Hey-Ho! Let's Go! it's time for another peek into the Coulda-Been Quarter Bin. This time around, we look backwards at the first and only issue of Jack Kirby's SILVER STAR.
Back in the early 90s, speculators were handing over crippling quantities of cash to comics publishers in exchange for poly-bagged foil covers and zilo-tupple-platinum editions of the same old four-color crap. So even people who ought to have known better were deciding to churn out funnybooks. One of those neo-publishers was Topps, longtime purveyor of bubble gum and baseball cards. Poor bastiches never even knew what hit 'em
The opening salvo in Topps' dedicated attempt to separate America's youth from their lunch money was a buncha new comics characters created and designed by "The King" himself, Jack Kirby, "new" being something of a relative term here. The character designs and story concepts chiefly came from Kirby's files of unrealized and/or unfinished projects, many of them originally slated for Pacific Comics a decade or so earlier. But this meant they were "new" to the comics-buying public---or mostly so. Fair enough. Topps licensed these and launched what was to be an eight-title interconnected world ---the Kirbyverse!!! ---whose core title was Jack Kirby's SECRET CITY SAGA.
Chances are the Topps people,figured they had struck gold. They had a coterie of costumed super-doers, created by one of comics' most admired and enduring creators. Many of the writers and artists producing the books had an impressive list of credits behind them: Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella, Steve Ditko, John Severin. Dick Ayers. And even more, the whole shootin' match was spearheaded by Editor-In-Chief and all-around Cool Dude Jim Salicrup, who had, in his two decades at Marvel, edited both the X-Men and Spider-Man titles,two of Marvel's best-reconized and best-selling franchises. On paper, it probably seemed like a pretty good bet.
But the best-laid plans, and all that. The Kirbyverse failed to catch fire in a major way. SECRET CITY SAGA, CAPTAIN GLORY , NIGHTGLIDER and TEEN AGENTS ---probably others, I can't recall---all rolled out and quickly tanked. The Topps Gods had no desire to lose any more money than was necessary, so they pulled the plug on this patient. While some of us were, of course, still working furiously to fan that spark.
I am referring here to SILVER STAR. SILVER STAR was a title that, unlike most of the others, had originally been published a decade or more earlier by the aforementioned Pacific Comics. That meant that there were readers who were already (theoretically) familiar with the character and his "Captain America-by-way-of-the-X-Men" origins. And maybe, just maybe, some of those who'd been fans of the character back in the '80s would join the new readers we hoped to attract.The creative team was totally into it. The book was written by soon-to-be superstar Kurt Busiek, and inked by already-a-superstar Terry Austin, both of whom I had collaborated with before. Kurt was one of my bestest buddies, and we had worked together on one Project (heh heh) or another since 1987 . Terry Austin was, well, Terry Austin, one of my (and almost everybody's) all-time fave inkers since before his X-Men days. And here we were, working on a character created by Jack Kirby. Honestly, how could this not be fun? For us, anyway.We wanted to continue with many of the themes and characters from Kirby's original six-part series, but tell a new story that would be a good fit for
Kurt and I were both fans of the films of John Woo (kind of a new thing for many folk in this country back then), and the overlap between Woo's sensibilities and Kirby's informed the story Kurt concieved. A shameless paraphrasing of a tagline from HARD-BOILED served as the springboard: One Bold Hero! One Criminal Mastermind! One THOUSAND Supervillains! And believe you me, we were gonna live up to the hype!
As you'll see a small example of below, we crammed more costumed evildoers than Anybody Ever into these four issues. Honestly, I don't remember how close we came to the actual 1,000 before the plug got pulled, but we were Very Close. Nowhere near all of them were lucky enough to have their names spoken on-panel, but Trust Me, they DID all have names. If a character was specific to the plot, Kurt would come up with a name and/or shtick for him/her. Other times, he would just tell me "fill the background with twenty or thirty bad guys. A DIFFERENT twenty or thirty bad guys than the previous panel". Often the groupings were completely random. From time to time, we would bunch them by theme, which often made generating names and powers a simpler matter. It stood to reason that with so many villains, duplication of powers and motifs was going to be inevitable. So our bad guys often broke into sub-groups full of like-powered characters. Issue three began with three splash pages featuring Silver Star versus an army of giant-sized villains. My faves from this bunch?First there was "Gi-Ant", a Hank Pym-inspired goon with a twenty-foot tall human body and the head of, obviously, an ant. And close on his heels was a curly-haired four-story bruiser in a Buster Brown outfit and a domino mask, brandishing a lollipop the size of a pickup truck. Him we called "The Big Sissy".
Silly? Hells, yeah. YOU try coming up with names for a thousand goddamn supervillains and see what kinda straws you start to clutch at. In any event, that was a big part of what made this series was THE most fun I'd ever had drawing a funnybook at that. Costumes Galore! Action Aplenty! Pretty girls Everywhere! And juuuuust enough plot to justify it all. It was the comic book every twelve-year-old wants to do, whether he knows it or not. And, of course, we were hoping a few of them might want to read ours.
But, you already know how the story ends. Issue one of Jack Kirby's SILVER STAR and the cancellation order kinda crossed at the water-cooler. Kurt and I have had numerous conversations about someday reviving the story. All it would take is a new, original hero in the lead, the removal of all the Kirby-elements, and a new publisher willing to take the shot. It could happen (see Coulda-Been Quarter Bin Part One). But, until that happens, here's the first issue, as it appeared way back when. And even though I look at Every Panel and see hundreds of things I wish I had drawn better, I'm still pretty proud to show it off.