Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
There is a moment in the red-band trailer for The Suicide Squad that some may not have reacted too. That is understandable. There is a lot to process. There are tons of new characters and a lot of fan favorite actors showing up (what is the deal with Nathan Fillion’s arms? Etc.) And there is the wonderful joy in knowing that director James Gunn is about to play in a sandbox built on characters designed to be wiped out with reckless abandon.
Still, towards the end of the trailer, some unknown functionary observing the superheroic action on a monitor shouts “Oh my God! We have got a freakin’ kaiju up in this sh*t!” But that is not just any kaiju, that is the one and only Starro the Conqueror!
There is a certain giddy thrill to fandom. The longer you have been a fan, the greater the reward when something you have known is about to break big. There is anxiety too. Even with all the mainstreaming of nerd culture, the long-time fan still remembers the fear that something they love might be messed up. Still, it is the anticipation that wins out for now.
Yours truly has a particular soft spot for certain oddball menaces. Starro has long been one of my true favorites. Basically, Starro is a giant, one-eyed starfish from outer space who has come to take over the world. And if Starro sounds really goofy to you, well, keep in mind that he was the very first enemy that the Justice League of America fought when the team first appeared in Brave and the Bold #28 (1960).
It took the combined might of Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter to defeat Starro. Therefore, Starro is no slouch. Or at least he appears to be no slouch until Justice League mascot Snapper Carr suggests defeating him with garden lime. That is slouch territory.
There is a wonderful combination of Space Age sci-fi and Silver Age of comics goofiness to Starro in that early appearance. He was relegated to the sidelines for many years afterwards. But what I really love about the character was that they found a way to make him truly menacing.
In Justice League of America #189-190 (1981), Starro returned with a frightening new power, the ability to create multitudes of smaller starfish versions of himself that adhere to the face of their human victims, thus taking over their minds. It is Alien face-hugger body-horror combined with zombie movie dynamics.
Friends become foes and every loss amplifies the power of the enemy. The imagery is surreal and I had always heard that the story was basically generated to meet a clever idea on the part of the cover artist Brian Bolland for issue #190. Whatever the case, the visual stops being goofy and starts being unsettling.
Since then, Starro has gone on to appear in a number of comics and in a variety of other media. Heck, Starro even got to fight the Avengers once and not many DC villains can say that. But this is his first true big screen. . . excuse the pun. . . starring moment. I am not sure what will happen, but I hope it will be just as simultaneously goofy and disturbing as this enslaving echinoderm has always been.