Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, it’s all about Power Girl.
Power Girl made her debut in a 1976 issue of All-Star Comics. At the time, All-Star Comics was telling tales of the Justice Society of America who were located on Earth-2. While all of the other comics DC was publishing took place on Earth-1, Earth-2 was where the Golden Age versions of DC’s stable of characters lived and adventured. Many regular DC characters had versions of themselves on Earth-2, such as the Flash, here named Jay Garrick, and Green Lantern, here named Alan Scott. There were also doubles of characters like Batman and Superman who held the same secret identities as their younger Earth-1 counterparts. It was in this group that Power Girl appeared. Though her origin was clouded at first, it eventually came out that Power Girl was a survivor of Krypton, just like Superman. She was even revealed to be from the city of Kandor, sent to Earth by a rocket ship.
The name that she was born with on Krypton was Kara Zor-L and she was Superman’s cousin.
So, just like Jay Garrick was essentially the Earth-2 version of Barry Allen, Power Girl was the Earth-2 version of Supergirl. The main difference was that Power Girl’s rocket ship caused her to grow older than Supergirl’s did during her flight. Instead of coming to Earth as a teenager, Power Girl was a full-grown woman but chose the name ‘Girl’ for unknown reasons.
The first time that Power Girl and the Earth-1 Superman interacted, Superman saw just how different Kara was to the cousin that he knew so well.
This system of Supergirl on Earth-1 and Power Girl on Earth-2 worked very well for years. Unfortunately, the Crisis on Infinite Earths messed Power Girl up for a very long time.
The Crisis was an attempt by DC to streamline their universe. When all was said and done, there was just one Earth, not multiple earths. DC wanted Superman to be the only survivor of Krypton, so Supergirl was cut out of continuity. She simply never existed. But there was the Power Girl problem. Readers and creators seemed to like her and her name was distinctive enough from Superman’s that keeping her around would be possible. They just needed to give her a new origin. So, that’s what they did in 1987.
It was revealed that the Krypton origin that Power Girl had believed for the previous eleven years had been a false one. She was actually a descendant of ancient Atlantis of 45,000 years ago. At the time, Atlantis had been a city living on the Earth’s surface. Protected by magic, it was a city looked over by Arion, a sorcerer who held his own DC title for a time. In the ancient past, Arion infused Kara’s body with powers that would later come to mimic Superman’s powers and sent her into a magical coma. When she awoke from her stasis in the present, Kara knew nothing of her true past. After this new history was revealed to her, Kara added an Atlantean symbol to her belt buckle and then went on about her business.
Shortly thereafter, DC’s decision to save Power Girl from being wiped out in the Crisis bore fruit when she joined the Justice League Europe as one of their heavy hitters.
Kara stayed with the League for the next eight years. Much of the time, she wasn’t given much to do aside from being the Superman stand-in during fights. That began to change when Gerard Jones completely took over the writing chores on Justice League Europe after his plotting partner Keith Giffen left the book. As Kara continued with the League, her behavior became more aggressive and slightly erratic. Concerned for her friend, the heroic Dr. Light looked into the problem and found the culprit: diet soda.
Things drastically changed for Kara a year later. In an odd aside at the end of her latest League adventure, Kara announced to those around her that she was pregnant.
Now, this could have been the beginning of an intriguing story. In the issues prior to this one, Kara had been seen getting cozy with both Aquaman, which made sense since both characters were refugees from Atlantis, and Hal Jordan. Surely, the offspring of one of these two pairings would make for an interesting dynamic between the two parents and could introduce a new character to the DCU in the form of their offspring. It could also reveal a side to Kara that readers hadn’t seen before.
Sadly, this wouldn’t be the case. Just two issues later, Kara claimed that she hadn’t slept with anyone. This baby had no father.
This storyline became a giant albatross that was hung around Kara’s neck for the next three years. Kara was now gestating a magical savoir baby in her womb and there was nothing readers could do about it.
For much of the next year, Kara would occasionally reference the fact that she was pregnant but there were no art changes done to her. She was like Lori in the televised version of The Walking Dead, talking about the baby but not seeing any physical changes. Things finally came to a head when Power Girl suddenly showed up to DC’s big 1994 crossover sporting a frumpy sweater and a giant belly. In the midst of Zero Hour, Kara finally birthed her baby who turned out to be able to create prenatal force fields.
Just like that, Kara was now a mother to a baby boy. A baby boy who, I should point out, Kara never bothered to name. In fact, she just went on calling him ‘baby’ for the next several years.
As the force fields during Zero Hour proved, this baby was something special. He was so special in fact that he began growing at a very accelerated pace. His powers came even more to the forefront when a demon named Scarabus came calling shortly after his birth. Kara’s baby was able to hurt the demon and drove him away. In Scarabus’ second appearance, the demon revealed to Kara, the now fully grown baby, and the reader just how they were all related.
Yes. You read that right. Arion, Kara’s grandfather, magically raped Kara with a demon’s seed so that their union could create a perfect being.
It’s a very problematic story. It’s even worse when Kara’s son, now self-named Equinox, explained to her that his birth was the only reason that she was around and that all of her previous adventures were just her dicking around until she finally did the important work of making a baby.
It was all very dismissive of Power Girl and rid the character of much of her dignity. Equinox’s condescending words sure didn’t help matters. Her grandfather had decided that her only true purpose was to create a baby and she seemed to be completely fine with this idea.
Thankfully, Equinox evaporated and was never mentioned again by anyone. It is for the best.
After the various Leagues were destroyed in order to make way for Morrison’s JLA, Kara moved over to join the cast of Chris Claremont’s creator-owned title, Sovereign Seven.
The series was canceled shortly after Kara became a full member. The final issue of the series seemed to indicate that the entire thing may have been a bedtime story so Kara’s time with the group may not have actually happened.
When Kara next popped up, it was in the pages of Geoff Johns’ run on JSA. Johns and his editor decided to take another crack at Power Girl’s origins and tried to get things back on track for her. Towards that end, Kara found out that her powers weren’t, in fact, magically based as she had been told. Her powers were definitely biological.
It wasn’t until Kara had a run-in with the Psycho-Pirate that things finally shook out. It seems that the Crisis on Infinite Earths didn’t result in Kara being born in Atlantis. She had really been born on Earth-2 Krypton all along and had only come to believe that she was from Atlantis.
This Psycho-Pirate story is notable not only because it reset Kara’s origins, but it was also the first time that Amanda Conner drew the character. She would go on to spend a lot of time with Kara in the future, much to many fans’ approval.
While Kara may have been told she was really from Earth-2, it didn’t really sink in until she found herself face-to-face with Earth-2′s Superman. When she saw his face again for the first time in twenty years, the truth behind Psycho-Pirate’s words made themselves clear and Kara embraced her cousin.
With Kara’s Earth-2 past finally settled, she was free to once again be a character who had great adventures. The creative team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner would come to use her quite effectively after Infinite Crisis wrapped up. When a character named Terra popped up in the DCU, Power Girl took it upon herself to look after the young hero. When she found out that Terra was also from a civilization that was outside of what most Earthlings would consider ‘standard,’ Kara was empathetic and took Terra under her wing. As the two became friends, Kara introduced Terra to American customs and looked out for her during battle.
Around this time, Kara also decided to restart her software company she owned in her civilian guise of Karen Starr. Named Starrware, this company thrived on innovation and introducing new technology into the marketplace. Kara had neglected the company for years but jumped back into the CEO seat with gusto.
Amanda Conner’s art during these issues caused a whole new readership to enjoy Power Girl. Equal parts comical and action-oriented, Conner’s art had a stream-lined style with crystal clear linework.
After this creative team left, the series continued on in fine style until it came to an end a few months before the New 52 launched. Since that launch, Karen Starr has been in the pages of Mister Terrific, which I haven’t been reading. I haven’t heard if she has revealed herself in that comic to be Power Girl or not. That series’ final issue is being released today but Power Girl is next popping up in the pages of World’s Finest. She appears to once again be an orphan from Earth-2, but the details are sketchy right now. Will history repeat itself? We’ll find out together.
Jeff Reid always like Power Girl more when she was a member of the Justice Society. It seemed a good fit. Tell him which team you liked Power Girl on via Twitter.