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Starlin and Desperado

"Frozen moments in time." That’s how Jim Starlin described sequential storytelling to me when he was showing me the ropes of writing a comic. In a larger sense, that’s what this book is, a collection of frozen moments in time, images encapsulating a storytelling career matched only by a very few. Most art books are just that: a collection of images that chronicle an artistic career. But there’s more than that here. These images are in service of the stories Jim Starlin has told over four decades, things like Warlock and The Death of Captain Marvel and Dreadstar and many more, stories that are inimitably “Starlin” in both concept and execution. I’m pretty sure my first exposure to Jim’s work was the classic end to his first Warlock saga, Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. In 1977, I didn’t even know that such things as comic shops existed. I was a spinner-rack kid, haunting supermarkets and convenience stores for whatever gems they might hold. Distribution was spotty, so getting my hands on consecutive issues of anything wasn’t always a guarantee. But I was lucky enough to end up with both the Avengers Annual and Marvel Two-in-One Annual, and they made a hell of an impression on me. That story was certainly one of things that fired my imagination and made me want to tell stories. There are still images from those issues indelibly imprinted in my mind: Thanos yanking Pip the Troll off the ground by his arm; the Avengers leaping down into battle, directly at the reader; Ben Grimm swallowing his cigar when he’s spooked by Spider-man. More than anything, though, I remember what happened: our hero, Adam Warlock, died. And then he came back from the afterlife and turned Thanos to stone. What’s more … I even felt kind of bad for the villain. This was stuff that just didn’t happen in comics. This was something different. This volume absolutely shows “something different” is a hallmark of Jim’s career, as both an artist and a writer. Pushing boundaries, in both content (since when did superheroes die of cancer?) and form (fully-painted pages, embracing the digital revolution, even switching to prose novels). We all owe Jim a debt for being the iconoclast he is. All comics pros owe Jim a debt for essentially hammering out the incentive agreement in comics that allows us to share in the publishing success of our work and make a comfortable living. And I personally owe Jim for my career. Jim was the one who took me by the hand and led me into comics. I won’t belabor this foreword by recounting the whole tale again. Suffice to say that my life would be very different had I never met Jim Starlin. Very different, and likely not for the better. One time Jim asked me, “Are you ever sorry I got you into this?” He meant writing comics, living the life of a freelancer. Of course I told him no, that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But he just as well could have meant blowing my 11-year-old mind with those two long-ago Annuals, and setting me on the unlikely path of becoming a writer, and being able to count Jim Starlin among my closest friends. I said this was a book of images in service of stories. But not just the stories of heroes and villains that Jim has served up so magnificently over his career. These images also serve to spawn our stories: our memories of where and when we first encountered them, what they meant to us then, and the lasting effect they have on us now. That’s the mark of a true artist, in every sense of the word.

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