Sunday, May 6, 2018



Well, if you'll indulge me, it all started with Leonard Starr.

Again -- who?!

Folks -- we're about to do some deep digging, which hopefully someone out there will find at least a teensy bit interesting and/or informational.

When I was a kid, one of the many properties hurled at us children of the eighties was THUNDERCATS. I watched the cartoon, I owned some of the toys. Eventually it went off the air and I more or less forgot about it. Then, a decade or so later in 1997 -- when I was in high school -- Cartoon Network began to air the original show as part of their weekday afternoon Toonami programming block. I started watching again, and this time I was able to see every single episode, as opposed to my childhood viewings of only some here and there.

I also paid attention to the credits during those Toonami airings, and saw that nearly all the major episodes, continuity-wise, were written by a fellow named Leonard Starr, who also appeared on the end credits of every episode as the Head Writer. At the time I didn't really think much of it other than that he was a pretty creative guy, and that was that.

Still more years later, probably somewhere around 2011 or so, I found myself reading a bunch of old Batman comics from the seventies. I was more than a little surprised when I read some issue or another of DETECTIVE COMICS and found a story drawn by Leonard Starr. "The THUNDERCATS writer?!" I thought, thoroughly confused.

At that point I did a little Googling and learned there was far more to Leonard Starr's long career than his work on THUNDERCATS -- in fact, that series was practically a footnote! Starr was known primarily as a cartoonist who worked in both comic books and comic strips. His claim to fame was as the creator and writer/artist of a strip called MARY PERKINS ON STAGE for its full run from 1957 to 1979, after which he became the artist on LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE.

Leonard and Mary
as illustrated by Starr.
(Considering he was known mostly for soap opera stuff, I'm surprised he was tapped to work on a fantasy/sci-fi cartoon show -- but based on his work, the producers made the right choice by a mile. He developed an outstanding setting and mythology for THUNDERCATS.)

So I filed away the trivia about Leonard Starr and went back to my daily business. Then, just a year or two ago, as I was really getting into the comic strip frenzy I've spoken about at length here, Starr's name came to mind and I decided I should try to find something he'd worked on. I wasn't that excited about MARY PERKINS -- the artwork looked beautiful, but soap opera strips aren't really my focus, at least at this time -- and I've never been much of a fan of ANNIE. But as I did a little research, I learned that a small publisher called Classic Comics Press had just released a volume called KELLY GREEN, which collected a group of graphic novels Starr had written in the eighties for an overseas publisher.

Though not a comic strip, KELLY GREEN sounded right up my alley. Written by Starr and drawn by another longtime syndicated cartoonist, Stan Drake, it was a black-and-white adventure/crime series about an attractive young lady getting into various deadly situations. Somehow I was familiar with Drake, though I wasn't sure I'd ever read any of his work (he was known primarily for his soap opera strip, THE HEART OF JULIET JONES, and later for BLONDIE in the eighties), and I knew I would like his art -- so I picked up KELLY GREEN last year and I've been holding onto it since.

Now, finally, I've decided to crack the volume open and give it a read. This is Starr writing in the same era as his THUNDERCATS work, though in a decidedly different genre and with more adult sensibilities. I'm really curious to check it out, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the five graphic novels, one Friday at a time, right here.

P.S.: Funnily enough, we'll see Leonard Starr the artist pop up on this blog too in the not-too-distant future, as it turns out he provided inks for one of John Byrne's ACTION COMICS issues in 1988!

No comments:

Post a Comment