Among all of the unusual and colorful characters set to appear in James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, the most surprising might just be its central antagonist Starro. A giant, purple starfish alien with terrifying psychic powers, Starro is not only an iconic Justice League villain but truly one of the weirdest characters created in the pages of DC Comics. The villain has been around since the Silver Age and while their actual comics appearances have been fairly limited, they have still left a major impression on fans and is set to cause plenty of trouble for Task Force X in the upcoming film.
Starro first appeared in The Brave and The Bold Vol1. #28 in 1960. Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, Starro is the first villain the original Justice League of America faced. An intelligent alien life form resembling a giant starfish, Starro has a central eye, prehensile arms and legs, and a host of powers. Those abilities included regeneration, color shifting, bio-fission, mind control, and so much more. While Starro first appeared in 1960, it would be nearly two decades until the villain appeared again in an Aquaman story in Adventure Comics #451 in 1977, and then another four years before they returned in Justice League of America #189 and #190 in 1981. That latter two-part arc is a must-read to understand the true terror that Starro can bring.
While Starro is not a particularly prominent character in the grand scheme of things given their somewhat limited comics appearances, it's their powers that make them a major threat when they do arrive. Starro creates chaos wherever they go due to their mind control powers. Because they can spawn asexually, they can create countless miniature duplicates of themselves that, when they attach to the faces of people and things, render them under Starro's mental control. It's a technique that they've used to control various members of the Justice League at times.
Of course, while Starro is weird and scary, they do have their weaknesses. As it turns out, Starro is extremely vulnerable to cold as well as common quicklime which is how the JLA is able to defeat Starro in their first appearance.
While Starro's comics appearances have been fairly limited, there are some notable ones. In Booster Gold #13–14 (2008-2009), a future version of Starro takes control of Time Master Rip Hunter and uses his time-traveling technology to retroactively conquer Earth. Booster has to team up with the villain Lady Chronos to restore the timeline. There's also another future Starro story where a giant Starro spore joins the Sinestro Corps and wields five yellow power rings (Teen Titans vol. 3 #51-54).
However, Starro doesn't always serve as a villain or antagonist. They are recruited to join Team Mystery in DC Nation #0 (2018) with Prime Earth Starro ultimately dying as a hero in the battle with the Omega Titans (that story continues in Justice League: No Justice). Batman ends up preserving a tissue sample, growing it into Jarro — who is literally Starro in a Jar. Despite their villainous heritage, Jarro loves Batman as a father and wants nothing more than to be Batman's very best Robin.
While Starro's comics appearances have been fairly limited and often very weird, the character is a popular choice in other DC media. Starro has appeared in a wide variety of DC animated projects. They have also appeared previously in live-action in NBC's short-lived DC series, Powerless. The creature appears in the series pilot, "Wayne or Lose", in which Starro is briefly seen climbing a water tower outside the window from Emily's (Vanessa Hudgens) apartment only to be quickly obliterated by what appears to be a blast from a Green Lantern.
As for what brings Starro to The Suicide Squad, filmmaker James Gunn explained that while the character is silly and weird on paper, he personally has always found the character terrifying and that —bringing that dynamic to the film would be interesting.
"Well I just, I wanted a major DC villain that is a major DC villain that people wouldn't expect to be in a movie," Gunn said during a press event attended by ComicBook.com. "And I've always loved Starro. I mean, as a kid, I found Starro completely terrifying. The idea of this giant starfish with one big guy that shoots these things out of him that take over people's brains, like those old pictures with Superman with him on his face. Always scared the shit out of me. So, it was about taking something that was completely, mind you, ridiculous, that looks, putting him in a setting that is the gritty streets of Cologne, Panama, and then allowing him to do his scary business, but he's also completely outrageous. And so, that mix of things appealed to my aesthetic."
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