For Your Consideration: Marvel’s X-Men: Starjammers by Dave Cockrum


Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Dave Cockrum was one of those quiet artists who usually let the work do the talking; but, he was among the influx of hot, young talent rising to prominence during the early 1970s. After doing some work for Warren Publishing, he came to do background art for Tony DeZuniga, then Murphy Anderson. While working for the latter, he talked his way on to Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, illustrating the tales while one-by-one freshening the costumes.

He helped usher in a new era of Legion fandom and was busily creating new characters to introduce including a blue-furred elf-like being with a pointy tail. However, he left the company in a huff when they wouldn’t return his original artwork, something Marvel was doing.

At Marvel, Cockrum proved a capable artist and was added to staff, training under Art Director John Romita. Still he was filling notebooks with characters and fresh designs, looking for a place to use them. When Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas asked for an international version of the X-Men to try out the team for new readership, the job fell to Len Wein and Cockrum. Finally, he got to use Nightcrawler, collaborating closely with the writer. Soon after, though, Wein replaced Thomas so the X-Men writing chores fell to staff proofreader Chris Claremont, who had sat in on some of the plotting sessions.

X-Men: Starjammers by Dave Cockrum

X-Men: Starjammers by Dave Cockrum


Cockrum, meantime, pushed the notion of his newly created team of heroes, visually inspired by his work on the Legion. But, the editors of Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Premiere both said they were booked for the next two years. Unwilling to wait, he suggested Claremont introduce his team in the pages of X-Men. Liking what he saw, Claremont accommodated him and the world was introduced to the Starjammers.

Sadly, Cockrum was never in the best of health and died nearly 20 years ago, but his connection to the space-faring team has never faded and Marvel now celebrates that by collecting all the Cockrum-drawn tales in X-Men: Starjammers by Dave Cockrum, collecting X-Men #107-108, Uncanny X-Men #154-158 and #161-167 and X-Men: Spotlight on Starjammers #1-2.

The Starjammers hit the big time in X-Men #107

The Starjammers hit the big time in X-Men #107


The newly reconstituted band of mutants had been dealing with a variety of Earth-based threats so Claremont decided it was time to take the team into space. He sent them to the Shi’ar Empire to stop their emperor D’Ken from using the M’Kraan Crystal from destroying the universe. Arriving on the scene were the Starjammers, a motley collection of powerful aliens, led by the human Corsair. They were feuding for years with the Empire, so sided with the X-Men to save everyone. Once the universe was saved, D’Ken’s replacement, Lilandra, unofficially ended the feud. At the end of the adventure, it was revealed to readers that Corsair was Cyclops’ long-lost father, a twist that allowed the team to make logical return appearances.

The initial stories proved to be Cockrum’s last on the title as his day job proved overwhelming but the replacement, John Byrne, worked out.

Five years would pass, but Cockrum was enticed back to the team and with him, came the Starjammers, who had made a handful of appearances without him. He had slowed down as a penciller, so his next run on Uncanny X-Men was either pencilled or laid out by Cockrum with Bob Wiacek inking or finishing the artwork.

Uncanny X-Men #154

Uncanny X-Men #154


Things begin with a splash as Corsair returns to Earth for the first time in twenty years, seeking the X-Men’s help in proving the Starjammers were not behind Lilandra’s disappearance. Cyclops finally learns the man is his father, which sends him reeling but a Shi’ar Dreadnought has arrived and gives the heroes 24 hours to produce their missing queen or the world will be destroyed. Once that catastrophe is averted, a new threat has been introduced with a member of the Shi’ar hierarchy infected with a Brood egg.

After a two issues by others unrelated to the thread, the final arc begins with a celebration for Lilandra’s return. The X-Men, including Xavier, freshly recovered from a coma, and Carol Danvers, are delighted to attend. The Starjammers demur attending given the grudges that remain between the star-spanning heroes and the Empire. Too bad, because the party is spoiled by the return of Lilandra’s sister, Deathbird. She’s accompanied by the Brood, who overwhelm the partygoers and take the mutants and the Shi’ar Empress to Brood space.

Carol Danvers/Binary is spotlighted on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #164

Carol Danvers/Binary is spotlighted on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #164


A newly introduced race, the Avanti, help Danvers evolve. Rogue, then a villain, had absorbed Danvers’ Ms. Marvel powers and memories. While Xavier could help restore her memories, the powers were gone. Soon after sneaking into the Pentagon to erase the government’s files on the team, she deletes her own, leaving her a blank slate. Now in control of the Brood, they experiment on her and she becomes the super-powerful, red-skinned Binary. Many of the powers on display in the Captain Marvel movie can be traced to this transformation.

Anyway, the heroes prevail, the galaxy is saved, but there are repercussions, As this storyline winds down a few things happen including Binary signing on with the Starjammers. Cockrum bowed out of the final parts, being replaced by Paul Smith at the beginning of his celebrated run on the title. And poor Kitty Pryde has disappointed Xavier with her performance is demoted to the New Mutants.

X-Men: Spotlight on Starjammers #1

X-Men: Spotlight on Starjammers #1


Cockrum’s final work with his creation was in a two-parter, written by Terry Kavanaugh and inked by Jeff Albrecht. Once more it starts with Deathbird, now Empress of the Shi’ar, seeking something called the Phalkon, said to be a source of immense power. Learning of this, the Starjammers do everything they can to prevent her from obtaining it. They’re telepathically aided by Xavier, but he suffers gravely as a result. Of course, the Phalkon is revealed to be the Phoenix Force and the action shifts to Earth.

Similarly to George Pérez’s work, Cockrum thrived on teams and epic stories, all of which is on display in these stories. The Starjammers remain a significant force in the Marvel cosmology and it all started with these tales.