Jim Starlin has had dreams for years about drawing comics again – to the point that some might call them nightmares, because he couldn’t. For several years, a debilitaring hand injury has prevented him from holding a drawing tool for more than 15 minutes. Sure, he could draw a sketch for charity, or doodle something down… but something else, something serious was out of the question.
After months of rehabilitation therapy, Starlin can once again draw – and his first project back isn’t Marvel’s Thanos or something for the Big Two; it’s his own character, Dreadstar.
Scheduled for release this October, Dreadstar Returns puts Starlin back in the driver’s chair (and drawing chair) with a new, 100-page original graphic novel. After launching and already exceeding expections on Kickstarter, Starlin and Ominous Press are full-speed ahead on this new project – including a sister project document who’s who in the Dreadstar world.
Newsarama spoke with Starlin about this return, coming back from his hand injury, the stories he has planned, and how he’s acclimating to modern comics and Kickstarter.
Newsarama: Jim, it’s been decades since you last ventured into Dreadstar territory. How has it been for the characters in this time?
Jim Starlin: It’s about 25 years after the last time I did the story on it. The characters have developed separate lives and are in different positions. Dreadstar being the oddest one of the lot. Willow is still in control of the empirical galaxy, which she now calls Willow Consortium.
Something inter-dimensional is devouring the capital city, Altarix, slowly. It looks like it’s not going to stop with the city, but the world and possibly the entire universe. So, Dreadstar is pulled back from where he’s been and is asked to help with this.
As they go along, the characters are horrified to find out that this is not some new menace they have to face, but something out of their past – terribly changed and not at all what they expected.
Nrama: Fans have been asking for you to return to this for years – what made you decide now was the time to do it?
Starlin: For one, I could draw again – that was a big reason.
After three years of not being able to hold the pencil much more than 15 minutes – after all the ball-squeezing and other hand exercises had finally paid off, I didn’t want to go back to Marvel or DC. I’ve been talking to a lot of different folks about media things on Dreadstar so this seemed like an ideal time to go back to him.
Originally, my idea was to write a final Dreadstar story – Dreadstar’s death, but I realized with everything else going on I would script that and put that in the draw, have someone else draw that down the line, and I’ll keep the franchise going. And I had this idea about fear.
This is basically what a hidden character in our story is about. He’s fear magnified to a horrific level, and we’re going to go from there, and I’m going to do some new stories and draw for as long as possible until I can find some other folks that can help continue doing Dreadstar for a while.
Nrama: What was the moment you decided you want to do both the art and writing for this book?
Starlin: There’s never a point where I didn’t want to do it. When I couldn’t draw for more than 15 minutes, I would have dreams about drawing. I would wake up and go “Damn… that was just a dream.” I think it was just going to a convention and this charity needed a sketch and I was able to work at the convention for about a half hour and come up with a fairly good sketch, and then was like maybe I can do this again. Being careful, it’s come along quite nicely.
Nrama: How long have you been working on this story?
Starlin: To be fair, I had about 30 pages done before the quarantine happened here in New York. I’ve been zooming through since. I’ve been working on it quietly for the last six months or so.
Nrama: Why did you want to go through Kickstarter?
Starlin: I like the process. We get paid a little bit later down the line. There’s no money up front with a thing like this, but I have complete control of the story and art and all. I own everything at the end.
For me it’s just a much better deal. I’m not in a position now where need a paycheck every week. It didn’t make any sense for me to try and take this to another publisher – that’s how Omnious and I started working together.
Nrama: Post Kickstarter, will you like to get this book to retailers?
Starlin: Yes – if there are any comic book stores left. [Laughs]
This is all part of the process. I’m doing an interview with you right now – and this part of the job. It’s a different world from when I work at Marvel back in the 70s. We just don’t do things the way we used to.
Nrama: Do you want to do more Kickstarters besides Dreadstar?
Starlin: Yes, there’s one that I have in the works right now to do through Kickstarter through Ominous. It’s too early to be talking about it, but it’s something I’ll be writing and another artist will be drawing.
It’s a female character. It’s not Supergirl, but it will be something new for me. It’s the first time I’ve done a female character solo.
Nrama: You were talking about how the comic book game has changed throughout the years, what strategies have you’ve been taking to sell your comic through Kickstarter?
Starlin: Facebook – all the social media. I’ll be on CNN I think Thursday, and doing a lot of interviews. Just talking and trying to be personable.
Nrama: What made you want to do a 100-page hardcover instead of a single issue format?
Starlin: Well, I don’t think the pamphlet type comic books are all that financially viable these days. They help with the printing of the big companies, but usually the smaller runs they tend to lose money on these pamphlets. They normally make up their cost with the hardcover graphic novel type format.
I’ve got things shown from the 1970s that are still in print because of the graphic novel format – things change. I think doing Kickstarter is a thing that a lot of freelance writers and artists are going to think about doing down the line because once we are done with this quarantine thing it will be a whole different world out there. This may be the most advantageous way to go.
Nrama: How has fan reaction been like for the return of the title?
Starlin: So far it seems good. No one has sent me hate mail yet. Let’s see, give it time. I think it’s been pretty positive. Folks are happy to see that I’m drawing again.