Golden Age Showcase: Stardust the Super Wizard.

You know what I really like about comics?  The scope and scale of the medium.

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Sure, in any artistic medium you can tell big stories, but in comics?  Comics are the new mythology, giving us larger than life characters that serve as brightly colored allegories for the larger world.

The Golden Age of Comics had their myths and legends but let’s be honest with ourselves…they were somewhat limited.

It makes sense I guess.  After all, a lot of people were pressuring creators to churn out new superheroes as quickly as possible and there are only so many ways you can copy heroes like Superman or Batman.  Plus, our country was faced with an actual larger than life event known as World War 2 so those heroes were tasked with winning the war, but surely there had to be some way to inject a little grandiosity into the comic book scene.

Where’s the magic?  Where’s the ridiculousness?  Where’s the cosmic scale of it all?

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Oh, this’ll be interesting.

Origin and Career

Stardust the Super Wizard, a giant space magician with super strength and a tiny head,

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was first published in Fantastic Comics #1 in December of 1939.

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The title was published by Fox Features Syndicate, who published the first Blue Beetle, and created by writer and artist Fletcher Hanks.

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Hanks is also responsible for creating one of the first female characters in comics, a woman named Fantomah.

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Hanks was something of an elder statesman for a comic book industry that was dominated by teenagers.  He specialized in creating supernatural characters who had no qualms about wrecking terrible revenge against their antagonists and Stardust was no exception.

His origins are simple.  He’s a mysterious super being who descends from the stars to wreck terrible retribution on criminals everywhere.  Everyone knows this this due to a strange radio broadcast that tells them everything.

Comic Book Cover For Fantastic Comics #1

What’s his backstory?  Where does he come from?  Nobody knows.

What we do know is that his powers are seemingly limitless, and he demonstrates his power against two thugs who are just about to assassinate the President.

Comic Book Cover For Fantastic Comics #1

It’s pretty clear that our hero is a giant and has more powers than Superman did at his height.

It’s worth mentioning that Stardust also partakes in one of the hallmarks of the Golden Age of comics: the hero murdering hoards of criminals and evil doers in brutal fashion.

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The first story sets the tone for most of the Stardust stories as the hero defeats a series of increasingly over the top and surprisingly well equipped enemies with unimaginable violence.  While he would only last for 16 issues, each one of them is pretty epic and worth checking out.

It’s worth mentioning that Stardust didn’t just police Earth, he dedicated his life to busting crime all across the solar system from his private star base.

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He had enemies with creative names like Kaos of Venus, the Brain Men of Mars, and Yew Bee.

My personal favorite is the story where our hero faces the evil machinations of an arch criminal named De Structo, who plans to use an oxygen destroying ray to suffocate the political leadership of the United States.

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No I’m not making any of that up.

Stardust captures De Structo and punishes him by removing the villain’s head, keeping it alive, and throwing it to an alien beast known as a “giant headhunter”.

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Funny how the headhunter alien looks suspiciously human.  Also, that is not a good way to go.

So what happened?

As I stated above, Stardust only lasted for 16 issues.  I have no idea why he didn’t last longer and can only assume that people were allergic to fun and epicness.

Thankfully, all was not lost and it turned out that Fletcher Hanks had developed something of a cult following.  All of his Golden Age stories were collected into anthologies and are currently published by Fantagraphics Books.

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Also, it turns out that Stardust is a superhero that has greatly benefited from being in the public domain since he has actually appeared in a lot of other independent projects.

Some of his more notable appearances have been in Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,

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He also had a cameo in Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon #141.

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He’s also been used in a genre that we don’t talk a lot about on this blog: table top games.  His name was used as an example of how power corrupts in The Super Villain Handbook by Fainting Goat Games.

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Stardust the Super Wizard may have had a short career in the Golden Age, but it was a career filled with memorable events and villains.  He’s remembered fondly today and his reputation is well deserved.

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Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention #3: Legacy Code

So last week I got my first request to help promote a Kickstarter campaign with this weekly blog series (by the way, if anyone reading this has a Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Patreon campaign up and running feel free to send it to my Twitter @mblair112 and I’ll take a look) and I was impressed with this title so I decided to give them some well deserved attention.  Welcome to Legacy Code.

Link to the Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shortfusemedia/legacy-code-comics-cartoon-video-game-toys-costume

What is it?

Legacy Code is a Kickstarter campaign to build a one shot comic, animated movie, computer game, and table top RPG.  The project is run by a company called Short Fuse Media, a relatively small comic book publisher that has this neat service where they can take a character of your creation and turn it into everything from a short comic to an action figure.

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This Kickstarter campaign itself is Short Fuse’s shot at building a fully realized, self contained, massive multi media universe set in a sci fi dystopia which is like, according to their own words, “imagine ‘The Terminator’ mixed with ‘X-Men, ‘The Matrix’ and ‘All You Need Is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow)’ and you would have ‘Legacy Code'”.

Why I like it

You’ll notice a couple of things about the paragraph above.  First, there isn’t much in the way of plot.  The Kickstarter video simply describes the concept in very broad terms.

The second thing you’ll notice is that this project is really…really ambitious.  Trans media story telling, the idea that you can tell the same story across different mediums like television and books at the same time, is an idea that starting to catch on.  It’s something that I’m very interested in studying and with the advent of the internet and our deeply connected society it’s becoming more and more realistic every day.  Normally I’d be against putting something this broad and this ambitious up on Kickstarter but credit where credit is due they’ve put up quite a bit of material on their page already so I get the feeling that when they say they’re building a comic

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an animated movie

a video game

and a tabletop RPG

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they can pull it off.  Also, while describing a story or set of characters in broad strokes doesn’t help potential backer understand the world you’re trying to create, it is sometimes necessary when you’re trying to build something on this scale.

Another thing I like about the project is the sheer amount of talent attached to it.  One of the biggest risks in giving your hard earned money to a stranger is that the stranger will simply turn around, take your money, and leave you high and dry with nothing to show for it.  However, I don’t think that will happen here as almost everyone attached to this story has also led successful Kickstarter campaigns themselves.

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These guys mean business and I get the feeling that whatever they create will not only epic and awesome, but be a fun and productive exercise in translating an idea into a world that doesn’t just come alive in a comic but in a movie and game as well.

Why you should donate:

These kinds of projects are going to be the future.  Not long from now we’re going to see everyone trying to turn their stories and characters into ideas that won’t just be comfortable in one particular medium, but will reach out and grab our attention in all sorts of new and interesting ways.  So if you want to be on the cutting edge of entertainment and make sure the future is run by dedicated and creative companies with good ideas and wonderful storytellers, donate today.

Campaign link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shortfusemedia/legacy-code-comics-cartoon-video-game-toys-costume