Eric S Brown
After two decades of roaring success in the 60s and 70s, Marvel tried to expand even further in the mid-1980s with its New Universe line of comics. These comics were supposedly more realistic than the company’s normal super hero books and were set in a universe closer to what our own is like. Several great titles came out of this attempt including D.P. 7 and Star Brand.
Star Brand was the story of Ken Connell, a normal, working guy, who is given a weapon of such power it’s limited in terms of what it can do solely by his imagination. If this sounds a lot like the origin of DC’s Green Lantern, it is. Thankfully, the likeness of the two ends there as Star Brand is a much darker tale. Also Ken uses the Star Brand to give himself the powers of super strength, flight, invulnerability, and simple energy blasts, making him a much more fun, hands on character than Green Lantern. Despite his power however, he’s still a real guy in a real world with all sorts of issues to deal with from relationships woes to just paying the bills.
What makes Star Brand such a cult classic title is its main character. Ken Connell is far from a hero. He tries but more often than not fails. And readers can’t help but be disgusted by his personal life, shaking their heads at what an unkind, immature, and even egocentric at times person Ken is. His personal struggles are painful to read and even worse in terms of his girlfriend Duck. Ken flat out uses her blatantly, over and over again. Still, one is always hoping issue to issue that Ken will finally grow up and get his act together. It’s that hope that keeps one turning the pages in Star Brand just as much as the comic’s numerous action scenes. And about midway through the series, things get even worse. Ken is drawn into a fight with the alien who gave him the Star Brand at a comic convention and the crowd ends up being collatteral damage in their battle. The horror doesn’t stop there either with Ken going on to not take the advice of a friend and because of it through his selfishness, essentially nukes the entire city of Pittsburgh.
Unlike most of the New Universe, the story of the Star Brand didn’t end with it. The Brand shows up later on the real Marvel Universe within the pages of the cosmic hero, Quasar, and a mini-series entitled Star Blast.
Like D.P. 7, Star Brand still holds a cult following among adults who grew during the 1980s and the Star Brand series has been collected into a two volume set of trade paperbacks. If one is into more real world superhero stories that don’t need to have happy endings, Star Brand is a must read.