If you’ve seen James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and are not so familiar with the weird and wonderful world of DC super-villains, you probably have some questions about the giant starfish. We get it, a day-glo colored kaiju starfish is a pretty strange sight, even in a movie that also turned Polka-Dot Man into a household name. Don’t let Starro’s appearance fool you, he’s one of the deadliest foes the DC heroes have ever faced, with a history that goes back generations. Now that we’re all recovering from The Suicide Squad, here’s everything you need to know about Starro…
What’s the Deal with Starro?
Starro the Conqueror is a giant starfish from outer space, with designs on world domination.
So, He’s Literally a Giant Starfish?
Not quite. Calling Starro “basically a giant starfish” is like calling Superman “just a guy in tights.” Starro’s abilities make him one of the most terrifying and destructive villains in the DC Universe. Starro is a powerful telepath, who can control millions of beings at the same time. As you see in The Suicide Squad, he does this by producing miniature extensions of himself that attach themselves to the faces of living beings, establishing a psychic link with them and allowing Starro to take control. The big guy has also cheated death by psychically transferring himself into one of his extensions or regrowing from a tiny spore. Don’t let his non-threatening appearance fool you, he’s nothing like that goofball who hangs out with Spongebob.
When Did Starro First Appear?
Starro made his grand debut in 1960’s The Brave and the Bold #28, which was also the first appearance of the Justice League. In this Silver Age story, Starro arrived on Earth and planned to use his psychic powers to force mankind into detonating all their nuclear weapons. Humanity would become extinct, and Starro would absorb the nuclear energy to become more powerful. Needless to say, the Justice League had some problems with this plan and worked together to stop Starro. The League discovered that Starro had a weakness against lime and used it to defeat the fearsome conqueror.
What’s His Backstory?
Starro was part of a race of parasitic starfish known as the Star Conquerors. As revealed in R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual #1, the Star Conquerors invaded the planet Hatorei, taking control of every citizen. A Hatorei named Andrez eventually broke free from the Conquerors’ control and killed them all until a single one remained. The last Star Conqueror took control of Andrez’s brother Cobi and used him to slay Andrez.
Then things got comic book weird. Or well, weirder.
Somehow Andrez’s hatred psychically transferred into Cobi, allowing him to overtake the Star Conqueror. In so doing, Cobi was able to mentally control the Star Conqueror on his chest and use it to psychically control their entire species. Christening himself Starro the Conqueror, Cobi began a reign of terror across the galaxy.
Does This Mean That Starro Isn’t a Starfish After All?
It all depends on which version of continuity we’re in, and how you look at things. The Star Conqueror on Cobi’s chest can be considered Starro, as can Cobi himself. When two beings are melded together like that for years, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. After the reality altering events of 2011’s Flashpoint miniseries, Starro was once again depicted as an alien starfish with no sign of Cobi. That’s been the status quo since then, however, a flashback in 2019’s Justice League #29 shows Cobi as one of Starro’s many forms, implying that he’s still a part of Starro’s history in some form, even if he’s not a part of him presently.
What Has Starro Been Up to Lately?
Starro spent years tangling with the Justice League, who always found a way to defeat the alien warlord. During an event called Justice League: No Justice, a group of powerful entities known as the Omega Titans threatened to destroy the galaxy, forcing heroes and villains to work together to stop the threat. Starro was paired up with fellow telepath Martian Manhunter, and J’onn’s influence began to help Starro realize he could be more than a conqueror. When the Omega Titans were about to destroy the planet Colu, Starro defended the world, giving the Justice League enough time to successfully evacuate the planet. Starro was torn apart, but his sacrifice saved millions of lives.
So, Starro is Dead?
Despite his heroic death, Starro was later seen terrorizing humanity again in Inferior Five #3-4. Don’t forget, Starro has been known to transfer his consciousness and regrow his body. While his revival hasn’t been explained, it’s possible that this is a duplicate of Starro, or that the original decided that the life of a hero wasn’t for him.
What’s the Difference Between Starro and Jarro?
Jarro is a pet-sized version of Starro that Batman grew from a piece of the dreaded conqueror. The name is a pun. Bruce named him “Jarro” because he was basically “Starro in a jar.” While creating a mini Starro may sound questionable at best, the tiny creature unabashedly idolizes the Dark Knight. He calls Batman “dad” and has daydreams of being the next Robin. (Check out 2019’s Justice League #20 and Justice League #29 for some adorable Jarro the Boy Wonder daydreams.) Basically, Starro is a scary creature that has the power to cause the extinction of the entire human race, while Jarro is a precious little guy that must be protected at all costs.
What about Starro the Cat?
Snapper Carr, a longtime friend of the Justice League, has a pet cat that he named after the alien conqueror. (He was probably sentimental for the Justice League’s early adventures.) Starro the Cat first appeared in 1999’s Hourman #1. Unlike Jarro, Starro the Cat has no special powers, although he did survive a fight with Amazo once. Don’t forget, cats are pretty tough.
The Suicide Squad, directed by James Gunn, is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Not yet an HBO Max subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com. For more from him on The Suicide Squad, check out his look at the movie's biggest @$#!-hole, Peacemaker, and be sure to follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.