Starstruck (comics) - Comics - Background and Creation

Background and Creation

The Starstruck play had been optioned by a producer in 1980, which bound Lee from developing any further stage versions for a year. Kaluta saw a solution but with some reluctance: "Though I did suggest Elaine do a comic book version of the play when all the rest of the rights were tied up by the then producer, I didn't want to draw the comic book." Kaluta had initially made his fame as illustrator of The Shadow comics for DC Comics in the early 1970s, and was now hesitant to take such a big project on. They also assessed that a dialogue-heavy script on two simple sets would not translate well to the big action and quick captions of comics. "But the material, and, especially Elaine's witty approach to everything she writes set a small fire under me."

They found the solution in the backdrop. The stage play had moments where the narrator sketched the backgrounds of each character. Lee and Kaluta had worked out an elaborate backstory of the future time period, the political landscape, the pasts and futures of the characters, and many new characters not seen in the play. This scope of myth-building, inspired by the spirit of Dune and Star Trek, had been beyond their resources to stage or film. Adapting that dynamic epic to comics proved a better solution than simply adapting the play.

By 1980, creator-owned comics published by independent comics publishers were now being sold in an emerging network of comics stores. Lee and Kaluta took this opportunity to expand their storytelling while retaining sole ownership and control of their creative property. Lee would script and Kaluta would illustrate prequel stories that expanded the backdrop and character relationships in a lead-up to the events of the stage play. Since DC and Marvel Comics were dominated by superheroes, the first market they looked at was the mature comic magazines of Europe.

Their initial model was Heavy Metal magazine, which channeled the adult fantasy serials of France's Métal Hurlant. Lee told an interviewer, "The stuff in Heavy Metal completely blew me away and I wanted to do a play that was something like the stories they published." One year earlier, the original path for Starstruck had been paved when a fight scene between two women that Elaine had written reminded actor Dale Place of the style of Heavy Metal: "Oh, that would be fun, to do a kind of science fiction play" for her company, the writer recounted. Kaluta was a fan of the contributing artist Moebius, particularly his kinetic line and non-linear, surprising stories. The Starstruck prequel series they first produced were firmly in the template of these magazines; hallucinogenic narratives, elaborate fine art, epic backdrops, farcical humor, and adult themes, printed in serialized segments across many issues.

Starstruck's move from New York stage play to comic series anticipated a similar path for Warp!. This 1971 sci-fi play had played a limited run on Broadway, with Art Direction by comics innovator (and Kaluta's friend/mentor) Neal Adams. It eventually became a comic series from First Comics in 1983, after Starstruck. Another contemporary parallel is A Distant Soil, a challenging sci-fi/fantasy series by writer/artist Colleen Doran which had print runs and revised expansions across multiple alternative comic companies, also starting in 1983.

The first serials of Starstruck comics were printed in Spain's Ilustracion+Comix Internacional, and then America's Heavy Metal, in 1982.

Read more about this topic:  Starstruck (comics), Comics

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