A review of Steven Appleby’s The Captain Star Omnibus (Sybertooth, Inc., 2008).
By Derek Newman-Stille
Society tends to disregard humour as less significant than other forms of social discourse, but humour contains within it a mechanism for piercing status quo barriers and interrogating issues that people may prefer not to look at critically. Humour pushes boundaries, breaks down walls, and pokes fun at the entrenched ideas of our society. When humour and science fiction pair up, amazing things can happen since both offer a form of abstract social critique, distanced somewhat from the subjects they examine.
British-Canadian comic/graphic artist Steven Appleby uses the power of the absurd and bizarre in the Captain Star comics to question ideas that have become entrenched in our society regarding age and normalcy. The aged figure of Captain Star sits on a planet with his shipmates from the starship Boiling Hell waiting for a return to duty. He has been pushed to the fringes as he aged, disregarded by a society like our own that associates ideas of competence with youth. This is further complicated by the fact that he is arrogant, self-centred, and misanthropic (well misSPECIESic since he doesn’t like non-humans any better). Like many comic artists, Appleby gives his readers no easy answers, but rather complicates things, making his readers ask themselves questions.
Captain Star is a man trapped in patterns of nostalgia. He misses his past, misses the significance he attached to his past, rocketing around the cosmos naming planets after himself and small astronomical bodies after members of his crew. He embodies the image of the retired sports hero, pining after his glory days while generally hating the world that has seemingly forgotten him. He sees monotony around him and pushes through the motions of life while generally frustrated by the people around him that remind him simultaneously of those glory days and of the boredom in which he is now trapped.
Captain Star is trapped in the lives of his former crew: polycephalic Atomic Engine Stoker “Limbs” Jones, proving that 9 heads are NOT better than one with his 9 heads and 6 arms; doctor and medical expert First Officer Scarlette, proving that generally the medical is more malicious than the military; and Navigator Black whose penchant for mutated piscine cuisine is matched only by his incompetence at determining the ship’s location.
The figure of Captain Jim Star pokes fun at the Captain Kirk image of the explorer, instead blundering through space with bluster until he is put out to pasture. “Discovery” in Appleby’s universe is a product of accident rather than intention. It happens in spite of leadership, not because of it.
You can explore the Captain Star Omnibus at http://www.sybertooth.ca/publishing/Captain_Star_Omnibus.htm .