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Did Thanos’ Brother Starfox Almost Become a Marvel Villain?

Today, we look at whether a controversial unpublished Starfox one-shot was really going to establish Thanos’ brother as a villain or not.

In Nothing Was Delivered, we look at announced comic book projects that never came about. We’ll try to find out WHY they didn’t come out. I’m sure you all know tons of examples of comic book projects like these, so feel free to write me at brianc@cbr.com to tell me some for future columns.

Recently, I wrote about an unusual incident that occurred in the first season of the TV show, Taxi, where one of the stars of the series, Andy Kaufman, had worked out an unusual arrangement wherein he had a contract to star in X amount of episodes, but he also had a deal where his opening act, Tony Clifton, would act in a few episodes, as well. “Tony Clifton,” though, was just Kaufman in a disguise, who would do a sort of hacky lounge lizard act before Kaufman would come on as himself (Taxi‘s producers knew about the gag, but felt it was worth going along with it to get Kaufman to do the series). When Clifton’s first episode came around, he intentionally caused such a commotion that “Clifton” was fired from the show, while Kaufman remained on the series for its entire run (I shared three different Taxi cast members recalling the whole crazy story, including NBC security having to escort “Clifton” from the set, in their own slightly different ways). I bring this up because it was specifically that sort of out of the box humor (some people refer to it as “anti-humor”) that led to longstanding confusion about whether Marvel almost did a comic book where Starfox became a supervillain.

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The hero who was eventually known as Starfox debuted along with his brother, Thanos, in Iron Man #55 (by Jim Starlin, Mike Friedrich and Mike Esposito), when he just went by the name Eros. Like Thanos, he was related to the Eternals through their father, Mentor, who was a member of the Eternals. Eros has the ability to manipulate people’s pleasure centers and thus make them agreeable to do what he says.

In the early 1980s, he joined the Avengers using the superhero identity of Starfox…

As you might have guessed, there were people who took issue with the idea of a superhero having the ability to manipulate people’s minds. Eros always used the power for good, but mind manipulation is a slippery slope. Thus, when word got out in the late 1990s that Gregg Schigiel was going to do a Starfox one-shot where Starfox would lean into the ethical quagmire of his mind control powers and become an outright villain, people paid attention.

The one-shot, though, was canceled before Schigiel could really get the chance to promote the comic that much, and it was because of that turn of events that the comic book has been misremembered in the years since. I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed on the topic back in 2009 where I explained that the comic as never actually going to be about Starfox becoming a villain.

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Schigiel has been approved for a comedy-themed Starfox Spring Break Special, but even as it was approved to go to series, Schigiel knew that the project was on thin ice, as the “money man” at Marvel felt that it would not sell enough to turn a profit but he was (temporarily) outvoted and the one-shot was approved. So Schigiel thought he needed to come up with a way to get publicity for the comic and he just so happened to be reading a book about Andy Kaufman at the time. He explained what happened next on his own website back in 2009:

[A]t the time I was also reading ANDY KAUFMAN REVEALED by Bob Zmuda, wherein Zmuda went into detail explaining the various ruses and shenanigans he and Kaufman perpetrated on their audiences.

So putting together the state of comics and the influences I was absorbing at the time and the apparent obstacles facing this project, I had an idea.

With the internet up and running, opinionated people regularly shot off at the keyboard. As it still happens, when comics fans disagree with or dislike a thing there’s be a frenzy. Though, despite all the hate, it never made a book sell LESS. So…I figured, if I could create a bit of static…some heat…some buzz and/or frenzy, hey, maybe people will buy the book “just to see it”.

No sooner did I come upon this notion that I got an e-mail from a comics reporter asking me about this title-as-yet-unrevealed “Starfox One-Shot”.

My plan was to talk about the one-shot in such a way as to incite reaction. Once that fire was lit, I’d speak to another media outlet and tell a different story, contradicting the first. Then, another and another. In the end the plan would be that people would be either incensed, confused, or curious enough to order the book, again, just to see what was or wasn’t real. And then, when the book was released, I’d explain that that was the plan all along.

I ran my plan by my editor for the book, Mark Powers, my boss at the time, Tom Brevoort, and Bill Rosemann, now an editor at Marvel but at the time was in charge of the Marvel catalog/Previews and the solicitations therein and in a lot of ways was like Marvel’s hype-man. Everyone was okay with this approach. So I went ahead with it.

However, the project was then canceled after he had drawn the first few pages, but that was when there was just one of those interviews out there and that was the interview that suggested that the comic was going to tell a dark version of Starfox.

In reality, it was always going to be a humorous story of Thanos, desperate to win over Lady Death, turns to his brother for help and Starfox, in turn (because Starfox doesn’t think he is the best person to ask about this stuff due to his powers), turns to the men of the Avengers for dating advice, to hilarious effect.

Schigiel posted the first few pages (as well as the plot for the issue) that he drew before the project was canceled on his site here. Here’s one page as a sampler, when Starfox explains to the Avengers that there is no need to be worried, that they only came to Avengers Mansion for dating advice…

It sounds (and looks) like it would have been a fun comic!

Thanks to Gregg Schigiel for the great pieces of information! Be sure to check out his site for more pages from the unpublished comic! You’ll note that Schigiel took issue with me using a quote from his old boss, Tom Brevoort, instead of a quote from him for that 2009 CBLR. Sorry, Gregg! I just thought a third party quote worked better to debunk the legend when the legend was about an intentionally misleading interview that you did, but I should have checked in, regardless, to get a quote on the topic either way! My apologies!

If anyone has a suggestion for another interesting comic book series/story that never got published, let me know at brianc@cbr.com!

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