This Week in 1978: Starlord heads back to the stars

Back in 1978 this week, fans of Starlord like me, left their local newsagent in dismay, aghast that one of their favourite comics was soon to be no more, and merged with 2000AD.

After a short, 22-week run, Starlord came to an end, the news delivered behind a cover by Graham Coton, purportedly showing Starlord preparing to head back to the stars, his work to set up a global defence system against alien threats apparently completed in record time “despite the refusal of the world’s leaders to recognise the danger”. If only NASA could learn his secrets, eh?

The cover of this final issue remains a bit of a mystery. While it might indeed be an extra-terrestrial vehicle adrift on the waves, preparing to head to the stars, I can’t help but wonder if, in another universe, Starlord declared it one of the very alien threats he’d come to battle, his “defence system” successfully detecting the intruder.

Intriguingly, the cover of the 1980 Starlord annual, attributed to Ron Embleton, published long after the title’s demise, has a similar theme.

The uncredited 1980 Starlord annual, attributed to Ron Embleton, has echoes of the short-lived comic’s final cover. Via David McDonald
Star Lord 22 - Starlord announces his return to the stars in his final “Stargram”
Starlord announces his return to the stars in his final “Stargram”

Starlord never became the adult SF comic as originally conceived, a British rival to Heavy Metal and similar titles. It was victim to the policy of “Hatch, Match and Dispatch” conceived by John Sanders, comics launched to test demand, the better-selling publication then merged with one considered weaker.

While this may well have seemed a brilliant way to temporarily boost the sales of your flagship title, in reality, over time, all it seemed to do was leave comic fans with less of the Fleetway weekly comics they had grown up with to choose from, and rival publishers like Marvel UK were successfully vying for their pocket money, their licensed titles such as Star Wars Weekly and others proving stiff competition.

Starlord No.1, cover dated 13th May 1978, with free gift
Starlord No.1, cover dated 13th May 1978, with free gift
Starlord No.2, cover dated 20th May 1978, with free gift
Starlord No.2, cover dated 20th May 1978, with free gift
The cover art for Starlord No. 19 cover, cover dated 16th September 1978 by Graham Coton, well known for his beautiful painted art for War, Battle, and Air Ace Picture Libraries. Featuring Ro Jaws, Hammerstein and Mek-Quake in all their action packed glory, this cover is currently for sale on ArtDroids
The cover art for Starlord No. 19 cover, cover dated 16th September 1978 by Graham Coton, well known for his beautiful painted art for War, Battle, and Air Ace Picture Libraries. Featuring Ro Jaws, Hammerstein and Mek-Quake in all their action packed glory, this cover is currently for sale on ArtDroids

A brilliant comic that brought us strips like “Mind Wars”, written by Alan Hebden and drawn by Jesus Redondo, “Ro-Busters”, written by a variety of writers, including Pat Mills and Jack Adrian, with art by Ian Kennedy and Carlos Pino, its most lasting legacy has, of course, must be “Strontium Dog”, all seven adventures in Starlord written by John Wagner and all but the last drawn by Carlos Ezquerra.

Still, at least the end had been prepared for, a double page advertisement announcing the merger, with Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters joining Judge Dredd and others on the cover of 2000AD Prog 86, cover dated 14th October 1978, but, of course, released a week earlier.

Star Lord 22 - Merger Ad
2000AD Prog 86, cover dated 14th October 1978
2000AD Prog 86, cover dated 14th October 1978. Via Great News for all Readers

And what became of Starlord, who, in his final “Stargram” to loyal Star-troopers, hinted that he may one day return?

Back in 1999, responding to a reader query, Tharg noted that Starlord had not been sighted on Earth since 1979, but “rumours that he was seen in a McDonalds in Basingstoke cannot be entirely discounted.”

Author Mark West noted back in 2018 that Tharg also claimed, on another occasion, that Starlord was “out in the Rakkalian Cluster, singing lead soprano with an Alvin Stardust tribute band”.

While Tharg may be dismissive of his lost rival for hearts and minds, there are those of us still out here who still hope for a return, however unlikely.

Thank you to the creators involved for a wild, if brief ride.

Web Links

Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics – Lew Stringer looks back at Starlord No. 1

Great News For All Readers: Starlord – The Original Plan

Great News For All Readers: Starlord No. 22

Starlord 19 Cover Art by Graham Coton

Nostalgic For My Childhood – Starlord comic at 40 by Mark West, published in 2018

Covers

Starlord and 2000AD copyright Rebellion Publishing Ltd

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.



Categories: 2000AD, British Comics, Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Events

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1 reply

  1. That Starlord 1980 annual was 90% reprinted unreadable dross IIRC, but my God that Strontium Dog strip in there with the Brendan McCarthy art was phenomenal.

    And the hatching and matching of Starlord into 2000AD kicked the latter into the stratosphere – what was once good but erratic into solid gold.

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