UNDER THE RADAR: “STARSLAYER” #2 – The FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE ROCKETEER
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Under the Radar, a segment where we will spotlight comic books that don’t have the widespread attention of the comic book community they should. These issues may contain the first appearance of a character, first published work of a notable creator, or something else even more unique or noteworthy.
Sure, you may find these issues in exaggerated listings on eBay, but you also might just find them in the discount bin of your local comic book shop or comic book convention. Read on and remember these issues. You may thank us someday when you’re digging through the $1.00 bin at a garage sale!
For our first Under the Radar issue, we present Starslayer #2. Starslayer was a short-lived, ongoing series that premiered at Pacific Comics in 1982 and ran for 34 issues in total between publishing time at Pacific and First. The key to this issue isn’t the main story, but the six-page backup story featured within. With all published credits attributed to Dave Stevens, this story simply titled The Rocketeer is the first ever appearance of the titular character.
About a year ago I went to a local comic book shop that knew enough to have Pacific Presents #4 featuring a Dave Stevens Rocketeer cover as a $10 wall book. In the same store they had 10 long boxes full of $.25 books where I picked up two copies of Starslayer #2. I texted my friends my good fortune and the exact same day one of them was at a different shop and found the same issue in his stores $.50 bin. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and I believe it’s attributed to the fact that the Rocketeer isn’t depicted or even mentioned on the cover.
The Rocketeer is the story of Cliff Secord, a down-on-his-luck pilot whose life is forever changed when he finds a stolen rocket pack that gives him the ability of flight. Set during the late 1930s, Dave Stevens really sets the tone for this incredible character with his lush illustration and attention to the details of the period.
The Rocketeer would go on to sporadically appear as a backup feature in future issues of Starslayer, and Pacific Presents, until finally warranting his own issues, be it in one-shots or magazines. Dave Stevens brilliant creation would captivate audiences throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, appearing in a theatrical movie, a video game, trading cards, toys, and several other merchandisable products. IDW would begin releasing new Rocketeer comic books in the 2000s, the most recent being 2016s Rocketeer at War. It all started in Starslayer #2, a hidden gem that can sometimes be found flying “under the radar.”