Stardust, the inter-planetary marvel, whose phenomenal knowledge and abilities have made him the most superior man that ever lived, is devoting himself to crime-busting on various planets.--Fantastic Comics #3
Written and drawn by Fletcher Hanks
Stardust the Super-Wizard is a mad alien god who descended onto Earth in 1939, terrorized criminals in obscure and frankly bizarre ways, and, once he grew bored of the Earth left it behind to again explore the cosmos.
In 1937 Action Comics #1 was published and reached incredible fame and profits. This catapulted the nascent comic book industry into prominence and created a whole new genre along with it: superheroes. Dozens of publishers tried to recreate the fire in a bottle with titles such as Detective Comics, Adventure Comics, Fight Comics, Jungle Comics, and of course, Fantastic Comics. These publishers needed so much content they would hire packaging companies to write and draw the comics and prepare them for publication. Typically, this was a job split up between several different professionals, one to write the story, one to render line art, one to ink it in tones that would still read well on poor printing, one to draw the text and one to color the comic.
This is where Fletcher Hanks entered the story. He was a pioneer. Unlike many of his comrades Hanks wrote, drew and lettered his own comics. It's not exactly clear why he did this instead of acting as a part in the assembly line (his personal life and the content of his comics indicate he may have been difficult to work with). But unlike many working in the so called Golden Age of comics he produced indiosyncratic work that was fully his own. And it was real fucked up.
Stardust the Super Wizard is likely the first such creation, because the byline attached to the comic is his own. While his other creations such as Big Red McLane and Fantomah share different bylines, such as Barclay Flagg, Hank Christy, or Charles Netcher (this is not an exhaustive list).
Stardust is a mad space god. He answers the question, what if Superman had no limits on his powers or morality? He comes to Earth in his terrifying spy base private star and watches as villains enact evil genocidal plans. Once he's near enough, he unleashes horrifying and bizarre punishments on his enemies. Combining them all into one dude, turning a guy into his own disembodied head and feeding him to the hugest giant in the universe, turning a devious communist agent into a rat monster and handing him over to the feds. He acts as an agent of alien justice, in an utter inhuman manner. And Stardust's other protagonists are also as inexplicable.
Fantomah is, depending on your meaning, the first female Superhero. She appears to be a fairly typical Jungle Girl, a white woman who is the savior of the rain forest. But if a strong enough threat comes to Jungle Land she will transform into a towering skeleton monster, who acts more or less the same as Stardust would.
Another of his creations that I feel it necessary to discuss is Big "Red" McLane, the King of the North Woods. Red is a drifter wandering across the North Woods until he happened upon the Farr (or possibly Farlowe) Lumber Camp, got a job and became a logging vigilante. He might not be much of a lumberjack, but he is in fact a good man with his fists. Out of all of Hanks heroes, Red is the closest to real life. He's not a space hero off exploring alien planets, he's wandering around the woods and getting into fights. Stardust, Fantomah and Big Red McLane form a kind of trinity of characters Hanks worked on. While there were many others he created one or two stories for, these are the characters he wrote the longest.
While several creators have taken the mantle (or control belt thing) of Stardust the Super-Wizard, the most prolific of such creators is Joey Peters. If you haven't caught on yet, that's me! The Boston based cartoonist and writer has produced more pages of comics narative about Stardust the Super-Wizard and his accompanying side cast than anyone else in history thus far, including Fletcher Hanks himself. He has created Attack of the Super-Wizards, The Super Wizard Returns, and, for Big Red McLane (another of Hanks' creations) World's Greatest Lumberjack.
Attack of the Super Wizards was my first large scale comics project. It takes the Stardust mythology and expands on it as if it continued to exist after 1941. I spin friends and allies out of the original Stardust comics. The woman in a red dress that Stardust saves from giant birds becomes Rosemary Redgrave, one last remaining of Stardust's Sixth Column is Sunspot, he gets a dog companion in Sirius the Star Dog. The devious communist rat monster Yew Bee is still nipping at his heels.
Attack of the Super Wizards begins when the devious order of arcane space gods, the Super Wizards, vote and decide that Earth is too dangerous. It has produced too many super villains that threaten universal safety. It must be destroyed. But Stardust is a dissenting voice.
If he is to prevent the destruction of his favorite planet, he must raise an army to stop them. Not merely his allies in the Big Three, McLane and Fantomah, but every version of Stardust from across comic book history; the golden age, the silver age, the underground comix Stardust, the grim and gritty reboot, the dark 80's alternate version… All of them must come together to stop the devious Super Wizards.
(The original comic was produced in Black & White. This edition is mostly in color. There's a few stories which are pastiches of types of comics that would be printed in black and white, so those will remain as such. Otherwise, I've been coloring the original pages slowly over the years. As of this writing I've finished with about 80% of the original pages and intend to finish them all up some day)
Writing and art by Joey Peters, except for the cover to chapter 2, which is by Donna Martinez.
Decades ago Stardust came to the Earth to bust crime, but just as quickly he grew bored of it and left to show his new human pet, Rosemary Redgrave, the wonders of the universe. Now, Rosemary wants to return to Earth, but in the time he's been missing it's changed. Decades have passed. The world has changed, and so has Rosemary. But, the one thing that hasn't changed is Stardust himself. Can he find a way to fit into this new world?
This is a serious sci-fi take on Stardust the Super-Wizard. What would the world be like if a mad alien god had descended onto it in 1939? How would it react when that same alien disappeared two years later? The story takes the original Stardust stories at face value and extrapolates their effects on the world. Factions fight it out over the technology Stardust left behind. The successors of Stardust's former allies try to keep the world together. And a human girl pulled away from her home to explore the stars returns to a home that has become entirely alien.
Writing and art by Joey Peters. Chapter covers by Donna Martinez.
Big Red McLane has settled into his life as a gritty urban vigilante who is also an extremely rich industrialist, but when his most dangerous villain, Liver Eatin' Johnson, returns from the dead he is inexorably pulled into the most dangerous game: The World's Greatest Lumberjack competition. To uncover the truth, Red must compete against his villains and his ex-girlfriend Sal to discover who is the most powerful lumberjack on Earth. But hiding at the center of the competition is a terrible secret that threatens all: LOGMAGEDDEON!
This is a kind of goofy post modern take on Big Red McLane where he's an extremely successful billionaire lumberjack vigilante with a logging themed plane, car, secret base and all of that.
Big Red McLane recounts the story of the time he saved Christmas (and Santa Claus. Sort of) to his daughter, Ultra-Violet
Writing by Joey P. Art by Donna Martinez
When Fantomah is invited back home for Christmas by her mother she panics and attempts to get an appropriate gift.
Writing by Joey Peters. Art by Donna Martinez.