- Who the Heck Is Starro?
- Starro’s Origin and Pop Culture Inspirations
- Starro’s Powers and Abilities
- Starro vs. Starro the Conqueror
- From Starro to Jarro
- Starro in TV and Games
- How Starro Fits Into The Suicide Squad
Starro: The Slimy History of the Justice League’s Original Villain
Who the Heck Is Starro?
Some villains are exactly who and what they appear to be. Starro is a gigantic alien parasite who resembles a starfish. His never-ending thirst for conquest has taken him from one end of the DCU to the other, seeking out worlds to enslave. Between his enormous size, his prodigious psychic powers, and his ability to spawn millions of spores, Starro is all but an unstoppable force. Fortunately for Earth, the Justice League has always managed to find a way to loosen Starro’s suction-cupped grip on the planet. We wouldn’t be so optimistic about Amanda Waller’s band of D-Listers managing the same feat in The Suicide Squad.
Starro’s Origin and Pop Culture Inspirations
Starro made his original debut in 1960’s The Brave and the Bold #28, the issue that also introduced comic readers to the Justice League of America. Whereas the DCEU and DC’s contemporary comics depict Darkseid as the all-encompassing threat that brings together Earth’s most powerful heroes for the first time, back in the day a giant, psychic starfish was the only call to action Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter needed (Batman and Superman couldn’t be bothered).
Starro’s creation is credited to writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky, though editor Julius Schwartz also contributed to the original Starro conception. Schwartz once indicated the “Starro the Conqueror” name was inspired by Ray Cummings’ sci-fi novel Tarrano the Conqueror, which deals with a Machiavellian alien who plots to conquer worlds through strategic assassinations. Interestingly, the character Tarrano as he’s depicted on the book’s cover bears more than a passing resemblance to Green Lantern’s arch-rival Sinestro.
As for why the creators opted for a giant starfish, that seems to have been yet another case of DC tapping into the monster movie craze of the time, specifically the growing popularity of Godzilla and other Japanese kaiju characters. DC fans have pointed out the clear similarities between Starro’s design and the starfish monsters from 1956’s Warning From Space, so that may have played a part in Starro’s creation.
Thanks to his ability to asexually reproduce, Starro has a habit of cheating death, nursing himself back to full size, and returning to threaten Earth all over again. The character has served as an infrequently recurring villain over the decades, appearing in various Justice League comics as well as other titles like Adventure Comics, Teen Titans and REBELS. Little by little, DC has revealed more about the villain’s unusual background and even pushed the self-styled “Conqueror” in a more heroic direction.
Starro’s Powers and Abilities
Starro has all the strength and durability you’d expect from a kaiju-sized starfish, along with other powers like flight, energy manipulation, and regeneration. So long as some piece of his body survives, Starro will always eventually grow back to full health.
His greatest strength, however, is his psychic talent. Starro is a telepath who can control the minds of others, even powerful heroes like Green Lantern. Starro can also spawn millions of smaller duplicates of himself, which can then attach themselves to his prey and control their bodies so long as they remain bonded. Basically, Starro combines all the worst things about kaiju and the Xenomorphs of the Alien franchise.
Normally, Starro in his full-grown form is several hundred feet tall – enough to knock over buildings and generally wreak havoc on major cities. But in some cases, he’s grown large enough to cover entire oceans and terraform planets.
Fortunately for Earth’s heroes, Starro has a few weaknesses that are easily exploitable. Often these weaknesses seem to be completely arbitrary plot devices. For example, in his original battle with the Justice League, the team’s obligatory, useless sidekick Snapper Carr saves the day because his quicklime-covered body proves immune to Starro’s powers. In a later battle, Starro receives a power boost by drawing in polluted water, only for Aquaman to turn the tables by summoning a flood of clean water.
The Suicide Squad – New Character Posters
Starro vs. Starro the Conqueror
While traditionally DC has used the names “Starro” and “Starro the Conqueror” pretty much interchangeably, it was only fairly recently that fans learned the two are actually different characters. As revealed in the 2009 REBELS comic from writer Tony Bedard, the real Starro the Conqueror isn’t a starfish at all. He’s a humanoid alien who managed to bend an entire race of parasitic starfish to his will.
According to this revamped origin story, originally Starro’s race consisted of waves of mindless, nomadic parasites who traveled the galaxy in search of civilizations to turn into helpless slaves. These aliens finally meet their match when they attempt to conquer the planet Hatorei, which is populated by a race of peaceful, psychically connected beings. One of the Hatorei, Cobi, is driven mad by the destruction of his homeworld and is able to psychically overpower the Starro attached to his face. Using that Starro as a link to the others, Cobi is able to psychically bend the entire race to his will. He becomes Starro the Conqueror – the true power behind an endless armada of parasitic starfish.
That story played out shortly before DC partly rebooted its comic book line with the New 52, so it’s unclear whether this revamped approach to Starro still holds true in 2021. He may be back to just being a giant, psychic starfish with a gluttonous appetite.
From Starro to Jarro
Starro has undergone another major transformation in recent years, pivoting away from his traditional villain role to become an ally to the Justice League. That evolution begins in 2018’s Justice League: No Justice, which features a united team of Earth’s greatest heroes and villains responding to the fallout of Dark Nights: Metal. After spending some psychic bonding time with Martian Manhunter, Starro feels the call to be a hero. He makes good on that desire when he helps save Brainiac’s people, the Coluans, from an all-powerful Omega Titan. Starro tries and fails to take over the Titan’s body, only to be ripped to pieces. However, his heroic sacrifice buys enough time for the Coluans to evacuate their world.
That’s not the end of Starro’s tale. Batman is able to save a piece of the starfish’s body, which he nurtures in a jar. That reborn, pint-sized Starro becomes known as “Jarro,” basically the Justice League’s answer to Baby Groot. Jarro even refers to Batman as “Dad” and dreams of one day becoming the new Robin. No one has the heart to tell Jarro what usually becomes of Robins after a year or two on the job.
Starro in TV and Games
Given his massive size and unusual appearance, it should probably come as no surprise that Starro has yet to make a proper live-action appearance. To date, we’ve only seen cameos of and references to this villain on shows like Arrow, The Flash, Smallville, and Powerless. However, Starro does have a long history of appearing in DC’s animated projects (both TV series and DVD movies) and video games.
- TV: Starro’s first TV appearance came in an episode of 1967’s The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. He later popped up in Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Young Justice. However, Starro’s biggest role to date has been in Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) where he becomes the main villain of Season 2.
- Games: Starro has served as a boss character in DC games like the Nintendo Wii version of Batman: The Brave and the Bold and DC Universe Online, and has cameoed in games like Injustice: Gods Among Us and Batman: Arkham Knight. Only one game – the MOBA title Infinite Crisis – actually allows gamers to play as Starro.
How Starro Fits Into The Suicide Squad
We’ve finally reached the era where a giant psychic starfish is just par for the course in a big-budget superhero movie. Starro will play a role in The Suicide Squad, though whether he’s meant to be the film’s main villain or just one foe among many is unclear.
Based on what we know about the plot of The Suicide Squad, Task Force X is sent on a search-and-destroy mission to the politically unstable nation of Corto Maltese. In the comics, Corto Maltese houses a top-secret laboratory/prison called Jotunheim, which houses a number of top-secret experiments and weapons dating back to the Nazis. We can probably assume a Starro specimen is being kept in the lab. And given that these mercenaries aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the supervillain box, one of them will probably set Starro free by accident. How will a crew of expendable killers with mostly minor super-powers stop a being as powerful as Starro the Conqueror? That should be interesting to see.
Based on the poster above, it also seems Peter Capaldi’s character, The Thinker, is somehow connected to Starro. Given that The Thinker uses his custom-built “thinking cap” to control the minds of others, it may be that his powers are derived from Starro. Or it could be that Clifford DeVoe is forcibly recruited for the mission because his cap makes him one of the few resistant to Starro’s powers.
DC didn’t reveal Starro’s existence in the film until the first trailer debuted. Given that we still don’t know who or what Taika Waititi is playing in the movie, we could easily see him providing the voice of Starro. After previously playing Korg in the MCU and IG-11 on The Mandalorian, voicing a psychic starfish may be the only logical next step for Waititi.
For more on The Suicide Squad, learn more about the full cast of this DCEU sequel and take a deep dive into the history of John Cena’s character Peacemaker.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.