Starstruck #1, in stores in August from IDW
The last few years have seen a renaissance of reprints, ranging from
classic comic strips to runs by legendary creators. And once in a
while, an underappreciated gem gets a new chance to shine.
Such is the case of Starstruck,
a universe-spanning adventure whose history involves multiple
publishers, formats and mediums. Beginning as a stage play, it became a
series of stories in Heavy Metal, then a series in Marvel’s
Epic imprint, then a continuation at Dark Horse. Now, it’s being
reissued in an all-new, updated edition, and even becoming a series of
audio adventures, the first of which will serve as a charity reading to
help comics legend Gene Colan.
Starstruck will be reissued by IDW Publishing starting in August
as a 13-issue limited series. But this is no mere reprinting. In
addition to being completely recolored by renowned fantasy artist Lee
Moyer, series creators Elaine Lee and Michael William Kaluta have
reworked the original material, including reformatting pages, expanding
images, and all-new “Galactic Girl Guide” material inked by Charles
To take us through this massive story, Newsarama was privileged to talk
with Elaine Lee, Michael William Kaluta and Lee Moyer about a book that
Clive Barker called “one of the most brave and elegant experiments in
comic book storytelling.” In our three-part talk, we’ll also give you a
preview of the new, remastered pages. Ladies and gentlemen…Starstruck, as you’ve never seen it before.
Newsarama: Guys, for those who have not encountered Starstruck before, give us a basic introduction to the world and its characters.
Elaine Lee: I’m going to let Lee start this one…
Lee Moyer: The world of Starstruck takes place in the
Anarchic Era that follows the overthrow of the galaxy's Dread Dictator
(a cross between Kim Jong Il, the Shah of Iran, and Elvis), and begins
as a trio of wily guerrillas, led by Mary Medea, work to ensure the
Bajar Dynasty will no longer menace the multiverse.
But what happens from there is a roller coaster of real characters and
worlds. It uses text and graphics in amazing ways.
It's deep and wide
and ambitious and surprising and above all, fun.
EL: A good bunch of the characters come from two powerful
families, the Bajars and the Medeas. The Baron RSVdG Bajar, grandson of
the overthrown dictator, is a ruthless businessman and CEO of United
Free Trade Planets.
His twin children, Kalif and Ronnie Lee, cause much of the trouble in
our stories, thanks to a ferocious sibling rivalry. Ronnie starts her
own religion, using it as a source of income and a front for her
As the Bajars are descended from a terrible dictator, the Medeas
descend from Molly Medea, the rebel who helped to take him down.
Molly’s daughter, Margaret, is also a very successful businesswoman,
but a more benign type. She is the owner of Krystals ‘n’ Things, a
company that trades in Borinyum Krystals, which are both a source of
energy and capable of storing vast amounts of information.
Margaret Medea has daughter Mary (AKA Glorianna) by Sigrfried
Sigfriedsen, a freedom-fighting protégé of her mother’s. She has a
rather more evil daughter, Maggie (AKA Veroona Ti¨), by her second
husband, Geron Ti¨. Her middle daughter, Molly Younger (AKA Galatia 9)
is a special case, but we’ll not get into that here.
At the beginning of our story, we see Mary Medea, who takes after her
Dad and Grandma, as she and her partner, Randall Factor work to keep
the free multiverse free. They are being helped in their efforts by
certain beings of the Droid persuasion. Other characters, (Brucilla the
Muscle, Harry Palmer, Bronwyn of the Veil, Dwanyunn of Griivarr) are
caught up in the machinations of the warring elites.
In many ways, these pawns are the most fun characters. Most of the main
characters were characters in the play and were written for the actors
who played them. As Michael was so involved in the production, he knew
and loved the actors and drew the characters to look like them.
Michael William Kaluta: All the characters in the comic book
series grew out of characters from Elaine's play. Some were there
full-blown, some sketched in and others were implied. With the
development of the comic book tales, the personalities and interactions
of the major players were revealed in one of those "veils removed from
their line of sight" events: the development was a process of
discovery, as if even the least implied character from the play had
been waiting in the background to step onto the stage when their cue
The comic book echoes this story-writing endeavor: as the books
progress, the reader gets a slow reveal of the greater energies and
alliances by the way they impact the lives of the happy-go-lucky space
girls and boys eking out their bits of the big ball of wax
NRAMA: Could you attempt to explain the storied history of this
property, from stage to Heavy Metal to Epic to Dark Horse and IDW?
EL: Wow! The rise and fall of the Roman Empire in 500 words or less!
Okay… I was a young actor in New York City, a regular on a soap opera,
when Michael Kaluta walked up to my sister and me in a restaurant and
introduced himself, attracted by the girls with the pile of science
fiction magazines on their table.
My sister and I had started a theatre company (Wild Hair Productions)
with some actor friends and were planning our production of Starstruck.
At the time, I didn’t know who Kaluta was, but he said he was an
artist, so I wrote his name and number on an index card and filed it
under “May be of help with next play.”
A few weeks later, I was in West Side Comics and saw a poster for The Studio. There was a picture of a painting I had seen (and loved) on a back cover of Heavy Metal: The Fate of Dollies Lost in Dreams. The artist’s name was Michael Kaluta. The guy we’d met in the restaurant!
I called and told Michael that I would leave comp tickets for him at
the theatre for the show we were currently running. He came, loved it,
we talked, and I gradually roped him into doing the poster, then the
costumes, then sets for the play. After the production closed, Starstruck
was optioned, but it soon became clear that the producer was never
going to do anything with it. Michael suggested we do it as a comic.
MWK: The first idea was, of course, to do a comic book of the
play. It took about 12 minutes to realize the Ppay would not translate
into a comic book: Lots and Lots of terrific dialogue, great sets and
costumes, but all the action happening in two rooms and a corridor:
perfect for the stage, a challenge for the comics. Woe Woe for a few
moments, then we remembered the great device Elaine used to introduce
the characters in the play: as soon as they stepped onto the stage they
said something pithy, took a pose and were hit with a spotlight. Frozen
in place, a voice-over informed the audience of who, what, when, where
and how-- kill the spot, continue action.
Each character description had a ton of pre-play information that begged to be illustrated. There was the Starstruck
comic book. When it came to expanding the comic book, all the elements
of the future iteration seemed to already be on the pages: unknown
"background" characters were apparently getting on with their Starstruck life while Elaine and I weren't paying attention.
EL: Though I had loved comics as a kid, and the Starstruck play had been inspired by some of the stuff I had been seeing in Heavy Metal,
I had never written a comic. I had to learn how to think in panels.
Michael and I pretty much sat in the same room and wrote and drew the
thing at the same time.
NRAMA: How did the IDW edition come about, and what's it been like working with them?
MWK: As far as the IDW comic book goes, the interest came
totally from Scott Dunbier. The dream of having the newest version of
the comic out there in full color had long been in our hearts and, a
few times, seemed on the lip of happening.
Disappointment followed all the previous hopes: our various pitches,
while exciting most of whom received our offerings, eventually found an
insurmountable wall or unfathomable well, causing the door to close on
that possible publishing future. Now, because of Scott, the first third
of the entire Starstruck Canon will find its way into 21st Century hands.
EL: Weirdly, Michael and I were first contacted by both IDW and Play It By Ear (about the Starstruck play reading to benefit Gene Colan) within a couple of weeks of each other. For some reason, a renewed interest in Starstruck was just out there all of a sudden.
IDW has been great. Scott Dunbier’s terrific, very easy to work with.
He’s trusted us to do our thing. Best of all, the books are going to
NRAMA: Describe for our readers the process of updating the book.
LM: The original stories were expanded for the Dark Horse
versions in 1990, but they've been expanded quite differently this
time. Where the previous expansion involved an interstitial jigsaw
puzzle (rejiggering pages, moving panels, et al), this version will be
NRAMA: Michael, I was given to understand you had to reformat the graphic novel to fit in the pages…
MWK: Going from the “original” Starstruck (the material that appeared in Heavy Metal Magazine and was the bulk of the Marvel/Epic Graphic Novel) to the Expanding Universe
(the 4 issues published by Dark Horse Comics) was a terrific
engorgement of the story... there's one place where a panel showing two
characters talking at a cocktail party was cut in half and 20-odd new
story and art pages were set between the two talking heads.
LM: In this, the granddaddy of all versions, Michael is taking
panels and literally opening them up and showing you more. It's like
Steven Spielberg suddenly uncovering an extra $100 million and pulling
his camera back to reveal all the extras and sets that previously laid
just outside our perceptions. I thought the Heavy Metal pages
set in the Throne Room on Mirage were some of the most beautiful in
Comics history, but here Michael has the extra room for grandeur.
MWK: The work being added for the IDW Starstruck pages
is subtler in that there's no “new” content, just more “real estate.”
The adjustment will add to the on-going story by the invisible
eye-soothing effect of the comic book panel art sitting properly on the
comic book page... the reader will no longer have to adjust to an
almost square format art page on the tall rectangle of the standard
comic book. I'm here to tell you, though, it is definitely work, not
the least of which is me having to match art styles from either 20 or
30 years ago...
EL: Besides Lee’s color and Michael’s expanded panels, new stuff
in the IDW series includes a backup story with the Galactic Girl Guides
(pint-sized, space-hopping con artists), featuring a younger version of
the Starstruck character, Brucilla the Muscle, and her friend, Cookie Fabre. Cookie is Lieutenant Brucilla’s gunnery sergeant in one of the Starstruck episodes.
A bit of the Guide material was seen as a backup in Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer Adventure Magazine,
but most of it has never been published before. The Guides were inked
by Charles Vess and Lee has done painted color for the whole thing.
For my part, I’ve been expanding the Starstruck glossary – Ordering AnarchEra
– writing lots of new entries. There will also be a forward to each
episode, that will include some new art and will be written in the
voice of the character, Dwanyunn of Griivarr. Dwanyunn was a major
character in the play, but sort of hovers in the background of the
comic stories. He saw a lot, though!
NRAMA: Lee, what's the coloring/recoloring been like?
LM: Painting Michael's work is always a treat, but also one of
the most complex tasks in comics. I want to get it all right, but
there's just so much to get. Simply figuring out all the details is a
huge task, and there are single panels have taken me an entire day.
Before I began I bought a copy of the old Marvel Graphic Novel (#13!)
and took markers to it, that I might solve some of the problems I'd
always had with the old coloring.
I also took key locations
(Mirage, New Wyoming, Rec Station 97's infamous Vale of Tiers) and
painted them up fully. In that way I'd hoped to solve problems with
sets before I encountered them in my work, allowing me to focus on the
myriad fascinating and detailed characters.
The story opens with nearly-identical fraternal twins for example, and
keeping them straight for the reader was always a challenge. These are
not simple superhero duds, and characters actually change their
appearances (and names) over the course of the story...
EL: As beautiful as Michael’s line work is, Lee’s color makes
it that much more beautiful! And the color will help carry the reader
through the very complex storyline. Lee was an early fan of Starstruck,
so he knows all the ins and outs of the story. You may not remember,
but “Rootersnoos Ferret, Lee Moyer” wrote the “what happened in the
last issue” segments at the beginning of each Dark Horse issue!
MWK: Me, I'm sitting back in awe!
Some of the unsung enablers of Starstruck,
the comic book should get their rightful nod, I think... as with every
labor of love, there are mash notes and welts, both given and received
in well-meaning mistakes as well as perhaps calculated effrontery. The
love bites and heart breaks have healed over but played their parts in
the birth of Starstruck, the comic book.
There's a host of unknown and uncredited terrific Blue-Line Colorists
in Spain responsible for making the eventual Marvel/Epic Graphic Novel
so beautiful: they worked for Josep Toutain's SF Comic Book Magazine: the first place Starstruck
ever saw the light of day. There's a story in the linking up of the
bankroller and fan-press past-master Sal Quartuccio, who allowed the
first smoldering idea of the Starstruck comic to catch light, and the advent of (whatever that Spanish Comic was called), and their funneling of the color art to Heavy Metal magazine. Julie Simmons-Lynch had the catcher's mitt and John Workman was the entire infield as far as getting Starstruck out to the Heavy Metal readership.
I don't know who did the King Solomon diving off the story pages into the abrupt chapters that appeared for the several months Starstruck was included in Heavy Metal: I've only heard praise from those HM readers who found Starstruck a favorite at that time. In the transition from Heavy Metal to Marvel, there's John Workman on the one side and Jim Shooter on the other with our Entertainment Lawyer in between.
Being boss of Marvel, Jim read the entire content of what we had to
offer, suggested three additional pages and the removal of three others
and then handed the book to Epic's Archie Goodwin. Archie Goodwin was
the Artists' and Writer's choice as editor wherever he worked: he
ruled! Archie called us after reading the material and said: "I could
edit this, but I'd ruin it... it is not written nor presented in a
fashion I have an expertise in, so, I'm trusting it as is... that said,
want to do some Epic Comics as a follow up?". He also wrote and
cartooned the inside front covers for the Epic Starstruck series.
The assistant Epic Editors, Laurie Sutton and Jo Duffy, kept me at the
board and, though "on our side", did cause a moment or two of
Existential Angst when pitting the Starstruck lexicon against even the loosey-goosey word hoard of Comics In General.
Ann Nocenti, then X-Men editor, read Starstruck
and came up with an insight I've often dined out on... "If you read
(and re-read) the strip closely, you'll find there's always a pay-off
for every set-up, and what appears opaque always becomes clear in the
fullness of time, but: I don't spend that amount of time on my real
life!" Larry Hama vocally admired Elaine's conversational dialogue:
"read it out loud,” he'd say.
Steve Hickman was, from the beginning, a staunch advocate for the
stories and even contributed a family story that set the benchmark for
the "Sign of the Nova" Galactic Girl Guide badge. Add all the folks who
wrote in to Marvel, most knowing there'd never be a letters' page: some
astounded, some annoyed and some gushing with thanks for letting them
think while reading a graphic novel... another telling phrase I've
added to the History Of Those Who Wrote Starstruck
"Fan" Mail (a sort of corollary to Ann Nocenti's remark above): "Hey:
When I buy a comic book for 7 dollars, I don't expect to have to spend
over an hour to read it" That immediately became my benchmark for
Someone Who Just Never Got It And Probably Never Would.
Though there are many, many more unsung in this voyage toward the IDW Starstruck
Series (Mr. Mark Askwith being a shining example) the last largest
shoulder we got to lean against was that of Mike Richardson of Dark
Horse Comics, et all. He and Randy Stradley called me up 6 months
before the release of The Abyss, asking if I'd do their movie
adaptation. I said yes, but added, "oh, I thought you were calling to
say you'd love to reprint Starstruck..." "Is it available?” And that was that.
Elaine and I did impress them when they found that our idea of "adding
some new pages to the story" meant doubling the originally published
work. Now, with Charles Vess' work on The Galactic Girl Guide about to
be seen, Lee Moyer's brilliant enhancing of the story though his added
life and color, Elaine and I get to thank Scott Dunbier for being the
last of the many who said "yes!"
In Part Two, the Starstruck gang talks about reviving the
original stage play to help Gene Colan (and what you can do to help
Colan yourself), and what the work means to them personally. Plus, more