Who Are the Star Hunters?

Who's This? The space opera group on page 4 of Who's Who vol.XXII.
The facts: This out-of-continuity (or IS it? see below) space opera was given a longer-than-usual premiere in DC Super-Stars #16 (1977), a month before it continued in its own #1. The bimonthly series would only last a year, reaching #7 before its abrupt cancellation, its promise of a final battle with the Corporation (and a new Adam Strange feature) never coming about. The Super-Stars issue recounts the series' genesis starting two years earlier when writer David Michelinie pitched The Survivors (later, The Outcasts) about a starship crew infected with a contagious disease sentenced to leave humanity behind and hunt for inhabited planets they'd always have to leave. Then, editorial had him scrap the while idea and instead make it about hunting down the aliens behind real UFOs. Then it all fell apart until Jeannette Khan took over from Carmine Infantino and, no doubt because Star Wars had hit, ordered what became a cross between all those stories, which the Super-Stars essay variably calls Star-Hunters and Starhunter. Star Hunters (final title) would be about seeking the aliens who built certain artifacts, forced to do so by an evil Corporation who modified our heroes genetically so they couldn't stay on Earth more than 24 hours on pain of death. Michelinie's real influences aren't Star Wars, however, but the earlier success of SF TV (they mention Space 1999 and Star Trek reruns, and indeed the starship crew set-up speaks to this). He's also majorly ripping off Michael Moorcock as, I think, my groovy selection will show.
How you could have heard of them: The Star Hunters have not appeared since then (or since Who's Who, if you like), and that's not an unlikely result for something the entry calls "not connected to DC Universe continuity". EXCEPT! The last issue makes reference to an Eternal Champion thing going on between our hero Donovan Flint and both Starfire and Claw the Unconquered who most definitely ARE connected to the DCU. There's a door, DC. You decide whether to open it.
Example story: Star Hunters #4 (1978) by David Michelinie, Rich Buckler and Bob Layton
Between Michelinie's overblown narration and this issue starting in some kind of Ditkoesque fantastiscape after the strip's hero, Donovan Flint has literally died, exploding along with the crew's spaceship, never mind the Moorcockian God of Order that brings him back to life...
...this is a VERY heavy metal series. I can't help but hear the electric guitars wailing along with the action. Star Hunters could be a concept album/rock opera. While the "Entity" tells Flint's what's what, the rest of the Hunters are having a funeral for him on the "duskworld called Darkever". See what I mean? As Corporation stooge and commander Darcy Vale gets annoyed with the whole affair's sentimentality, Flint miraculously shows up, remarkably fit and beefcaky for a man who was recently vaporized. He quickly takes the group over, to Darcy's considerable ire, and means to bring them back to Earth to get their lives back. Just then, crew member Mindy Yano suffers a debilitating epileptic attack.
You don't see a lot of that in comics, and the illness seems as strange to these future guys as the black plague might seem to us (cough). She's brought aboard the Annihilists' juggernaut, a warship "liberated" in the previous issue and rechristened as the Sunrider II. Flint doesn't know the design, but thankfully, there's a Help feature in the form of an A.I. called Ozzie (from here on out, the soundtrack must be Black Sabbath), who looks like a TV inside a soap bubble.
Back on Earth, the Corporation is getting intel it shouldn't about the Star Hunters and they send ships to intercept. Also: Creepy Shadows out of Babylon 5 (or more likely, Elric's Lords of Chaos).
Charles BANE? Darcy VALE?! Yes, I think Star Hunters IS part of DCU continuity after all... The Corporation ships bear down on the Sunrider, but how can they be here already when Darcy just NOW betrayed the team?
These jagged angles, used throughout the book, really do add to the sense of non-stop action. Look at Darcy, who seems propelled to the communications console, for example. It makes the space battles - essentially small objects doodled on a field of black - seem much more dynamic.
The juggernaut is so powerful, a fleet of Corp-ships is hardly a match for it. So it's up to Darcy...
Oh damn! The shield button really only opens a single door on the hull (those Annihilators really didn't let their defenses down, did they?) and the Corporate mercs board the ship! Cue furious indoor action until Ozzie gives Flint the idea of tricking the whole platoon into a cargo bay and venting them into space!
No worries, Comics Coders, they've got helmets on. Then the guns putter out and Flint has to do some dangerous tractor beam stuff to finish the bad guys off. And in the epilogue, the results are in and the mystery is solved.
The Corporation put something in Mindy's brain to collect information, and those epileptic seizures are nature's way of transmitting the info back to Earth. Well ouch.

So a real rock 'em, sock 'em series, with lots of energy, twists and surprises. DC wouldn't see a market for its imploded 70s titles, I'm sure, but imagine a trade paperback of short-lived, self-contained series like Starfire and Star Hunters, where the original creators were brought in to finish what they started with one or two new chapters added to the reprint material. I think Star Hunters would be worthy of such a format.

Who else? Another group of Star people, because this volume of Who's Who is full of 'em.

4 comments:

Andrew said...

It's mostly the pose, space setting, and general late-70's costume aesthetic on display, but I kind of get a Corsair/Starjammers vibe from our man Flint.

I've got no problem with this existing in continuity in between generic Days of Future Past knockoff and the time of the Legion.

Siskoid said...

Yeah you're right, very Starjammers, or at least, Corsair.

Eddie the Head said...

"Flint doesn't know the design, but thankfully, there's a Help feature in the form of an A.I. called Ozzie (from here on out, the soundtrack must be Iron Maiden)"

You mean Black Sabbath.

Anonymous said...

After watching Blake's 7 on PBS as a teen I was reminded of how similar the setup between that series and Star Hunters felt to me. I couldn't help but imagine that Terry Nation came across a copy of DC's short lived series featuring a group of anti-heroes forced to work together against an evil galactic organization and jiggered with the concept to create a series that was almost, but not quite, the same.

 

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