This article is about the British comic strip by Tom Tully and Francisco Solano López. For the similarly titled British punk band, see Janus Stark (band).
Janus Stark, or The Incredible Adventures of Janus Stark, was a British comic strip series, written by Tom Tully and drawn by Francisco Solano López. It debuted on March 15, 1969 in the magazine Smash and ran in syndication until 1971.
Janus Stark was about an escapologist in Victorian London who appeared to be simply an unusual act on the music-hall stage, but who privately used his extraordinary abilities to battle against injustice. Stark had an unusually flexible bone structure, enabling him to get out of an astonishing variety of tight situations at need.
The protagonist was born in 1840 as the orphan Jonas Clarke. His background story explains that he was sent to an orphanage where he was mistreated, but escaped and lived in the streets. There he befriended a beggar, Blind Largo, who taught him pickpocketing, but also trained Clarke's unique gift for body bending and escaping. As an adult Clarke took on another persona as Janus Stark and became an escapologist and private detective.
Background to the comic
Drawn by Solano Lopez, there was more than a touch of Reed Richards, from the departed Fantastic Four strip, in Stark's uncanny abilities. The strip was one of the few to survive the merger of Smash into Valiant in 1971, and is still well remembered today.
This strip brings up the matter of economics once more. Solano Lopez was a foreign illustrator, born in the Argentine, who worked at a studio in Spain. For reasons of cost, IPC had taken a policy decision to source artwork from cheaper sources outside the UK. Along with the presence in the new Smash of reprint strips, this is yet another indicator of the financial pressure the comic was still under, and the absolute necessity of cutting production costs to the bone in order to make it financially viable.