Cover to Starslayer #1 (Feb 1982). Art by Mike Grell
|Publication date||February 1982 - November 1985|
|Number of issues||34|
|Main character(s)||Torin Mac Quillon|
Grell originally created Starslayer for DC Comics, but plans to publish it were halted after the mass cancellation of titles known as the DC Implosion.Since Mike Grell retained ownership of the Starslayer material,unlike other previous created material such as the Warlord Travis Morgan, he was free to offer it to Pacific four years later. In it, Grell had indulged his interests in both science fiction and Celtic-style heroic fantasy, by making his hero an ancient Celtic warrior, displaced in time and having adventures in outer space. Instead, he offered it to Pacific Comics, who released it as a six issue series in 1982. It was originally intended as an on-going series per Pacific Comics's publisher Bill Schanes but Grell's developing relationship with the new First Comics and previous working relationship with their editorial director Mike Gold (who had been Grell's editor at DC) swayed him to release future issues with First. In August 1983 First Comics continued the series, starting with issue #7, with Grell writing and providing breakdown art with finishes by Lenin Delsol. Grell left the series after issue #8, and was replaced by writer John Ostrander and Delsol as sole artist. Later contributors to the series were Tim Truman, Hilary Barta, and Tom Sutton. The final issue, #34, came out November 1985.
Issues 2 & 3 saw the introduction of Dave Stevens' Rocketeer as a back-up feature. In issue #10, the character Grimjack was introduced in the same fashion; he would later receive his own title. Another character that appeared as backup feature was Groo the Wanderer, who also later received his own title at Pacific.
The first six issue limited series introduces the main character Torin Mac Quillon, a Celtic warrior from the time of the Roman Empire. Just before he is killed while fighting a group of Roman soldiers, he is pulled into the distant future by Tamara, a descendant of his wife after she remarried. Torin is asked to join the crew of the spaceship Jolly Roger in their fight against the oppressive regime that is ruling the Earth. Torin agrees, and he and his new shipmates successfully save the Earth's dying sun by the end of the first series.
When First Comics restarted the series, Torin Mac Quillon and his crewmates travel throughout the galaxy and end up in Cynosure, the nexus of all realities for First Comics, and gain a crew of pirates. At some point Torin travels back to the solar system with a device that can cause a star to implode into a black hole. He uses this weapon on the sun in the course of battle to destroy his enemies. Just at the point of implosion Torin speaks the name of the Celtic goddess of death, Morrigan, effectively sacrificing the star to her, which brings her back into existence. She proclaims Torin to be her avatar and orders him to go into the galaxy and kill in her name. Torin Mac Quillon rebels, which is the basis of the remainder of the title's run.
Pacific Comics made a huge splash in 1981. Bill and Steve Schanes had gone from a mail order company (which they started in 1971), to distributors, to art-portfolio publishers, to comicbook publishers at a pretty rapid clip. They seemed to know what they were doing, as when they decided to start their own line of color comicbooks (to be sold directly to Comics Shops--to whom they'd also distribute the comics they published, they started by inviting two extremely popular creators. The Schanes brothers were pals with Jack Kirby due to their generous habit of supplying the King of Comics with copies of the comics he was producing--since the publishers seemed to keep forgetting to do it themselves. As it happened, Kirby had worked up his version of Star Wars for another publisher, but Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers had never been picked up. The Schanes brothers grabbed it and Pacific Comics was off and running. Bill and Steve were also smart enough to know that, while Kirby was a legend, his star wasn't as bright as it had once been, and they needed a star who was blazing at that very moment.
Mike Grell had built up quite a following at DC Comics, rising up from back-up artist on Aquaman and Green Arrow, to fan-favorite on Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Green Lantern/Green Arrow, to mega-star on his own creation, Warlord (which just happens to be the subject of this weeks Famous First Fridays over at Diversions of the Groovy Kind, hint, hint!). The brothers from Pacific approached "Iron Mike" and hit pay-dirt once again.Mike Grell, too, had created a new series that DC was to have published, but for the housecleaning that had happened over there in 1978, and they decided he would do it as a six-issue mini-series. As a preview of what was to come, Pacific published a portfolio starring Grell's Starslayer*: Log of the Jolly Roger prior to publishing the comic. The portfolio sold out and it looked like Pacific and Mike Grell had a hit.
Grell reversed his Warlord premise of a modern man being sent into a savage world, by having a savage man (a Celtic barbarian named Torin Mac Quillon) sent to a Star Wars-inspired future. It was a cool premise -a sort of reversed Travis Morgan, with Mike Grell's trademark great characters and art, taut dialogue, and realistic characterization. It should have been a hit. But a funny thing happened...
Pacific didn't run many ads, which meant that they had room for longer stories--or standard-length stories plus a back-up feature. Most of Starslayer's first six issues had back-ups. First, there was something called The Rocketeer by a new kid (who'd been toiling in the cartoon industry) named Dave Stevens ran in issues 2 and 3. While fans were digging Grell's Starslayer, they were totally flipping out over The Rocketeer. Nearly half the letters in Starslayer were paens to Stevens and his genius. Even the letters that focused on Starslayer still found room to praise The Rocketeer. Instead of leaving The Rocketeer as a back-up in Starslayer , Pacific decided to create an anthology title, Pacific Presents, and let Stevens' beautifully illustrated tale of 1930s era barnstormer Cliff Secord and his Bettie Page look-alike girlfriend headline it. There weren't many Rocketeer stories published (though the character did blow through, what?, three publishers?), but what was published was popular enough that Disney put it on the Silver Screen in 1991.
In Starslayer #5, Sergio Aragones' latest creation, an inept barbarian named Groo made his second appearance (his first had been in Eclipse Comics' Destroyer Duck #1) as he went his merrily destructive way on to his own title. Groo turned out to be a mega-hit, appearing under a variety of publishers and in hundreds of comics all the way into the 21st Century.
Mike Grell finished his story of how Torin and his comrades saved the universe by destroying the earth , then shifted his energies--and creations--to a new publisher, First Comics. Grell's time would be spent mostly on something completely different; a series about a soldier of fortune who poses as a children's book writer called Jon Sable, Freelance. After a few issues of Starslayer at First, he handed the writing chores over to newcomer John Ostrander (he had given the penciling chores to another newcomer, Lenin Delsol, starting with issue #7, his first, eh, First issue) to focus completely on Sable. Like Groo, Sable also enjoyed a long run at a variety of publishers. Over 100 issues on and off up until this past year. Sable also starred in a short-lived ABC-TV series in 1987, and was the subject of Grell's first prose novel in 2000.
With issue #10, Starslayer got a new back-up feature. Written and co-created by Ostrander, co-created by yet another new artist, Tim Truman, Grimjack had all the makings of yet another hit, and First knew it. They began plugging Grimjack in the editorials and letters pages, as well as in the fan magazines. When Grimjack's debut finally appeared, it blew fandom away. A smart mixture of Wolverine, Conan, Batman, Warlock, Mike Hammer, and Humphrey Bogart, the barbaric gumshoe/bar owner of Cynosure (the nexus of creation, where all worlds and realities converged) hit all the right buttons for those of us who had grown up in the 70s. Grimjack was callous, tough, hard-bitten, short-tempered, and mercenary, but he was also cool, heroic, and morally centered by his own code of ethics. Ostrander's stories were biting and hard-bitten, while Truman's art was kind of ugly, but awesomely cool in a punk sort of way, filled with raw energy, and gloriously detailed. By Starslayer #18, Grimjack was teaming up with Torin and then it was straight to his own title. A title that ran 81 issues.
With issue #20, Starslayer gained another back-up, Peter Gillis and Tom Sutton's mystical Black Flame, who had been the back-up in First's short-lived Mars series. The Black Flame never got his own comic, movie, TV show, or novel, but the feature did take over one entire issue of Starslayer, issue #27.
The final issue of Starslayer, #34, appeared in late 1985. Ten years later, Acclaim Comics reprinted Grell's original Pacific mini-series as a "director's cut", allowing Grell to rewrite, redraw, and expand wherever he felt the need. Sadly it didn't lead to a regular Starslayer series,movie,TV show,novel,even back-up strip.
(*At about the same time, Jim Starlin was planning on expanding his Metamorphosis Odyssey, which had been running in Epic Illustrated, into a series. The idea was to spin one of the main characters off into his own series. That character was to have been Vanth Starslayer. Grell informed Starlin of his ownership of the "Starslayer" name, so it was Vanth Dreadstar who went on to star in his own comic.)
- Cooke, Jon B. (2004). Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 3. Two Morrows Publishing. p. 216. ISBN 1-893905-42-X.
- Grabois, Michael. ""The Mike Grell Checklist"". The Official Mike Grell Website. Archived from the original on 2007-08-15. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- ""Starslayer"". International Heroes website. Retrieved 2007-12-07.