“I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!” is the title of the first volume of the collected works of Fletcher Hanks, a creative superstar of the Golden Age of Comic Books. Stardust the Super Wizard made his debut at the same time that the world was being introduced to the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Public demand for new and interesting stories was at an all-time high. Publishers were hiring teams to churn out new material as quickly as they could. Hanks stood out in that he wrote, drew, inked, and lettered all of his work.
When I had finished the book, I quickly went to Wikipedia to learn more. Unfortunately, what I found was a stub. A stub, in Wikipedia terminology, is an article that is “too short to provide encyclopedic coverage of a subject and is capable of expansion.” It looked like if I wanted to find “Stardust the Super Wizard” on Wikipedia, I was going to have to research and write the article myself.
Stardust the Super Wizard seemed like a well-defined Wikipedia article. He was written and drawn by a single person. His tenure in comics was relatively short, spanning from December of 1939 until March of 1941. At the time, he seemed like a simple character with a well-defined period of activity. In other words, the article could be easily researched and actually completed.
In the original stub, listed under abilities — after super strength, incredible speed, and flight — “other powers as required by the story.” And sure enough, the majority of Stardust stories feel like they were solved not by ingenuity, but by deus ex machina. Hanks’ unbridled creativity was balanced by his consistency. I was able to catalog 38 distinct physics-bending powers — the majority of which were called “rays.”
In 1939, Stardust the Super Wizard was seen using wide-screen monitors, computer tablets, and mobile communication.
About halfway through the project, I learned that Stardust was in the public domain, meaning he was free of copyright and was could be used by other creators. This led me down another rabbit hole, collecting 30-odd modern appearances of Stardust in a variety of publications.
When I finally “completed” the article, it was rife with errors and formatting issues —but it was achieved. The project was both time-consuming and extremely instructive. It also kept me humble. At one point, an editor excised eight hours of my work. When the initial gut punch wore off, I contacted the editor and we worked through the issue. I had strayed from a simple definition and had tried to create a one-stop resource for all things Stardust. The editor was simply reminding me to stick with the mission of Wikipedia. The article became smaller. But it also felt more like an encyclopedic entry.
“Stardust, whose vast knowledge of interplanetary science has made him the most remarkable man that ever lived, devotes his abilities to crime-busting.”
Research, analysis, writing, editing, Wikitext, content management
- Cartoonist and Comic Historian Paul Karasik
The Tried-and-true Stardust Story Formula
- Using his televisional crime-detecting unit, Stardust the Super Wizard eavesdrops on criminals plotting a dastardly crime.
- The main villain describes his grandiose plan (e.g. to commit genocide, lay waste to a city, destroy democracy, etc.) in detail.
- Stardust remarks on how evil the plan is but does nothing to prevent events from unfolding.
- The villain executes his plan. As a result, many people are either killed or forced to flee.
- When Stardust finally arrives on the scene, he chastizes the villains for their evil deeds.
- He then set into motion a series of increasingly bizarre and brutally violent acts of revenge against the evildoers, often turning their own schemes against them.
- When the dust clears, the grateful citizenry often bemoan the fact that they are unable to thank their hero who has already flown off to his secret headquarters in the stars.