Starstruck #1 (IDW)

starstruck_header.jpgElaine Lee and Michael William Kaluta work the scattered history of this play-turned-comic into a complex, layered, but fun space opera.

 

28 pgs., color; $3.99
(W : Elaine Lee; A: Michael William Kaluta)
I’ve heard some complex historical tales in my time but the genesis of the semi-new Starstruck comic series issued by IDW may take the cake. Starstruck started out as an off-Broadway play (New York theatre must have been more fun in those days!) by Elaine Lee, her sister Susan Norfleet Lee, and Dale Place. Elaine Lee was an actress working in the soaps who was nominated for a daytime Emmy in 1979 for her role in The Doctors (don’t laugh, a lot of talent worked on that show including Ted Danson, Ellen Burstyn, and Kathy Bates). Lee and artist Michael William Kaluta, who designed the costumes and sets for the play, created the comic to explain the back-story of the Starstruck universe. The comics were published in Heavy Metal magazine in 1982 and as a graphic novel in 1984. Then six more issues of Starstruck were published by Marvel, Dark Horse Comics brought out four issues in 1990-1991, and a few Galactic Girl Guides were published in The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine in 1988-1989. Now IDW is publishing a 13-issue Starstruck series that is a combination of reworked and original material.
OK, if you’re still with me you might be a candidate for this comic because it’s complex and nonlinear and assumes that its readers like a challenge. To be honest, if I hadn’t done a little research I would have been lost in the first issue because Lee likes to plunge you into her created universe and let you figure it out for yourself. Issue #1 includes a three-page guide to characters and concepts which is so opaque I gave up and just went with the story as it was presented.
Starstruck is a space opera (remember those?) which revels in complexity and layering, hence it’s bound to be rough sledding at first. The basic setup is that there’s a power struggle between Medea and her androids (identical space-babes numbered for convenience) and the empire of Baron Bajar (who anticipates the look of Stephen Colbert by about 25 years). The Baron has two kids and a lot of retainers who have the ability to hover in mid-air and are drawn with an oddly static, archaic look reminiscent of the Teenie Weenies. The look in the land of the Medeans is more Patti Labelle. Medea (I think) heads out to seduce the Baron in an outfit which is a true miracle of engineering: the Medeans must have invented some kind of super-Spandex to allow so little material to be stretched so tightly over so curvaceous a figure.
Starstruck is full of meta elements: the chapters are introduced with quotations and cryptic comments and the stories incorporate asides and commentaries that make the Starstruck universe an interesting place to visit even if you haven’t yet figured out what is going on. The art is great although somewhat nostalgic: even the nudity and exaggerated female bodies seem innocent compared to what you see in comics these days. The art is newly colored by Lee Moyer and looks great, and the frames are complex and detailed, which is appropriate to Lee’s style of storytelling.
The first issue include a Galactic Girl Guides story as well, which I believe will be carried forward in future issues. They’re great fun, particularly if you are nurturing your inner tomboy or know a young tomboy who could use some encouragement. The Guides are three friends stuck in someplace which looks like Dorothy Gale’s Kansas who get to do cool adventure stuff while learning the truth of their motto: “A Girl Guide is wary, cunning, clever, assertive, flexible, patient, inventive and brave…but not stupidly so.” All I have to say is, where can I sign up?
You can read an interview with Elaine Lee, Michael William Kaluta and Lee Moyer and check out some samples of the comic at this website. If you’re curious to hear more of the back-story of Starstruck and see photos from the stage production and some of the original art check out this article. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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