Man of Destiny

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Star Sapphire

The only other aspect of Comet’s non-superhero life to be explored at this time was in the romance department, as through the back half of his run in SSOSV he had a mysterious love interest named Debbie Darnell. The relationship begins rather comically in Secret Society of Super-Villains #6 when Adam Blake attempts to help an old lady across the street. This is one of those times when Cap’s 50s sensibilities work against him, as the 70s were a period in which people were slow to trust anyone and very quick to assume the worst. Pretty much the instant Adam offers to help the old bird, she starts beating him over the head with her purse and accusing him of trying to mug her. Luckily for Adam, there was a kinder and more accommodating soul observing the proceedings.

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Clearly, this was Adam Blake’s first encounter with a modern, aggressive woman. It’s also the first time he’s ever heard of a “pick up,” at least as a romantic phrase.

Two issues later is where the mystery begins. From Secret Society #8:

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Regular SSOSV readers knew that “Camille” was the secret identity of Star Sapphire. And it’s clear here that Camille and Debbie are one and the same. Ergo, Adam’s love interest is none other than Star Sapphire.

Debbie would appear several more times. From Secret Society #9 (the only time we see her interact with someone else besides Adam—that someone else being Wally West/Kid Flash):

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Then in Secret Society #11, she begins to open up and reveal some backstory:

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In Secret Society #12, what was merely hinted at before is made far more overt—that Adam’s relationship with Debbie is very physical and passionate, which I’m guessing was something new for Adam Blake:

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For those who missed that last SSOSV post of mine, the series was cancelled before any mysteries were officially resolved. The closest we ever got to resolution on this specific front was in the lettercol of Justice League of America #174:

Bob [Rozakis] summed it up for us to run here: Star Sapphire was originally Remoni-Notra on the planet Paridina. She was chosen by the Zamarons to be their queen—an honor previously bequeathed upon Earth’s Carol Ferris, but refused. Remoni-Notra was given one of the five star sapphire gems and was told of the existence of the other four. Using her powers, she came to Earth to locate and steal Carol Ferris’ gem and hooked up with the SSOS V in the hopes of finding a clue to the gem. Whether Remoni-Notra, who has masqueraded on Earth as French real estate agent Camille and also Captain Comet’s sometimes girlfriend Debbie Darnell, will eventually succeed in her task is up in the air at present—and will be determined by the next writer who decides to use her!

While I largely enjoyed Rozakis’s run as a writer both here and in Freedom Fighters, I have to say, in all candor, that I absolutely hate the unpublished resolutions he has offered for both series. I mean, the alien backstory outlined for Star Sapphire here does not align at all with the previously published material. (The character is just too earthy when we meet her; she’s very much of this world. And if she came to the U.S. from outer space to get Carol Ferris’s gem, how did she end up speaking so much French?)

In any case, the only “official” acknowledgement of the fate of this particular Star Sapphire would not come until Green Lantern #192, published in 1985. And it’s barely a passing mention:

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“Their reigning ruler was ill.” I can only assume this refers to the Camille version of Sapphire.

The only other info on the character is unofficial. In 1984, Mike Tiefenbacher wrote up a Captain Comet miniseries proposal in which he gave Camille the last name “Carpentier.” Though again, since this was just in the proposal and never published, it’s hardly canon.

Comet’s Popularity

Captain Comet clearly enjoyed some popularity is his SSOSV heyday. In the letters pages, fans would often request more appearances in other titles or perhaps even full Justice League membership for him. In 1978, a reader poll was conducted in the JLA lettercol for who should get the boot from the team and which new members should be added. The captain finished second among potential new members, as noted in the lettercol of issue #158.

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The editors weren’t the only ones who found the results a “surprise”—and I put the word in quotes here because I don’t think anyone will ever convince me that the fix wasn’t in. As they themselves note, Zatanna had not made a comics appearance in years by that point, while Comet was all over the pages of SSOSV and Super-Team Family. Still, the team clearly needed some diversity, and the addition of a female character was ultimately a wise decision.

Besides, the thinking was probably that Captain Comet didn’t need JLA membership due to the fact that there were tentative plans to give him his own solo title. At the bottom of the lettercol of Flash #262 (June 1978), a new Captain Comet solo series was heralded as part of the “DC Explosion!”

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If you’re familiar with comics history, however, you already know that the DC “Explosion” turned into the DC “Implosion,” so that solo series never came to be. After reading what Bob Rozakis had planned for the series, I can’t help but think that this may have been a blessing in disguise. According to an article in Back Issue #29, his plan was to change Comet’s costume to blue and white, make his hair white, give him a job as a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, and radically alter his powers.

I find this astounding. Let’s review, shall we? You have a character who’s achieved a certain level of popularity, enough to warrant rewarding him & his fans with a title series of his own, and the first order of business for the series is to change nearly everything about the character…? So he’s got his own series now, except he’s no longer the character that warranted getting the series in the first place. This was beyond dumb, crossing the border into sheer mindlessness. Thank the heavens it never actually happened.

In any event, the DC Implosion left the captain (along with many other characters and projects) in creative limbo. Comet’s appearance in the final issue of SSOSV wound up being painfully brief.

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Despite his promise of “not resting” until the society was captured, Comet was nowhere in sight when the society’s storyline was wrapped up in the pages of Justice League of America a short time later. Apart from two rather forgettable appearances in DC Comics Presents and a brief part in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Captain Comet would not appear again as a series regular for another dozen years.

L.E.G.I.O.N.

…And even this was unplanned. It was supposed to be Adam Strange in the final, full-page-splash reveal of L.E.G.I.O.N. #16 (June 1990), but at the last minute, the character was deemed unavailable due to conflicting plans for an Adam Strange miniseries. So, as noted in the issue’s lettercol, they went with “that OTHER red-suited, Murphy Anderson-type DC spaceman.”

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The last-page cliffhanger of L.E.G.I.O.N. #16, which introduced Captain Comet to the series.

This was fortuitous for all parties concerned, as Captain Comet was a much better fit for this series. First off, I’m not sure how Adam Strange would have even worked as—being stuck bouncing back and forth from Earth to Rann on that Zeta Beam as he was—how would he have been able to participate in L.E.G.I.O.N. adventures, anyway? Captain Comet was perfect not only because the premise of the character didn’t tie him up the way Adam Strange’s did, but also because his nobility and maturity made him the perfect foil to Vril Dox.

As L.E.G.I.O.N. had a rather sprawling cast, Captain Comet did not get a great deal of focus, but those moments he did get were fairly great ones. He enters in the midst of the Dagon-Ra storyline and right off the bat plays a pivotal role in vanquishing the villain. You’d think this would put him in the express lane for team membership, but Vril Dox makes him fill out a form and wait like any other applicant!

From here there are further moments, including one where he gets to show off his muscles getting a damaged ship off the landing bay in L.E.G.I.O.N. #29.

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On the more personal front, after Cap experiences a bumpy start to his romantic relationship with Marij’n, the two try to make a go of it with a little getaway to the primitive planet of Ith’kaa. Unfortunately, the getaway is crashed; first by Garryn Bek (who was still Marij’n’s legal husband), and then by an evil doppelganger of Lady Quark, who battles Comet and leaves him buried under several tons of rubble and presumed dead in issue #63 (Feb. 1994). In issue #67 (June 1994), the captain emerges from the rubble, but is apparently left marooned on Ith’kaa.

While Comet was away, big things were happening with the team. A short time after Comet’s apparent death, Vril Dox makes his infant son Lyrl the chief administrator of L.E.G.I.O.N. This leads to the brilliant but tyrannical tyke taking over the whole operation, branding his parents, Vril and Stealth, as outlaws in the process. This, in turn, led to the series being relaunched as R.E.B.E.L.S.

The R.E.B.E.L.S. Return

At last, in R.E.B.E.L.S. #10 (Aug. 1995), Captain Comet makes his dramatic return. As the issue comes to a close, an unknown ship is shot down over L.E.G.I.O.N. headquarters and troops surround the fallen vessel, demanding, “Step slowly out of the ship! I’m warning you!” An off-panel voice responds, “No–”

Cut to a dramatic end page, full-page splash of Captain Comet (in a new costume):

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“–I’m warning YOU!!” It’s a portent of things to come, particularly in the very next issue, which pretty much serves as a Captain Comet showcase.

So after squaring things with L.E.G.I.O.N. security, Comet is off to see the boss, unaware that Vril’s been replaced by his evil, infant son. When the eighteen-month-old Lyrl Dox initially waves off the intrusion with “I’m not seeing anyone,” the captain responds rather matter of factly with, “You’ll see me!” After being informed that the false Lady Quark has been dealt with, Comet explains to Lyrl how he was “stranded on a pre-industrial world… rich in the resources I needed, but sadly lacking any method of harvesting them. I had only one recourse… I needed to civilize the Ith’kaans. I secured their cooperation with a simple display of telekinesis… then I bestowed what gifts I had to offer, from mining to metallurgy to industrial processes to chemistry… until at last we had a space program.”

This led to one of the most classic exchanges in comics history:

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They were slow learners.

“That might have been editor Dan Raspler’s idea; [my] memory is fuzzy on this,” writer Tom Peyer confessed in the pages of Back Issue. “But I’ve always liked that gag.” (BI #29, p. 56)

Back to the story: Lyrl thinks he can handle Comet without much trouble, but is in for a surprise when Comet brushes aside most of his feints like he was dealing with a child (which, of course, he is). When Marij’n gets caught in some crossfire though, it’s time to get serious.

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The issue ends with Captain Comet pledging to bring back the “real” L.E.G.I.O.N.

In the lettercol for this issue (#11), there was a letter (one of many, clearly) requesting that Captain Comet to be brought back, which elicited the following hilarious response from editorial:

Shaddap already for crissakes! He’s back, all right? Comet’s here to stay! Satisfied? Content? Sleep easy now. We built up the dramatic tension for his return. If he popped back in issue #2 or #3 it would’ve felt strained and forced… anticlimactic. Don’t you folks out there feel it worked better this way? Let us know (like I had to tell you that).

In the final issue of the series (#17), we get a letter from one Charles D. Brown, whose reaction to Comet’s return sums things up perfectly:

R.E.B.E.L.S. #11 was what we were waiting for.

Captain Comet, a man who knows how to do only right and can’t be bought, threatened, or talked nasty to, is back to make life miserable for tyrants everywhere, regardless of size or age.

In two minutes, the book is turned upside down by his appearance. Lyrl Dox’s eyes boggle out, and just watch his mouth hang open when he hears about Cornet civilizing a stone-age planet in just six months. That’s a beautiful sight. From that second on, you sense that Lyrl’s little butt is going to be wiped.

Standing there in their makeshift headquarters, Comet and Marij’n look far more capable of overthrowing the baby tyrant than Vril Dox! Baby Dox should never have tried to outsmart Comet. With his return, the tide is not only turning, it’s a whole tidal wave.

A man who knows how to do only right. Remember when this applied to nearly every superhero? But in the modern era this quality makes Captain Comet exceptional.

As noted, the new series wound up cancelled with issue #17, which set most of the plots and subplots into hyperdrive shortly after Comet’s return. We still got plenty of good stuff, but I’m curious how it all might have played out if the creative team was allowed to follow their muse on their own schedule. Through it all, Comet remained on a figurative pedestal, proving over and over again that he was both a hero and a badass. From storming the L.E.G.I.O.N. armory…

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To taking on all of his former (now mind-controlled) teammates single-handed…

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It all ends with Comet elected as new L.E.G.I.O.N. leader—and rightly so, as no one else in the series proved themselves as noble or incorruptible as he did.

Wrapping Up

Comet had a few other notable appearances in some miniseries at this time. In Kingdom Come he played the martyr; in The Golden Age he got kicked in the junk by a super-body-transplanted Adolph Hitler. Outside of this there ain’t much to speak of. He popped up again in a new Mystery in Space series in 2006; then again in a new R.E.B.E.L.S. series in 2009. In neither of these latter two cases did the character remotely resemble the one readers knew from his prior appearances.

I don’t know if there are any plans for Captain Comet in the future at DC, but if there are, I would implore them to follow the model of the original. He was (and is) a great character; a classic character, in fact. And classic characters like this don’t exactly grow on trees, y’know?

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