Jim Starlin was heavily influenced by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. His acclaimed work has made him just as influential to many writers.
He worked as an artist on Iron Man, where he introduced Thanos. The character is at times considered an homage or competition to Jack Kirby’s Darkseid, yet the character’s passion are unique unto itself. They are often confused. Starlin is often confused with owning Captain Marvel and with Thanos being a copy of Darkseid, nothing could be further from the truth. Starlin has been called the “grim reaper” by his own colleagues in the comic industry, having done such work as the groundbreaking first Marvel Graphic Novel “The Death of Captain Marvel” in 1982, and even Batman: “A Death in the Family” with Jim Aparo on art in DC. Death being the consistent motif’, excluding his early work on Captain Marvel, revolutionizing the “Marvel Cosmic” Genre.
He was given the job to plot Captain Marvel, at the time a marginally selling Marvel “space” hero. “Space” heroes did marginal at best in this time.(in retrospect, a groundbreaking period for the “Marvel Cosmic Genre” in which Silver Surfer would eventually be canceled, the Captain Marvel and Silver Surfer publications were the first of Marvel’s solo cosmic titles, through fan support, and the fact that the Captain Marvel series was more of a ‘gateway’ comic book to the budding genre, it sustained a bit more, even when going bi-monthly.
As of Captain Marvel #17, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, re-invented the character with a new look and style. Jim Starlin recognised the potential in this, and took over the book starting with issue #25. With him, he brought Drax the Destroyer and, of course, Thanos, from his brief work on Iron Man. Many consider Starlin’s work on the Mar-Vell and Thanos to be his greatest contribution to comic books.
In this run, Captain Marvel #29, the legendary “Metamorphisis” issue, is of particular note. This is the issue that would introduce “Cosmic Awareness” to the comic book medium and change the Mar-Vell character even more than the Roy Thomas/ Gil Kane alterations. Starlin’s run would end with Captain Marvel #36. After this, the title lapsed into poor sales. While Doug Moench and Pat Broderick’s work late in the series was critically acclaimed (with issues #50-62 winning an Eagle Award), but was not selling well.
Marvel had made the decision to launch their new graphic novel series with an event. This event was the death of Captain Marvel. Jim Starlin returned for this book, as story which has been said to be influenced by Starlin’s father, a veteran. This storyline saw Mar-vell falling to cancer, and has become one of the classic Marvel stories from the 1980’s. However, a plothole was left open in which the character’s etheral form was seperated from his body before the point of bodily death. A movement to bring back the character is evidenced in recent sales, mailing campaigns, it’s enduring appeal, and an overall rejuvenation of the genre itself.
Starlin created an elaborate mythology for the remainder of the Marvel Universe. The characters and themes, as well as epic struggles between Titans provide a rich backdrop for cosmic storylines in the Marvel Universe to this day.
Later on he went to do the Adam Warlock series, exploring complex themes such as religion, destiny, death and the meaning of life. Adam Warlock has become so tied to Jim Starlin that it is widely speculated that Starlin’s falling out with Marvel comics in recent years was the main reason that Adam Warlock was strangely absent during the first “Annihilation” crossover, and the same has been said concerning the lack of Captain Mar-Vell in Infinity Gauntlet.
He then worked on Thanos, expanding on his origin and motivations. His work made Thanos a cosmic powerhouse. He wrote The Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and The End of the Marvel Universe starring primarily Thanos.
In addition to his early Marvel work, Starlin was also a prominent writer/artist and an early producer of creator-owned work. His Dreadstar series started at Marvel (as a part of the Epic line), and was published there for some time before moving to First Comics (another early home of creator-owned books). While Starlin originally both wrote and drew (or painted) Dreadstar, eventually he began just writing the book, and eventually turned the book over to Peter David and Angel Medina. When First Comics went bankrupt, Dreadstar disappeared with it. However, a new series, written and drawn by Starlin was published by the Bravura imprint of Malibu in the mid 90’s.
In 2006 he revamped DC’s Captain Comet alongside artist Shane Davis in the Mystery in Space miniseries. By 2013, he was asked to revamp Stormwatch into a cosmic title.