The origins of Star Brand started with the White Event. The White Event happened as a result of the first Star Brand wielder's (known only as The Old Man) attempt to place his brand on an asteroid. This user of the Brand was trying to get rid of the power because with it came a huge responsibility. When this happened, a huge array of energy was created, which bombarded the Earth and led to the mutation of a portion of Earth's population.
After The Old Man's failed attempt to give his power to the asteroid he came to Earth, desperately searching for a patsy to whom he could transfer the Star Brand and the great power that it granted. The first person The Old Man encountered was Kenneth Connell, a normal mechanic living in Pittsburgh who was dirt biking at the time. The Old Man gave his power to Connell and so was born the second wielder of the Star Brand and main character of the series.
Star Brand was created by Jim Shooter and John Romita Jr. and first appeared in Star Brand #1. John Byrne revamped the book significantly starting with The Star Brand #11.
Ken Connell is 6'5" tall and 25 years old. He is based somewhat on Jim Shooter, his creator. He is smart, and reads a lot, but didn't go to college. In some ways his imagination is limited despite his reading, and he is often confused about what to do with his life and the Brand. His personal life is complicated. He is dating Barb Petrovic, an older woman with two kids, but he doesn't really like kids. He is also having a casual sexual relationship with his friend Debbie the Duck. He is an inveterate skirt-chaser; the first thing he thinks when he meets almost any woman is how hot she is, from the babysitter to other paranormals. He also sleeps around with multiple other women while he's dating Barb and Debbie.
He has a mother, Ellie, father, Stan, and sister Carol.
Major Story Arcs
A Steep Learning Curve
Ken Connell is a reluctant wielder of the Brand. Upon receiving it, he is confused about the motives of the Old Man, who only told him of its powers under hypnosis. Ken goes home and tries out its powers, and is amazed at what he can do; before the White Event there are no superheroes in the New Universe. He visits his therapist friend, Myron Feldman and tells him about his powers. Myron believes he has powers because Ken demonstrates them, but isn't sure about the rest of the story. An alien breaks in and demands the Brand, saying the Old Man is a liar and fought for evil on the other side of the universe. Ken fights back and decides the Brand is really meant for him after all. He defeats the alien and sends it back into space.
Connell soon tells his friend Debbie the Duck about his powers, and she becomes his main confidant. He never tells Barb about his powers. He continues to work at an autobody shop, McMullen and Zayre.
He gets into various situations, trying to figure out what the Brand can do, and what he should do with it. He meets Spitfire and watches as she saves a kid from a well, which inspires him to try to save some hostages on a cruise ship from hijackers. A military squad stops the terrorists before Ken can, but the terrorists arm a nuke first. The military drops the nuke overboard, but it will still probably swamp the ship. Ken grabs it and drives it to the bottom of the ocean, saving the ship--and feeling no effects from the explosion himself.
Later he flies to the moon to try his powers again. He goes to the dark side, then destroys a mountain with his energy blast. When he comes back, he casually intervenes in the Soviet-Afghan war, destroying some fighter jets. He usually wants to use his power, but almost always does it without thinking through the consequences. Usually his opponents are terrorists. A local terrorist group tries to blackmail him into telling them about his powers, but after first being tricked by them, he anonymously calls the cops on them and gets them arrested for a cache of illegal weapons. Then he destroys a military base in Libya to send them a message not to mess with him.
His relationships with his girlfriends Barb and Duck become more complicated. Barb can tell he's hiding something, and is also stressed because she wants to get married and he doesn't. Duck, on the other hand, will do anything he wants, but her obsessive willingness to please and lack of self-esteem is almost too much for him. Plus, Barb finds a picture of Duck in her underwear at his place, causing more difficulties. Myron, meanwhile, always seems to think he needs to do a better job thinking clearly about what to do with his powers. Not only that, but he charges him for their conversations, making him work off the cost through chores when he doesn't have any money.
He considers telling the government about his powers,but can't figure out who to talk to, and eventually decides they'll just take advantage of him anyway. He runs into some random paranormals in the woods one day, and they fight him. He actually loses, despite being much more powerful than them, because he loses his concentration, and when that happens, he loses his powers.
There are more personal confusions. When he goes to his parents with Duck only to find out that it's a surprise birthday party, and that Barb is there, Duck actually happily hides under the dashboard of the car for an hour and a half. Even Ken thinks that's crazy. He flies off to Laguna and sleeps with some random woman, then decides to propose to Barb. She says yes, so he goes over to Duck's to tell her he has to stop seeing her. She freaks out and basically says she'll kill herself if she can't see him any more, so he agrees to keep coming over. When he goes back to Barb's, he watches her interact with her kids and starts to get cold feet; he just doesn't relate to kids.
The Old Man comes back, however, hypnotizes and hurts Duck and causes an argument with Barb. They go off into space and fight. Ken wins, but the Old Man disappears. Ken has a hard time returning to Earth--how can he tell one distant star from another? Eventually he does find his way home, but so does the Old Man, who tries to wear him down by leaving threats at his home and his family's home. Eventually he tells Ken he'll kill Duck if he doesn't give him back the Brand. Ken tells him to go ahead and do it, because nothing is going to stop him from beating the Old Man once and for all. The Old Man is so stunned by this response that Ken manages to punch him out of Duck's hospital. They fight, and Ken seemingly kills him. Ken apologizes to Duck, and they get together again.
Reaching His Potential
However, Ken leaves Duck at home when he goes on a trip to clear his head. He meets a young boy with a terminal illness. The boy finds out about his powers and wants Ken to use them like a superhero, to destroy the toxic waste dump that made him sick. At first Ken says no, thinking of all the real world problems with such superheroic actions, but when the boy gets worse, he changes his mind. He incinerates the dump with one of his nuclear-level star blasts. Unfortunately the boy eventually dies, and Ken is tortured by bad dreams about him. Myron refers him to some experimental dream therapists. Unknown to Ken and Myron, one of these therapists is Nightmask, who can actually enter his dreams. He helps Ken get past some guilt over his inability to keep the boy from dying.
Ken hears about a man in the Soviet Union who is casuing great violence and checks it out, thinking it is the Old Man. However, it is a paranormal American ex-soldier named Gladiator, who has decided to wreck the USSR. Ken argues with him, saying that he could cause a nuclear war, but Gladiator doesn't listen. They fight. Gladiator is amazingly durable, capable of surviving multiple nuclear explosions and Ken's own blasts, so Ken ultimately has to resort to throwing him into space.
He takes a trip to Europe to visit an old friend from elementary school, Tony, who is now a professional skiier. However, Tony actually invited him because he's paranoid about his girlfriend Ariane having an affair. He basically pushes Ken and Ariane together, acts like a lout himself, and gets mad when Ken and Ariane fall for each other. Tony has some men try to kill Ariane, but Ken protects her and kills the men and puts Tony in a coma. Ariane gets angry with Ken and tells him to leave. He later finds out she has been killed by the same group Tony hired earlier.
An interdimensional researcher, Arden, visits the New Universe. She studies the various holders of the Star Brand in different universes. She's not all that impressed with Ken and his friends, and after he manages to sense her presence, she confronts him with what a weird assortment of people he hangs out with, and points out that Myron could probably give Duck some self-esteem therapy sessions. She also tells him that because universes sometimes leak information from one to another, there are actually comic books about him. She gets him to try to use his potential a bit more, for instance digging up some diamonds. They sleep together. Arden's superiors find out, and send her back to her own universe. Her superiors say that since she has now awakened his mind to the bigger picture, he may now do something rash, and they wouldn't want to live in the same town as him, foreshadowing the Black Event.
Duck makes him a superhero costume but he still doesn't want to wear it. Myron finally convinces him to stop pussyfooting around and own his powers and responsibility, convincing him that he's been living a shallow life and ducking out on his true potential for years, even before getting the Star Brand. He rescues more terrorist hostages and flies the original moon landing module to the White House to prove himself, and becomes famous. Even Marvel Comics wants to license his likeness.
Unfortunately the good times don't last.
Ken goes to a comic book convention and talks to some of the creators, but the Old Man comes back again. They fight, and Ken beats him, but kills everyone else at the convention as well. Myron convinces him to get rid of the Brand, so he flies ten miles into the air and tries to transfer it to a metal dumbbell. However, the Brand can't be transferred to inanimate objects (as also seen when the Old Man tried to transfer the Brand to an asteroid), and it explodes in a horrendous blast, destroying all of Pittsburgh. This becomes known as the Black Event. Pittsburgh becomes known as the Pitt, and is home to a variety of mutated monsters.
Meanwhile, Duck has become pregnant. At first Ken doesn't believe it's his, but he finally admits that it is. However, she ends up giving birth in the Pitt without him. She dies, but the baby is the Starchild, a being who has the power of the Star Brand innately. It doesn't really understand humanity very well, and causes all sorts of problems.
Ken, meanwhile, goes totally nuts, and thinks he is the Messiah. The Witness, a paranormal, apparently resurrects Myron's ghost (who was killed in the Black Event) to haunt him. The Starchild summons Ken via teleportation and Ken attacks him, but the Starchild is vastly more powerful. It removes the Brand from Ken. It does all sorts of crazy experiments with existence, like ending death-which luckily keeps Ken from dying in a car crash. It eventually brings death back, and Ken does die, but the residual power of the Brand brings him back to life and sanity.
Finally, the Starchild decides the Star Brand is too powerful for anyone. It summons all the bearers of the Brand (it gave it to Jacob Burnley and Roger Price while it was playing around on Earth) and takes their power away. It then explains that the Old Man, Ken, and the Starchild are all the same being. The Old Man was a Dutch count from 500 years ago. He originally suddenly got the power of the Brand one day, and lived with it for centuries before trying to give it to the asteroid, and then giving it to Ken. However, it turns out that the White Event itself is what sent the power of the Brand back to the Old Man in the first place--the Star Brand essentially created itself. To fix their unstable temporal situation, the Starchild absorbs Ken and the Old Man into itself (Ken is at peace with all this). He sends Ken's essence back in the past, where he becomes the Old Man; he sends the Old Man back to the Starchild's birth, and he becomes the Starchild; and the Starchild goes back in time to become Ken, before he met the Old Man. As such, they are in a stable temporal loop, and the Star Brand's power is all locked away. Except...
There was one more person in the New Universe (Jim Hanrahan) who had the power of the Brand, who the Starchild didn't know about. He passed it on to Quasar, who brought it back to the Earth-616 universe in a story entitled Starblast. The Stranger sought Star Brand's power and many cosmic heroes fought to stop him. Kayla Ballantine and Ereshkigal had the Brand at various points during this period.
Powers and Abilities
The Star Brand allows its wielder flight, super strength, invulnerability and the ability to unleash blasts of destructive energy.
He can fly at hyper-light speeds, easily traveling from the Earth to the far reaches of the solar system in little time. His strength is seemingly unlimited. His durability makes him capable of surviving a nuclear bomb at ground zero with no effects, or to survive the blasts from a rival Star Brand user. However, he must concentrate for this to happen; if he's not paying attention, or if he gets too scared, he can be hurt normally. The blasts manifest in a circle around the wielder causing widespread destruction, similar to a nuclear explosion. Ken occasionally projected his energy in standard energy bolts, but this was unusual. He also was able to sense Arden's ship when she was out of phase with normal reality, and thus invisible to most people.
The Star Brand also grants its owner immortality and healing from any injury or any type of death. If "killed," he changes into a reptile-like form while he regenerates.
The Star Brand's power will not typically manifest itself when the bearer is frightened or reluctant in any way. The Star Brand can pretty much use his imagination to expand his abilities. Because of this, the stronger the imagination of a bearer, the stronger his power will be. The Starchild, for example, was capable of extensive temporal and reality manipulation.
The Star Brand of Earth-541 has given himself monarchical rule over the world and has imposed world peace.
In this version Ken lives in a small town of Oklahoma and he dates the sheriff's daughter without the sheriff’s consent. After a date, Ken and his girlfriend, Madeline Felix (which is Duck's full name), fall asleep on a hillside. That night the event known as The White Event took place, leaving the Star Brand symbol scorched onto the hillside.
Ken awakens to find Madeline lifeless and burned without recognition. Ken is taken to the sheriffs department where the sheriff (and Madeline’s father) attempts to shoot him. The Star Brand's powers are manifested the moment the bullet leaves the gun. The powers stopped the bullet and reversed it. Ken is then shot at by the other officers on the scene who are terrified and surprised to see such power. Ken (most likely unknowingly) proceeds to kill them all, burn the sheriff’s station and fly away.
Ken retreats to a mountain where he encounters three mysterious figures all with the Star Brand symbol somewhere in their body. These three people are revealed to be future Star Brand wielders who have come to warn Ken of his power and to prevent him from destroying his world. They inform him that he was given a power to defend the Earth and that he will need every bit of it.
At the end of series, Ken is rescued form a nuclear explosion by Nightmask who takes Ken to her apartment in San Fransisco. Because of the death of his love and all of the chaotic events, Ken ends up in a catatonic state.
Kevin Conner of Earth-616, a young man who had spent all his life ignored and hidden in the background, was given the Star Brand when a broken White Event occurred in his reality. But in the process of acquiring the Brand, which a normal White Event would have never given him, he became the only person to survive the destruction of the college he was attending at the time. He was located by the Nightmask of Earth-616 and the Avengers, who arrived on the scene to try and take control of the situation.
When Captain Universe revealed that he was the source of the destruction, Kevin began to lose control and engaged most of the Avengers in combat. Luckily, they were able to subdue Kevin and was transported by Nightmask, with Captain Universe's permission, to the remains of the Superflow where all White Events used to come from before it collapsed. After managing to calm Kevin down, Nightmask sorted everything out for the new Star Brand and then brought him to Mars to see Ex Nihilo and Abyss.
The Star Brand of this universe uses music to channel his powers and unite the people of his world.
The only details given about the Star Brand bearer from Earth-886 is that it is a female who protects her world from powerful evil forces and is an "idol to billions."
The Star Brand from this universe was a variant on Ken Connell and is involved in an Exiles storyline.