The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twelve.

§ June 12th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 22 Comments

What’s this? Three more in the “one vote” pile from this post? Let’s see what we’ve got this time:

Starstruck (Marvel/Epic 1985-1986)

A reminder to folks new to these lists, that I was counting creator-owned books released under Marvel’s “Epic” imprint as part of the “indies” movement since they were mostly distinct from Marvel’s standard output. I mean, despite the fact Marvel’s editorial hand sometimes came down on them.

As to Starstruck itself, it began life at a stage play written by Elaine Lee, with costume and set design by William Kaluta and Charles Vess. It was a sci-fi comedy/adventure with a largely-female cast, set during a power struggle in a divided galaxy. Translating the project to comics, Lee and Kaluta serialized a prequel story in Heavy Metal, which were retooled into a graphic novel from Marvel. After that Lee and Kaluta produced a six issue comic book series through Epic.

After this it gets a little confusing, at least to me, the Guy Who Never Read This But Should Have. It appears the graphic novel was reprinted in altered/expanded form in a Dark Horse comic book mini-series in 1990-1. According to the Wikipedia entry, it also includes part of the first comic book issue from Epic.

In 2009-10 it appears the material was remastered and reprinted again, in a 13-issue series from IDW. This series was reprinted in its entirety in both hardcover and softcover, and this is like the Definite Edition of this story, if you ever decide to seek it out.

I remember the IDW reprints selling quite well for us at the previous place of employment. According to the Wiki more story is planned, so hopefully that’s something that will actually happen.
Steelgrip Starkey (Marvel/Epic 1986-1987)

Another one of those darned Epic titles, this one with the subtitle on the cover “…And The All-Purpose Power Tool.” Which I don’t know was officially part of the title or not, since I don’t have a copy here to check the indicia.

But this was a comic I had at least some mild interest in, as the main writer/artist of the book was Alan Weiss (inks by James Sherman), whose art in other comics I’ve read stuck out to be as being, well, different from your standard superhero fare. A little more detailed, more expressive, less “generic muscled body in spandex,” that sort of thing. For whatever reason, I never got around to picking it up, and look, I’m sorry this ’80s overview is turning into a parade of “Mike’s Missed Opportunities,” but what can I tell you, I can’t read everything.

Anyway, Val Mayerik pops in to share penciling duties for a couple of issues, and interestingly, in the section on the title in the Amazing Heroes 1985 Preview Special, Mike Kaluta (remember him?) was also namedropped as an artist on the series, though far as I can tell via the Comics Database, he doesn’t appear. (Also, Elaine Lee (remember her?) does some coloring here.)

Also “borrowing” from this preview entry is a description of the book, in that it’s a “modern American folk tale” in which Starkey, and his amazing tool only he can operate, find themselves in a series of adventures. Which, you know, okay, I’ll read that. I mean, I should have read it back in the ’80s when it was coming out, but look, I was still in high school, I wasn’t rolling in cash at the time. Though I suppose once I started working for a comic shop I could have snagged those, but I was trying to fill back numbers of Cerebus so that took priority. …Amazing all these things I could have had if only I’d taken more advantage of that store’s deep stock. Ah well.

Far as I can tell, the series has never been reprinted, making it another of those lost series awaiting rediscovery in a back issue bin or dollar box somewhere.
Strange Days (Eclipse 1984-1985)

I’ll tell you what, though, when I saw that cover of Strange Days as a 15-year-old kid wandering around ye olde comic shoppe, that was a book I had to have. That weird face in the background, those obnoxious colors…it was a comic that dared you to buy it, and friends, I took that dare.

And the stories inside…”Paradax” by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy, looked almost nominally like it should have been a superhero story, but it was just so peculiar, with splashy colorful art that made it look so unlike its flat-colored mainstream cousins. Maybe I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on, but oh goodness that art caught my eye. More so with “Freakwave” by the same fellas, where I feel like maybe I still need to give it another read and make sure I have it down.

And of course there was Johnny Nemo, the stylish sci-fi private detective by Milligan and Brett Ewins, plus other short features primarily with some combination of Milligan, McCarthy, and Ewins.

Much (all?) of the Millgan/McCarthy material gets reprinted in a 2013 hardcover Best of Milligan and McCarthy from Dark Horse. There is a two-issue Paradax series from Vortex that appears to be new material. There is a three issue series, also from Eclipse, of Johnny Nemo Magazine with new stories by Millgain and Erwin, and I feel like the character also appears somewhere else. If he does, then he’s reprinted in the 2014 Complete Johnny Nemo hardcover from Titan.

Okay, good series, worth taking a look, with visually stunning art and certainly peculiar stories.

• • •

Next installment…the last of the single vote entries? Maybe so! Things will only speed up after this (for you, it still takes me forever to type up this stuff) so we’ll get to the mysterious #1 vote-getter soon! And for whom did I vote? We’ll find out soon enough!

22 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twelve.”

  • Matthew E says:

    Elaine Lee’s son, Brennan Lee Mulligan, writer of the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist, is a big name in Dungeons & Dragons online actual-play, and he used the Starstruck setting for one of his campaigns on Dimension 20. I would say it’s… semi-canonical? It was fun anyway.

  • Patrick G says:

    Adding to the above- His mother Elaine Lee actually appeared on a couple of the post shows they have and they talked about the whole history of the project from stage to page to role playing campaign.

  • A. J. Payler says:

    I’m fairly sure the subtitle wasn’t part of the Steelgrip Starkey indicia, as someone who had and read most of the series–and used to catalog such things on index cards (to keep track of my collection, I guess?), so I probably would have recalled transcribing such a lengthy title.

    Overall I recall it was decent but lacking that extra something storywise to push it over into being anything but a vehicle for Alan Weiss’ attractive art. In a world where Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was changing standards on a monthly basis, the pulp-derived adventures of Steelgrip seemed old hat and less than compelling. Not different enough from standard superhero fare for an indie, not close enough to be folded into the MU proper.

    Oddly I thought it would have fit well as part of Marvel’s New Universe initiative, being somewhat more grounded–say, something between Spitfire and the Troubleshooters and Kickers Inc–but the fact that none of those titles maintained much artistic consistency except Star Brand leads me to believe an art-driven title wouldn’t have flown.

    (I am also just now noticing that Spitfire literally incorporates the then-EIC’s surname in the group title. Wonder if that helped get it greenlit?)

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    A list of the permutations of “Starstruck” should mention that it has been adapted into an audio drama (available from Audible). The cast includes William Dufris, who also played Spider-Man in a BBC radio series (around here that is probably his most notable part–anywhere else, I would have led with the fact that he was the voice of Bob the Builder).

    Alan Weiss drew a couple of Supergirl stories in the 1970s. What is most notable about them is that he was clearly drawing her as Cheryl Ladd (just as Bob Oksner had previously turned Mary Marvel into a Linda Blair look-a-like).

  • John Platt says:

    Strange Days!!!

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Just in case anyone is wondering: Other American comics adapted by BBC radio are Superman (a one-off history of the character, followed by a serialized adaptation of the “Death of Superman” storyline), Batman (similarly, a story summarizing the character, and then a serialized adaption of “Knightfall”), and Secret Agent X-9 (an adaptation of the strip’s first story, done in a “we know this is all a bit silly, but we’ll try to play it straight” style, and featuring FAWLTY TOWERS’s Connie Booth as a femme fatale). Stuart Milligan played both Superman and X-9–well, the BBC has only so many American actors at its disposal.

    There was also a Modesty Blaise radio series, starring Daphne Alexander. Not content to be merely the voice of the character, she also posed for a series of photographs in the role:

  • Mikester says:

    Turan – yes, I saw there was an audio adaptation. Decided to just stick to the comics. Feel free to add it to your own list of adaptations. Don’t forget the foreign editions, which I also didn’t mention.

  • Mikester says:

    Matthew,Patrick – I did not come across this business re: the Starstruck game campaign. How very peculiar and interesting!

    A.J. – thank you for letting me know. I sorta figured as much as the Comics Database would have included the full name as shown in the indicia, but I wasn’t 100% positive. And also thank you for the review…feels like this might have fit in nicely with the “America’s Best Comics” era of pulp-ish type adventure hero comics in the 2000s.

  • Oliver says:

    ‘Starstruck’ was so gloriously ambitious and elaborate as space opera, but the abrupt cancellation of the Dark Horse series (over rights issues???) exhausted my enthusiasm for it.

  • LouReedRichards says:

    Add Starstruck and Steelgrip Starkey to Six From Sirius, Sisterhood of Steel and Swords of the Swashbucklers.

    I’m beginning to think Archie would sign off on any alliterative “S” title…

  • Aaron G. says:

    Hi Mike! As the lurker who submitted Starstruck, I appreciate your including it along with all the other one-vote wonders. I’ve really enjoyed the countdown so far, and added a few titles to my read pile. Thanks for all the time & effort you’ve put into it, and into the blog generally!

  • LouReedRichards says:


    Brendan McCarthy is an amazing artist! Apparently he grew up next to the largest Indian community in London, and loved their comics as a kid. That might explain a little about his wonderfully vivid use of color.

    I remember reading some things about his (more recent) politics that I found troubling.

    Sometimes it’s not great to learn personal information about artists you admire, like oh, I don’t know, Lou Reed maybe.

  • Chris V says:

    There was Rogan Gosh by Milligan and McCarthy. It was published in one volumn by Vertigo in the mid-1990s before getting collected in that Dark Horse compendium. A very impressive comic.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    I enjoyed Swords of The Swashbucklers and thought it was cool that Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice got to do a creator-owned project after leaving The Micronauts.

    Strange Days was fun! I think Vortex also released a Freakwave one-shot comic …but maybe it was just reprinting the stuff from Strange Days. Freakwave totally owes a costume debt to Kid Flash, however.

  • Tom W says:

    Paradax may owe a small costume debt to Kid Flash, but as the first superhero to put a jacket on over his costume he’s owed a far larger debt by Zenith, Animal Man, Superboy, Starman and every other 90s hero who followed in his footsteps…

  • Sean Mageean says:

    What the world really needs is an amalgam comic:

    “The Starstruck Strange Days of Steelgrip Starsky & Hutch.”

    Also, Strange Days probably took its name from the song by The Doors, but did Starstruck take its name from the song by The Kinks?

    Ton W:

    Good point about the jackets! Although Zatana and Wonderman wore jackets prior to Paradox.

  • LouReedRichards says:

    @ Chris V – I’ve never read Rogan Gosh, but what I’ve seen of it does look incredible. Gotta hunt that down.


    Ha! Amalgam was a fun little trifle wasn’t it?

    Starstruck was the song that turned me into a Kinks fanatic. My buddy played The Village Green Preservation Society twice and I thought it sounded like a sad rip-off of the Beatles.
    He played the album a 3rd time and I was completely HOOKED!

    Still one of my absolute favorite albums 25+ years on.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    Yes, The Village Green Preservation Society is a fantastic album. My favorite songs from it are “Johnny Thunder” (perhaps inspired by DC Comics’ cowboy character of the same name–not the JSA member…and legend has it that Johnny Thunders from the New York Dolls took his name from this song), “Big Sky,” and “Phenomenal Cat.” God Save The Kinks!

    Tom W:

    Sorry about all the typos…it should have read “Zatanna” and “Wonder Man.”

  • John Lancaster says:

    Did someone mention Spitfire and the Troubleshooters?

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I prefer Spitfire and The Invaders…

  • Snark Shark says:

    “but what can I tell you, I can’t read everything.”

    As Steven Wright said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

    “Steelgrip Starkey… And The All-Purpose Power Tool.”

    That title is both needlessly long AND goofy.

    “Alan Weiss drew a couple of Supergirl stories in the 1970s. What is most notable about them is that he was clearly drawing her as Cheryl Ladd (just as Bob Oksner had previously turned Mary Marvel into a Linda Blair look-a-like).”


    ” Starstruck take its name from the song by The Kinks?”

    Dunno, but Rainbow (Richie Blackmore’s post Deep Purple band) has a song of the same title which I LOVE.

    “The Village Green Preservation Society”

    LOVE that album.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I appreciate Alan Weiss’ distinctive art style. A few things always come to mind: A Captain America and The Falcon story he drew in the ’70s…I think Cap becomes Cap Wolf, and there is a very attractively drawn African American woman who, I think, is the villainess of the story. A Lancelot Strong the Shield story arc which he drew for Red Circle (Archie) Comics in the ’80s, a Quicksilver story he drew for Marvel Fanfare in the ’80s, and a very racy house ad he drew for DC in the late ’70s depicting the Marvel (Shazam!) Family in which Mary Marvel is shown coquettishly sitting on the old Wizard Shazam’s lap.