that on the cover, right?

It turns out that Batman has become the victim of the “Phobia Pills” of Professor Milo, a character whom I believe later showed up making man-dogs and stuff on the cartoon. Listen, I’m not Jeff Rovin, here, I’m just getting along the best as I can.

Coating a bespoke batsignal with “phobia liquid” (Safeway store brand tequila, is my guess), Professor Milo shines the cut-out image of a bat in Batman’s eyes, resulting in the caped crusader developing a deathly fear of his nocturnal namesake. Unable to do so much as bear a bat-symbol on his chest or handle a batarang, he is taken back to the Batcave and dies of shock.

What really happens is that Batman adopts a two-pronged approach to his recuperation. He starts by adopting the gadget-laden alternate alternate identity of Starman, complete with his aforementioned Starship and afully outfitted “Star-Loft” headquarters. Apparently Batman had a whole bunch of star-themed super-weapons handy, which only makes sense because I guess starlight was also shining through the window of his library that night. I imagine Batman also has a backup superhero identity set up based on moonlight, the pleasant smells of a well-tended garden, and broken glass.

The key is making sure no one gets suspicious when
Batman asks them to hold a paper bat in front of
their faces.
The second half of Batman’s therapy involves having Robin tie him to a chair, except not in the fun way. In a scene reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, a frightened and panicking Batman is shown endless clips of himself in action in order to alleviate his symptoms by re-associating the bat with only good things. You know, fresh-baked bat-cake, bat-massage, a quick skinny-dip in a pool of warm bats, all the pleasurable experiences we associate with bats.

In the end, the gimmick works. Batman’s short-lived Starman identity is packed away for the next forty years, until Robinson could rejigger it for his Starman run. As for Batman’s mental health, he resolves the case by punching Milo insensate through the silhouette of a construction paper bat, which I honestly believe ought to be his new signature finisher.

5 comments:

Britt Reid said...

Milo reappeared several times in the comics including a spectacular Neal Adams-illustrated story in Batman 255.
The "What if Bruce Saw Something Instead of a Bat" concept was explored in Batman 256...
http://estoreal.blogspot.com/2008/12/moth-snake-and-stingray.html

Sir Alvin said...

Still probably ties the Mikaal Tomas Starman for "shortest lived"-- a single appearance in First Issue Special'natch. I don't know if you have a copy, but it's TERRIBLE.

Sir Alvin said...

I stand corrected!

Britt Reid said...

"Still probably ties the Mikaal Tomas Starman for "shortest lived"-- a single appearance in First Issue Special'natch."

Mikaal became an ongoing member of the Starman comic's ensemble.
http://www.comics.org/character/name/mikaal/sort/chrono/

Sir Alvin said...

I guess when I say "short lived" I mean pre-James Robinson Starman. Before he got the buff and polish, he was little better than Green Team (and yeah, I know most of those other First Issue Special folks got the Grim 'n' Gritty treatment, but before comics got all aggressively agro and fanboy.)

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