Joel McHale has a new life in the DC Universe as Sylvester Pemberton.
While fans will recognize the name as the civilian alias of the Golden Age’s Star-Spangled Kid, Variety reports McHale’s Pemberton is the Golden Age Starman. Considering that name refers to scientist Ted Knight, we’re wondering if the Stargirl series will play with the historical discrepancy.
Created in 1941 by Jerry Siegel and Hal Sherman, Pemberton was an inversion of the superhero-sidekick dynamic propagating across of the comic book landscape at the time. He was a teenage hero while his sidekick, Stripsey, was the adult. Both skilled acrobats, the two worked in concert to defeat Nazis and Communists alike. Ted Knight debuted as Starman, the wielder of the Cosmic Rod, a few months prior in the April 1941 issue of Adventure Comics. Created by Gardner Fox and Jack Burnley, he was a member of the Justice Society of America until his retirement after World War II and a subsequent nervous breakdown. He was eventually succeeded by his sons David and Jack.
But Variety’s description of the Stargirl character combines elements of both as the series’ Starman is said to be “a courageous and confident superhero, Starman is a member of the Justice Society of America. He wields a mysterious anti-gravity weapon called the cosmic staff and has a longtime sidekick named Stripesy.”
Stargirl itself will focus on Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger), a California girl who discovers her stepfather was Stripesy. She also finds Pemberton’s cosmic staff and sets out to become her own hero. Back in the comics, Courtney’s history was meshed with both Pemberton and Knight, so the decision to call Pemberton “Starman” on the series is an attempt to streamline the backstory. Considering executive producer Geoff Johns co-created Courtney and established her ties to both mythologies, it makes a certain sort of sense.
Nonetheless, those of us who were fond of the 1990s Starman comic book may find the change a little bit disappointing. But then again, that series established a lineage of Starmen before Jack Knight handed the identity over to Courtney. Perhaps the series will eventually play with than notion. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how McHale’s sarcastic screen persona fits in with this new version of the character.
Stargirl is set to debut late next year on DC Universe.