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End of Summer
 

The Siren of
Swords and Science

Just as Nightmaster was the first sword and sorcery hero in the DCU, Starfire was the first female sword and sorcery heroine. Technically, Starfire's book was billed as a "sword and science" book, but I have no clue how that differs from sword and sorcery.

Even the text page of Starfire #1 is ambiguous in what that means, saying only that "Why swords and science? Simple, it's new and different. We didn't want to do a comic about the helpless female who hangs onto the hero's arm….So to set us on the right track, [creator] David Michelinie cooked up a world where the rules of swords and sorcery comics are subtly altered - and a sort of swords and science atmosphere prevails instead."

Starfire

Yeah, I guess computers and technology play a bigger role in Starfire than say, for example, Claw the Unconquered, but science still doesn't overshadow the requisite monsters, creatures, sorceresses, and battle sequences found in Starfire. So Starfire may derive her nickname ("The Siren of Swords and Science") from this slight variation, but she's still a true blooded swords and sorcery heroine.

Debuting in September 1976, Starfire was the first DC heroine to get her own title since Supergirl. It's amazing that DC even gave Starfire a chance since all their other sword and sorcery titles had failed (Nightmaster didn't sell well enough in Showcase to warrant getting his own series, and Beowulf, Claw the Unconquered, and Stalker went belly up after six, nine, and four issues respectively). The Warlord series was still in its infancy and Claw would eventually get another chance (only to be cancelled once again after three more issues), but in the midst of all these male barbarians was Starfire.

A raven haired eighteen year old , Starfire is more than just a pretty face. She's a formidable foe, skilled leader, and determined to free her planet from two evil races of invaders - the bulky Mygorg and the shadowy Yorg. Other than those facts and a few other tidbits - such as her trust in Thump, a gentle mute giant - not much has been revealed about Starfire's character. I suppose she's a woman who lets her deeds and actions speak for her.

Before I move on to discussing Starfire's heroic deeds, I must clear up a common misconception about the world on which the series takes place. Starfire's world is not Earth, nor is it a planet called Mygorg, nor is it located in another dimension. All we know about Starfire's world (which I've taken to calling it for lack of a better name) is that it's an unnamed planet in another solar system.

Mygorg (l) and Yorg (r)

Long ago, Starfire's world was in the midst of a civil war between the warrior-priest caste and the scientists known as the Lightning Lords. The warrior-priests summoned the Mygorg to do their fighting for them, and in time, the Lightning Lords summoned the Yorg - the arch enemy of the Mygorg - to do the same for them. Unfortunately for the humans, both the Yorg and Mygorg turned on their "masters" and most humans on the planet were enslaved. The Mygorg and Yorg continued to fight each other, however.

Now, years later, a young woman named Starfire fights to free her world from the vile reign of two species of invaders who never should have been brought there in the first place. Read on, friends, to learn of the heroic deeds of Starfire and her band of followers:

Starfire Issue Synopses

Starfire #1 - "A World Made of War"

Written by David Michelinie, Art by Mike Vosburg and Robert Smith

This is the typical origin issue, which provides the reader with information about Starfire, her planet, the Mygorg, etc. All of it is nicely recapped in Who's Who. Here's an abbreviated version;

Starfire was raised since birth as a slave of the Mygorg. Her mother was white and her father was "yellow" (it actually says this in Starfire #1, but we can safely presume that Starfire's father was Asian - or whatever the equivalent is called on Starfire's world).

Anyway, young Starfire's mixed heritage and beauty draws the attention of King Sookarooth of the Mygorg. Instead of making her a slave like all the other humans, Sookarooth has Starfire educated and raised with all the amenities of palace life.

Upon turning eighteen, Starfire learns that this was because Sookarooth intended for her to become his mate. Fleeing Castle Mollachon, Starfire heads for the countryside, but is caught by Sookarooth's men. She is rescued from them by Dagan, a warrior-priest, who then takes her under his wing and teaches her various forms of combat. Starfire becomes a skilled swordsman, archer, and tracker, among others.

Dagan is soon captured by Sookarooth, tortured, and killed. Starfire avenges her lover's death by storming Castle Mollachon, freeing Sookarooth's human slaves, and she eventually slays Sookarooth himself. Starfire vows to rid her world of the Mygorg and free her people from slavery.

Starfire #2 - "The Siege of Lortnan Manor"

Written by David Michelinie, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

At Lortnan Manor, young Kyrse Lortnan is about to be killed by a Mygorg warrior for committing the crime of reading books, an activity forbidden to humans. As his father Velg Lortnan looks on in horror, Starfire and her band of followers arrive just in time! After a short battle, all the Mygorg in the Manor are killed, but Velg tells Starfire that the dead Mygorg were only the advance guard for a larger patrol of Mygorg soldiers. Oops!

Soon after, the entire patrol of Mygorg soldiers storm the walls of Lortnan Manor. Starfire and her men manage to hold them off, and the Mygorg commander, Kevarj, retreats. He's already plotting his second attack, and this time he'll be using sky-beasts, which are pterodactyl like creatures which shoot heat beams (called "death bolts") from their eyes. Starfire manages to stop the sky beast once (you've got to see it to believe how she does it!), but sensing the Mygorg won't stay routed for long, she and her men flee into the countryside. As she leaves, Starfire is given a map by Kyrse, and the map is said to lead to the legendary Lightning Lords, beings who have powerful weapons that could be used in the battle against the Mygorg.

Also, in this issue we meet the first of Starfire's supporting cast, a balding man named Thrumdahg who wears all blue and swings a nasty axe. Thrumdahg makes some unwanted advances towards Starfire, and she ends up showing him exactly who's boss. Embarrassed in front of the men, Thrumdahg soon grows to resent Starfire, as we'll see in issue #3.

Starfire #3 - "The Arena of the Frost Dragon"

Written by Elliot S! Maggin, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

Still wandering around, Starfire and her followers come across a gladiator pit where a giant, deformed human is fighting a frost dragon (instead of breathing fire, frost dragons breath ice) with a metal ball and chain. With the crowd of Mygorg engrossed in watching the battle, Starfire and her men ambush the spectators and free the giant. The giant is mute, so Starfire decides to name him Thump, saying that "He looks like a Thump, don't you think?" Thump quickly proves his loyalty by stopping Thrumdahg's plot to assault and overthrow Starfire as leader of the rebels.

Thump

We also meet Anzus, the group's weapon keeper, who is an older man with a white beard who wears a purple outfit and a green hooded cape.

Another Mygorg commander tracks down Starfire with the help of a human slave named Moonwatcher, who is an excellent tracker. Setting up in a nearby Mygorg village, the commander decides to ambush Starfire's camp at dawn. Moonwatcher overhears this, manages to kill the commander, and escapes to tell Starfire. Starfire decides to attack the village before the Mygorg can attack her. Starfire's army of ex-slaves wins, and they free the human slaves held in the village, who then join Starfire's ranks.

Starfire wants to continue their quest to find the Lightning Lords, but since nobody knows how to read the map Kyrse gave them (remember, it's a crime for humans to read books), she isn't sure what to do. In a stroke of good luck, it is discovered that Thump knows how to read. Pointing them in the right direction, the mute giant leads them onwards…..

Starfire #4 - "Slaves of the Golden Queen"

Written by Elliot S! Maggin, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

While heading through a mountain pass, Starfire and her followers are ambushed by Nitrons, tribal beasts who spurt flame from their tails (really!). A brief struggle ensues, and the Nitrons manage to steal all the human's food and supplies. Trekking onwards on an empty stomach, Starfire spots a settlement "with supplies we can doubtless beg, borrow, or steal" in a nearby canyon.

Starfire, Thump, Anzus, Moonwatcher, and Raynor (not much is revealed about him) enter the settlement, and they meet the settlement's Queen Karoleen, a feminist with an attitude who sports a golden helmet which covers half of her face. "All men are slaves in this city" Karoleen tells Starfire, and you just know what's gonna happen next. Starfire decides to "trade" three of her men (Anzus, Moonwatcher, and Starfire in disguise) for two wagonloads of food. Once inside, Starfire reveals herself and engages Karoleen in battle. As soon as this happens, Karoleen sends a group of her female soldiers to reclaim the food. Raynor, Thump, and Anzus lead Starfire's followers in defending the food, while Starfire and Moonwatcher deal with Karoleen.

We learn that Karoleen has much in common with Starfire. She too was destined to marry Sookarooth and escaped. However, her escape had a price - a hideously scarred face caused by the Mygorg's flaming arrows. Thus, Karoleen hides the scarred side of her face behind her golden helmet. To make a long story short, Karoleen dies fighting Starfire (she plunges to her death), and Starfire and her merry men escape with the food. They continue along their journey to find the Lightning Lords.

Starfire # 5 - "Here There Be Monsters"

Written by Elliot S! Maggin, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

While once again travelling through a mountain pass (apparently this is a popular way to begin issues), Starfire and her followers are attacked by a giant bird. Starfire drives it away after leaping (with the help of Thump) onto its back. After a silly interlude in which Anzus and Moonwatcher try to win Starfire's affections, the group arrives at the Lightning Lords' citadel.

Leaving the rest of the group in the mountains in case something should go wrong, Thump and Starfire head into the valley and towards the citadel. A gigantic tank - the likes of which Starfire has never seen - attacks the duo, but they defeat it by destroying the satellite dish which sits atop the tank. It turns out that the Lightning Lords control their defensive weaponry via remote control, and unable to receive orders, the tank is helpless.

After a brief stay in a cavern prison, Starfire squares off against a huge red "guardian beast." The Lightning Lords value their privacy and have various ways of keeping unwanted visitors away from their citadel! With one well placed thrust of her sword, Starfire kills the guardian beast. The Lightning Lords, some of whom have devolved into a primeval state, surround our heroes and prepare to attack, but the sight of the amulet that Thump wears around his neck stops them cold. Bowing down in reverence, the Lightning Lords allow Thump and Starfire to enter the citadel.

What does the amulet signify? And how does that fit in with Thump's newly demonstrated prowess with computers? Thump's mysterious origin won't be revealed until issue #7.

Starfire #6 - "Citadel of Silence"

Written by Steve Englehart, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

New Costume!

Inside the gigantic, mostly empty citadel, Starfire is greeted by the Lady of the Lightning, a red haired young sorceress. Together with the sentient computer named the Keeper, the Lady of the Lightning (who is also called "Lady Djinn") rules the Lightning Lords. As Lady Djinn says ominously, with "science and sorcery united…and therefore invincible, we leave no flank unprotected in our war with the Yorg and Mygorg!"

The Keeper and Lady Djinn agree to give Starfire the hi-tech weapons her men need to fight the Mygorg, but Thump feels uneasy about their new allies. The feeling is mutual as Lady Djinn tells us that "local legends often speak of a silent giant (Thump) with the power to silence the Keeper!"

Meanwhile up in the mountains, the rest of Starfire's troops are ambushed by a Mygorg search party.

The morning brings a new costume for Starfire (she simply went to the local marketplace to get a new outfit) and treachery from Lady Djinn. Thump learns the secret of the Lightning Lords and is captured by Lady Djinn and held in a mystic aura. Before Starfire realizes what's happened, the dreaded Yorg attack! (This marks the first appearance of the Yorg in the series).

The Yorg, beings of pure shadow who have powers similar to those of the Shade (see Starman), are enemies of everybody - the Mygorg and humans! Her sword unable to directly affect them, Starfire seeks refuge in a room with a skylight. The Yorg may be able to drain the life force from any other life form, but they can't function in sunlight.

Lady Djinn, with an agenda of her own, temporarily comes to Starfire's aid, but is it too late? The Yorg cackle mockingly at our heroine, saying "You cannot close the door against shadows! Wherever the light is not, we can be!…The sunlight is moving, Starfire, and soon it will be gone!"

And the night may bring annihilation…..

Starfire vs. the Yorg!

Starfire #7 - "Freedom Never Dies"

Written by Steve Englehart, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

As night falls, the Yorg attack! Backed into a corner, Starfire stumbles upon a hidden weapons closet. Reaching inside, she finds a raygun whose blast can affect the Yorg's shadowy forms. Star catches her blouse on a rusty nail during the battle, and her costume from issue #6 rips away, leaving her in the bikini-hip boots costume that most readers associate with Starfire. Depending on your point of view, this is either one of the most ridiculous or one of the most realistic costume changes ever for a comics character.

(Star's quote as her clothes rip away is a classic: "Looks like I lost my modesty to a rusty nail! Nothing ever comes free in this world!")

Meanwhile, we learn that Lady Djinn has been in cahoots with the Yorg all along. This displeases the Keeper (the sentient computer, remember?), and it begins teleporting Starfire's friends, who are still in the mountains fighting Mygorg, to the citadel. Unfortunately, the teleportation process accidentally kills all of Starfire's most trusted friends except one - Moonwatcher. The Keeper even goes so far as to atomize the bodies before Starfire comes to claim them.

(This is one of the stupidest scenes I've ever read. Thrumdahg, Anzus, George, Raynor, and most of the supporting cast are unnecessarily killed off in a few panels. In the letter column, the book's editor rationalizes this decision saying that he wanted to give the new writer coming aboard in issue #8 a clean slate to work with. Uh-huh….. Like having three - soon to be four - writers over the course of seven issues is a good idea too.)

After fighting more Yorg, Starfire finds Thump, and the raybeam from her weapon breaks the mystic aura which Lady Djinn had imprisoned him in. The Mygorg have reached the citadel by now, and they and the Yorg fight it out while the Keeper reveals the secrets of the Lightning Lords to Starfire, Thump, and Moonwatcher.

We learn that the Lightning Lords' sorcery is what opened the gateway that allowed the Yorg into Starfire's world, and while most of the Lightning Lords went into hiding, the Keeper and Lady Djinn were left behind to care for the others and protect the citadel. Over time, Lady Djinn took up the "dark arts" and was found out by the Keeper's chief computer programmer. Lady Djinn attacked the programmer and using her magic, transformed him into the mute giant we know as Thump.

After teleporting our heroine and her two allies out of the citadel, the Keeper self destructs - destroying the citadel and all inside it in the process. Thus ends the story of the Lightning Lords, but armed with the weapons they found in the citadel, Starfire, Thump, and Moonwatcher continue their quest to free their planet.

As Starfire proclaims, "We've been fighting battles, but now the war begins!"

Anzus, Moonwatcher, George, unnamed, Starfire, Thump

Starfire #8 - "The Dwellers of the Dark Domain"

Written by Tom Defalco, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta

Coming across a battle in progress between a Mygorg battalion and a group of human refugees, Starfire charges into the fray and leads her fellow humans to victory. Tantor and Eelow, the leaders of the group (and all that's left of the famed Lightning Lord race), join Starfire on her quest.

Surveying her followers and seeing mostly sick, aged, or wounded ex-slaves who've joined her on the road to freedom, Starfire decides that they are not ready for any more battles. Instead they need a refuge far from the menacing Mygorg, and as Moonwatcher eloquently states, "We want life, peace, and freedom…not conflict!"

An old man speaks of a sanctuary called "The Haven," an island where neither Yorg nor Mygorg dwell. Only the wearer of a tuning fork shaped totem, which the man gives to Starfire, can lead the people to this promised land. (Had the series continued beyond this issue, it would have been interesting to see to what degree Star's journey compared to Moses' biblical journey to the promised land).

Starting their pilgrimage to the Haven, Starfire and her followers discover a cavern which leads to the underground city known as the Dark Domain. (The city's towers, in spite of the name, are made of bright white marble.) Despite her peaceful intentions, Starfire is attacked by the albino warrior-priests who inhabit the city. These priests are kinsmen of Dagan, Starfire's slain lover from issue #1.

Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Maybor, the ruler of the Dark Domain, tells Starfire of the city's origins and how the priests created the Eye of Armageddon. The Eye of Armageddon was a sorcerous device that accidentally permitted the Mygorg to exist on this world, and if the Eye is destroyed, the Mygorg will vanish and be unable to return to this plane of existence.

Starfire tells Maybor that she'll find the Eye and destroy it, but Maybor will hear nothing of the sort. After drugging the wine Starfire and her men are drinking, Maybor leaves them to be eaten by a Sota - a giant spider creature. Needless to say, our heroine escapes, and commandeering a floating hover car, she frees her men and leaves the Dark Domain.

This issue, and the series since it was cancelled before issue #9 saw print, ended with a hopeful Starfire addressing her people, saying; "We now know of the Eye of Armageddon…and that it can be destroyed…..And our world made free!"

And who knows, I'd like to think that she eventually succeeded!

Other Starfire Appearances

Star Hunters #7

Though they were unaware of it, Starfire and Claw the Unconquered were two of the eternal champions of the Sornaii. What this means exactly is never revealed. The conclusion of the series, written by Gerry Conway, was scheduled to appear in Star Hunters # 8, but the DC Implosion happened and the issue never saw print.

 

Starman #55 (2nd series)

In an appearance that should, at best, be considered apocryphal, we learn that Starfire has been captured by a space pirate named Jarko. She is freed by Starmen Jack Knight and Mikaal Thomas. Depending on who's telling the story - Space Cabby, Space Ranger, and Ultra the Multi Alien all tell different versions of the story - it might not have been our Starfire the heroes rescued. It might have been Starfire, the Russian Earther hero, or Starfire, the Tamaran Teen Titan. (I love how James Robinson and David Goyer use all three characters with the name Starfire in one story. Absolutely brilliant!)

Swamp Thing #163

Starfire appears in one panel. She, Claw, Stalker, and one other sword and sorcery character I don't recognize are all pictured running away from Nightmaster. She's also pictured in her original costume (my favorite!) except its mistakenly colored blue (it should be green).

David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....

 
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