For those who weren’t around, it’s hard to underestimate the effect Star Wars had on pop culture, even in the pages of DC Comics. But who are… The Star Hunters? Your Major Spoilers Retro Review of DC Super-Stars #16 awaits!
Writer: David Michelinie
Penciler: Don Newton
Inker: Bob Layton
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Joe Orlando
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 60 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $14.00
Release Date: June 28, 1977
Previously in DC Super-Stars: One of a number of anthologies of the ’70s, (many of whom share similar names, such as DC Special, DC Special Series, and DC 100-Page Super Spectacular) DC Super-Stars is best known for being the series to debut The Huntress, daughter of the Batman of Earth-2. Otherwise, it’s mostly a reprint title, with a few new stories sprinkled in. With the exception of that aforementioned Huntress story, this is the only issue to debut new characters in the entire run.
Our tale begins on a remote human outpost, somewhere in an asteroid belt, where a group of pirates has intercepted a shipment of food and supplies. The pirates have clearly always had the edge before, but they’ve never faced Donovan Flint.
A soldier-of-fortune known for his Errol Flynn looks and a cartoon cereal mascot’s accent, Flint immediately boards a transport for Earth, crossing paths and verbal swords with a woman named Vale, before returning to the fighting, loving, and snarking life he loves. Though he doesn’t know it, his roguish ways have caught the attention of the mysterious Corporation, which has plans for Flint’s very particular set of skills.
Lots of previous DC heroes have been the spacefaring kind, from Star Hawkins to Space Ranger to the notorious Adam Strange, but Donovan’s swashbuckling is a rare conceit. The timing of this issue coincides with the hype for George Lucas’ Star Wars, a movie that reshaped the cultural landscape, and there are some definite Han Solo elements to Don’s characters. After a night spent with a comely young lady, Flint is kidnapped by his goateed stalker, who offers him a mission that he can’t refuse.
Flint’s new mission: To seek out the origins of life and track down the very birthplace of man in the universe! And, by the by, the “can’t refuse” part isn’t metaphorical, as Donovan has been infected with a specific virus that mutates his DNA when exposed to the atmospheric conditions of planet Earth… a virus that only The Corporation has the antidote for. Until they cure him, Donovan Flint can never go home. He’s not the only one, either, as the mysterious Mister Farrell takes him to a spaceship in orbit, where he meets his crewmates… including Captain Vale, whom he irritated during his journey home, earlier in the issue.
The rest of the crew includes one of his old friends, the requisite medical doctor and communications specialist, as well as the man with a wife and kids who desperately wants to escape, but can’t. This issue’s art is pretty exceptional as well, with the pencils of Don Newton and inks by Bob Layton, making for strong layouts and some interesting backgrounds, especially for the era. Even degrading paper and a not-particularly subtle coloring job can’t bring it all down, and the Star Hunters’ first mission piques all of their interests. (It also leaves roguish Dominic in command, instead of the talented Captain Vale, reminding us that it was 1977 after all.)
It’s a launching point that picks up almost exactly a month later with Star Hunters #1, launching the crew of the Sunrider on a stellar journey that builds towards an exciting climax…
…until the series was canceled during the DC Implosion of 1978, with only seven issues published. DC Super-Stars #16 is a clever starting point for some pretty modern science-fiction storytelling, with excellent Newton/Layton art and some big swings in the writing, the impact of which isn’t even fully dulled when you know how badly it ends, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. Forty-five years later, I still think that the right creators could make an unforgettable limited series out of this. In fact, I think Michelinie and Layton are still kicking and making comics.
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DC SUPER-STARS #16
The assembling of the Star Hunters is an early example of modern science fiction tropes in action, and it builds an interesting premise with some good art.
It's a shame about the coloring, and an even bigger shame that it all falls apart before the end.