Saturday, June 28, 2014

Favorite DC Characters #6 - Power Girl

The hardest part of this post may be deciding which images to use. Kind of a wealth of options.

Character: Power Girl, aka Karen Starr, aka Kara Zor-L

Creators: Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada, Wally Wood

First appearance: All-Star Comics #58

First encounter: Infinity Inc. #7. I once received a large group of seemingly random comics, and this was in there. I didn't understand most of it, and Power Girl didn't get much of a chance to do anything (her fight with Superman just barely started), but it is the first time I saw her. She's kind of getting her butt kicked on the cover, which is why I didn't post a picture of it. Have some panels of Power Girl and Terra at the movies drawn by Amanda Conner instead!

Definitive writers: Amanda Conner, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti. I don't remember Conner getting a writer's credit during their Power Girl run, but I imagine she had some input.

Definitive artist: Amanda Conner! I also like Jerry Ordway and Adam Hughes' versions, but Conner's is the one I think of.

Favorite moment or scene: Power Girl #12, the last issue of the Conner/Gray/Palmiotti run. Vartox shows up, being pursued by some big alien overlord angry that Vartox was making time with his wife. Vartox had already shown up once, causing major trouble in some lame attempt to impress Peej sufficiently she'd help him repopulate his planet (it involved a glowy egg thing that uses energy to kick in his people's regeneration cycle). Now both he and the other guy starting trying to hit on her, and fed up, Power Girl basically uses Vartox like a club to beat some sense into both guys, and tells them to leave before she gets really mad. Which the overlord fellow does, because he thinks that'll impress her (it doesn't), and Vartox doesn't, because he's an idiot. And that's how Vartox got tossed across New York, again.

What I like about her: My history with Power Girl covers a fairly short span of time. It runs from roughly when she joined the Johns/Goyer JSA book, up to the beginning of the new 52. I've ignored the current Power Girl, and I only know bits and pieces of her history from the '90s and earlier, and what I do know isn't pretty. Disclaimer firmly in place, lets move on. I've said previously I like her outfit. The boots, the short red cape, the either gold shoulder pad or gold buckle that the cape attaches with, the belt. It all works really well together. Also, she's a super-strong tough lady that enjoys fighting crime and helping people. Always a plus. Another thing I wouldn't have necessarily expected to like, but do, is how several of the younger superheroines look up to her. Stargirl, Cyclone, especially Terra. Her and Peej's friendship was always enjoyable.

It does make sense. From their perspective, Power Girl is an older woman who is a tough, successful hero, one always at the forefront of the battle, trading punches with the heaviest hitters the bad guys have. She owns her own company, she's confident, assertive, speaks her mind, and she's not defined by a relationship to a guy*. What's not to love?

* I guess you could argue that she is Superman's cousin, but her being from a different universe since Crisis on the Infinite Earths seems to put her at a slight remove from Superman, compared to Supergirl, Superboy, or even Steel. She doesn't wear the "S", either. And beyond that, she doesn't have many romantic relationships. There was that thing with Hal Jordan that resulted in a magical pregnancy that was never mentioned again, but other than that, nothing leaps to mind. No, Vartox doesn't count.

One thing being on the Internet has made me more aware of is how much crap society dumps on girls and women about how they should behave. Don't offer your opinion without being asked for it, just smile and put up with that drunk guy pawing you, or politely ask him to stop, don't wear short skirts because dudes can't control their urges (speaking as a dude, that's bullshit), that kind of stuff. Power Girl has no time for any of that crap. If Wildcat says some sexist, belittling nonsense ('cause he's a drunk old fart), she's not forcing a smile while she bites back on a cutting remark. She gives him an earful. She's not putting up with Wally West making constant lewd and unprofessional remarks while they were in the Justice League together, she goes after him. I know that most of Power Girl's explanations for her costumes are the writers and artists trying to excuse wanting to draw sexy ladies and all. But in-story, I like that she likes her costume the way it is, feels comfortable with it, and how other people react is not her concern.

One of the things I liked best about the Conner/Gray/Palmiotti Power Girl run was they showed that yes, this ugly crap happens a lot, but no, you don't have to take it. They don't show her reacting with fury or anything, but she sets the offender straight. Consider it a gentle course correction for them. If she's interviewing a potential hire, and he talks down to her because he saw Dr. House get away with it every week, welp sorry buddy, you aren't getting that job. When the idiot from the Big Bang Theory tried hitting on her at the movies, she calmly stood up and explained to him that his behavior was unacceptable, and offered a suggestion on how to modify his behavior to have more success talking to women. Then she sat back down to watch the film with her friend. When some weirdo tried flashing her and Terra, Peej gets mildly exasperated. . . and sends some freezing breath in the direction of his nether regions. Not going to kill the dude, or even cause frostbite most likely, but an effective lesson.

There's an issue of JSA, #39, where Power Girl relates to Hawkgirl and Stargirl her run-in with a super-powered crook who was also a creepy fan, and it ends with her saying, 'Always show 'em what you've got.' Which is what I like best about her, she doesn't hold back, doesn't keep opinions to herself out of fear of stepping on somebody's toes. She is not about to be any less of who she is because somebody else feels threatened by her. It reminds me of that quote from an early Defenders issue, when Namor asked Valkyrie why she hates men, and she replied she doesn't, she just knows she's as good as they are. That's Power Girl, she doesn't hate people (except bad guys who hurt her friends), but she's not about to pretend she isn't awesome.

Because she is awesome. This is the lady whose response to the Spirit King unleashing a bunch of souls the Spectre had damned is "drop a bus on them". Which leads to another good exchange between her and the original Hourman, where he says he likes her, and she replies, 'Everybody does, they just don't want to admit it.' Whose response to that aforementioned creepy fan trying to kiss her is to knock him into next week. And when he doesn't take the hint and starts blowing stuff up, she hits him with construction equipment until he gets the message. When the JSA travels beneath the Earth to rescue Sand, Power Girl's the one who carries his body up through miles of the Earth's crust, even though he's molten hot at the time.

She was able to bring down the Ix Negaspike Vartox released to impress her, while also dealing with Vartox continuing to try and impress her. She did all that with minimal property damage, and was eventually able to get Vartox to simply explain what he needed, so she could help him and make him go away. It speaks highly of her she was willing to help at all, considering he tried to use some musk to make her more receptive to his charms, and only succeeded in a) making Dr. Mid-Nite black out, and b) making the Blue Snowman fall in love with him, which got her eaten when he unleashed the Negaspike. When Peej found out Ultra-Humanite got his brain inside Terra's body, she went right after Satanna and immediately heat visioned one of her arms off to make herself understood. Normally, I'm not a big fan of the heroes getting graphically violent (though it certainly fits with DC's motif of characters losing limbs), but in certain circumstances, I think it works. Like when your best friend has their brain removed by some villain, and their body stolen by some other villain, and you have no idea how long that's been the case. Yeah, I can see getting a little hostile there.

Which is one other thing I like about Power Girl, for all that she has a bit of a gruff exterior initially, she actually is very friendly. It's pretty simple, if you treat her with respect and kindness, she'll reciprocate. It's the people who act like jerks she has no time for. She likes to make friends, maybe because she doesn't have many, she just isn't willing to put up with any poor behavior out of them. It's makes sense. She's basically Supergirl of Earth-2, right? And Supergirl has usually been a really kind character, wants to be helpful, wants to make friends, love and be loved, all that. Stands to reason Peej would have similar inclinations. But she's older, a little wiser, a little more wary. She's had a few more bumps in the road, what with all that mess about where she came from after Crisis on the Infinite Earths, the stupid magic pregnancy, etc. So it's a little harder for her to open up. Being on a Justice League full of jerks and goobers probably didn't help. Who wants to open up emotionally to brain-damaged Guy Gardner? Anyway, once she decides she does care about someone, she'll go to the wall for them. Then through the wall, because you know, invulnerable. And if you're between her and said wall, well, you're going through as well. Good luck with that.

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