REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES STARMAN
Although as of this writing, it's only a few months in, I continue to be impressed by the entries that Mattel is offering through the DC Universe Classics-style Signature Series line via MattyCollector.Com.
This review will take a look at one of the newest additions to the line, STARMAN. Now, this is hardly the first Starman in the DC Universe Classics line. Some time back, the original, Golden Age Starman, Ted Knight, was produced, as was his son, Jack Knight. But this isn't either character. In fact, it's the Starman of the 31st century, the former Star Boy, member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and, during a sojourn to the 21st century, a member of the Justice Society of America.
His real name is Thom Kallor. Let's have a look at his history, and then consider the figure.
Thom Kallor first appeared in Adventure Comics #282, in March of 1961, and was created by Otto Binder and George Papp.
Star Boy is a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. He was born with the superhuman ability to temporarily increase the mass of an object, up to the mass of a star. He was born on an observatory satellite orbiting the planet Xanthu, to astronomer parents. He temporarily gained Kryptonian-level powers like those of Superboy when he was caught in the tail of a comet, but in time those faded leaving only his original density power.
Early in his Legion career, he travelled to the 20th century to meet Superboy. While there, Lana Lang threatened to expose his identity (which was still a secret on Xanthu) if he did not pretend to be her boyfriend in order to make Superboy jealous. However, the Boy of Steel overheard her talking to Star Boy, so the plot failed.
Star Boy was expelled from the Legion for killing in self-defense his girlfriend Dream Girl's ex-boyfriend, Kenz Nuhor, thus breaking the Legion's non-killing rule. After this, he and Dream Girl joined the Legion of Substitute Heroes for a time before returning to the Legion. Star Boy originally wore a purple uniform with a white cape and five-pointed yellow star on his chest, but his best known costume was a full-body starfield suit with white gloves and boots.
Following the events of Zero Hour, Star Boy joined the Legion following the death of Kid Quantum, Xanthu's original Legion representative. He did not get along with Leviathan, partly because Leviathan blamed himself for Kid Quantum's death and saw his replacement as a reminder of his failure as a leader.
In addition to his mass increasing powers, Star Boy temporarily gained several new powers following spaceship accidents including Kryptonian-like powers (as in pre-Crisis history) and fire-breathing. However, he found these abilities difficult to control.
When Xanthu left the United Planets, Star Boy and his fellow Xanthian Legionnaires (Kid Quantum and Monstress) worked hard to reveal that their home planet's government had been deceived, and were astonished when they subsequently decided to remain with the Affiliated Planets.
During a storyline in Starman, the post-Zero Hour Thom Kallor discovered that his apparent destiny is to travel back in time to the 21st century to take on the mantle of Starman (under the alias of "Danny Blaine") with the full knowledge that he will lose his life there. It was also suggested that he was the reincarnation of both Opal City police officer Matt O'Dare and the western hero Scalphunter.
The Danny Blaine/Thom Kallor version was inspired by the Kingdom Come depiction of the character, designed by Alex Ross.
The Starman presented in the pages of Justice Society of America is revealed to be a Thom Kallor who appears similar to his original pre-Crisis incarnation (including the Starman history detailed above), rather than the Star Boy that had most recently appeared in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 5, raising questions of co-existing timelines. He traveled from his future to the Kingdom Come universe, at that point recently re-created as Earth-22 at the conclusion of the "52" series (not to be confused with the current "New 52"), and then to the present day.
Kallor claims to hear voices in his head and has been diagnosed as a borderline schizophrenic. When not performing his superheroic duties, he resides at the Sunshine Sanitarium, a mental hospital. and takes medications for his illness, both of which he does voluntarily; his favorite day at the hospital is Wednesday as that is the day sloppy joes are served. It is revealed that his schizophrenia was brought about soon after he acquired his abilities, which resulted in him spending several years in a mental asylum. His condition was brought under control with 31st century technology. However, medication in the present day failed to keep it in check.
Still incapacitated and in a sanitarium, he adopted a civilian identity, Danny Blaine, the name of his favorite pulp hero on Xanthu. These events seemed to fulfill some of the events predicted in the pages of Starman years earlier.
Soon after, the god-like Gog restores Thom's sanity, something Thom believes is a bad thing. Not long after Starman leaves the sanitarium, and takes a job as a gravedigger, which he believes will help him in carrying out a mysterious mission in the present that he has been charged with. During a battle with the Justice Society Infinity of Earth-2, it is revealed that his starfield suit was designed by three Brainiac 5's and in actuality is a map of the recreated multiverse.
The rest of the JSA arrive, having learned from Sandman that Gog is rooting himself into the Earth, and if he remains for one more day, the Earth will die if he ever leaves, leaving them with the one option of killing Gog and separating his head from the Earth, which is the only way to save the planet. The other society members following Gog attempt to protect him, until they see him attempt to attack a Society member. All of the followers take up the fight, and Gog punishes them all by taking away his blessings, including Starman's sanity. The JSA succeed in defeating Gog, and Starman opens a stargate to the Source Wall, where the "Kingdom Come" Superman places the head of Gog. Superman requests that Starman returns him to Earth-22, which he obliges to.
In the Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds mini-series, it is revealed that Starman's long-mysterious mission was given to him by Brainiac 5, as part of a conflict taking place in the 31st century between the Legion and the united forces of Superboy-Prime and the Legion of Super-Villains. Starman's mission was to exhume the body of Superboy (hence his taking a job as a gravedigger) and place it in the regeneration chamber in the Fortress of Solitude used to restore Superman following his own death. The healing process takes 1000 years, but in the 31st century, at the peak of the battle, Superboy is reborn to join the fight. Starman does not return to the 31st century at the end of the series. He remains in the 21st century to carry on with "a dead man's last wish", and as he says it, a document can be partially seen, on it, written in Interlac, the words "Last Will and Testament of R. J. Brande" can be read.
As revealed in Adventure Comics vol. 2, #8, Starman is part of a secret Legion team sent by the late R.J. Brande to the 21st century to save the future in the "Last Stand of New Krypton" storyline.
He has since returned to the 31st century and has received the necessary medicine to restore his mental stability. The Legion has not been overly affected by the "New 52", and has in fact referenced the "Flashpoint" event that kicked it off, stating that it has blocked time travel access to the 21st century.
As to his powers and abilities, In every incarnation, Thom has the ability to temporarily increase the mass and density of any object or person. To avoid violating the first law of thermodynamics, this extra mass is usually described as having been "borrowed" from a nearby star. In the post-Zero Hour reboot version, Thom also learned to use his density manipulating powers on himself. He also demonstrated the ability to detect minute discrepancies in mass or density and to exactly determine the mass of any given object or objects even more accurately than the 31st century measuring instruments of Brainiac 5.
On several occasions, his power was used for more unusual efforts, such as preventing gravitational effects on Earth from the appearance of a massive fleet of warships in orbit, or in the "Threeboot" version of the Legion working in conjunction with Light Lass and a power amplifier designed by Brainiac 5 to stabilize the solar system after the arrival of a new planet.
The version of Thom that is working with the Justice Society of America has demonstrated the ability to travel (or send others) between alternate universes using a combination of his mass controlling powers and his uniform, which was made into a map of the Multiverse by three Brainiac 5's from different realities.
So, after all that -- proof if nothing else of how confusing time travel and conflicting realities can get (just be glad I didn't include every version of this character), how's the figure?
Really very nicely done. Starman uses the standard male body molds of the DC Universe Classics line, carried over into the Signature Series, as one would expect. The sculpting and design team of the Four Horsemen really put together one of the best designs for a super-hero figure that I've ever encountered. Well detailed musculature that works well with the articulation design.
I know there are people that like more variety in their action figures, but I sincerely appreciate the consistency that this design has brought to the DC Universe of action figures produced by Mattel.
Starman, typical for a DC Universe Classics-type figure, stands about 6-1/2" in height. Now, one might wonder -- how do you craft a costume that's not only supposed to look like a starfield, but essentially represent a map of the entire Multiverse? I mean, let's face it, that's not something that Rand McNally is going to put together to be folded into your glove compartment. Or if you want a more modern comparative statement, I don't think you'll find a "Multiverse" option on your GPS, either.
It probably would've been easy enough for Mattel to mold Starman with a black uniform, paint the gloves and boots white, and then either come up with some sort of paint spatter notion, or even what would doubtless be a really, really intricate stencil or imprint that could be applied to the costume.
That would've worked -- more or less. A paint spatter application probably would've left some fairly large globs of paint here and there (trust me, I've tried this sort of thing myself on custom projects -- it happens), and I don't know if they could've come up with an intricate enough stencil or imprint, although I'll certainly give them credit for a lot of their paint stencils and imprints in the line over the years. But -- it would've worked.
However, that's not what they did. Instead, they molded Starman's body out of a semi-transparent black plastic -- and you pretty much have to hold him up to a bright light or in a sunny window to be able to tell -- that looks to have been infused with a great many little silver speckles of some sort.
Let's remember that Starman's uniform isn't just intended to represent a fancy starfield. It's supposed to be a map of the Multiverse. If Carl Sagan were still alive, he could rattle off "billions and billions" all he wanted, and he wouldn't come close to the immensity that is the Multiverse. We're talking about a really, really big place.
When the Multiverse was re-established in DC, it was said to consist of 52 distinct universes. A while back, I think it was National Geographic -- some popular science magazine, anyway -- came up with a photograph of the universe, cobbled together from a wide range of photos taken by space telescopes. Now -- try to picture 52 of those. That's a little hard to portray with just a starfield. Frankly, it's a little hard to wrap my head around. No wonder Thom Kallor ended up in a mental facility. Probably stared at his sleeve for too long.
Now, I doubt very much that there are "billions and billions" of little silver speckles in this figure. But there's a heck of a lot of them -- far, far more than could have been achieved through spattered paint, stencils, or an imprint. And the unusual nature of the molding procedure worked like a charm. If you look closely enough at the figure, the silver speckles tend to shine only when hit by fairly direct light, which enhances the look of Starman's musculature, as well as making this three-dimensional figure look that much more like how some artists have interpreted his very complicated costume on the printed page.
About my only concern is that Mattel has had rather variable luck with semi-transparent plastic in their action figures in recent years. Roboto, a Masters of the Universe Classics figure with a clear torso, has held up well. So has Golden Pharaoh, a DC Universe Classics figure with a transparent purple torso. On the other hand, another Masters of the Universe figure, the green Goddess, who was molded almost entirely in a frosted transparent green, has become notorious for self-destructing. One hopes that Starman will fare better than that.
Really the only painted detail on Starman is his gloved and boots, which have been painted in a sort of pearlescent white, just so they don't look to dull next to the rest of the costume. And they've been painted very neatly.
Starman comes with two interchangeable heads. One of these represents how he appeared in the present day, working alongside the Justice Society of America. This presents Starman with a full head mask revealing no facial features, just two white eyes. The mask is made of the same semi transparent, silver-flecked black plastic as the body.
The second head represents Starman as he appears with the Legion of Super-Heroes, and that is unmasked. Thom Kallor has a very human-looking face, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a full mustache and beard. The head has more paint detail on it than any other aspect of the figure, but has been very neatly painted, and is an excellent detailed sculpt, as one would expect, and I for one am very pleased that it was included.
So, is Starman a member of the JSA, or the Legion? I think it could be argued that this depends on which head he's wearing. Masked, he's part of the JSA. Unmasked, he's with the Legion. My personal preference leans towards the Legion. Nothing against the JSA, but I've always been a big Legion fan. Need it be said I ordered the Legion of Super-Heroes 12-pack when Mattel produced it in late 2011, but there are still plenty of Legionnaires that Mattel could do. I'm more than willing to include Starman among them. Although, unfortunately, the right hand does not include a Legion flight ring. That's really my only disappointment with this figure.
Of course, Starman is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The heads swap back and forth very easily. The figure has a slightly different feel to him than most DC Universe Classics-type figures, and doubtless this is due to the unusual plastic used to make him. However, all of his various articulation points move well, without difficulty, neither too tight nor too loose. Again, one hopes he stays that way.
So, what's my final word? Starman may not have been the most prominent member of either the JSA or the Legion, but he did play a significant role in the recent adventures of both teams, and certainly in restoring the Connor Kent Superboy. And there's no denying that his costume gives him a very cool look, which Mattel has rendered most effectively.
I believe that any longtime DC fan will be pleased with this figure, especially if they're a fan of either the JSA or the Legion, or both!
The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figure of STARMAN definitely has my highest recommendation!