Power Girl, one of the major players in Infinite Crisis, was one of several characters whose history became convoluted in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Originally the cousin of the Earth-2 Superman, that Earth’s parallel to Supergirl, Power Girl seemed to receive unsuccessful origin after unsuccessful origin, in an attempt to explain her continued presence in a DC Universe where she could not be tied to Superman. Yet she has remained a mainstay among DC’s secondary characters, receiving more than one try-out solo run and appearing consistently both as a member in various team books and a guest in others since her creation in late 1975.
The Origin of Kara Zor-L, Take One
In 1975, seeing that the Justice Society of America’s annual appearances in Justice League of America had remained steadily popular for years, DC decided to give the Justice Society its own book. For the occasion, DC relaunched All-Star Comics, the title that had been home to the Justice Society during the Golden Age, even keeping the original numbering. In its Golden Age run, All-Star had run 57 issues, and so it was that DC came to offer All-Star Comics #58 (cover-dated January-February 1976).
DC awkwardly decided, however, that while readers loved the Justice Society enough for them to warrant a book, new readers wouldn’t have the intelligence to differentiate between the Justice League and the Justice Society. DC would often be reluctant to launch titles starring unreconstructed Golden Age characters, believing they would confuse readers. Thus, only a little badge on the cover informed readers that All-Star Comics starred the Justice Society ofAmerica. DC apparently felt that the cover needed a name for this super-team, however, and so the cover proudly proclaimed that the book starred something called Super Squad — a hardly memorable moniker that was rarely spoken inside the book itself.
DC also felt that the book starring old-timers from World War II needed some young blood. Thus, Robin, now grown up, joined the team along with the Star-Spangled Kid, a World War II-era hero who had been lost in time for two decades and thus remained suitably young. In addition to these two, DC would inject a female character to a team that sorely needed one, and — much as Wonder Girl had been invented to fill out the Teen Titans’s roster — it would simply invent a character for the occasion.
Power Girl was rather easy to invent. On Earth-1, as DC’s main universe was called, Superman had been joined by his cousin Supergirl, whose existence he had kept a secret for some time while she performed helpful tasks in secret and, ostensibly, trained for the day when Superman felt that she was ready for public super-heroing. The older Earth-2 Superman, however, had never had a Supergirl — Supergirl had been introduced in the 1950s, after the hypothetical cut-off date that separated Earth-2 stories from Earth-1 stories.
The quickest was to add a powerful female character to the Justice Society, therefore, was simply to create an Earth-2 Supergirl. Because her existence on Earth-1 had been kept secret from the world for a time, one could simply say that the Earth-2 Superman, it was a simple matter to say that we hadn’t seen Power Girl previously because Superman had kept her existence a secret. Sure, this meant that he’d have had to have done so for quite a while, but Superman could be anal retentive like that and readers were trusted not to think too much about it. Because the Earth-2 Superman was named Kal-L instead of Kal-El, this Earth-2 Supergirl would be named Kara Zor-L instead of Kara Zor-El, as the Earth-1 Supergirl was known.
Despite her carbon copy origin, Power Girl was more than just Earth-2′s Supergirl. Her origins were a convenience, but in many ways Power Girl was her own character. For one thing, she was dubbed Power Girl instead of Supergirl and given her own costume, one not derivative of Superman. Both she and Supergirl were blond, being versions of the same person, after all, but any visual similarity stopped there. Power Girl’s costume was a white one-piece that ended high on her hips, snuggling them tightly, plus a red cape, tied in the royal manner above her chest, and a red belt, laid on the bias around her with a circular yellow belt buckle. She also had large oval cut out of her white uniform just above her rather large breasts, the sole purpose of which was clearly to show off her cleavage. Befitting her autonomous name and outfit, Power Girl would be a clear feminist in contrast to Supergirl’s sometimes mousy, prim and proper ways.
The first issue’s story was entitled “All-Star Super Squad” and was scripted by Gerry Conway. Classic comics illustrator Wally Wood and Ric Estrada provided the art. In the story, Flash and Wildcat were dealing with an active volcano in Peking, China, when Power Girl simply flew in and capped it. Flying down to her astonished future teammates, she quickly explained that she was Superman’s cousin and was called Power Girl to avoid confusion with her cousin — much as the Justice Society was inexplicably called Super Squad on the cover of All-Star Comics to avoid confusion with the Justice League. An editorial caption simply tells the reader that Superman “obviously” simply kept his cousin’s existence a secret longer on Earth-2.
Later, when Wildcat holds the door for her, she thanks him coldly and sarcastically, as if he were a remnant of a sexist past. And when he calls her a “chick” and then a “broad,” she slams the door in his face. She even seemed somewhat grumpy and defensive. As the series continued, she would constantly be seen competing with the male members of the team, determined, if not sometimes overly anxious, to prove herself.
In a famous comics anecdote of unknown veracity, artist Wally Wood reportedly told friends that he planned to draw Power Girl’s breasts larger and larger, issue by issue, until told by his editors to stop. According to the story, no one ever did before Wood left the title. His editors may have thanked Wood had they known, and Wood had never pushed her bust size beyond believability — or at least what’s considered believable in the realm of super-hero comics, accustomed to bulging muscles and beautiful women with enormous tits. Later artists, as if honoring Wood’s intent, would sometimes seem to continue his dastardly plan…
Kara and Superman: The Origin, Version 1.2
Later in the pages of All-Star Comics, Earth-2′s Superman was brought into the title for a string of guest appearances. Kara bickered with him, further establishing her as obstinate. Their interaction also gave the writers an opportunity to revise Kara’s origin, however slightly.
These issues revealed that the rocket that had brought Kara Zor-L to Earth had been slower than Kal-L’s, each having been built separately by their respective fathers. Kara’s rocket had used a form of suspended animation in which Kara aged at a slow rate, allowing her to reach Earth as a young woman not just later than Superman but considerably later than Earth-1′s Supergirl had arrived after her cousin’s own landing. This meant that Superman had to keep Power Girl’s existence a secret for years and not decades, as implied in her first appearance.
When the Superman of Earth-2 — the original Superman — announced his retirement in the pages of All-Star Comics, he insisted that Power Girl be given his place in the Justice Society. It was a major gesture designed to support Power Girl’s status as an important character and a major player in the Justice Society.
Power Girl in Showcase: The Origin, Version 1.3
In late 1977, with Power Girl receiving attention in the pages of All-Star Comics, DC gave her a three-issue try-out in the pages of Showcase.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Showcase had allowed DC to give characters brief runs without the risk of launching them while unproven into their own ongoing titles, a role often performed by mini-series today. Showcase #4 had featured the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, and the issue is commonly seen as having started the Silver Age of American comics. Showcase had debuted other properties, from Adam Strange toLois Lane as a title’s protagonist, as well as a number of characters now forgotten. Much as DC had relaunched All-Star Comics in the 1970s, so too did it relaunch Showcase, continuing its numbering from the previous run.
Showcase #97-99 (cover-dated March, April, and May of 1978) were thus given over to Power Girl, written by Paul Levitz and illustrated by Joe Staton and Joe Orlando. The story showed, rather than talked about, Power Girl’s origin for the first time, shown in a dream sequence while Kara sleeps. Zor-L, Kara’s father, had been one of the few to believe Jor-L, Kal-L’s father, about Krypton’s imminent fate. Both fathers were scientists, though Jor-L seemed a brilliant jack of all trades, including a geologist and physicists, whereas Zor-L specialized in the brain. Modifying Jor-L’s space flight research, Zor-L derived something called a “symbioship” (a combination of “symbiosis” and “ship”) and placed baby Kara on it so that she could escape the exploding Krypton.
Despite Zor-L’s ship looking more modern, given that Jor-L’s Earth-2 ship had been designed in the late 1930s, it was slower. Courtesy of Zor-L’s brain research, his ship also projected imagery into her unconscious mind during her journey in suspended animation — a sort of virtual reality before it was called as such. (A similar idea was used for Superman himself in the 1978 Superman movie, released just a year later.) When Kara awoke on Earth looking to be in her early twenties, she had a real Kryptonian education — something Kal-L, who had traveled faster and aged less, could only dream of.
Power Girl from Showcase to Crisis on Infinite Earths
As it turned out, sales on the Power Girl issues of Showcase wouldn’t matter, since DC decided in 1978 to drastically cut its number of titles. The end of the 1970s was tough on DC, outside of the stunning success of the 1978′s Superman on the big screen. Kara won neither her own series nor another try-out for one. All-Star Comics was cancelled once again with #74 (cover-dated October 1978), and the Justice Society moved into Adventure Comics before being ousted there too. Before the Justice Society lost its home, however, Kara adopted a civilian identity as Karen Starr. As Karen, Kara started her own software company, StarrWare.
The Justice Society still appeared in its annual meetings with the Justice League in Justice League of America, however, as well as in various guest appearances. In the early 1980s, writer Roy Thomas was given the opportunity to launch a new title entitled All-Star Squadron and starring the Justice Society, but set in the Golden Age. The title ambitiously sought to eventually tell the team’s entire Golden Age history at the rate of one narrative month over the course of twelve monthly issues. While Power Girl hadn’t joined the team at that time, the success of this series led to an increased interest in the Justice Society in general.
Power Girl’s character didn’t advance much during this period — unsurprisingly, given that she was never the prime focus of a story. It’s worth noting that she had a crush on the Justice League’s Firestorm, flirting with him during their annual team-ups. Writer Gerry Conway ramped up their flirtation until the point that, in Justice League of America#220, Power Girl flew off the handle after Firestorm was injured in an ambush.
In 1984, writer Roy Thomas spun Infinity, Inc. out of All-Star Squadron. Whereas All-Star Squadron was set in the Golden Age, however, Infinity, Inc. would be set in the present-day DC Universe, albeit that of Earth-2. The new title’s 12-issue inaugural storyline saw the Justice Society, including Superman, “drowned” in the Stream of Ruthlessness by the villainous Ultra-Humanite, turning them evil. As the Justice Society wreaks havoc across the world, a younger generation composed of their children and successors formed a team to stop their parents and predecessors. Among the younger generation was Power Girl, the Star-Spangled Kid (who had been revived in the relaunch of All-Star Comics), and the Huntress (daughter of the Earth-2 Bruce Wayne and Earth-2′s Selina Kyle, who had reformed and given up her Catwoman persona). Younger heroes were specifically paired against their older counterparts, meaning that Power Girl would have to take on none other than Superman himself.
The battle between Power Girl and Superman occurred in Infinity, Inc. #7. Superman had taken over Metropolis and planned to raze it to the ground in order to build a Kryptonian city in its place. Power Girl and Superman traded titanic blow after titanic blow, but Superman seemed superior. Power Girl won only by resorting to Kryptonite. As the storyline wrapped up a few issues later, the Infinitors restored their mentors’ sanity and defeated the Ultra-Humanite. In a convention of super-team origin stories, the Infinitors then elected to remain a team, though both Huntress and Power Girl elected not to join.
Power Girl and Crisis on Infinite Earths
Like others from Earth-2, Power Girl was a player in Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s historic 1985-1986 12-issue mini-series that saw all of DC’s multiple earths theoretically merge into one with its own revised continuity. In DC’s new continuity, the Justice Society had existed in the 1940s but on the same world as the later Justice League. There was no Earth-2 and never had been. Characters currently being published, such as Batman and Superman, had only existed during the Justice League era and their older selves were removed from history. Golden Age characters with separate Justice League successors with their own names and identities, such as Flash and Green Lantern, were allowed to exist in both forms, though the Justice Society as a whole was shuffled off the board for a while in order to avoid — you guessed it — confusion.
Superman continuity was rebooted from scratch under the creative direction of artist John Byrne. Superman was conceived as the Last Son of Krypton, and all derivative versions — from Supergirl and Superboy to super-dog Krypto and super-cat Streaky — were deemed never to have existed. Yet somehow, there was still a Power Girl.
In Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, DC’s heroes had journeyed to the dawn of time, altering history. As the story continues through the final two issues, we see the fate of Earth-2′s Superman and other characters who were removed from history. Because of his special status, the Earth-2 Superman was allowed to journey into the body of Alexander Luthor to be reunited with the Earth-2 Lois Lane and removed from the newly altered universe. Power Girl’s continued survival, despite her origins no longer making sense in the DC Universe’s revised continuity, wasn’t directly addressed.
There are differing theories as to why DC allowed this to be so. Crisis on Infinite Earths had an agenda, but mistakes were made. While it is largely revered today, we must remember that many of its details were being made up on the fly. By the end of the initially suspect series, once it had proven a success, editors were weighing in and plot threads were being dropped into the series in compact fashion. Not every plot thread bore fruit.
It may well have been that some editor had an idea for Power Girl and wanted her preserved. After all, she had been given a sparse but convenient origin in order to invent her, and someone may well have thought she could simply be supplied with a new one. Without a name or costume tying her to Superman, she needn’t interfere with Superman’s new history. But the Huntress, while she had less history in the comics, also had her own identity and need not have been the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, yet she was wiped out only to be recreated afresh, with a gangster for a father, a few years later. Perhaps some editor or planned writer simply preferred that Power Girl’s history not be stripped from her as she was given a new origin. We can only guess as to what forgotten editorial directive led Power Girl to survive the Crisis and not Huntress.
What followed would not be kind to Power Girl. She’d become an Atlanean, get two new costumes, get magically inseminated, give birth, get possessed by Nike… and have copious breast jokes told at her expense. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Power Girl Becomes an Atlantean
With Crisis on Infinite Earths underway, DC revived its title Secret Origins, devoted (appropriately enough) to telling the origins of DC heroes. This was particularly important in the days after Crisis, when most heroes’ continuity was still being established. No one knew whether a character had never been seen before so that he could debut anew, whether a character’s origin would be radically changed, or whether select chapters of a character’s history were to be wiped clean. Many characters had ties to Earth-2 in one way or another, and it wasn’t always easy to reconcile the two earths together into one. Mistakes were made as characters appeared in stories set in DC’s post-Crisis continuity only to be revised later; for example, early issues of Byrne’s Superman titles depicted New Genesis as having been destroyed, as seen in Jack Kirby’s graphic novel The Hunger Dogs, yet later stories removed that graphic novel from continuity, restoring New Genesis. In all this confusion, Secret Origins helped out by providing revised origins for character after character — often at the rate of two per issue.
In issue #11 (cover-dated February 1987), Secret Origins turned to Power Girl. It was the same month as History of the DC Universe#2, the second of two prestige format books by the same team as Crisis on Infinite Earthsthat purported to tell, in illustrated prose, the concise history of DC’s newly united universe.Legends, a six-issue crossover mini-series that showed DC’s heroes working together for the first time since Crisis, debuted the same month — as did Wonder Woman, which had the Amazon princess emerge fresh into an already ongoing DC Universe, undoing all of her past appearances. It is possible, given the closeness of Secret Origins #11 in terms of publication to Crisis on Infinite Earths, that the revised origin shown there — or some earlier idea for it — was exactly why Power Girl was allowed to survive the Crisis.
The story, written by Paul Kupperberg and illustrated by Mary Wilshire, has become nothing short of infamous and is today recalled as one of DC’s missteps in the post-Crisisenvironment. Power Girl, it seemed, somehow remembered the time-altering events of Crisis — a special status officially reserved for the villain called the Psycho-Pirate, as suggested by the masterful final pages of Crisis itself. Then Arion shows up.
Arion was an Atlantean sorcerer in the distant past and star of Arion, Lord of Atlantis, an ongoing sword-and-sorcery series at the time. Arion informed Power Girl that she wasn’t Superman’s cousin as she remembered but was in fact his Atlantean granddaughter, born some 45 thousand years before and sent as an infant into the future because Arion’s evil brother had threatened her. Just as she had previously been shown to have aged on the voyage from Krypton, now she was shown having aged during time-travel. Her powers were not due to her being Kryptonian but rather due to Arion mucking around with her genetic structure.
Power Girl was thus the Last Daughter of Atlantis, much as Superman was the Last Son of Krypton. She even got an elaborate star-like Atlantean symbol on her waist, a slight modification to her costume that preserved the original while still signaling her new heritage.
If this sounds unsatisfactory, that’s because it is. But it hardly mattered, since the point was to justify Power Girl’s continued presence in the DC Universe. Later writers would lately ignore the tale, focusing instead on her present.
After Secret Origins #11
DC seemed determined to launch Power Girl into a higher level of attention, and she appeared almost every month over the next two years.
A couple months after her revised origin in Secret Origins #11, Power Girl began an string of appearances in Warlord, another DC sword-and-sorcery title at the time. As odd a match as this might have seemed, it capitalized on Power Girl’s new magic-oriented origin. She appeared in issues #116 (cover-dated April 1987) to #123 (cover-dated December 1987), plus 1987′s Warlord Annual#6.
Power Girl returned the following year in Infinity, Inc. #50-51 (cover-dated May and June 1988), effectively acting as a springboard into her own mini-series.
1988′s four-issue Power Girl may have been the first title to bear her name, but it wasn’t her first solo flight due to her issues of Showcase a few years after her debut. Cover-dated from June to September 1988, the series is not fondly remembered.
Beginning the very next month, Power Girl began a two-issue guest appearance in Doom Patrol, appearing in #13 and #14 (cover-dated October and November 1988).
DC’s third company-wide crossover,Invasion!, got underway in late 1988 and Power Girl participated in the pages of Starman #5 and #6, as well as in the pages of Invasion! #2.
In the wake of Invasion!, DC launched a spin-off to its then quite successful title Justice League International, which blended comedy with super-heroics under writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. The team was composed largely of B-list characters, due to DC’s various A-list characters not being available in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, when they were still being consolidated and redefined for readers. The book had become a success anyway.
Thus, in Justice League International #24 (cover-dated February 1989), the Justice League (already an international institution) sought to recruit a whole new batch of heroes to establish a European division. Power Girl was among those chosen. A couple months later, Power Girl became a debut member of the European branch in Justice League Europe, while Justice League International changed its title to Justice League America.
Power Girl in Justice League Europe: The Giffen Years
As it turned out, Power Girl would remain a mainstay of the Justice League for over seven years.
Bart Sears, early artist on Justice League Europe, helped popularize a modified Power Girl costume that did away with the oval window above her breasts — presumably because it made no sense as a super-hero costume. Instead, her neckline plunged to reveal her cleavage in an apparently more logical way. Accordingly, freeing up attention on her upper chest, her cape was attached by large buttons that recalled its earlier, more royal-looking connecting device.
Comments about Power Girl’s sexuality started with the very first issue of Justice League Europe. Under writer Keith Giffen’s tenure, Justice League stories were well-known for incorporating comedy, and Power Girl’s body became a running source of laughs. No sooner did she arrive in Europe to join the team than Flash made a wisecrack.
But it was her characterization that most annoyed some fans. Power Girl now seemed moody, if not downright irritable. She seemed at times to spout man-hating rhetoric, though to be fair feminism had become more extreme, championing castration in its very principle and attacking not just pornography but all heterosexual sex as degrading to women. In the core Justice League title, Giffen and DeMatteis had earlier made Martian Manhunter eat Oreo cookies, seemingly by the pound and often as a coping mechanism. In the pages of Justice League Europe, Power Girl took on that role, seeming obsessed with dieting and addicted to diet soda.
Reportedly, DC thought that Power Girl’s strength levels were too high, potentially interfering with Superman’s unique status and still tying the character too much to Superman. Though Superman had been made far less powerful in his revised origin afterCrisis on Infinite Earths, Power Girl had never been depowered and stilly technically possessed awesome power, including world-moving strength. In an early crossover between Justice League Europe (#7-8) and Justice League America (#31-32) entitled “The Teasdale Imperative,” Power Girl sustained a magical injury at the hands of the villainous Grey Man that left her seriously wounded.
In the following issue, Justice League Europe#9, the Justice League calls upon Superman to perform emergency surgery on Power Girl using his heat vision. It’s touch and go, but she survives — though with greatly reduced powers. She lost her various vision powers, lost her power of flight for a time, but retained a lower level of superhuman strength, invulnerability, and speed.
It would be only the first drastic change to Power Girl’s powers, though her powers would remain essentially the same throughout her years in the Justice League.
In the wake of her survival, Power Girl adopted a scruffy cat with a flatulence problem. It seemed like almost a sidekick for a while, but turned out to be filled with surveillance devices operated by a vaguely super-villain agency.
Not long after her survival, Power Girl’s costume was more radically changed, the first not based on her classic costume. This new outfit, designed by Bart Sears, was a skintight white and gold bodysuit with a collar and earrings. Flash Wally West, depicted in the pages of Justice League Europe as a letch long after he’d abandoned his less verbal womanizing ways in the pages of his own comic, quickly suggested his interest in “skin-tight clothing stretched over awesome female bodies.” He did so in front of some kids, no less. The jokes continued, as when a bad guy seemed to cop a feel during a fight.
But creators don’t stay on a title forever. First, artist Bart Sears left. Then writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis left the whole Justice League line, concluding with a long storyline entitled “Breakdowns” that ended in early 1992.
Power Girl in Justice League Europe after Giffen
Giffen and DeMatteis were replaced on Justice League Europe by writer Gerard Jones. Power Girl was given another new costume. This one, instead of white and yellow, was white and blue — with a red headband. It restored the cut-out between her breasts — though it was now a diamond instead of an oval. By this point, it had become so routine for people to comment upon Power Girl’s body that Gerard Jones could make a joke out of Aquaman not noticing her costume, seemingly playing off long-standing mockery of Aquaman that the somewhat odd character was actually gay. In fact, Aquaman was hiding feelings for Kara — a plotline that would later see the pair share a kiss (in Justice League Europe#46) before Aquaman decided that a relationship between teammates was inappropriate.
Comments about Power Girl’s body would continue under Gerard Jones’s tenure. One time, Power Girl was giving a feminist rant about women’s “self-reliance… and dignity” when Crimson Fox, a French super-heroine, asked her, “if your dignity is so precious, why ‘ave you zis… front window in your costume?” Power Girl defended herself as just a healthy woman, saying that it wasn’t her fault if men chose to stare and drool. It was comedy, sure, but it was also an illustration of what’s been called the French’s lack of need for feminism, in contrast to American women’s schizophrenia, dressing seductively while espousing a lack of need for men.
With #51 (cover-dated June 1993), Justice League Europe was retitled Justice League International. The very next issue, the title began a storyline that Power Girl fans have disparaged ever since. Power Girl became mysteriously pregnant. It turned out that she’d been made pregnant — magically, I hasten to add — by none other than her grandfather, Arion. Power Girl’s Atlantean origins had gone largely ignored in favor of breast jokes and the like, but anyone wishing for her to return to her roots couldn’t have been pleased by this convoluted storyline.
In a shake-up in the summer of 1994 corresponding to DC’s crossover Zero Hour, Justice League International was cancelled. Power Girl departed the Justice League International team, joining that of Justice League America instead. She also gave birth to a boy who was quickly magically aged into an adult named Equinox. Arion had engineered his birth so that he could battle an ancient Atlantean demon named Scarabus, who Arion’s great-grandson was prophesized to defeat. Equinox won, killed Scarabus, and was quickly forgotten — and by those readers fortunate enough to be able to do so.
Power Girl stayed in the pages of Justice League America until DC cancelled the entire line of Justice League books, which by then also included Justice League Task Force and Extreme Justice, in 1996 in order to make way for Grant Morrison’s new JLA. Justice League America #113 (cover-dated August 1996) would be the final issue.
Few lamented. In that last issue, Power Girl, Blue Devil, and other team members were captured and chained by a villain named Flicker. Knowing that Power Girl had enough power to break free, Blue Devil decided to enrage her through one sexual comment after another, spurring her to break her bonds in a rage. Blue Devil’s menacing gaze and Power Girl’s disgusted look simply have to be seen to be believed.
Power Girl was without a regular home for the first time in over seven years.
Power Girl Wanders
The same month as the final issue of Justice League of America, Power Girl began a three-month stint in Aquaman, running from #23 (cover-dated August 1996) to #25 (cover-dated October 1996). It made a certain amount of sense: Aquaman and Power Girl were both from Atlantis, after all, and Peter David was busy reconnecting Aquaman with Atlantis, a process he’d begun years before with the mini-series The Atlantis Chronicles. Then she took a few months off.
In the summer of 1997, Power Girl began appearing in Sovereign Seven, a super-team book scripted by Chris Claremont, with #25. The book had been started two years before as an experiment — the first creator-owned book set in the DC Universe. Early issues, spurred by Chris Claremont’s move to DC after many years at Marvel, as well as by a popular artist, sold well. But sales dropped off, especially after that artist’s departure. Though the book had featured DC characters and had participated in the company’s annual company-wide crossovers, it seemed to occur in its own pocket universe, barely integrated into the wider DC Universe. Many potential readers didn’t know if the title was a DC Universe book or not. Power Girl was brought in because no one wanted her yet many knew her and because the title needed a recognizable DC character. After all, she was a former Justice Leaguer. She appeared in a version of her classic outfit, and was possessed by the spirit of the Greek goddess Nike, but she felt out of place with the more modern characters of the title.
The issues tied into Genesis, DC’s newest company-wide crossover that saw various super-powers gone crazy. The opportunity was taken to revamp Power Girl. The power-fluctuating Godwave hit Power Girl in Sovereign Seven #27. Over the next few issues, she experienced odd lapses in her invulnerability. Even so, she became an official member of the team, replacing the recently killed Rampart, in issue #31. Power Girl appeared in Supergirl #16 (cover-dated December 1997), where her new powers were revealed. As revealed there, Power Girl was vulnerable to natural materials so that, say, a gunshot wouldn’t hurt her but a fallen rock would. In Supergirl #16 itself, she was impaled with a tree branch. It was widely regarded as a bonehead move, and later writers ignored these stories.
Two months later, Power Girl appeared in two more issues of Aquaman, issues #41 (cover-dated February 1998) and #42 (cover-dated March 1998). No one seems to have leapt from them to her regular home in Sovereign Seven, and her presence wasn’t helping that title either. After a year of stories with Power Girl in them, Sovereign Seven came to a close with #36. The title, its characters, and Power Girl’s experiences in Sovereign Seven have not been referred to since — in part because the end of Sovereign Seven #36 implied that the whole series had been nothing but a dream.
After Sovereign Seven‘s cancellation, Power Girl continued her occasional guest appearances in titles such as Aquaman (#50, cover-dated December 1998) and JLA (#27, cover-dated March 1999). She appeared in the last two issues of the four-issue mini-series Body Doubles, starring two quasi-villainesses from the then-running Resurrection Man. At the end of Body Doubles #3 (cover-dated December 1999), as the titular characters respond to Power Girl’s appearance, they remark upon her well-endowed chest.
Power Girl then began a brief string of appearances in Birds of Prey, a book organized around a team-up of DC super-heroines, beginning with #12 (also cover-dated December 1999). In those issues, Power Girl seemed at odds with Oracle, organizer of the Birds of Prey, and revealed that she had been Oracle’s first partner before Black Canary or the Huntress but that their mission had gone bad.
Power Girl then found a home in two fifth-week events, strings of interconnected specials offered between two “bookend” specials. These fifth-week events were designed to fill the extra week in months with five Wednesdays, or five days on which new comics were offered. The first extra-long bookend special would set up the conflict, spinning into five to seven specials of regular length offered the following week, generally featuring different characters. This week of specials would in turn lead into a second extra-long bookend special that would wrap up the conflict the following week.
The first of these fifth-week events to feature Power Girl was 2000′s Green Lantern: Circle of Fire (entirely cover-dated October 2000), which offered among its week of specials Green Lantern / Power Girl — only the fifth issue to bear her name anywhere in its title. The second of these fifth-week events was 2001′s Justice Leagues(entirely cover-dated March 2001), which featured Power Girl in a couple of its specials featuring hypothetical alternate versions of the Justice League.
Power Girl kept wandering, returning to Birds of Prey for three issues late in 2001 (specifically, issues #33-35, cover-dated September to November 2001). These issues saw Power Girl’s early adventure with Oracle revealed. The next month saw Power Girl appear inWonder Woman #175 (cover-dated December 2001). That issue crossed over with DC’s horribly received company-wide crossover entitled Joker: Last Laugh, organized around a weekly mini-series of the same title, in which Power Girl appeared in issue #3.
Just two months later, Power Girl’s wandering would come to an end as she would join the cast of JSA.
Power Girl Joins the Justice Society
In the wake of Zero Hour, DC’s 1994 crossover that occurred around Power Girl’s pregnancy in the Justice League, DC launched five new ongoings. Four of them met their demise within a couple of years. The exception was Starman, written by James Robinson. Filled with Golden Age references and even issue-long flashbacks, Starman won critical acclaim, sold well in trade paperbacks when relatively few series were being collected, and demonstrated that Golden Age-based stories had a market.
In 1999, DC capitalized on the success of both Starman and JLA by launching JSA, a revival of the Justice Society starring surviving original members and, like the earlier Infinity, Inc., others’ children or successors. The title performed surprisingly well. Fans were clamoring for various characters, including Power Girl, to reappear in its pages. Writer Geoff Johns had expressed reluctance to bring back Power Girl, explaining that he didn’t particularly like the character. But he gave in, needing a female replacement for Black Canary. In the process of writing Power Girl, Johns reportedly came to appreciate her.
Power Girl made her first appearance in JSA #31 (cover-dated February 2002), and she would keep appearing every issue. Fans applauded, feeling that the character had been — like so many in JSA — returned to a newly workable state that honored instead of trampled on her past, primarily her earliest appearances. Her feisty personality added character to the series. She routinely verbal sparred with Wildcat — a trope that went back to her very first appearance in 1975′sAll-Star Comics #58. And she served as a mentor to Stargirl, the young inheritor of both the Star-Spangled Kid and Starman.
A major development came for Power Girl in “Princes of Darkness,” running in JSA #45-50 (cover-dated April to September 2003). During that storyline, Kara finally learned that her Atlantean origins, so long disparaged by fans and ignored by writers anyway, weren’t true after all. Power Girl was now without an origin again, but at least she was in capable hands.
Power Girl also appeared in the introductory arc of the very popular title Superman / Batman. There, even Superman and Batman recognized the distraction potential of Power Girl’s cleavage, but they’re too polite to say “go over and distract those villains with your enormous breasts, conveniently visible through that oval cut-out in your outfit.” Instead, they leave her to figure it out — and us to watch her do so.
Power Girl and the New Kryptonian Supergirl
The second arc of Superman / Batman, running in issues #8-13, brought a new Supergirl to the DC Universe. A non-Kryptonian Supergirl had appeared since the late 1980s, but DC seemed to feel that she had never been accepted by fans. Thus, at long last, Kara Zor-El returned to the DC Universe.
Ironically, besides her costume, this new Supergirl bore more resemblance to Power Girl in many respects than to the Silver Age Supergirl killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths. She was more like the hot-headed and potentially dangerous Power Girl than the sweet Silver Age Supergirl — who in memory remained innocent to her fans, goody-two-shoes to her detractors. While the new Supergirl came from Krypton, she had done so in a rocket and without the intermediary step of living on Argo City with other survivors who had later died.
In some ways, this represented the triumph of Power Girl: her personality and simplified origins had signaled the future, changing the character of whom she’d been an Earth-2 incarnation. Supergirl had become a version of Power Girl, who had been a version of Supergirl. Moreover, all those who had championed Power Girl’s Kryptonian origin and decried other origins were validated. On the other hand, the new Supergirl threatened to make Power Girl redundant. Power Girl hadn’t been granted the Kryptonian origins denied her; a new Supergirl had been instead.
This new Supergirl would soon have her own ongoing series, debuting in 2005 to great success. Meanwhile, Power Girl was poised to win the greatest comeback of her career… in “Power Trip,” the storyline in JSA Classified that would lead into Infinite Crisis.
Read the Rest
“Your Guide to Infinite Crisis” attempts to spell out and outline the whole of this sprawling, complicated crossover. It has several other installments, organized by the narrative thread under discussion:
The OMAC Project
- DC Countdown
- The OMAC Project
- “Sacrifice” Concludes
- The OMAC Project Concludes
- “Sacrifice” Aftermath
- Tie-Ins to The OMAC Project #6
Day of Vengeance
The Rann-Thanagar War
- A Brief History of Adam Strange
- “Adam Strange: Planet Heist”
- “Adam Strange: Planet Heist” Concludes
- A Brief History of Hawkman
- A Brief History of Hawkman, Part 2
- Hawkman #46
- The Rann-Thanagar War
- The Rann-Thanagar War Concludes
- “Coalition in Crisis”
- The Rann / Thanagar War Special
The Return of Donna Troy
Crisis of Conscience
- Identity Crisis Epilogue
- Dr. Light in Teen Titans
- “Crisis of Conscience”
- “Crisis of Conscience” Epilogue