Since 1961, DC Thomson had been producing war comic Commando to massive success with sales of 750,000 during its 1970s peak.
Seeing the popularity of science fiction movies and television shows in the mid-1970s – and the success their rivals IPC were enjoying with 2000AD and (briefly) Starlord – Thomson reasoned that Commando’s winning format could be adapted to the new trend.
In 1979, Starblazer emerged to take advantage of the rising cultural boom in science fiction.
Produced in the square-bound ‘pocketbook’ format popularised by Commando, a value-for-money 70-page length meant that each issue of Starblazer could offer a self-contained strip printed with a glossy front and rear cover over a black and white newsprint interior.
The first three issues of Starblazer were printed monthly, but as confidence in the title grew, this changed to two issues a month from #4 onwards, utilising three editors, 56 writers and 42 artists.
The main ingredients of the comic – androids, laser guns, spaceships and monsters – were there from the start, and variations on these themes would crop up again and again.
Starblazer also excelled at “weird science” – dead stars, stargates, wormholes – anything that allowed characters to go dimension-hopping, escape from enemy fighters or launch a surprise attack against despotic villains.
Some readers noted that the comic had adopted more than just Commando’s format and that the plots and settings had merely been moved into space with the human race replacing the allied forces and merciless aliens taking the role of the dastardly Hun.
And so recurring characters and overlapping storylines were introduced such as ‘Hadron Halley’ and the Fighting Scientists (Fi-Sci), a Star Fleet-style organisation; ‘Frank Carter’, (a “mandroid” police officer); ‘The Suicide Squad’ (a team of disgraced soldiers who specialised in dirty assignments); ‘Mikal R Kayn’ (a former law officer who had his eyes burned out in the line of duty and now wore special infrared glasses and was assisted by a fierce female warrior named Cinnibar); ‘Starhawk’ (the nom de plume of Sol Rynn, a freelance adventurer with a robot called Droid and a spaceship that he could summon by remote control); and ‘The Planet Tamer’ (a half-man-half-machine agent for the United Planets Security Service).
The comic also contained occasional humorous stories such as ‘The Robot Kid’ (a quasi-Western); space policemen ‘Grok and Zero’
While Starblazer was never as successful or prolific as Commando – possibly because distribution issues made it harder to find – the comic enjoyed a respectable run of 281 issues over the course of 12 years.
With declining sales, DC Thomson finally pulled the plug on Starblazer in 1991.