Saturday, January 23, 2010

Out of the Vault- Star Fems #1

This is a weird one. Star Fems #1 was published in 1980 by a little outfit called Paragon Publications. You can tell from the cover that this is not published by one of the big boys, simply from the fact that they didn't even go for full four-color printing. Plus, you know, there's tits.

Star Fems was "science fiction" adventure that hovered uncomfortably between cheesecake and soft-core porn. There are three stories in this first issue.

The first story features Stormy Tempest on the run from bounty hunters. Why? Because two-bit tyrant Ralff the Ruthless wants her huge breasts for his very own. So Stormy ends up being captured by slave trader Leatheretta, who is then ambushed by arch enemy Polly Vinyl. Stormy escapes, then assaults Ralff's castle, and we find that our space opera adventure has suddenly veered into women's wrestling fetish territory, as Stormy settles a score with Polly.

I love how Ralff is all laid back on his throne, like some fat dude watching porn from his couch. He's even got a beer. You don't want to see where his other hand is, or use the remote after he does. Dude.

The next story features the Star Fems themselves--Mysta of the Moon, Gale Allen, and Futura--fighting to save a Prince from an evil wraith called the Shimmerer. It seems like a pretty straightforward adventure, with hero saving princess from evil creature, only with the sexes reversed, until Mysta and Gale are attacked in the throne room by guards, and suddenly, oops, Gale's clothes fall off.

The third story is a hackneyed three-page bit of fluff about a beautiful sex droid named Syren, Synthetic Seductress of the 21st Century. The rest of the pages are padded out with filler material like pictures of Jane Fonda as Barbarella and this pin-up of the Star Fems, contrasting their current stripper poses with the covers of their original Golden Age comics.

Yes, the Star Fems were all public domain characters from the 40's.

So why waste time writing about this silly little black-and-white fetish comic?

Let's rewind.

The creative force behind Star Fems was a guy named Bill Black. He owned Paragon Publications, wrote the stories and did art as well, pencilling Stormy Tempest and inking Star Fems. Black may have been a mediocre writer and a middling artist, but he knew how to package stuff and how to find talent.

This goofy little independent comic featured a front cover by Dennis Fujitake, who went on to draw Dalgoda for Fantagraphics. The back cover was by Howard Chaykin, whom I've talked about before. The Chaykin piece was inked by Terry Austin, who was inking The Uncanny X-Men at the time. Austin also contributed the inside back cover. The Stormy Tempest story was inked by 17-year-old John Beatty, who would go on to ink Marvel's Secret Wars. The Star Fems story was pencilled by Marc Hempel, a few years before Blood of the Innocent.

Black himself would go on to found Americomics, which would (surprise, surprise) find its greatest hit in1985 with Femforce, a book featuring a team of female superheroes, some of whom were original characters and some of whom were updated versions of public domain Golden Age characters. Femforce would go on to become a big hit, running over 150 issues (and as far as I can tell, still being published today).

Americomics is now known as AC Comics, and offers not only comics, but figurines and even independent video productions featuring, among others, Stormy Tempest.

Which, no matter what you think of the quality of the Stormy Tempest comic or videos, is not a bad result for a little home-made comic self-published by the author and inked by a high-schooler.

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