By Gabriel Neb
“GOOD MORNING COMIC-CON!”
With this effusive greeting, moderator Coy Jandreau welcomed both the audience and the star of the panel”Jim Starlin: Celebrating 50 Years,” to which the man of the hour replied, “Don’t ask too many precise questions.”
With that, Coy began a series of well-crafted questions and topics that Jim was happy to discuss to illustrate the extent of his fifty years in the comics business, both as a writer and artist.
It all started in Detroit. Comics were his culture because, well, Detroit. His father worked as an illustrator for Chrysler and as such he would bring home art supplies in the hopes that he would work on an occasional project at home… which he wouldn’t, but Jim would! Jim grabbed the unused art supplies and began tracing images he would find in comics. One of the comics mentioned was Adventure Comics.
Coy then asked where the “intoxication” and intellectual thought of some of his stories came from. Blame the parish school Jim attended through the 8th grade [approx age 13]. While the nuns were crazy, and often John Bircher (far right lunatic, common in the 1950’s) he was able to absorb many of the lessons they taught him because to Jim everything is input. As a brief digression, he mentioned that he was fortunate to work with great collaborators such as Ron Lim (INFINITY GAUNTLET) and Bernie Wrightson (BATMAN: THE CULT).
The Marvel Comics theme came up in the 1970s. Jim explained that all of the Marvel Comics could have fit in half the room we were in (7AB). He was assigned a booth right next to the creator of HOWARD THE DUCK Steve Gerber… who was narcoleptic – which caused Gerber to occasionally hear a “boom” when he fell asleep.
“It was kind of surreal.” The camaraderie was strong and likely contributed to the “intoxication,” as free hours were spent drinking as much as philosophical debates Carlo Castaneda.
The low points at Marvel began in the 1980s when it seemed like Marvel was selling and reselling every week. One of the low points was when Ron Perlman bought the company. Jim left around that time after completing the INFINITY CRUSADE series (circa 1993).
Then Jim noticed a cup of coffee was nearby and was glad it was for him.
This led to a brief discussion of an accident five years ago that left him unable to draw for a number of years. A seltzer enthusiast, Jim used a soda machine that malfunctioned while filling a bottle. The bottle, a 16-ounce water bottle, swelled to the size of a football and his wife begged him to get rid of it. Jim took it outside and it exploded, severely injuring his right hand. He could still write, but he didn’t get back to drawing until the future DREADSTAR inker Jaime Jameson asked for a picture of Dr. Doom that Jim provided.
The next subject was the creation of death. Not the character from SANDMAN, but the “love” of Jim’s character, Thanos. “It was an accident,” Starlin said. In one of Thanos’ early appearances, there were two characters in the shadows. Jim hadn’t given it too much thought, but he decided to give one of the characters breasts, and ideas spread from there. Originally, both characters would have been shapeshifting Skrulls.
Ever since Thanos showed up, the discussion has revolved around Jim’s thoughts on the cinematic incarnation of Thanos. “They stayed with the spirit of the character, if not the letter.” Which was fortunate, as he feared the character would suffer interpretative fates that befell those characters in the 2017 JUSTICE LEAGUE film, which he made just before the premiere of AVENGERS : INFINITY WAR had seen.
Jim spoke of another cinematic achievement inspired by creation: SHANG-CHI, on which he made little expenditure as…it involved drawing cars and horses – which Jim dislikes, and incorporating pulp characters and racist trope Fu Manchu into the background story. He was grateful then to step on CAPTAIN MARVEL because, space! It’s a lot more fun to draw and Gil Kane’s designs were really good. It was also at a time when science fiction stories could be about more than ray guns thanks to the influence of STAR TREK.
Thus began the days when Jim became famous for killing characters. The first was when he killed Captain Marvel at the publisher’s suggestion Jim Shooter, and the second was the death of Jason Todd Robin. Jason Todd’s fate was voted on over the phone – and Jim knew comic book fans were a bunch of ghouls, so he was sure Jason was doomed. That there was a difference of 72 votes between the two was surprising. It also resulted in Jim being fired from DC as the company needed someone to blame.
DC’s loss was the comics’ gain, as he soon returned to Marvel to start the INFINITY GAUNTLET stories (although Jim expressed interest in writing some Joker and Clayface stories).
Jim’s most famous independent character is probably Dreadstar. For this purpose, a movie or a TV show is discussed intensively. Dreadstar is a complicated story, and there are more examples of comic book characters being treated badly than there are good ones, although Jim has expressed admiration for Warners’ DOOM PATROL show and some of the Marvel shows.
Dreadstar is “An anarchist without a second act”. Jim continues to work on Dreadstar stories. He is 46 pages in the third book and planning the fourth and fifth books.
One development Jim is pleased about overall is the two majors [Marvel and DC] Not affecting careers like they used to.
The Q&A part covered a few things like Drax the Destroyer (“The movies did Drax better than me. I’ve never been comfortable with him.”) and Adam Warlock, at least his possible cinematic incarnation.
Jim wouldn’t reveal anything, but… “I know things, and I’m comfortable with what I’ve heard.” That’s the extent to which Jim would discuss any involvement in what’s to come James Gunn Movie GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Volume 3.
In response to a question about the existential drive of his characters, Jim would only quote Joseph Campbell: “Find your happiness and follow it.”