Father’s Day is fast approaching and I thought it would be fun to ask the contributors here at What’cha Reading for their favorite comics featuring fathers or father/son stories. First up is Nancy’s, her love of the Knight family and the Starman legacy has resulted in a wonderful piece I’m sure you’ll all enjoy. Check back throughout the week as more Father’s Day articles arrive. Also watch twitter for the hashtag #WRFathersDayComics to see all our picks for and about dads! – Chuck (Editor-in-Chief)
Father’s Day – Starman: Jack Knight’s Father Issues
The Starman mantle has been held by a number of people. Most notably Ted Knight. Ted was a member of the original JSA. His two sons, David and Jack, both held the mantle of Starman but it’s Jack whose story focused on his coming to terms with his father’s legacy.
As a child Jack idolized his father, as any boy with a superhero dad might. His mother died when he was young and he and his brother only had their dad. As Jack grew up he became more resentful of his father and his father’s chosen profession. He thoughtthe whole thing was just silly and he was extremely embarrassed by it. Jack wanted no part of it. He embraced his geekiness and opened a collectibles shop. His father passed theStarman title and cosmic staff to his older son David. When the son of his father’s old foe, the Mist, kills David, Jack ends up killing him in battle. Swearing to never take another life, he reluctantly becomes Starman, to protect Opal City, where grew up and still lives. He does this on his own terms, making his father promise to no longer use his scientific research for superhero business, only for the betterment of mankind. Jack also wants no costume, just a t-shirt with a leather trench, a gold Cracker Jack sheriff’s star and goggles.
In many ways the superhero life is not a good thing for Jack. He loses his brother, is raped by the daughter of the Mist, in vengeance for killing her brother. She gets pregnant and promises to raise his son to hate him. She tries to convince Jack that they are really two of a kind, that hero and villain are just terms with little meaning. Jack sets out to prove her wrong and in so doing he finally embraces his role as hero. He even joins his Dad’s old group, the Justice Society of America. In the end he falls for the sister of another Starman, Will Payton, and goes to find him for her. Upon his return he takes part with his father in a battle. His father ends up sacrificing himself to save the city. Jack then sets out to solve one more Starman mystery, which helps bring him closure over his brother’s death. Having previously rescued his son, he’s now come full circle and retires to raise him with Sadie Payton.
Jack’s story is all about finding who you are in the shadow of your parent. He initially completely rejects his father’s legacy as Starman, choosing his own, decidedly more peaceful and quiet, path. Only when he is forcibly pulled into it does he finally accept that it may be a part of him as well. He still doesn’t just follow his father’s footsteps blindly. He sets his own rules and makes sure he’s his own man. While he’s come to understand the need for a Starman in the world, and that it may well always be a responsibility for a Knight, he will not sacrifice who he is just to become someone else’s idea of a hero. This is an important fact that in many ways is paralleled in the Batman/Nightwing relationship in some ways. It’s more of an acceptance of being part of a legacy rather than just taking up an inheritance of one. Once Jack has lost his father and has explored the history of the Starmen, as well as tying up many of the threads that bound them together, he decides that he’s played his part and now it’s time to build his own legacy with his own son and retires in order to do just that.
Of all the stories I’ve read in comics, many of which have father/son themes, this is my favorite. I suppose it’s because it’s more about how to come out of the shadow of your parent, and not filling his shoes. There’s no denying Jack has the heart of a hero and probably owes more of that to his father than even he’d like to admit but his path is always his own. As are the choices he makes when walking it. The job of a parent is to raise your child to be their best selves, not the best copy of you. Jack Knight is always an individual, always himself and that’s what makes me love him as a hero.