My interest in comics featuring licensed properties was recently piqued when I found a copy of Marvel comics “The Dark Crystal” #1 in a dollar bin. This was the first issue of the comic book movie adaptation that was originally released in Marvel Super Special #24. I had no idea the comic existed and was especially pleased to find it. This was followed by finding the four issue mini series complete set of “Starriors”. The “Starriors” mini-series was one of many comics Marvel released based on a toy line and featured beautifully painted covers by Bill Sienkiewicz. Since then I have picked up movie adaptions for “The Last Starfighter” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as well as issues of Marvel’s “Shogun Warriors”, “Alf”, “Logan’s Run” and “BattleStar Galactica”
When my brother and I were young we read a lot of Marvel licensed comics, including many from their Star comics line that was aimed at younger kids. One of my earliest comic book memories is of my father reading a copy of “Shogun Warriors” to me in bed. All I really remember about the story is that it involved Combatra and thinking how cool it was that he could split up into different vehicles. Little did my father know that 38 years later I would be looking to add that comic to the collection I had built over lifetime.
There were plenty of other licensed comics that we read when we were young. We were the target audience for Marvel’s “Star Wars” and “G.I. Joe” series both of which we loved because of the movies, toys, and cartoons. We read some “Micronauts” books and we also liked the aforementioned Star line; “Thundercats”, “Alf” and “Heathcliff” (that was mostly me, my brother’s cartoon cat of choice was Garfield). It was these licensed properties that really got us into comics and caught our eye before we started reading more sophisticated Super-hero and War comics.
This brings my to the subject of this post and what I have learned is that Crystar not a licensed comic. I bought a copy of “The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior” #1 and I discovered Marvel created Crystar and then licensed the characters to Remco Toys. Jim Shooter, editor in chief, tells the Other Origin of Crystar in an editorial note on the inside cover. He describes the the request from Vice President of publishing, Michael Hobson, to create a top notch fantasy comic. He also details giving the pitch assignment to several top editors; Ralph Macchio, Mark Gruenwald, and John Romita Jr. If you’ve read a Marvel between 1970 and 1990 you ought to recognize these names. The toys were released before the comic, which is why I had always assumed this comic was just another licensed property in the Marvel pantheon.
The first issue has the following credits:
Plotter and scripter – Mary Jo Duffy
Penciler – Bret Blevins
Inker – Vinnie Colletta
Letterer – Jim Novak
Colorist – Andy Yanchus
Editor – Ralph Macchio
Editor in chief – Jim Shooter
Concept Creators – Ralph Macchio, Mark Gruenwald, Jim Shooter
Graphic designer – John Romita Jr
Special thanks to – Doug Polumbaum, Bob Harras, Louise Jones
Not mentioned in the credits is the artist who painted the cover, Bob Larkin. As a note the painting on the cover is signed Bob Larkin ‘82. Crystar #1 was published in 1983, cover date May 1.
Mary Jo Duffy is a long time editor and writer for Marvel. In reviewing her credits at comicbookdb.com she was the editor for one of my favorite comics of all time for the first couple of years it was at Marvel, “Sergio Aragones Groo the Wanderer”. She also has done some work at DC and Image, including with Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studio.
Bret Blevins is prolific artist that has many credits for both Marvel and DC. He started out at Marvel doing movie tie in comics including “The Dark Crystal” and the “The Last Starfighter”. He also has a significant run on “The New Mutants” and “Batman: Shadow of the Bat” (part of the Knightfall story line). In 2016 I brought my copy of “Dark Crystal” #1 to Baltimore comic con to have Bret sign it. I learned in a panel with he and Louise Simonson that it was his first work at Marvel. I’m proud to have several signed comics that are the creators first published works and count this one as one of the favorites in my collection.
The first issue of Crystar has a $2.00 cover price and is a double size issue with no ads until the last page. The story is about two brothers, Crystar and Moltar, who are the heirs to the throne of Crystalium. Crystalium is a planet that has been ravaged by a war between Order and Chaos. Thanks to the wizard Ogeode and his Prisma Crystal the power of order prevailed and defeated Chaos, bringing peace to Crystalium. It was peace with a price though, Crystar and Moltar’s father, the king, was killed in the war. We pick up the several months after the war has ended and Crystar and Moltar are ready to be named king(s).
The wizard Ogeode has returned warning the brothers and their advisors of a curse that the demon lord Chaos laid on Crystalium. The curse was that another of his servants would come and oppose Order. The brothers do not quite know what to do about this warning and seek the advice of their uncle, Lord Feldspar. Later another wizard appears before the princes, their comrades, and female companions. There is a brilliant flash and the wizard Zardeth tells the princes to send everyone away so that he can make them an offer. With nothing to hide Zardeth explains he is the agent of Chaos that Ogeode just warned the brothers about. He tells them that he is looking for allies in his battle against Order and that he will reward them with power if they join him. He tells the brothers to think about his offer and that he’ll meet them when they have made their decision and then he leaves.
One of the brothers friends, Captain Warbow, decides to follow Zardeth. He tries to kill him, but misses with his crossbow and ends up shooting Zardeth in the eye. Warbow pays the price as Zardeth sends the bolt that took his eye right back at Warbow and strikes him in the eye. When Warbow goes down Zardeth makes him disappear, presumably deceased.
The brothers discuss their options with their uncle. Crystar believes they must side with Ogeode and Order. Moltar believes that they should side with Zardeth in order to prevent him from doing something awful to the people of Crystalium. Arguments ensue and Moltar strikes Feldspar, apparently killing him. Moltar cannot believe what he has done. Crystar doesn’t believe Moltar’s anguish and goes HAM on him. With Crystar’s hands choking the life out of him Moltar grabs a nearby dagger and strikes a mortal blow in his defense.
As the guards come to see what is going on Moltar claims that he is the king now and that he has to explain what has happened to the people. From a balcony Moltar tells the crowds that he has indeed killed his brother but that he has the people’s best interest at heart. He leads the people who have been convinced to follow him as their king, to Zardeth. While he was explaining the situation to the masses the wizard Ogeode has taken the bodies of Feldspar and Crystar to a room where the prince’s friends grieve for them. The wizard has the Prisma Crystal with him. He makes Crystar’s lifeless body walk into the crystal. He also unleashes a crystal rain on Moltar and his people as they travel to meet Zardeth.
In the painful crystal rain Zardeth ushers Moltar and his people underground to safety. Moltar demands that Zardeth deliver on his promise and the wizard opens the ground beneath everyone and they sink into the magma. Soon after they all emerge from the lava transformed into Magma men and woman. They can feel the power within themselves and wish to exact revenge on Ogeode and the rest of the people of Crystalium who did not follow Moltar. Zardeth provides weapons and lava dragons for them to reign Chaos on Crystalium.
Meanwhile Feldspar has come too and he and Crystar’s friends wonder why it is taking so long for something to happen with the Prisma Crystal. Suddenly a crystal man emerges, it is Crystar! Ogeode explains what happened with Moltar and Zardeth and that they are coming. Crystar’s friends believe that they must become like Crystar in order to help him defend Crystalium and that they too will enter the Prisma Crystal.
We rejoin Moltar and Zardeth’s forces as they are attacking the capital Galax and all those people who did not join him. As they are destroying Galax and its citizens Crystar and his friends come flying in on crystal dragons that Ogeode provided. The people of Galaz are now caught between the army of magma men and women and the Crystal Warriors. Eventually in the battle Moltar and Crystar come face to face. Molter realizes that everything he has done is for naught because his brother did not die. Crystar tells him that because of what Moltar has done they cannot go back to how it was before.
Moltar and Crystar are about to engage in combat, battling to the death, when suddenly another crystal warrior appears using a crossbow to disarm Moltar. Warbow has returned! The people of Galax take up arms with Crystar and the other crystal warriors against Moltar and the molten army. Moltar and his army retreat to heal themselves in the magma that spawned them. Moltar rallies his army and promises that they will not stopping fighting his brother and asks they they follow him.
The story ends with Feldspar coming to Crystar, Warbow and the other crystal warriors. Feldspar is now half crystal and half magma. He explains that he spoke to both wizards and asked for this. He states that he will be neutral in the brothers war. This seems to have an impact on Crystar and he says that if peace it possible with Moltar he will make it happen.
I thought this was a wicked fun story. Since it is a double sized issue there is time to tell the whole story of how the crystal warrior came to be and it sets up what promises to be an epic story of conflict between Order and Chaos. There is good character development and fun action. There are a couple of points that feel like product placement and Jim Shooter even mentions that the people at Remco did have some input on the story. The thing that I enjoyed most about the story is that Moltar does not make his decisions because he is evil, he is not the “bad” brother.
He truly regrets his actions against Feldspar and it was Crystar who almost kills him. He only strikes back at Crystar in his own defense. He takes control of the situation and rallies his people behind him not because he is a power mad king wanting to rule all, he rallies his people behind him in order to protect them from the possible retaliation from the wizard Zardeth and Chaos. He makes each decision from a good place. I find it very interesting to have the protagonist make his decisions not out of malice but instead concern.
The story is well written and is paced well. It does not feel rushed and we really get to know the characters. I thought there was a particularly funny line when the crystal warriors first show up to attack Moltar’s forces. One of the magma men exclaims “Look at them–at their weapons and beasts! They… must be the product of sorcery!” Another magma warrior replies “Imbecile! We’re the product of sorcery!” This kind of wit is present throughout the book and really makes the story that much more enjoyable.
There is also an interesting sub plot that is only hinted at in a couple of panels where Captain Warbow shows quite a bit of interest in one of the servants, Ambara. At the end of the comic Ambara looks up to Crystar with dowey eyes while in the background Warbow looks dejected. I wonder if this will backfire on Crystar in a future issue, hmmm?
The Saga of the Crystal Warrior ran for for 11 issues. I have a couple of them in my collection and will read the rest of the series once I get them all. In doing research for this post I have learned the Crystar does live in the Marvel Universe, the universe containing Earth 616 to be precise. There are also several appearances of other Marvel characters in the series. I know that Nightcrawler is going to show up because he is on the cover of issue #6 and I have that one. I assume that bringing one of the X-men into the story was meant to increase sales. Doctor Strange and Alpha Flight also get into the action.
One last bit of trivia, Michael Golden penciled the cover to issue #8 which contains a skull that I first saw in the video for Danzig’s “Mother”. Apparently Glenn Danzig was a comic reader and swiped the skull image from the comic. He used it as the logo for Samhein and Danzig. Pretty cool if you ask me.
That’s it for now. Thank you for reading if you made it this far. I want to thank my brother for proofreading and editing this. I hope you’ll join me again.