Atomic Two-on-One: STARMANIA!

The first Atomic Two-On-One features Deane Aikins and Rod Keith going head-to-head on customizing that most misunderstood Starman of all, Will Payton!



The Roger Stern/ Tom Lyle STARMAN debuted in 1988. DC wanted a new Starman to fit into the post-CRISIS DC Universe and really just wanted the connection of the name, without much nod to the history of the characters that had used it so far. For some reason, I picked up the tin button they were giving away to promote the book:


Although I gotta say I didn’t buy the book. 

Rod Keith:
I met Will Payton through the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite storyline in the Superman titles in mid-1991 (famous for ending with Clark’s proposal to Lois). He made several appearances with Supes, and the two got along fabulously, not only because they were both nice guys, but also because Will was a walking hunka-hunk of solar energy that could provide Superman with all the sunlight he could eat when his reserves were low. 
Will Payton could fly, was strong and nigh invulnerable. He could emit light and heat. He could change his appearance and voice. You know, just like a star (?). I don’t think they knew what they were doing with this one.


Rod Keith:
In the Krimson story, Will used his face-altering power to impersonate a magically de-powered Supes to keep Luthor and other baddies from suspecting . Interesting that Starman’s ability to reconstruct his features parallels the very same power, soon discarded, of the Golden Age Superman in his early appearances. Wonder why that one went by the wayside.
The mission statement from the creators indicates they wanted to tell an everyman story on a journey of self-discovery. Rather Peter Parker with a hodgepodge of powers. This would have been the least interesting thing out there for me, as a highschool senior.
It wasn’t until James Robinson made Starman a legacy that the character had any appeal for me.Deane:
I bought every issue once the James Robinson STARMAN book came out. They were dirt cheap and the creators had signed the first couple of issues. 

I’d say it was the Times Past issue in the Robinson run featuring Will (#36) that caught my interest. He’s wearing the red-and-black on the cover, and it was never a more striking design that how Tony Harris portrayed it there. Ultimately my interest in the character is as part of the Starman legacy. So I chose the costume from that cover.


I think DC didn’t like the costume and they wanted the second version. It’s easier to understand, but I think the original is much more an honest expression of late eighties comic books. The crazy thing is how Starman v5.2 is warmly remembered with the fanbase of “our” generation. Folks have zero interest in the purple/yellow golden boy, they want the man in red and black.


Truth to tell, I had forgotten about the yellow/purple look until you brought it up when we started discussing the project.
Boy, Tom Lyle got out in issue #24 when the getting was good. Two issues with black hair and then it looks like Starman went generic- caucasian skin and drk brown hair. Lots of looking for direction and the letting go of creator Roger Stern, with only a later issue note box saying how they missed an announcement of his departure. OUCH! corporate sux…I thought the best parts of the final 24 issues were the STARMEN reunion (but oy, Nimbus…), the MIGNOLA covers, and the ECLIPSO showdown. The new writers really powered down Starman, making him much more cookie-cutter generic.RK: 
After reading the Robinson stuff, I did go back and grab several issues but, to this day, I’m not sure how many of them I’ve actually read. Except for the Eclipso: the Darkness Within crossover event for 1992, where Will cashes in his chips (oops…spoiler!)… supposedly anyway (another spoiler!).

My character is based on the Wave 2 Blue Superman with the Wave 6(?) Superman head. 



Mine is a DCUC Regen Superman from wave 6. Already black, which is great because DCUC bodies are difficult to work with, in comparison to DC Direct figures. All that fancy articulation that we love from Mattel, blows chunks when you actually have to sand and repaint it. 
These days, I spend a lot of time sculpting, but with this figure it was mostly about the paint. The body was four paint applications, which makes me more nervous for a flaw with each layer. 



The only real issues with the Regen Supes are the bracelets, which I cut off, sanded and re-sculpted, and the hair. I think Payton is one of those few late 80’s creations that actually had the hockey hair we all had (admit it)– bangs in the front, short on the sides, and long in the back. So the hair had to be redone, and some Milliput provided the sculpt. It was a fun challenge to blend the new locks in seamlessly with the old. 



I used Tamiya sprays of lavender, chrome yellow, and pearl white. The gold skin was Testor’s metallic gold and his hair was a mix of Tamiya brown, white, and flat flesh.   I’m not so sure I got the skin tone right…



Unlike you, I would get very frustrated working in a technical fashion– taping and spraying, measuring, etc. I’m more of a ‘fine art’ guy. I will do it if I have to, but honestly, I’d rather do it freehand. First I had to decide just how the stars and lines on Mr. Payton’s front and back actually connected on the sides– not so clear in the comics actually- it depended on the artist. 



The big issue is with the chest/back stars, due to the DCUC chest joint. I didn’t want to break up the emblem. It bothered me with their Captain Marvel that his lightning bolt was painted past that joint, leaving a gap in it, visible if one cranks the top forward or back. My solution was keep as much of the star on the chest to avoid that. 



I started with lavender, then white, yellow, and finally gold. I cut down 6mm masking tape for the lavender pinstriping. That was the hardest part, trying to look through these old comic books and make sense of all the asymmetry and lines.
Another problem is the solid lines that travel all the way down the sides of the arms, legs and body, because you hit every single bit of articulation possible. I have my doubts that we’ll ever see this version of Will at retail because a simple twist will result in all the lines of the costume to be completely out of sync with the other, thereby ruining the look of the costume. Bleh! I’d like to be wrong about that.



For the record, the paint I tend to use is Delta Creamcoat Acrylic, here for the red, black, skin colour and hair, but for the brightness of the white emblems I used Tamiya white, with a little pearl finish thrown in for funsies, to give it a richer lustre.


I didn’t get the Will Payton colour scheme until I placed my figure with the family tonight:

Am I the only one who hadn’t gotten that?

While I would never say that Will is one of my fave characters, I really hoped Mattel included him somehow, along with the rest of the Starman ‘family’. Sadly, we have a hopeless mishmash across several lines, and not a consistent set, unified as James Robinson did with several disparate characters, to form one of DC’s most enduring– and eclectic–legacies.


NEXT TIME on Atomic Two-On-One:

Well, there’s more than one Starman with a change of clothes, isn’t there?


Filed under Deane Aikins

2 responses to “Atomic Two-on-One: STARMANIA!

  1. Mike Wendler

    I love Will Payton Starman. He was one of the first customs I ever did. Comic was vastly underrated and over shadowed by Robinson’s version that followed. I bought every issue of this comic. Never was happy with how Robinson ham fisted Will and the Cosmic Starman together. Wiped out the Will Payton character completely making it though he never existed since he retconned that he died in the first issue. Robinson also did a great disservice to his sister Jayne in the comic who was a strong female character who designed Will’s costume and named him by turning her into the weak Sadie character who seduces Jack and tricks him into going into space to look for him. Sorry for the ramble. If I could post pics of my Starman custom I would. I love the yellow costume since it was first. Great work guys! -Max

  2. Deane Aikins

    Thanks, Max! I agree completely. Will was a ton of fun.

    Can you post pix in the reply?

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