I wanted to wish a very happy birthday to writer Elaine Lee, who was born on April 22, 19XX (I’m not going to guess the year, because it is impolite to speculate about a woman’s age). I first discovered Lee’s work back during the summer of 1994. Lee had collaborated with artist William Simpson and cover artist Brian Bolland to create Vamps, a miniseries about a quintet of sexy vampire bikers crisscrossing the highways of America. The book was published by DC Comics under their Vertigo banner. Lee was doing a signing at the Heroes World comic shop in White Plains NY, and I picked up the first issue there. Lee had come to the signing with her friend Rachel Pollack, whose bizarre writing I had been enjoying on Doom Patrol. It was there that I learned that Pollack was also a prose author, and soon after I picked up a copy of her excellent novel Unquenchable Fire.
Vamps was a pretty good read, and I was interested in finding some more work by Lee. I soon discovered that she had written the sci-fi series Starstruck, which ran for six issues under Marvel Comics’ Epic imprint in 1985, as well as a graphic novel. I found a copy of the first issue, and was totally blown away by the amazing artwork by Michael Kaluta. Truth to tell, I was a bit confused by the events in Lee’s story, but Kaluta’s art was simply amazing. This was the beginning of my love affair with his work, and I soon became a huge fan.
This was also the first time I learned that Starstruck had originally begun life as an off-Broadway play, via the cute editorial cartoon on the inside cover, wherein a robotic Archie Goodwin presented the readers with a striking portrait of Elaine Lee herself in the role of freedom fighter Galatia 9, as seen below:
A few years later, I started running into Kaluta himself at several NYC comic conventions. He must have mentioned that the original Starstruck script could be found on Amazon. I ordered a copy and when I read it, I was laughing out loud almost non-stop. The script was written by Elaine Lee, Susan Norfleet Lee and Dale Place. Michael Kaluta did the imaginative & intricate costume and set designs. A funny & clever homage to and parody of space opera, it had two month-long runs, first in 1980 and then in 1983.
Early on, Lee and Kaluta decided they wanted to expand the Starstruck universe and characters beyond what was seen on stage, and planned out a whole series of comic books & graphic novels. Starstruck, in addition to the Epic issues, appeared in the pages of Heavy Metal, through Dark Horse, and then finally a 13 issue miniseries published by IDW starting in 2009. That was a combination of “remastered” older material and brand new work by Lee & Kaluta. Having met both Lee and Kaluta at different comic book conventions throughout the years, I knew that they had a wealth of unpublished stories that they’d one day hoped to bring to print. So I was thrilled when the IDW series was released, although I did end up waiting for the trade paperback edition so I’d have everything in one handy volume.
Currently Lee and Kaluta are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds in order to publish a new graphic novel, Harry Palmer: Starstruck. I definitely wish them the best of luck. After so many years of dormancy, it’s great that they have these opportunities to return to the Starstruck universe.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. The second time I met Elaine Lee was, I believe, a year later. She was at a comic con in upstate NY, somewhere in the Hudson Valley. One of the books she had for sale was her graphic novel anthology of erotic sci-fi stories, Skin Tight Orbit. I really wanted to get a copy, but back then I was only 19 years old, plus my father was with me at the show, so I was much too embarassed to buy it! Hmmm, all these years later, and I still don’t have that book. Time to look for it on Amazon, I guess.
But, anyway, each of the times I’ve met Elaine Lee, she’s always come across as a very friendly person. It’s always a pleasure to see her at a convention or on Facebook. So, once again, let us wish a very happy something-something birthday to the talented, lovely, and very pleasant Elaine Lee. Here’s hoping for many more years of amazing stories from your pen.