So! We meet again, do-gooder. Last week you fell under the power of Stardust the Super Wizard, a superhero with the abilities of Superman cubed but the mercy of the square root of Ghost Rider.
He was entirely the product of Fletcher Hanks, a cartoonist who dreamed of a finer world built on the skulls of all who opposed him. But we realized something along the way: Hanks understood superheroes better than almost anyone.
Some call Hanks the Neil Breen of comics. Others say the Rob Liefeld of the FDR era. Personally, I think he’s the Mark Millar of the DTs. All I know is a pickled brain tried to imagine the perfect man, and created a bloodthirsty scourge of his chosen people’s enemies for children’s entertainment.
Stardust operated on a simple premise: can Angry Drunk Superman experience dramatic tension? Laughably, no. Yet what Hanks failed to comprehend about drama, he perceived about melodrama. Other superheroes of the time stopped chubby gangsters from stealing helium to ransom the city’s parade balloons. A Hanks crook carpet-bombs the western seaboard to make the President miss his nap, leaving a rudderless America unable to repel Martian invasion. And it was all a distraction to swindle a savings & loan’s safe out of its Save Miami From Mutant Sharks Ray.
We left off with a promise that Stardust would return to fight a warlord named Lepus.
Ah, well, Hanks probably got drunk and wandered away from that idea.
The Emerald Men of Aspus want human slaves, and the best way to get some is to tow Earth into their janky asteroid belt. They can fly through space, so maybe Stardust finally faces a real threa—
Like who doesn’t plot a righteous democide after three drinks?
Is anyone else worried what a bored Stardust will do once he’s murdered all the real threats? Mark me: in a year’s time he’s going to be combing through your town’s voter rolls with his psychic iPhone for thoughtcrime.
I found it! I found the Lepus story!
Without a trace of irony Lepus-the-Fiend uses Type II-civilization science to make the universe wild and primitive. It’s up to Buzz Crandall, Venusian Cop, to stop—hold up, who the fuck is Buzz Crandall?
We can’t say for sure that Fletch drank himself under a deadline, much like yours truly a month late with a two-part comic book article. But the signs say he repurposed a half-drawn Stardust story for this assignment. You didn’t even blink until I showed you the title page.
I mean look, here’s the telltale starburst:
Anyway, Lepus is going to smash planets two and three together. Buzz is too busy rescuing his pretty Science-Assistant Sandra from Lepus’s hideout to save civilization. Fortunately:
Missed! Buzz averted nothing! What a shitty Space Patrolman. You suck, Buzz, I hope you die of space-ebola. We’re only alive because Lepus failed trig.
Lepus dies off-panel without destroying a single civilized planet. Odds are high the wildman was a patsy who accepted some advanced tech from his friend “Buzz” in a sting to set up a big bust. Is space patrolman just an undercover identity for Stardust?
In fact, those planets missing each other? That reads like every Silver Age story where Clark Kent can’t change outfits without Lois Lane catching him, so he surreptitiously uses super-sneezing to blow JFK’s toupee off. I’ve got five bucks says Stardust is so overpowered his idea of a mild-mannered cover persona is “intergalactic space cop.”
If not, that means Stardust stories are insane, but also Hanks at his best. Stardust is the strip he dried out enough to pour his passion into. How many times do you think William Hanks switched his son’s behind with a sapling while making him recite the Book of Revelation, that junior’s only creative successes were exertional violence?
Because the Lepus story got bounced, Stardust takes a non-Hanks field trip. Moloka is a solar pirate who burns planets to death for fun and money. Admittedly badass.
To defeat him, Stardust poses as a murder-genie. From punching distance, he convinces Moloka to blow up the Earth, intending to redirect the ray at its wielder. It’s unnecessary, risky, and offers no payoff to a guy with a track record of showing up late: the perfect Stardust threat response.
Stardust outraces a beam traveling 10 million times the speed of light, and it’s proof that he’s using the dev settings on the simulation. How does any gangster have a prayer against a superhero with 10 million infinite masses? His very existence is a bullet through the fabric of gravity. If you stand near Stardust, you’re sliced into 22 different dimensions, all of which deserve punishment for noticing the outline of a woman’s bra strap in church. He’s only a giant because his body contains the mass of 10 million unfurling Big Bangs suppressed by his constantly flexing abs.
Well it’s not Hanks, but it’s a fitting move to maroon the tyrant on the dead planet he once ruled, especially since it was functional 20 minutes ago. Guys, I think Stardust did another genocide.
Oh shit! The Super-Fiend just genocided Mars so it would make a better bullet to fire at Earth! I’m invested.
What if Stardust comics are openly terrifying, yes, but secretly terrific? I know we’re all here to watch a cruel god smite those who defy the American narrative, but this is such a ‘00s “widescreen comics” plot device. If you just challenged Stardust a little and hired Bryan Hitch to draw these world-ending threats, you’ve got the vanguard of 21st-century comics.
This is personal; Stardust had been saving those Martians to massacre for himself. He uplargifies the Super-Fiend to give him a fight.
Stardust shoves the Fiend’s face in the mountain of charred Martian corpses where he will live out his days. Remember, these are the same Martians who took a swing at the Earth after Stardust averted their World War. What’s their deal? The secret narrative of Martian colonization and genocide is the real intrigue through the pages of Stardust. How many societies call it their graveyard now? Stardust is public domain, so this may be canonically how Martian Manhunter’s society died in the DCU.
All life is precious to Stardust except on Wednesdays.
THIS is the guy who gets solitary confinement? The genocide king? He’s punished with the exact scenario Clipp aimed for as victory, but I guess it’s different when the whole planet smells like freezer-burned corpses.
Stardust detects an ambitious robbery scheme disguised as Die Hard 0: I’m So Hard From Your Dying. He rushes to stop it in his “transparent tubular special,” a sort of cosmic body condom that lets him fly faster than light, but only like Michael Phelps making fun of a dolphin.
Ah, the timeless New York dream. This Kurd came here with nothing but the clothes on his back and the skull on his face. Now his Vanuatu-sized army is herding the cops into a bombable mass so he can plunder every safe in the city. I’m fine with it if he starts with Wells Fargo. Let’s see how well his GTA dreams go for him, following an appearance by Injustice Superman (blond skin DLC).
Stardust, you sicko, you’re into this.
Look how self-satisfied he is. I’m not saying terrorists don’t deserve this, but maybe we shouldn’t send the bully who can only get erect when he knows civilians are watching him cripple our mortal flesh.
Anyway, he hauls the surviving terror-crooks to exoplanet Scrooge.
Methodist Hell is just Mormon Heaven with sharing.
Dr. Kaos is an Earthman who has conquered Venus as part of his plan to conquer Earth.
Sorry, but what else is relevant? This plan is so stupid it rules.
He spends way too much time breeding plants to engorge and domesticate giant vultures that will attack everyone on Earth. Everyone except—oh no: The Girl.
The Girl has no name, no identity, and no parents or home as of thirteen seconds ago. The upside of lacking a personality beyond “pretty” is you recover from trauma easily, which makes life more convenient for men, which improves your odds of marrying well. And may the Devil help her, because Old Testament God has one weakness, and it’s our fine American Earth-wombs.
It takes Stardust two panels to subdue Kaos and two pages of showing off for the woman whom Kaos has abducted to be Empress Trafficking Victim I. Thankfully, she’s saved, to live in isolation on a completely different celestial body. And yeah, consent is the mitigating difference, but I’m not sure I trust the snap judgment of anyone whose feet haven’t even touched the ground since their parents were supersonically bisected by the vine-amped vultures of Venus. You know, that old chestnut.
Everything about this is suspicious. One or both of them is certainly plotting to kill the other. Listen, Stardust, I’m sure your dick is perfect, but it’s still not a functioning brain. Best-case scenario, a man the size of a sedan discovers, via geyser of blood, that his chosen virgin wasn’t a gynoid programmed thusly:
Print:”You call that a jolly thrust? Golly gee, I thought you were a real man!”
If you want a portrait of our vindictive sun-god, Stardust turned Kaos specifically into a worm that can survive space and re-entry to be eaten alive.
Kaos is secondary, because the real punishment is about to occur on Stardust’s private star, which is sometimes an asteroid, and is also not a burning ball of gas. Or maybe it maintains a low temperature that gently warms its rolling hills, I don’t know the basics of solarforming, you tell me. All I know is it has fields, and plowing season starts tonight.
We all know a Bluebeard when we see one. She’s correct not to fret about the death of all she loves when Homelander 0.5 is about to insert a 2-liter penis inside her.
Nazi traitors are everywhere! Which—New York was holding Bund rallies this same year, and we’ve all stopped talking to our relatives these days, so: fair. But these ones have stupid tanks!
You all saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, right? Okay, it’s that. Bomb New York, cripple the military, overthrow the USA, roll out the Nazi-red Hitlercarpet. Yew-Bee has thought of everything, except what he will scream forever when Stardust captures him.
I don’t know why Stardust hates this guy so much when Yew-Bee gave him the thing he most wants: an excuse to torture his inferiors for eternity.
Also, he shows off his iPhone:
This is the second-weirdest death in Stardust’s scrapbook. After transmogrifying all the goons into icicles and melting them, the Blue Atlas turns his attention to the leadership.
They’re chased by a panther (Stardust), and this is all really starting to feel like Biblical allegory. Star-panther drives the rats into the sea, then churns the ocean to drown them in a Stardust-related ocean churn. You know, so they can’t swim to land and form a rat Fifth Column.
We’re not done!
Picture being so old-time reserved you’re a founding member of the FBI. Suddenly a 9’ splendid blond beast teleports into your office while you’re plotting to round up all the fishy types (pinkos, flits, non-whites such as Italians). He flings a rat with a sulky old man’s head at you, then walks through the wall.
You want to scream, but you know he hears all and sees more. “Thank you,” sputters your ancient limbic system’s defense mechanisms, “Thank you, Stardust.” The Italians will know your violence tonight, as your conscious brain screams to assert a rational order. How can you explain to them that their sacrifice is the only thing keeping you sane?
The Fifth Column arc continues with a domestic Nazi plan to blow up power plants and cripple the govern—Oh, come on! It’s appalling how often Hanks foretold the 21st century’s problems, minus the iron fist of an aloof-at-best science-messiah to save us.
Stardust has his hands full because he has to repel a full-on invasion of South America PLUS the Axis has allied itself with Martian Sky-Demons. I don’t know their story. All I know is Mars treats Earth the way America treats Mexico.
I can’t lie to you, this issue rules. It’s straight out of a Grant Morrison issue of Justice League, minus any stakes. Stardust psychically scans the entire planet for disloyal Nazi swine, then ray-beams them to a decoy Earth that he made to trick the Sky-Demons. Millions of Bund-holes are bombed by their own allies, who fly away convinced they just trecimated humanity.
But there’s still the problem of the invading Axis. To deal with it, Stardust—Oh, no.
Say hello to the Sixth Column, Stardust’s private child army. He abducts thousands of boy soldiers, imbues them with his powers, and orders them to slaughter the field. These lads can’t be older than 13. He’s drowned their childhood in blood.
The Stardust Youth form transnational Sixth Column chapters to intimidate dissenters, and Stardust flies home, this once breaking his rule about only smiling when an audience watches him bully the helpless.
The Fifth Column wants to take over U.S. business, so they do it in the most Fletcher Hanks way possible: targeted missile strikes on the U.S. from Europe.
In this world, every crime is a Nakatomi Tower. If you want to steal candy from a baby in Stardust’s world, you throw a rock at a truck. In the commotion of the truck swerving into a ditch, you adopt the baby and send it to Swiss Business School to major in Chocolate Studies with a minor in Wonkalogy. Then you send a fleet of planes to bomb its house. Anyway, now the army of teen snitches has fascism leotards. And telepathy. Oh no.
Stardust gave teenagers ESP. Teenagers! The most notoriously emotionally unstable people in life’s journey can now hear what everyone thinks about them, as they tilt headlong in America’s most repressed era. I’m sorry, do you know what happens if you give American teen boys Jean Grey powers? Because in the same strip he gives them telekinesis, too. Imagine Scott Baio’s Zapped! but scaling up its crimes against humanity.
And I’m sorry, but every one of these kids looks like the bassist in a 1987 new wave band called Freeing Tanith.
One of the boys fucks up and thousands die! Stardust does nothing to prevent it! This is exactly how two U.S. wars have started. Oh well.
While his boy soldiers round up disloyalists, The Anti-Fascist Fascist hangs his enemies in midair, and—oh my God. He blows through them like a baseball bat through cake. Every one of these boys is an accomplice to grand-scale murder! Say, this is great fun!
I mean it’s Nazis, so I’m not sad, I just think the children weren’t required for our bloody work. This feels like death-grooming to spread the war crime culpability around.
I’m not confident you’re ready for how weird this one’s going to get. Don’t blame me for the fugue state you’re willingly striding into.
Mastermind Destructo has a ray that can suffocate every elite in America simultaneously: industrial executives, bankers, FBI agents, Secret Service, and all three branches of federal government. Sir, I will give you fifteen dollars for three minutes with this ray right now.
The Secret Army/Fifth Column alliance is going to be so mad when all of their undercovers get snuffed. It’s the kind of superheroics we wouldn’t see again until The Authority, but hold up: turns out this isn’t one of Stardust’s allies:
Okay, from that perspective they do look a little like the bad guys.
Stardust loves ironic punishments, but focuses on the unironic aspects. Are you ready? No, you are not! Get set! And! BEHOLD!
Ha ha ha ha! What a bully, the people’s hero. And yet, there is a very good chance Stardust possesses a device that allows him to read this column, and the trans-membrane ray technology to come here and punish me for it. Who cares? You’re the worst of C’thulu’s children, Stardust!
Reader, you just let your guard down! That was the normal part!
Stardust has a pet mutant that he feeds heads. This giant is the superhero’s version of my dog knowing he gets toast crust. Again, this comic makes perfect sense if you’re a minister’s drunk son.
And still, there are more sinners who need the stern hands of an angry god!
A thousand minds, but only one undying shriek.
You did it! You survived Stardust Madness! The Space-Wizard at his weirdest was no match for your fortitude!
BETRAYAL: That was merely preamble to his most elaborate torture yet.
A gangster whose name is definitely not reproducible here plans to rob the U.S. Bullion Depository four ways at once by gassing Fort Knox. Stardust’s Illegal Brain Surveillance Ray alerts him to the plan.
Man, Hanks must have been so ticked when James Bond made millions doing his exact plot.
Stardust arrives quickly enough to save the gold, though not the poisoned soldiers from a bludgeoning. He really is the Captain Planet you’d get when a DuPont, a Dulles, Douglas MacArthur, and the remains of Joe McCarthy’s liver hastily join rings over the backstabbed corpse of the Heart kid.
Stardust has thus far revealed his true nature, but only now, in his final kill, do we glimpse his true form:
That hand! That horrifying hand! I’m sorry. You came here for comedy! I’m sorry! I’m sorry. I’m sorry—
This is like the Harlem Globetrotters versus only the retired Washington Generals. The entire time Stardust taunts him with promises of undying agony. He’s plainly showing off for the girl, unless she’s already hanging undead in his species’ mating web, her bloated abdomen undulating with Star-babies chewing their way out. The only space aliens who do this kind of thing stem from the Warhammer/Doom/Lovecraft outerverse.
As the Earth itself pays the wages of the Tough Babies’ sins, Stardust keelhauls our villain through the island’s underwater caves, flips its landmass, yanks him back out, and then, only then:
He wanted gold. But he never considered the supreme irony that it might be a gigantic golden mollusk!
A lot of Stardust adventures end with him tweet-lighting the sky. Sometimes they’re useful messages like “Tidal wave threat over, cease your panic-crimes,” but mostly it’s unhelpful grandpa observations, like “Don’t trust your neighbors, they eat fermented cabbage.” Nothing compares to his final message of hope to the people:
Showily curb-stomping someone who’s no threat to him, then broadcasting to the world how great he is for doing so well past reason. Stardust really is a hero for 21st-century America. And you survived him. I’m so proud of you. That’s it. That’s all the Stardust in existence. You’ll never gaze upon him in fear again!
You should read Brendan’s superhero conspiracy comic now so you’re caught up when Stardust appears.
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Toasty God, who once turned all children into knives and used them to eviscerate Meepo, the Blood Freak whose only two weakness were child-blades and democracy.