Super-Blog Team Up has returned for its 5th installment bigger and better than ever. Multiple Blogs Unite Under One Banner, With One Topic, To Shatter the Blogosphere To Its Core! This time we have not only grown in size but rather have many more new ways to enjoy the S.B.T.U. through a plethora of multimedia, from our original Blog format, to V-Blog, to the Podcast arena..Super-Blog Team Up is back...this time we discuss Parallel Universes and Alternate Realities..The Super-Hero Satellite will be unleashing the multiple realities of Marvels STAR Comics line from 1984. The Satellite will go to familiar places such as Eternia (He-Mans home world as discussed in SBTU 4!!) to Thundaria, To The Moon Of Endor all the way to the Palace of Royal Roy..Strap in Heroes..its time to go back to a world created to print money and put smiles back on kids faces.Could these world possibly have ever truly ties into the Marvel Universe as we know it? The answer is YES!! So before Marvel relaunches this year..this is a celebration of a part of the old Marvel Universe that is often neglected..
Welcome Back Heroes,
In 1984 I was just beginning my comic collecting venture and my collection was in its infancy. I had not yet come to terms with a defined favorites list outside of the usual suspects like Spider-Man, Batman and Archie. Every now and then something outside of these titles would rear its head in my collection as was the case with Harvey comics. Occasionally an issue of Ritchie Rich or Sad Sack and The Sarge would grace my book shelf and welcomed they were! Those not familiar with the comic publisher Harvey here is your 10 second catch up. In 1941 New York publisher Alfred Harvey created Harvey Comics, a company that found its legs in the licensing market. They were all about purchasing character rights from Paramount Pictures and Famous studios cartoon favorites such as Casper The Friendly Ghost, Mutt and Jeff and my personal favorite the comedy war book, Sad Sack to name a few. It would be their original characters that would be their eventual drawing card for years to come. Ritchie Rich, Hot Stuff, and Wendy The Witch would be among the company’s flagship books well upon till 1982. While the comics market itself was in flux, change was in the air as kids titles and things such as funny animal books, popularized in the 50s and 60s were out of vogue. The industry was preparing for a big change into books tailored for a more mature audience. The comics buying audience had seemingly moved on from kids books and was about to grew up as a result Harvey comics founder Alfred Harvey retired from publishing in 1982 and closed up shop behind him selling off some of Harvey’s properties. Marvel Comics expressed interest in buying up the rights to the Harvey properties and with talks sitting in limbo they decided to launch an entire brand separate from their own Marvel Universe proper..thus was born from the ashes of Harvey Comics..The Marvel STAR Comics Imprint!
The STAR Comics Imprint model was not a new one..in fact it was the exact model devised by Harvey Comics in the 1940s. It would begin with the acquisition of licensed properties mainly from the exploding 1980s Cartoon Line Ups and Toyline’s at the time. (Satellite Cheap Plug..Read all about the Cartoon Explosion of the 80s as well as Hot toy properties of the 80s in link provided Super-Hero Satellite: R.I.P. Saturday Morning Cartoons.) The STAR line actually began with a One shot that parodied one of Marvels most popular titles, Marvel Tales. The Book, not yet under the STAR banner was the debut of the flagship character of the entire line..Peter Porker, The Spectacular SPIDER-HAM!!
Marvel Tails acted as a test launch for the brand and was a trial run for the Spider-Ham character. One more licensed property would be used to launch the brand and one that would ironically not resurface after the launch… was popular 80s Cartoon show The Smurfs! These three apples high blue dwarf like creatures called Smurfs would officially be the first STAR imprint based property acquired by Marvel. (Smurfs never officially wore the STAR banner on its cover but were the first true grab for the imprint. The 1982-83 three issue Limited Series was directly based off of actual cartoon episodes as well as older foreign Smurfs publications. The importance of getting the Smurfs property cannot be understated..this would be the first of many HUGE acquisitions for the potential future of the STAR line.
So it would begin in the July of 1984 (Cover Dated November 1984) STAR Comics would begin with yet another unusual title a 3 Issue Limited Series based on the Family Motion Picture The Muppets Take Manhattan.
It would officially debut the STAR Comics Imprint Logo in the Corner Box officially giving STAR Comics a beginning. It would be 5 months later that we would see what STAR Comics would actually look like! In an interesting choice of promotion, the original STAR Comics promos would feature their original characters over the upcoming licensed characters which would be Mammoth in scale! So the world was introduced to the likes of Planet Terry, Wally The Wizard, Top Dog. Spider-Ham also officially joined the fold as an ongoing character!
Licensing up to this point had been a very profitable venture for Marvel with smash successes of the likes of GI Joe, Transformers, Smurfs and not so much with Starriors. (*Nothing wrong with Starriors gang!) A very unheralded toy and comic book! Starriors fans unite!! LOL..Okay forget that. Moving on..bottom line licensed properties made money so Marvel was willing to build an entire universe around it!!
The line roared to life with a number of Hot properties five months later but stretched their debut over a two month period. Entry titles included Fraggle Rock, Heathcliff, Planet Terry and Strawberry Shortcake were released in the first month to a good reception. Month two launched The Ewoks, Get Along Gang, Muppet Babies, Royal Roy and Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham
Month two launched The Ewoks, Get Along Gang, Muppet Babies, Royal Roy and…my personal favorite of all the STAR Original core titles..
… Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham,,
Of Particular Interest to me in the entire line were the original characters so for anyone wondering what original characters that the STAR line created..well look no further..Satellite pull up the STAR file on the video wall for our Heroes to observe!
The original titles had all were “inspired” more than anyone would care to admit, however Marvel really did their homework to capture the genre. Below we discuss the STAR Originals, what they were about, and what their inspiration was.
Spider-Ham: The title was a straight up parody of Marvels lead franchise player Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. It was truly well done and the titled lampooned the real Amazing Spider-Man title very well but modified his origin like you would not expect. Peter Porker, you would expect to be a pig bitten by a Spider, but Marvel changed course and actually started Peter Porker as a SPIDER who bit an irradiated swine one, May Parker. (May of course was a parody of Aunt May in the core Spidey titles!) and transformed into a spider power pig himself! This would later be contradicted in Spider-Ham #6 when a flashback shows Peter being raised (As a pig NOT a Spider !!) by his Aunt May! This would never be clarified. The title had the full cast of characters to parody such a J. Jonah Jackal (J. Jonah Jameson), Mary Jane Water Buffalo (Mary Jane Watson), The Cravengers (The Avengers) The Punfisher (Punisher!), and The likes of The Hulk Bunny (The Hulk..duh!). The title was Bi- Monthly and notoriously lasted a mere 17 issues which was surprising to this writer as I always assumed that this would be STAR’s flagship title!It would be another anthropomorphic Funny Animal would fill that slot as longest running STAR title….Heathcliff the cat! More on that later. Spider-Ham would not disappear though as he would return in a reprinted back-up story in Marvel Tales for several issues. Spider-Ham would go on to appear on an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man as well as a video game, fill in data.
Planet Terry: The gimmick is that the name of the book is a play on words related to the word “Planetary” This familiar looking character was greatly visually inspired by Harvey Comics characters but was original all at once. Based in deep outer space, Terry as a child, was mistakenly launched from his parents spaceship into the outer reaches of space. His parents fearing the worst assumed that Terry and his space ship were done for and moved on with their lives. They were wrong. Terry and his spaceship, The “Space Warp”, actually survived intact and would begin a star spanning search to find his parents. Joined by a female Robot rescued from a junk heap named Robota and a large Lizard skinned alien Omnus. Terry scans planet after planet to find his parent but discovers that his journey will not be easy. In fact after only 12 issues Planet Terry was discontinued with STAR Comics and the character or the fate of his search was never revisited and remains one of comics lesser known incomplete story arcs. (Side Note: All Original STAR Characters would see print once again in the Marvel X-babies title in a brief updated appearance) Several hints and references to the Marvel Universe in the book indicated this title is happening in or parallel to the Marvel Universe proper of 1984-1985! The design of Planet Terry was directly imagined by former Harvey artist Lennie Herman who used a very familiar look Harvey Comics style look for the character. This was a deliberate as Marvel who had been in talks with Harvey Comics to buy out some of the existing Harvey properties after they closed their doors however as patience wore thin in negotiations, Marvel not willing to wait any longer, decided to create their own “Harveyesque” cast of original characters. This move that would get them in legal hot water out of the gate and almost doomed the STAR lineup from the get go..because of the next “Original” character..the notorious..
Royal Roy: Lets be straight up..Royal Roy was a DIRECT carbon copy of Harvey’s Ritchie Rich The Poor Little Rich Boy character. Like his inspiration Ritchie, Roy was similarly surrounded by wealth. Ritchie had a girl friend named “Gloria Glad“..while Roy had her clone” Crystal Cleer“. Ritchie had “Mayda Munny” who always attempted too swoon him out of his wealth..Roy had the oddly similar “Lorna Loot!” the writing was on the wall for Royal Roy as Harvey Comics took legal action on Marvels STAR Imprint citing that the Royal Roy series was a copyright infringement on the Ritchie Rich property. As it was..Royal Roy lasted a mere 6 issues before the plug was quickly pulled. The idea of making an in-house version of Harvey’s properties was seemingly a bad idea..and Marvel found out the hard way.
From money vaults to Magic, Dragons and Princesses in distress..
Wally The Wizard: This title lasted 12 issues and harkened back to the days to wizards and magic. It took the Harvey formula once again and tried to adopt some Disney tropes to introduce young wizard Wally! Using all the medieval classic stories from the Sword and The Stone to The Princess and The Frog, Wally The Wizard was one of the weaker entries to the line and never really seemed to catch fire. It told the story of Wizard Marlin (A play on Merlin!!) whose young adventurous apprentice Wally and his friends Conrad and Jay get into plenty of magical hijinks.
Through battles with dragons, water monsters and his main antagonists Vastar the Vile and the Wicked Wizard ,this child wizard has his hands full!! Wally competes in tournaments, journeys to the top of mountains, and casts all the spells you can imagine. Wally’s one inspiration is Princess Penelope of whom Wally simply came to her rescue at every turn! This title had little to offer in the way of originality and was not on many people’s priority lists. This title is not terrible and for its target audience of 5-12 year old’s there was enough in here to keep pages turning. From The Penthouse, To The Castle all the way to the Dog House..The next Original STAR Title may have been its most original..even though its run was a tragic 14 issues…lets jump into The Secret Life Of..
Top Dog: From somewhat unoriginal ideas to one of STARs most unique properties..we get Top Dog , a uber- intelligent, talking dog who is also a former government intelligence agent and now Super Spy! Living and teaming up with his human confidant Joey Jordan. Joey swears to keep Top Dogs background and abilities a secret! The duo is a proverbial super team, ala Batman and Robin and go on many undercover spy adventures. As the series progresses we learn much more about Top Dog and his past life as government agent extraordinaire “Mr. X”!! Other characters crossed over with Top Dog like the afore-mentioned Royal Roy, and fellow talking anthropomorphic animal, Heathcliff The Cat!
Top Dog was an interesting case study as it is the one title that seems to legitimately fuse the original Marvel Universe directly to the STAR Universe. A direct crossover with Spider-Man (A costumed knockoff!!) in a story that actually contained the true blue, Peter Parker. Unlike Planet Terry..it not only teased a connection to Marvel Proper but was deliberate about it. Amongst these adventures were several crossovers with other Star Comic characters such as Heathcliff and Royal Roy. The One story that involved a Spider-Man team-up way the crown Jewel of the series. Although it was actually an actor in a Spider-Man suit, the real Peter Parker does make an appearance. The series ran for fourteen issues after which, the character continued to make appearances in Heathcliff comic books (starting in issue #22) in both crossovers and backup stories. The ambiguity between STAR’s existence in the actual Marvel Universe is still a debate. Most however. discredit these comics as funny “What If” style stories that happened outside of cannon. Thats okay..it still does not take away the joy of STAR Comics. While we would be here for a while if we had to cover all comics produced in this line I will go through my personal top five titles outside of the STAR Originals! Satellite..pull archives..display TOP FIVE..
5. Ewoks: If one has read one of my all time favorite posts that I have ever written for this humble little blog you would appreciate my love for 1980s cartoons. Few did I enjoy more that tuning into the Droids-Ewok’s Hour. Ewok’s the Star Title continued the joy of the show and delved into new original storylines and the artwork remained consistent enough to make it feel like a good follow-up companion to the TV show. Ewoks would perform better than most STAR titles and lasted a total of 14 issues!
Check out The Super-Hero Satellites super post on The Ewoks Television Movies!! Super-Hero Satellite: A Caravan Of Ewoks
4. Droids: The best Star Wars cartoon ever on TV! Droids packed a punch..but that didn’t translate on the printed page! Lasting only a mere 8 issues The Adventures of R2-D2 and C3P0 was one title that I loved grabbing on the shelf..however Star Wars fans did not flock to the shelves in as many numbers as Marvel would have would hoped. It continued original stories based on the Droids cartoon show but the biggest drawing card was the John Romita artwork! The series finished with a three issue continuing story that featured Darth Vader and was actually quite good! If you were a fan of the original Star Wars Marvel Series then do yourself a favor and grab Droids 6-8! You are welcome!
3.Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos. When a group of kids and martial arts superstar Chuck Norris team up against the ninja terrorist organization known as VULTURE the result is..a Four issue STAR Comic series! That’s right..Four Issues. Matters are made worse when you discover that Marvel legend Steve Ditko was the artist during his dieing days as a Marvel Artist. The Comic Books based on The 1986 Ruby Spears cartoon show Chuck Norris Karate Kommando’s was also a very popular Toyline at the time..so how could it miss right? Ditko was not on his game and seemingly phoning it in with small odd jobs around Marvel who had not been giving this amazing artist any high-profile work. Sadly Karate Kommando’s was one of his last official Marvel works outside of his excellent Speedball series! The artwork was very loose and almost devoid of any intricate details and felt very dated. One can only speculate how much effort Ditko put forth given his Inevitable exit from the company a short time later. What was sad was that the TV series itself was only 5 episodes!! A show and comic that lived on in the hearts of comic book fans..well at least this one fan!
2. Thundercats: This title despite what anyone says about the STAR line, it was a case study in how you do a licensed property based on a Thundercats Saturday Morning Cartoon and famous Toyline. Original fun stories that matched the joy of this excellent cartoon. Issue one will always register in my memory banks for its bombastic cover. It was one of STAR’s longest running books coming in at a very respectful 24 issue run over 3 years! The title would begin like many STAR books in Bi-Monthly format but after 8 issues it was deemed more popular than imagined and went monthly until its 24th issue! This one had it all..engaging storyline’s true to the source material, great artwork to match, and killer hard to resist covers! I ran to these books as a kid..even though sadly it would be much later before I got to see a full episode of the Cats! Due to my location in Canada Thundercats was not found on local cable in many markets during its original run! What is the deal Canada..seriously? Fortunately the YTV network and much later Teletoon gave us all the vintage ThunderCats we could handle! Great save!
1. Masters Of The Universe: Okay, so there were many He-Man related titles from many companies but this one nailed it! The cartoon was amazing and no title recreated the magic of the cartoon than this particular series. Original and faithful are the best words to describe this book. The cartoon built to sell toys gelled well with this great title. It was filled to the brim with all the a MOTU fans every wish. It had the most obscure characters featured..it was loaded with the amazing line of castles, vehicles and worlds of Masters Of the Universe. The final two issues of this issue series were the Death and Re-Birth of He-man and absolutely were the best books in this series. He-Man fans out there..if you do not have this series in your collection you should not call yourself a fan!
Other Titles in The STAR Collection:
Prior to the final demise of the Star Comics imprint four more series were in development yet were never published..
- “Commander USA”
- Little Wizards
- Young Astronauts
So the STAR Imprint now a distant memory and todays Marvel Universe (2015) on the verge of a world shattering Reboot of their universe, one will wonder if any of these worlds will ever be explored again. Marvels use of licensed properties has always been a huge part of their business model, the question remains will there ever be room in the Marvel U again for simple fare such as what was offered by STAR! It was a simpler time and the Marvel Universe was a place not tied to a cinematic universe..or an ultimate universe..it was simply fun…and as a kid..thats all we cared about.
Satellite..punch in coordinates..we are headed to the outer reaches of the Blogosphere to meet the rest of the Super-Blog Team Up members..strap in..hold on tight…
FOLLOW THE REST OF THE SUPER-BLOG TEAM AS WE CONTINUE OUR JOURNEY TO PARALLEL UNIVERSES AND ALTERNATE REALITIES..Click the links below..and tell em Hero Sent ya!!
1.Amazing Spider-Talk / Chasing Amazing / Superior Spider-Talk
2. Between The Pages
A Tale Of Two Cities On The Edge Of Forever
Bronze Age Babies
Things Are a Little Different Around Here…
3. Firestorm Fan
Firestorm on Infinite Earths — Countdown Arena
4. Flodo’s Page
An Earth-1 / Earth-2 Team-Up Featuring Green Lantern
5. In My Not So Humble Opinion
The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong
6. The Legion of Super-Bloggers
Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes
7. Longbox Graveyard
X-Men #141 & 142: Days of Future Past
8. The Marvel Super Heroes Podcast (i.e. part of Rolled Spine Podcast)
Epic Comics’ Doctor Zero
9. Mystery Vlog
Marvel & DC’s Secret Crossover: Avengers #85–86 (1st Squadron Supreme)
10. Superhero Satellite
Marvel Comics’ Star Comics Line: Licensed Reality and Parallel Properties
11. Ultraverse Network
Parallel Worlds: The Ultraverse Before and After Black September
12.The Unspoken Decade
5 Batmen, 1 Superman, ZERO HOUR
The Ghost in the Machine:Robocop Versus Terminator