James P. “Jim” Starlin (born October 9, 1949) is an American comic book writer and artist. With a career dating back to the early 1970s, he is best known for “cosmic” tales and space opera; for revamping the Marvel Comics characters Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock; and for creating or co-creating the Marvel characters Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.
In the 1960s, Jim Starlin served as an aviation photographer in the US Navy in Vietnam. During his off duty time, he drew and submitted various comics. After leaving the Navy, he sold two stories to DC Comics.
After writing and drawing stories for a number of fan publications, Jim Starlin entered the comics industry in 1972, working for Roy Thomas and John Romita at Marvel Comics. Brought in by fellow artist Rich Buckler, Starlin was part of the generation of artists and writers who grew up as fans of Silver Age Marvel Comics. At a Steve Ditko-focused panel at the 2008 Comic-Con International, Starlin said, “Everything I learned about storytelling was [due to] him or Kirby. [Ditko] did the best layouts.”
Starlin's first job for Marvel was as a finisher on pages of The Amazing Spider-Man. He then drew three issues of Iron Man, that introduced the characters Thanos and Drax the Destroyer. He was then given the chance to draw an issue (#25) of the “cosmic” title Captain Marvel. Starlin took over as plotter the following issue, and began developing an elaborate story arc centered on the villainous Thanos, and spread across a number of Marvel titles. Starlin left Captain Marvel one issue after concluding his Thanos saga.
Concurrently in the mid-1970s, Starlin contributed a cache of stories to the independently published science-fiction anthology Star Reach. Here he developed his ideas of God, death, and infinity, free of the restrictions of mainstream comics publishers' self-censorship arm, the Comics Code Authority. Starlin also drew “The Secret of Skull River”, inked by frequent collaborator Al Milgrom, for Savage Tales #5 (July 1974).
After working on Captain Marvel, Starlin and writer Steve Englehart co-created the character Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, though they only worked on the early issues of the Master of Kung Fu series. Starlin then took over the title Warlock, starring a genetically engineered being created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s and re-imagined by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in the 1970s as a Jesus Christ-like figure on an alternate Earth. Envisioning the character as philosophical and existentially tortured, Starlin wrote and drew a complex space opera with theological and psychological themes. Warlock confronted the militaristic Universal Church of Truth, eventually revealed to be created and led by an evil evolution of his future–past self, known as Magus. Starlin ultimately incorporated Thanos into this story. Comics historian Les Daniels noted that “In a brief stint with Marvel, which included work on two characters [Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock that had previously never quite made their mark, Starlin managed to build a considerable cult following.”
In Fall 1978, Starlin, Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, and Val Mayerik formed Upstart Associates, a shared studio space on West 29th Street in New York City. The membership of the studio changed over time.
Death and suicide are recurring themes in Starlin's work: Personifications of Death appeared in his Captain Marvel series and in a fill-in story for Ghost Rider; Warlock commits suicide by killing his future self; and suicide is a theme in a story he plotted and drew for The Rampaging Hulk magazine.
Starlin occasionally worked for Marvel's chief competitor DC Comics and drew stories for Legion of Super-Heroes and the “Batman” feature in Detective Comics in the late 1970s.
Starlin co-created the supervillain Mongul with writer Len Wein in DC Comics Presents #27 (Nov. 1980).
The new decade found Starlin creating an expansive story titled “the Metamorphosis Odyssey”, which introduced the character of Vanth Dreadstar in Epic Illustrated #3. From its beginning in Epic Illustrated, the initial story was painted in monochromatic grays, eventually added to with other tones, and finally becoming full color. The storyline was further developed in The Price and Marvel Graphic Novel #3 and eventually the long-running Dreadstar comic book, published first by Epic Comics, and then by First Comics.
Starlin was given the opportunity to produce a one-shot story in which to kill off a main character. The Death of Captain Marvel became the first graphic novel published by Marvel itself.
Starlin and Bernie Wrightson produced Heroes for Hope, a 1985 one-shot designed to raise money for African famine relief and recovery. Published in the form of a comics “jam,” the book featured an all-star lineup of comics creators as well as a few notable authors from outside the comic book industry, such as Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Edward Bryant.
In 1986, he and Wrightson produced a second benefit comic for famine relief. Heroes Against Hunger featuring Superman and Batman was published by DC and like the earlier Marvel benefit project featured many top comics creators. Starlin became the writer of Batman and one of his first storylines for the title was “Ten Nights of The Beast” in issues #417 - 420 (March - June 1988) which introduced the KGBeast. Starlin then wrote the four-issue miniseries Batman: The Cult (Aug.-Nov. 1988) drawn by Wrightson. and the storyline “Batman: A Death in the Family”, in Batman #426-429 (Dec. 1988 – Jan. 1989), in which Jason Todd, the second of Batman's Robin sidekicks, was killed. The death was decided by fans, as DC Comics set up a hotline for readers to vote on as to whether or not Jason Todd should survive a potentially fatal situation.
Other projects for DC included writing The Weird drawn by Wrightson and Cosmic Odyssey drawn by Mike Mignola. Starlin wrote and drew Gilgamesh II in 1989 before returning to Marvel.
Back at Marvel, Starlin began scripting a revival of the Silver Surfer series. As had become his Marvel norm, he introduced his creation Thanos into the story arc, which led to The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries and its crossover storyline. Here, Starlin brought back Adam Warlock, whom he had killed years earlier in his concluding Warlock story in Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 in 1977. The Infinity Gauntlet proved successful and was followed by the sequel miniseries Infinity War and Infinity Crusade.
For DC he created Hardcore Station in 1998.
In 2003, Starlin wrote and drew the Marvel Comics miniseries Marvel: The End. The series starred Thanos and a multitude of Marvel characters, and subsequently, Starlin was assigned an eponymous Thanos series. Starlin then worked for independent companies, creating Cosmic Guard (later renamed Kid Cosmos) published by Devil's Due and then Dynamite Entertainment in 2006.
Starlin returned to DC and, with artist Shane Davis, wrote the miniseries Mystery in Space vol. 2, featuring Captain Comet and Starlin's earlier creation, the Weird. In 2007–2008, he worked on the DC miniseries Death of the New Gods and Rann-Thanagar Holy War, as well as a Hawkman tie-in that became the latest of many stories to have altered the character's origins over the previous two decades. He wrote the eight-issue miniseries Strange Adventures in 2009 and in 2013, became the writer of Stormwatch, one of the series of The New 52 line, beginning with issue #19.
Starlin co-wrote four novels with his wife Daina Graziunas (whom he married in October 1980): Among Madmen (1990, Roc Books), Lady El (1992, Roc Books), Thinning the Predators (1996, Warner Books; paperback edition entitled Predators); and Pawns (1989, serialized in comic book Dreadstar #42-54).