The titular character is known for his vaguely defined, god-like superpowers and his creatively bizarre version of "justice". Stardust uses the power of science to save New York City from various nazis, gangsters and aliens bent on destroying it.
Stardust made his debut in "Fantastic Comics" #1 (December 1939) and remained a staple of the magazine up until his last story, which was instead printed in "Big Three Comics" #2 (Winter 1941). The rather brief run of the series also happens to span the entirety of Hanks' career in comics.
The aforementioned books have since lapsed into the Public Domain, allowing for these comics to be legally shared online, and for the character to be appropriated by any author for any purpose. This has helped Stardust to attain something of an ironic cult following in recent decades, including at least one attempt to reboot the character in webcomic form.
In 2016, Fantagraphics Books published Turn Loose Our Death Rays and Kill Them All! — a hardcover compilation of all of Fletcher Hanks' known work — which naturally includes all of Stardust's demented adventures, among those of Hanks' other characters, Fantomah, Space Smith, and Big Red.
Stardust the Super Wizard provides examples of:
- Aliens Are Bastards: Taken Up to Eleven; the alien villains are card carrying villains who are out to destroy Earth For the Evulz.
- Ambiguously Human: Stardust looks human, but is about eight feet tall and comes from outer space. His proportions are otherwise pretty freakish, but that's par the course for Hanks' art style.
- Anti-Hero: Unintentionally. While Stardust is on the side of good, he's needlessly cruel and brutal to those he goes against, torturing them in absolutely horrible ways even after they've been detained and can no longer harm people, and lacks anything resembling human warmth or kindness.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: With Stardust himself, this is hand-waved in an early mention of him having artificial lungs that enable him to breathe in space. This is otherwise played straight with an unnamed woman that Stardust brings home with him after her family is killed in a house fire. She apparently has no trouble on the trip flying home through space. The vultures from Venus can also apparently breathe in space.
- Big Applesauce: Many stories take place in or around New York City. Even when the city isn't mentioned by name, it's plenty obvious from the skyline. Almost certainly an example of Write What You Know given that Hanks created these comics for the Manhattan-based Eisner & Iger studio.
- Black-and-White Morality: Safe to say that there's no moral ambiguity in these comics. Stardust is a pure and noble hero while the villains are irredeemable monsters.
- Black-and-Grey Morality: A rare unintentional variation. While Stardust is supposed to be Incorruptible Pure Pureness, he comes off as needlessly sadistic and brutal at the best of times, and completely removed from human morality and emotion.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The bad guys declare their evil intentions with pronouncements like "I shall destroy all the civilized planets!" and "We must end democracy and civilization forever!"
- Child Soldiers: A possible way to describe Stardust's "Sixth Column" — an army of "red-blooded" American boys that Stardust picks for no apparent reason to be given some of his powers so that they can help him protect the homefront from Axis spies. By the next issue, these boys are to shown to have established recruiting stations across the country and have been given their own star-metal suits as uniforms.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Stardust's outfit is actually a "flexible star-metal skin" that renders him impervious to violent force, chemicals and electricity (though it's not like he ever needs it).
- Creepy Good: Stardust himself. Yeah, he's unsettling in plenty of ways, and he's known for getting... creative with his enemies, but he's firmly on humanity's side.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: He is known for his very strange and creative methods of punishing villains, such as turning them into ice and having them melt away, or turning them into human-headed rats and drowning them, or using his shrink ray to shrink only a criminal's body, then throwing his head like a ball into space.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: None of Stardust's adversaries had any chance against him.
- Cyborg: Stardust may be one, as is suggested by a mention of his "artificial lungs" in the very first story.
- Death by Irony: He dishes this out sometimes — for example, punishing greed-motivated villains by stranding them on a planet made of gold, or summoning a gold octopus to strangle them.
- Expy: Of Superman. Possibly also of Flash Gordon, though that is more likely the intent behind Hanks' other character, Space Smith.
- Genius Bruiser: Stardust is an incredibly smart man, and also strong enough to throw people into space.
- Gonk: A considerable number of Stardust's foes are drawn with protruding lower lips, furrowed neanderthal brows, and large cartoonish eyes. The most prominent example is the Super Fiend, but even quite a few of the human villains have some of these traits.
- Good Is Not Soft: Exaggerated. If you do anything evil, Stardust will find you, and will subject you to the most brutal torture humanly imaginable.
- Hand Blast: Stardust can shoot various "rays" and "beams" from his hands, which can do things such as disintegrate people, crush people to death, shrink and grow things, and turn people into rats.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Stardust's "powerful retarding ray", which is used to slow down a planet on collision course with Earth, and not what you might think instead.
- Heroic Build: Stardust is ripped.
- Humanoid Abomination: No, really. While it's likely that Hanks didn't realize he was creating a Lovecraftian horror that happens to be on our side, here you have a creature who inflicts terrifying fates on evildoers, whose powers run on nonsensoleum, whose origin, nature, and motives are totally unknowable, and whose home is something that's as impossible as he is.
- Inexplicably Awesome: Stardust has no human identity (or any kind of mentioned backstory), he is simply Stardust. Where does he come from, how did he get his incredible powers, why does he protect the Earth? These questions and more will never be answered in the pages of Stardust the Superwizard!
- Invincible Hero: Stardust isn't quite the Invincible God-Man from this trope's page image, but he's pretty darn close.
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: His head is almost the exact width of his neck, with a perfectly square jaw.
- Light Is Good: Hypothetically, Stardust, who is a space wizard powered by the light of the stars who has a ray for everything. In practice, however, he is extremely violent and sadistic.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Stardust's powers are never clearly defined, other than his "tubular spacial" which he uses to fly, but mostly consist of whatever the author thinks would be cool at that moment.
- Recruit Teenagers with Attitude: The sole demographic from which Stardust grabs recruits for his "Sixth Column" are "red-blooded American boys".
- Reed Richards Is Useless: The blurb at the start of most issues unintentionally exemplifies the trope due to the sheer disparity between the powers it describes for Stardust, immediately juxtaposed with what he does with them:Stardust, whose vast knowledge of interplanetary science has made him the most remarkable man that ever lived, devotes his abilities to crime-busting...
- Science Hero: He uses his "vast knowledge of interplanetary science" to fight crime. This manifests more in his tendency to use bizarrely specialized machines for detecting the crimes as they being planned.
- Showy Invincible Hero: He has the power to do basically anything, at any time, whenever he wants. He never faces an enemy who's the least bit of a danger to him, and the cruel and bizarre punishments he metes out rub their powerlessness in their faces.
- The Sociopath:
- Rip-the-Blood, a Diabolical Mastermind who's perfectly willing to start a world war to make money.
- The Mad Giant, who believes that the destruction of all of civilization is a just response to the abolition of slavery.
- Starter Villain: The unnamed leaders of a Nazi spy ring who try to destroy the US government upon learning of Stardust coming to Earth. They're arrested at the end of the issue after being forced to look at the skeletons of their victims.
- Super Empowering: As mentioned earlier, Stardust is shown to be quite capable of the first variant, sharing his bizarre and destructive powers with an army of prepubescent boys.
- Technobabble: Too many examples to list, and a good half of them sound blatantly wrong to anyone with even a high-school-level knowledge of natural sciences. The most frequently repeated instance is that he flies through space via "highly accelerated light waves in a tubular spacial" which doesn't even make sense as an English sentence.
- Tiny-Headed Behemoth: Stardust is a giant of a man with a disproportionately small head. Unlike many examples of the trope, however, he's very intelligent.
- Weird Sun: Stardust lives on a star. On the surface of it. Which is on fire. And the star is literally star-shaped.
- Yellow Peril: The one-time villain Slant-Eye's name and Yellowface strongly suggest this trope, although the script never mentions his race or nationality and he gets about as much development as a villain as the other evil men in suits.