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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 

Roy Thomas had regrets over killing off Star Spangled Kid

I found a Facebook post from a few months ago that tells some history about Roy Thomas' decision to kill off Sylvester Pemberton - the original Star Spangled Kid and later Skyman - towards the end of Infinity Inc in 1988:
This weekend I had the opportunity to talk with Roy Thomas, a very nice and fan friendly guest at Comicpalooza. I was always curious as to why he killed Skyman/Sky Spangled Kid in Infinity Inc. Thomas always treated the Golden Age characters with such reverence, the death of a Jerry Siegel-created character was always a puzzler to me.

I heard two versions over the weekend. Roy relayed to me that "he really didn't know why" and he wanted to "shake the book up since it was on it's way out". He also said the death was "out of character for him", he probably wouldn't do it again and he regretted it, especially since DC never brought the Sylvester Pemberton character back.

Later during the con, I heard from a friend that Roy said his intention was to always bring Skyman back and that it was a imposter/replacement that was killed.

So who knows? I think both stories would be true and honestly I think Roy Thomas was just giving an answer that he thought would please a couple of fan boys. Ultimately, it's DC that has kept Sylvester Pemberton in the grave all these years and the Star-Spangled Kid has a great legacy in Stargirl.
Yes, DC is the one who failed Siegel's creation, whose comeback in 1973 after years in limbo made it fairly easy to bring him into the present, not unlike his more adult counterpart at Marvel, Captain America. It's something I hadn't thought about too deeply over the years, maybe because that was one of the more respectably written deaths of its time for a superhero, and unlike the death of Jason Todd, it wasn't determined by unreliable phone votes.

But at this point, I'm not so sure I can agree Pemberton found a great legacy in Stargirl, probably because Geoff Johns didn't manage her beginnings well, any more than a lot of the more established cast members who came before her. Incidentally, Johns brought back Pemberton in one of his first JSA stories as an alternate timeline doppelganger, in a story featuring the return of Hank Hall as Extant, which only dredged up one of the worst ideas from the 1990s seen in Armageddon/Zero Hour. No wonder that story doesn't appeal to me today. As somebody who values minor heroes as much as majors, turning Hank Hall into a bizarre villain is not something I can support.

I do think Thomas could've avoided killing off even a replacement (when Alicia Masters was unmasked as a Skrull named Lyja a few years later in Fantastic Four, they didn't take any killing routes), and what could've been done instead was just write that he'd gone MIA, leaving the door open for the other heroes to search for him. But I'm glad he's set a good example by expressing regret over what's long become a very bad direction that mutated into a total farce years later.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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