Sunday, March 5, 2023


The snarky marginally portly chap who calls himself Star-Lord in all those very successful Marvel movies ain't your Momma's Star-Lord. That fellow, named Peter Quill too was a pretty safe distance from the entertaining malarky that defines those Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But due to the success of those movies Marvel saw fit to reprint in one handy volume Star-Lord's earliest appearances. 

Star-Lord kicked off in the fourth issue of Marvel Preview. The story was written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Steve Gan. Beneath this handsome Gray Morrow cover we meet Peter Quill, a young boy and then young man who is filled with anger. His Mother was killed by aliens and Pete saw this, then vowed to get revenge. To that end he seeks service in the space corps of Earth and is not at all concerned about how he obtains his goals. 

He's a very unlikeable character in this first installment. But nonetheless he schemes and brutalizes his way to encounter the Master of the Sun who gifts him with his abilities and weapons. Peter only wants vengeance for his Mother's death, but he then finds out he is meant for more Much is made of Astrology in this story, as Englehart was a devotee at the time. But this aspect of the character was dropped in his very next appearance. 

It is Star-Lord's next appearance in the eleventh issue of Marvel Preview though that really stuck in the memories of many a Marvelite of the time. Chris Claremont and John Byrne were a new team, yet to tackle the X-Men when they came to this space saga. Now we see Star-Lord doing his work, saving people from slavers from space. This is a splendid yarn and we can see the raw talent of Byrne quickening with each page aided by the inks of Terry Austin, while Claremont makes Peter Quill a much more aloof yet still more sympathetic hero. This story also introduces "Ship", the intelligent spacecraft which is Star-Lord's partner. 

This story has proven so popular that it has been reprinted twice as a standalone comic, once in the 80's and again in the 90's. New material was created by Claremont, Austin, and artist Michael Golden to make the story make a bit more sense. 

The fourteenth issue of Marvel Preview brings Star-Lord back under a very handsome cover by Jim Starlin. Chris Claremont stays with the character but the new artist is the legendary Carmine Infantino. His pencils defined the future in many a DC comic of years past and he brings a strong powerful style to this hero. We learn a great deal more about Ship as she adopts a humanoid form to interact with Peter Quill. The two of them are trying to survive on a very deadly planet. 

That same team is back in the fifteenth issue which shows the duo stopping a deadly fleet from destroying worlds. Peter is alerted to this threat by a dream, and given his powers combined with that he seems a real precursor to Nexus who was likewise motivated by dreams. The similarity between these heroes really stood out to me as I read these stories for the first time in years. By the way that's a Joe Jusko cover above. Star-Lord didn't appear often but when he did, he got the best of the best. 

Star-Lord appears in color for the first time in a story written by Claremont but drawn and apparently painted to some degree by Gene Colan. This is a lush package underneath a powerful Earl Norem cover. Peter Quill finds romance of a sort with a creature who only appears to be an Earth woman to suit him. 

Doug Moench becomes the regular writer of Star-Lord in the eighteenth issue of Marvel Preview and is joined by artist s Bill Sienkiewicz and Bob McLeod. Quill is matched up against a race of "Lion Men" (shades of Flash Gordon). Somewhere along the way Star-Lord lost his helmet and it was a mistake in my opinion. The look of his costume is hurt with its absence. But clearly the creators wanted to show his face more, the same reason mask don't last long in most feature films not starring Batman. 

Star-Lord jumps to color comics in the sixth issue of the second Marvel Spotlight series. His origin is revisited, and we learn much more about the Master of the Sun and his connection to a young Peter Quill. Tom Sutton becomes the new regular artist, joining Moench. I really like Sutton's take on the character. 

The pair are back in the next issue in a story in which the life cycle of a species is central to the outcome of the plot. While Peter Quill is a powerful man, he is a man who is often confused by the creatures he meets. Moench is really quite good at presenting alien intelligences. 

The stories jump to Marvel Premiere and we get a story told from the point of view of a planet. That gives the story a larger and more profound perspective. Moench with Sutton's input is really interested in doing interesting things with the character, but alas this issue will be the last Star-Lord story for many years. 

This volume closes out by jumping to the 90's when a three-part mini-series starring the character is launched written by science fiction talent Timoth Zahn and drawn (painted really) by Dan Lawlis. We learn more about then nature Star-Lord's powers and the great cost it requires to use them. Actually this adventure doesn't feature Peter Quill who has been missing for some time as the story picks up but instead installs Sinjin Quarrel, a young telepath in the role. He picks up the mantle when he unearths Ship. The duo are then thrust into an adventure which has them confront some of the worst outlaws in space. I don't know how this fits into the larger Star-Lord saga but I'm not required to know. It was a nice addition. 

And that wraps up the classic adventures of Star-Lord, one of Marvel's more interesting Bronze Age characters. You have to give them credit for really staying with the concept and trying to find a way to launch it. But that old canard about science fiction not selling in comics seems to have proven true, at least back then. 

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  1. I purchased most of these books at the time up until (and including) the Marvel Spotlight issues. Sadly I missed that Gene Colan book. One of the reasons I enjoyed Star-Lord was that the character seemed separate from Marvels costumed characters and his tales could be read in their own plus they were always well illustrated and generally well writen. The Bill Sienkiewicz ( doing his Neal Adams style exceptionally well) is a great issue.

    1. I picked up most of these at the time and read them. But they didn't really land with me until this most recent reading. Perhaps it's as you say, in these stories Star-Lord is not part of the expansive MU or maybe I'm just in the mood for good science fiction.

  2. I thought that Steve Englehart's "Angry Young Messiah" take had more potential than the perhaps more palatable version that prevailed. They had an opportunity, with the magazines, to explore themes and characterization that would not have fit so comfortably in color, code-approved comics. I feel the same way about some of Marvel's other more cosmic characters; not all of them should be able to join a super group or team up with Howard the Duck.

    1. I'm a big Englehart fan, but his Star-Lord for all its creativity lost me a bit, though you bring it more into focus. You are doubtless correct, the B&W mags were a safe space for weirder concepts, but as we know the relentless gravity of the MU overcame everything else. Once upon a time, I'd have said hooray, but now I'm less sanguine about it.

    2. I agree with Russ... as much as I enjoyed de Claremont/Moench issues (I haven't read the Zahn stuff yet), they are really well crafted space opera yarns with a fairly archetipal sci fi hero as a lead. I was very intrigued by Englehart's take. Yes, his Quill is very unlikeable for most of the story, but the end pointed towards an evolution for the character, and the astrological angle would have been a very original one. Still, I quite enjoyed what we got, the highlights being, for me, the one with Byrne/Austin art, and the one with Gene Colan and those crazy, trippy colors!

    3. The experiments with painted color created some truly different looking comic pages at the time. Apparently astrological approach was abandoned (according to the editor) because no one had a grasp on the concepts like Englehart and could do as deft a job.

    4. I read that, it would have been interesting to see where that would have gone. Perhaps not quite the same, but I'm thinking about how Jodorowsky used his knowledge of Tarot to inform the concepts behind The Incal.