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Friday, April 1, 2011

From Each According to His Ability

As Vladimir Lenin once said, "capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps." Heroes should be selfless men of the people, not shameless self-promoters. With your life on the line, you would hope for someone willing to risk their life for yours. You would want a hero like Red Star.

© DC Comics

Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about the DC Universe is that all of the greatest heroes are American, and therefore that Americans are winning the heroic arms race. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The other first world powers also have their champions of the oppressed, and few are as celebrated as Russia's Leonid Kovar, better known by his code name, Red Star.

Red Star was the son of an archaeologist who set out to prove that the 1908 Siberian Tunguska Event was not a meteor strike but the crash landing of an alien vessel. Scientifically adept, young Kovar eagerly aided his father in locating the unworldly craft which unexpectedly bestowed upon him superhuman speed, stamina, strength, energy manipulation, and flight. Since that time, Kovar has used his new-found abilities to fight for his homeland as a selfless agent of the Russian government.

© DC Comics

In his early days as the original Starfire -- a code name reflecting the origins of his powers -- Kovar wore a green costume similar to those of his Western counterparts. This costume was for propganda purposes only; Red Star needed no technological gadgets or cumbersome robotic sidekicks to augment his inherent power. His costume included goggles and a high collar with a star prominently visible on the chest. This costume looked so good, just like his original code name it would later be copied by Western heroes. Kovar has changed his costume several times since, but each has prominently featured his trademark red star.

Lamentably, the unimaginative and misguided Titans would "borrow" Kovar's original code name for their new alien teammate. This forced Kovar to change his own nom de guarre to the more fitting Red Star to avoid confusion. The Red Star is an artifact of Russian history and a potent symbol of the Communist Party that Kovar has long championed. Unfortunately for Kovar, the theft of his original code name has proven to be the least of his concerns.

© DC Comics

Fate has been unkind to Leonid Kovar. He was ridiculed in his first encounter with the West for failing to prevent a simple jewel theft. Though he would eventually prove himself to the Teen Titans, their mutual respect has always remained strained by the differences in their personal and political ideologies.

Over time, Red Star gained greater and more positive notoriety in the Western world as his exploits grew. He nobly fought beside the heroes of the Crisis on Infinite Earths to save mankind, including defeating a Tyrannosaurus Rex in single combat. (Unlike certain self-promoting American heroes who merely boast of plans to fight dinosaurs, Red Star simply gets it done.) When Red Star makes headlines, it is because his exploits are newsworthy, not because he seeks publicity or fame.

© DC Comics

Otherwise, Red Star has not been without more than his share of tragedies. Kovar's first love was killed as an unwilling pawn in a madman's game of international espionage. Red Star has been attacked by his countrymen, temporarily exiled from Russia, and seen his father executed as a traitor to the Russian government. Worse, Red Star was unable to prevent his new family from being slaughtered by a rampaging Superboy-Prime.

"Living life is not like crossing a meadow," reads the Russian proverb. Forged by his trials, Red Star has emerged a stronger and even more dedicated champion of justice. He is now recognized as an official State Protector of Russia, a title he takes very seriously. Red Star remains loyal to his friends and views many Western heroes as comrades even if they are still blinded to his selfless heroism by their political differences. self-interested, fame-obsessed American heroes may make for good headlines, but when you need a real hero, look for the Red Star.

© DC Comics

See more fine heroes at these other fine sites:

FIRESTORM FAN: The Source for DC Comic's Nuclear Man!
THE INDIGO TRIBE: Green Lantern Reviews and Commentary
DC BLOODLINES: Covering a Variety of DC Comics Characters
POWER OF THE ATOM: Celebrating the Tiny Titan and Captain Atom
THE IDOL-HEAD OF DIABOLU, a Martian Manhunter Blog
SPEED FORCE: Following the Flash, the Fastest Man Alive

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