I have always loved cats, and even wrote about a heroic feline in this column a couple of years ago. Marvel’s Hairball was a brave cat with superpowers, but like most cats, was still a jerk. Over a decade ago, DC introduced its own super-powered feline who is much more than a jerk – he kills people.
Dex-Starr possesses the red ring of rage, and as a Red Lantern, he can fly, vomit corrosive blood, and can create hard-light constructs from his ring. This cool cat is full of potential, but most of it has been squandered and his recent appearances have been frivolous at best. Watch out for deadly hairballs this month as we welcome Dex-Starr to the D-List.
Created by Geoff Johns and Shane Davis, Dex-Starr first appeared in Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns published in December 2008. Atrocitus, the first Red Lantern, sent the red rings of rage throughout the universe in order to amass an army. At first, Dex-Starr was just an image on a page full of Red Lanterns, but when Atrocitus sent this army to fight the Sinestro Corps, Dex-Starr was the first into battle and caught an enemy off guard. The cat vomited corrosive blood on to the soldier and killed him (sounds like bad cat-itude).
Although there were certainly some Red Lanterns who looked interesting and/or terrifying, it was nonetheless awesome to see a cat amongst their ranks. However, Dex-Starr had only sparse appearances over the next two years, though it was awesome to watch him in battle, and the cat easily defeated Lobo’s dog. Finally, in 2010, Dex-Starr was given a proper origin (proving that he is indeed not related to Ringo).
Dex-Starr began his life as Dexter and was adopted from a Brooklyn animal shelter when a woman fell in love with him. He was a very happy and playful cat, but his owner was a very lonely woman. Still, she commented that Dexter made her life better, and he clearly loved her. One night, Dexter awoke to a stranger in the apartment stealing rings from the woman’s dresser, so the cat swatted and hissed at the burglar. The woman awoke and screamed. The next panel showed caution tape surrounding the outside of the apartment – the woman had been killed. Dexter firmly planted himself in front of the door as if he was waiting to see her again, but police officers kicked him out of the building. Trying to find warmth in an alley, a couple of thugs put Dexter in a bag and threw him off a bridge. As he fell, a red ring determined that he had great rage in his heart, attached itself to his tail, and renamed him Dex-Starr. He killed the men who threw him off the bridge and curled up on their bones as he thought about his dead owner and cried, but he vowed to find and kill her murderer.
This was incredibly sad, but it was really a tragically beautiful origin story (I cried hiss-terically). However, this unfortunate situation served as the perfect setup for Dexter to become a Red Lantern. Also, it gave the seemingly silly image of an angry cat on a page a legitimate origin and motivation for his anger (and frequent hissy fits).
Later, Dex-Starr was shown attacking aliens on a space ship – he slashed necks, clawed at their heads, and vomited blood on them. It was a legitimate blast watching him in action, but unfortunately, he seemed to be a completely loyal underling to Atrocitus as if the alien was his new master. Although he would typically just make cat noises, he initially seemed to be able to speak through his ring – a red text box would appear with Dex-Starr’s dialogue inside. This was eventually changed, however, and he started to actually speak, but in sentence fragments with long S’s (which was less than meow-velous).
I understand that Dex-Starr was never actually going to lead the Red Lanterns, but it was sad to see him as little more than a lackey for the failing leadership of Atrocitus. Atrocitus would engage in windy diatribes about his plight when the other Red Lanterns started to turn against him, and Dex-Starr would awkwardly try to engage in conversation with him. I preferred the brief period when Dex-Starr’s dialogue appeared in red text boxes rather than word balloons coming from his mouth – this seemed incredibly silly. Furthering Dex-Starr’s mistreatment, the cat was easily defeated by the hero, Midnighter, but was later shown venturing out for revenge. To my knowledge, however, this little journey wasn’t explicitly written or drawn, and just completely forgotten. Later, Lobo hunted the Red Lanterns, caught Dex-Starr off guard, and killed the cat by slicing him in half (this was a complete cat-astrophe). Dex-Starr didn’t even have a chance to fight.
Wait, what? Dex-Starr certainly doesn’t have the advantage of a large size, but the cat is very powerful. The ability to create constructs, which isn’t an ability all Red Lanterns have, should have made him particularly deadly in a fight (he was a totally fur-middable combatant). I was really upset that not only had Dex-Starr become little more than Atrocitus’s lackey, but was so easily killed. Thankfully, characters in comic books rarely stay dead.
As a result of “Rebirth,” Dex-Starr was revived and shown with a reformed team of Red Lanterns. Atrocitus wanted to plant a rage seed within the earth that would eventually infect all humans and create a new home world for the Red Lanterns. Although this brought them into conflict with Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, the plan was successful – Atrocitus gave Dex-Starr the seed and the cat managed to plant it (he was purr-fect for this mission). Although the Green Lanterns beat the Reds and they retreated, that seed will eventually grow. To my knowledge, this dangling plot line has not yet been resolved. Since then, Dex-Starr has had two very small appearances essentially just for levity in stories featuring animals.
Dex-Starr is very interesting character with the potential to be more than just a lackey or a joke. I understand his attachment to his master since his human was murdered, but he is very powerful and, to my knowledge, has never found his human’s killer. If a writer told that story, it could bring new depth to the character, and surely, Dex-Starr’s rage wouldn’t suddenly be extinguished just because he exacted revenge. I believe it would give him the chance to grow as a character and really be his own person…uh, cat.
Outside of DC Comics, Dex-Starr has appeared in a few LEGO DC games, in Injustice 2 as an assist character to Atrocitus, and in an episode of the Justice League Action cartoon. Clearly Dex-Starr has had decent representation outside of comics, but writers at DC have an opportunity to do much more with him. I’m not under the impression that he will ever star in his own solo title, but Dex-Starr could be featured in a greater capacity alongside the Red Lanterns considering he has already proven himself, most of the time, as a powerful cat. Regardless of his treatment, I just hope writers don’t forget him, because Dex-Starr deserves to be a true star in the DC Universe.