One of the strangest, but most enduring, of DC’s super-antagonists remains Starro. The giant mind-controlling starfish (or sea star, as my wife with the Life Sciences degree would remind me) has bedeviled the DCU from the earliest days of the Justice League. Now, we’re told that we’re going to be seeing the “real” Starro for the first time. Let’s take a look back at some of Starro’s most fabled appearances,
Starro appeared for the first time in The Brave and the Bold #28 from 1960. If that book sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it also marked the first appearance of the Justice League of America, whom Starro battled on the cover.
Over the years, Starro would have many notable clashes with the Justice League. After losing to Aquaman in Adventure Comics #451, Starro again attacked the Earth in Justice League of America #189-190 from 1981. In this two-parter, Starro plants himself atop the Empire State Building. Apart from being, well, a giant tentacled beast, the truly dangerous nature of Starro here comes from his propensity to control the minds of opponents by using tiny versions of himself. These clones attach themselves to the faces of humanoid opponents, giving them the appearance of a cyclopean central eye as the rest of their face is wrapped in starfish. Starro quickly took over a number of Leaguers, including powerhouses like Superman, Firestorm, and Wonder Woman. However, the League turned the tide after discovering Starro’s vulnerability to cold, a weakness that allowed them to free the possessed civilians and heroes, then quickly (seemingly) destroy the menace.
Not long after, Starro attempted to conquer Earth by using the planet Pluto of the alternate world “Earth-C” as a base of operations. As related in the preview insert in The New Teen Titans #16 and the first issue of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! from 1982, Starro tried to devolve Earth-1 (the primary DC Earth, pre-Crisis) using a ray that he had developed. Superman followed the ray to this alternate Earth; once he came under attack, he used a meteor for protection. Pieces of that meteor imbued several residents of that other earth, Earth-C, where all the inhabitants looked like “funny cartoon animals”, with super-powers. Superman and this new “Zoo Crew” were able to defeat Starro.
Years later, Starro would have more confrontations with Justice League Europe and the JLA, as reconstituted by writer Grant Morrison. Perhaps the most memorable of these battles took place in JLA #22 and 23 from 1998. There, a new version of Starro (supposedly a different member of the same race), the giant, ocean-filling “Star Conqueror” attempted to take over the world via use of a “dream world”. The really interesting thing about this particular story is that Daniel, the successor to Morpheus as The Sandman, crossed over from the Vertigo line to aid the super-heroes. After this new Star Conqueror was defeated, it was shown as being dropped into a fishbowl in The Dreaming by Daniel, who commented, “The debt you owed that little world has been repaid, Morpheus.” Given the rather strict barriers placed editorially between DC and Vertigo in recent years, this story would be quite notable.
More recently, other versions of Starro have been seen repeatedly. A microscopic-sized “Starro virus” was used in JLA Classified as a mind-control mechanism. Between issues #51-54, the Teen Titans faced off against a Starro that had pursued membership in the Sinestro Corps. Also, in the current Justice League of America series, cybernetic versions of Starro were employed by Professor Ivo to control some low-level villains. As of Justice League of America #6, Starro was show in pursuit of Ivo, but there have been no further developments in that title.
Starro would clash again with Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew in Captain Carrot and the Final Ark from 2007. This book, which tied in to Final Crisis, climaxed with Starro flooding the former Earth-C (now Earth-26). The inhabitants of the planet were forced to flee as Zoo Crew member Pig-Iron held off Starro in the ocean. When the survivors arrived on “New Earth”, they turned into regular animals (though the Zoo Crew would later be shown in their regular forms, fighting alongside the Supermen of the Multiverse and the Green Lantern Corps at the close of Final Crisis).
That brings us, more or less, to the current R.E.B.E.L.S.. Issue #5 and this week’s #6 of that series shows that the “real” Starro is actually a Frazetta-esque barbarian humanoid with a starfish attached to his chest. Said starfish apparently controls all of the other versions of Starro, large and small. This “chest-parasite”, vaguely reminiscent of the creature from Jerry Ordway and Al Gordon’s Wildstar series at Image in the early ‘90s, has extended inside and the through the barbarian bodies. While this story has yet to be completed, many readers are disappointed at this turn, as one of the classic, iconic, crazy-ass villains of the DC stable is morphed into merely the appendage of another character.
On the bright side, Classic Starro still gets an occasional day in the sun. Not only is he a favorite for alternate continuities like the Batman: The Brave and the Bold kids comic, but he gets to put in appearances in prestige projects like Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier. In fact, Starro gets the last scene in that book, and a brief appearance in last year’s animated version of the same. The message here would seem to be, no matter how you change or defeat him, so long as a piece of him survives, Starro will return.
Now, who else wants sushi?