Artist Spotlight – Jim Starlin
Hi everyone, today we’re saluting the transcendently-talented Jim Starlin! Jim’s contributions to the comics industry are astonishing not only for their magnitude and volume, but also as he’s still producing stellar work to this day – over 40 years after he first started! It’s rare to find a creator who seismically impacts mainstream comic books both literarily and artistically, but Jim is indeed that mythical unicorn. The list of accomplishments spanning his five-decade career is too long to mention, so for the purposes of keeping this article digestible, I’ll mainly be focusing on Marvel Cosmic work.
Jim’s short ’72/’73 stint on Invincible Iron Man, including the iconic issue 55, was the launch pad of his comic book superstardom. For a discussion of Iron Man #55 OA, kindly refer to my December 2016 article on First Appearances!
After introducing Thanos, Drax and others in IM #55, Jim became penciller on the faltering Captain Marvel, eventually taking control of writing duties as well. It was on this title that he began to fully showcase his talents by creating a rich cosmic tapestry, as he was given the editorial freedom to develop and express himself. Jim expanded on the Marvel Cosmic and Thanos mythos during this legendary Captain Marvel run, continued in Strange Tales (where he introduced Gamora) then Warlock, and ultimately culminating in 1977’s epic Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 and Avengers Annual #7 crossover (after which Thanos would remain dead until 1990’s Silver Surfer #34).
Jim’s art (and stories) during his ’70s tenure on Marvel titles became progressively more distinctive, detailed and lush – full of explosively fluid characters and psychedelic settings. Many consider this period the apex of his artistic output, and values of ’70s Starlin OA (especially cosmic artwork) have grown robustly over the last two years, as collectors increasingly recognize this work to be truly groundbreaking, both conceptually and artistically. I would place Starlin in the same pantheon as other artistic greats from that period – Neal Adams, George Perez, John Byrne, etc – who are recognized for introducing fresh styles and concepts to the medium. In my view, ’70s Starlin cosmic OA prices could soon reach Adams Batman/Green Lantern and Byrne Uncanny X-Men levels.
To illustrate the rapid rise in values, that CM #26 panel page below sold in February 2016 for $10.8k – more than two-thirds the price of this CM #25 title splash from just nine months earlier!
We see the “Thanos Tax” in action below, with that AA #7 panel page fetching more than the action-packed ST #181 half-splash. A contributing factor could also be that the AA #7 piece is a retelling of Thanos’ origin (origin pages usually fetch a premium). The Warlock #15 title splash is a spectacular piece of art, which I can easily see selling for above $20k in today’s market!
Here’s a good illustration of the effect that the Starlin cosmic OA price premium has. Even though this is one of the best Defenders pages I can recall, it’s still nowhere near in price to cosmic pages from the same period!
Side Note: Jack Kirby is the acknowledged “King” of comics, and among a plethora of other achievements, created the Marvel Cosmic universe together with Stan Lee. These two comic book deities were responsible for the introduction of characters such as the Silver Surfer, Watcher, Celestials, Living Tribunal, Eternity, Ego, Galactus, etc. Jim’s subsequent expansion and enrichment of the Marvel Cosmic canon, through his revitalization of existing characters, along with introduction of important new characters, concepts and philosophies, make him the “Crown Prince” of Marvel Cosmic!
During the late-’70s/’80s, Jim worked on a variety of DC titles, including Detective Comics and Batman, creating notable characters such as Mongul and the KGBeast. His most prominent DC work was probably as writer on Batman, where he authored the industry-shaking “A Death in the Family” storyline.
Other ’80s works include Jim’s creator-owned Dreadstar, along with The Death of Captain Marvel – groundbreaking both for its story’s power and poignancy, and introducing the graphic novel format to Marvel Comics. OA from this book is unfortunately inked in marker, which is notorious for fading and discolouring over time. If these were inked in traditional India Ink, prices for pages from this landmark work would definitely be higher; the only reason I haven’t picked one up is due to the unsightly marker inks!
1990 to present
Jim continued his writing career in the ’90s with Silver Surfer, Thanos Quest, the legendary Infinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade saga, Warlock and the Infinity Watch and Warlock Chronicles. The only time he handled Marvel Cosmic artistic duties during this period was on the Silver Surfer/Warlock: Resurrection limited series.
The Cosmic master finally returned to writing and drawing Thanos over several series in the early-2000’s: Captain Marvel, Infinity Abyss, Marvel Universe: The End and Thanos. Prices of OA from these series started to seriously move up a year ago, perhaps as a consequence of collectors getting priced out of Jim’s ’70s Marvel Cosmic OA, and shifting their attention to his more affordable early-2000’s artwork (which I’d always felt was undervalued). As more attention is directed at Marvel Cosmic due to the upcoming Infinity War movies, don’t be surprised if prices for early-2000’s Starlin Thanos/cosmic OA continue to rapidly escalate!
Jim again wrote and drew Marvel Cosmic in the mid-2010’s with Thanos: The Infinity Revelation, Thanos: The Infinity Relativity, Thanos: The Infinity Finale, Thanos vs Hulk, and The Infinity Entity. I’d previously discussed prices of Infinity Relativity OA in my article on the March 2017 CLink Featured Auction. If you’re looking to obtain Starlin Thanos/cosmic OA but feel that the earlier stuff is out of reach, go for pages from these mid-2010’s series, as I feel they’re still fair buys at current values!
Where can I buy Jim Starlin OA?
Do keep an eye on the various auction sites, as increased interest and prices in Starlin OA has resulted in more pieces coming to market. For instance, there’s a bunch of great ’70s Starlin OA in the ongoing HA Signature Auction. Anthony Snyder has some modern Starlin OA for sale; Albert Moy and Romitaman are offering a few higher-value pieces. Finally, enjoy viewing some of Jim’s awesome work in CAF members’ galleries.
Until next time, happy collecting!