The Pre-Robinson Years
by David R. Black
For those who don't know, David Knight was Ted Knight's son and the brother of Jack. As established by the current Starman series, David wanted nothing more from life than to follow in his father's footsteps and inherit the mantle of Starman. He got his chance and was promptly killed off in the first few pages of Starman #0. Ever since then, David's ghost has been appearing every 12 issues or so and helping/teaching/fighting with his brother Jack (or Mikaal, in one case). At times, these "Talking With David" issues are among the most touching and heartwarming issues in the Starman series.
So how many of you knew that David Knight wasn't a James Robinson creation? OK, I'm guessing that most of you are nodding and saying "yeah, I knew that." How many of you know that Roger Stern created David Knight? I'm betting that's a smaller number. Making his debut in Starman #26 (1st series - the Will Payton one), David appeared in that issue and the one following before fading into obscurity and eventually being bumped off when the current Starman series started up.
What follows is a summary of the two part story in which David first appeared.
Issue #26 begins in the gymnasium of the Knight estate. David and his trainer, a balding man named Andy "Murph" Murphy who looks suspiciously like the Mist, are working out when Jules Black, the financial manager of the Knight family fortune, enters. Murph tells Jules that they "need to schedule a press conference .you know, invite all the networks" because David is ready to make his debut as the new Starman. Jules protests, saying, "Don't you think the public will be confused? Oh dear, that's right .you've been out of the country. You don't know there's already a new Starman!"
We then see Will Payton, the "new" Starman, in action as he saves a truck from plummeting off an icy mountain road. David sees Payton's heroics on the evening news, and egged on by Murph, he decides that "that phoney is going to answer to the real Starman!"
David schedules a TV interview, and on national TV asserts that Payton's "a thief! He's stolen the name that rightfully belongs to my family! My father originated the identity of Starman in 1941!" David continues that he won't willingly surrender the Starman name "to some Johnny come lately" and challenges Payton to meet him the next day at the Houston Astrodome.
A brief bit of editorializing here, if you don't mind. Why the blazes would two meta-humans square off in a domed baseball stadium? That has major property damage written all over it. And in fact, David eventually knocks Will through the roof, making a large hole.
The next day arrives, and the two heroes meet. In a totally unexpected, non egotistical way, Will apologizes. He says "I'm sorry if my being called Starman has offended your family. You see, the name wasn't my idea, some kid called me that the first time I appeared in public ..and it stuck!" By now we realize that Murph/Mist is hypnotically controlling David (one of the forgotten powers of the Mist is hypnotism - look it up in Who's Who if you don't believe me!), and David blasts Will through the Astrodome roof.
The two Starmen fight, and eventually, David passes out due to a side effect of the Mist's hypnotism. With Will distracted by David's collapse, this allows the Mist enough time to snatch away David's cosmic converter belt. Why David was wearing the belt in addition to wielding his gravity rod (called a "star scepter" in the story) is not clear. It's definitely redundant for him to have both.
Anyway, Mist snatches the belt and as he grows to gigantic proportions, he boasts "it took months of manipulation to get Knight under my control, but it was worth it! Duping the son of my oldest foe more than makes up for the defeats his father handed me .For over half a century I have been called the Mist! But no more! Now I have advanced to a state beyond human! Now I am a force of nature! You may call me Nimbus!"
That's how issue #26 ends, though. Thankfully, Mist's transformation into Nimbus seems to have been ret-conned away by the current Starman series.
Issue #27 begins with Will Payton looking up at the gigantic Mist/Nimbus creature. Nimbus grows larger and larger (busting another hole in the Astrodome in the process) until he's an immense sentient storm front. NASA scientists conclude that unless Nimbus is stopped "within the next half hour, he'll control the entire world's weather!"
In brief, the bulk of this issue consists of Will and David teaming up to successfully thwart Nimbus' plan for world weather domination, but it's just your standard, paint by numbers superheroics. What's really interesting is the flashback featuring David's life prior to this point and his relationship with his father.
David reveals that he found out about Ted (his father) being Starman "only after mother died. She kept my father's secret all her married life. There had always been a certain distance between myself and my father. The only thing we had in common was our love for her and a fascination with astronomy."
So far, very interesting. Ted's wife (David's mother) is never mentioned by name, and for a while James Robinson kept this idea. Ditto for David being an astrophysicist (more or less). However, the "distant," almost hostile, father-son relationship between David and Ted is transferred to Jack and Ted in the early Robinson issues. Ted seems to favor David much more than Jack early on, but as the series has progressed, we've learned that Ted is just as proud, or even more so, of Jack.
Back to David's flashback.
"After mother's death, I made attempts to bridge the generation gap, but Dad kept playing the great stone face. I remember thinking that he was remote as the stars. Six months later, he finally broke his silence. He told me about his days as Starman and how he'd given up that life when he married. But early in his career, he and other Justice Society members had their aging processes slowed. As mother had grown older, he had aged himself cosmetically. Now that she was gone, he'd decided that he was tired of pretending to be older than he felt. The world needed heroes again .He was planning to bring Starman back out of retirement. I'm afraid I didn't take that news very well. We argued. I said a lot of things I now regret ..maybe I should have made more of an effort to understand .but I didn't. Instead, I ran away, left the country. I spent years, and most of my inheritance from Mother, bumming around Europe. I climbed mountains, worked on my backhand, and frequented too many pubs. In all that time, I never once tried to contact my father. Then, one day, I found that I'd lost any chance I might had."
We then see a telegram informing David of Ted's death. This refers to the apparent "death" of the JSA as seen in The Last Days of the JSA Special, written by Roy Thomas. This was the Ragnarok, eternal war situation that was undone in 1992 by Armageddon: Inferno.
David then explains how he met Murphy/Mist and how the Mist exploited David's grief and desire for a father figure for his own personal vengeance and gain.
Ultimately, the story ends with Will once again offering to give up the name Starman. David refuses, saying "From what I've seen, you've made better use of the name than I would have .I think Dad would be pleased to see someone carrying on the name and bringing it new honor. Friends?"
"Friends!" agrees Will, and the two Starmen shake hands.
So how much of this story is still in continuity? Well, probably not much of it. The Mist's deceptive relationship with David could have happened (but I doubt it), and Mist's evolution into Nimbus has thankfully been ignored. David's team up with Will Payton has been ret-conned away as well. Although we're never explicitly told how long David was Starman before being killed, it's generally implied to be only a few days.
However, I don't see any major continuity problems with the flashback depicting Ted and David's relationship and David's life before becoming Starman. During their argument about Ted resuming his Starman adventures, perhaps David was mad because he wanted to be Starman? David seemed eager to don the mantle of Starman in the current series, so it makes sense that he might feel disgraced when Ted decides to return to action rather than giving him a chance to be Starman. Perhaps that's the reason behind David leaving and touring Europe?
And lastly, regarding Jack .The story never mentions if Ted had any other children or not. We are only told about David, but that doesn't mean that Jack was not around. Jack would get his own chance to play Starman, and he's done it quite well.
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
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This story is © 2000 by David R. Black
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