In the aftermath of DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths, Power Girl, the ‘Supergirl’ of Earth-2 introduced in All-Star Comics #58 (January-February, 1976), had become an anomaly. While still existing in the new universe order, Power Girl, also known as Kara-L, was of a world that no longer existed; in fact, in the post-Crisis DC Universe Earth-2 had never been. Yet there she was on the revamped Earth-1, the one Earth of a sole universe, with an origin and memories carried over from Earth-2. An anomaly, yes, but a crucial one, for Power Girl was the connection, a reminder, the keeper of the memories of a multiverse that had once thrived. But hers were memories that would not last long.
As posited in Secret Origins #11 (February 1987), Power Girl was in actuality the granddaughter of Arion, Lord of Atlantis. To protect Kara from possession by his evil brother, Garn Daanuth, Arion transported his granddaughter to another dimension, genetically engineered her powers, and impressed on her mind new memories, that of a Kryptonian upbringing. In this way Kara would never be aware of her true self, never tempted to seek out her true origins and, unbeknownst to her, risk possible ensnarement by Daanuth. With the post-Crisis universe in full swing, and Kara facing a mental crisis of her own, the spirit of Arion felt it was time to show Kara this truth. An impressive revamping, to be sure, but it left a couple of matters unresolved.
First, her new origin didn’t negate the existence of Earth-2, it just disassociated her with being a Kryptonian of Earth-2. It was a spell of illusion cast in the pre-Crisis universe that carried over to the post-Crisis universe. Yet, gradually, Kara no longer carried memories of Earth-2, only of her revamped life in the post-Crisis universe. But why did the memories of Earth-2 fade away? She was still the connection, the keeper of memories!
Second, Arion’s spell was also cast on the Superman of Earth-2. That Superman was transported — along with his wife, Lois, the Superboy of Earth-Prime and Alexander Luthor — into a kind of heaven at the end of Crisis On Infinite Earths and prior to Kara’s revamped origin. It would stand to reason that once Arion took back the illusion spell he placed on Kara, the Superman of Earth-2 would also no longer be affected and he would realize that Kara-L was not his cousin. When he broke out of the heaven ‘cage’ in Infinite Crisis #1 and greeted Kara in Infinite Crisis #2, he would be very much aware that his association with the Kara of Atlantis never existed. But, of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Another mysterious twist on Power Girl’s true origins had been set into place some time back in the pages of JSA #50 (September 2003).
In that issue, Power Girl, also known as Karen Starr in the post-Crisis universe, met the spirit of Arion, who was ascending to heaven. He told her then, and I quote: “I am sorry for deceiving you. I…am not your grandfather. We are not family. I promised your mother I would protect you and…she will be very proud. And she will need your help sometime soon. Let her then be burdened with telling you the truth.” So the revamped origin was really a lie on top of an existence that never actually happened, but really did. So of course the Superman of Earth-2 would truly believe he is Kara’s cousin. He had always been Kara’s cousin. And Lois Lane is the ‘mother’ that the spirit of Arion was referring to. And Earth-2 had indeed once existed, along with all the other universes that made up the multiverse. Only the lies meant to protect were the deceptive illusions.
This, gentle reader, is, believe or not, just one aspect of a superhero career that has had, shall we say, a couple of nonexistent or questionable realities (I’m not even going near her time spent in Skartaris in the pages of The Warlord). For example, Power Girl was also a member of writer Chris Claremont’s Sovereign Seven, joining the team after the death of Rampart. However, in the last issue of S7, it was revealed that the exploits of Sovereign Seven were just a story written by a female writer within the DC Universe. Sovereign Seven was fiction within fiction, and the writer used various ‘real’ superheroes as part of her story. Power Girl’s stint in the group never actually happened in established post-Crisis DC continuity. How do you explain something like that on your resume?
Then there’s the matter of Power Girl’s supernatural pregnancy in the pages of Justice League International, and her birth to a son during Zero Hour. This was all part of an outrageous plot conceived by Arion, of all people, the allegedly loving grandfather who never actually was her grandfather. Karen’s son rapidly aged to adulthood and became Equinox, who subsequently vanished after destroying a force of evil, leaving Power Girl in a severely depressed state. Karen got better over time, but that was one heck of an ordeal for her.
For well over a decade, up until Geoff Johns decided to straighten her origin out, most writers and artists have left Power Girl’s history alone and focused on fluctuating her powers instead (and increasing her buxom size, but that’s another issue). Johns came along and did something quite novel: he brought her original origin back, along with her original powers, and this has got to be the least convoluted era of Power Girl’s existence since her pre-Crisis heydays. Thank goodness.
There have been hundreds of Power Girl appearances over the past thirty years, ranging from the highly touted (Showcase story arc in the late 1970s, 1988 miniseries, charter membership in Justice League Europe, the recent JSA Classified) to the relatively obscure (one panel in Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #15, Secret Origins Annual #1, The Hacker Files #11, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt). I could list them all, but I’d rather address a few highlights.
Power Girl dropped in on The Huntress’ back-up feature in Wonder Woman for a trio of issues (#274-276, 1980) to help her fellow JSAer battle the Thinker and his minions. They also had to deal with an anti-vigilantism declaration that Helena Wayne’s friend, district attorney Harry Sims, had announced to the citizens of Gotham City. Little did the Huntress know that Sims was a reluctant pawn of the Thinker, and that a verbal slip by Power Girl had given Harry reason to believe that Helena Wayne and the Huntress were one and the same! While Helena and Power Girl were able to defeat the Thinker, the Huntress’ identity crisis was not so easily resolved and would take some work long after PG had split the scene. Kara also appeared in Wonder Woman #s 291-293 and #300.
As far as I’m concerned, the more obscure the appearance the more highlighted it should be, so for all you devout Power Girl completists I highly recommend her one panel appearance on page four of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #15 (May 1983). In the midst of a convoluted crossover of their own, the members of Earth-C’s Zoo Crew and Earth-C-Minus’ Just’a Lotta Animals have become dislocated and are multiverse-hopping in hope of finding their way back to the threatened Earth-C-Minus. One of the worlds they stumble on is Earth-2. They find themselves in JSA headquarters, where a flabbergasted Power Girl comments, “Listen, I don’t care if it is an annual tradition! I’m not working with a team of funny-animals!” And that’s it, end of PG cameo. If there’s a more obscure appearance of Power Girl than this, I don’t know what it is! (Actually, I do. Check out DC Comics Presents #38 [October 1981] and turn to the bonus feature: “Whatever Happened to The Crimson Avenger?” On the bottom of page 2, Power Girl makes a one panel cameo.)
Aw, what the heck, I guess I’ll travel to Skartaris for one issue, The Warlord #122 (October 1987), to refamiliarize myself with what Kara was doing there. She had traveled to Skartaris to hopefully learn something of her Atlantean roots. Clad in a costume more suited to Skartarian fashion, she teamed with Travis Morgan’s daughter, Jennifer, to battle the powerful demon known as Azmyrkon. Even with busted ribs Kara was a force to be reckoned with and by issue’s end Azmrykon was defeated. You’ve gotta give Power Girl a lot of credit. She bumped The Warlord off the cover of his own book! Kara appeared in The Warlord #s 116-124 and Annual #6.
Justice League Europe #1 (April 1989). Ah, the team that initially wore no green. Thirteen years into her existence, Kara Starr joins her third supergroup, after the Super-Squad/JSA and Infinity, Inc. She’s a little too insecure for my own taste in this issue, but coming off an identity crisis and revamped origin, I can understand her uncertainty. PG’s desire to be accepted is a nice touch. She had a lengthy run in this book, appearing in issue #s 1-10, 13-47, 49-50, and, when it became Justice League International, #s 51-52, 54-67.
Power Girl has always been notorious for her bad temper. In Justice League Europe #40 (July 1992), the new Dr. Light (as opposed to the wretched Dr. Light currently prowling the DCU) diagnosed that the artificial food additives in artificially-sweetened diet soda was the cause for her outbursts. Upon learning this, Kara blew her cool and blamed men. Dr. Light told her to cut out the diet soda to see if her moods improved. Kind of makes you wonder what all those Oreo cookies have done to the Martian Manhunter, huh?
For a completely different take on Power Girl, take a peek at DC/Tangent Comics’ Powergirl #1 (September 1998). Tangent Comics was an interesting challenge for DC’s writers and artists: Create a completely new concept and look for an established DC character using the name only. What was the rumored inspiration for Powergirl? The Spice Girls. I’m serious! You’ve got to read this to believe it.
JSA #32 (March 2002). Power Girl, at the request of Black Canary, returns to the Justice Society of America. During her physical exam, Dr. Mid-Nite discovers that her super-powers are biologically based and not magical. This brings into question her history as granddaughter of Arion. Thus the stage has been set for Karen’s encounter with Arion in JSA #50. Also, there is the return of Johnny Thunder, now cured of Alzheimer’s, and ready to reclaim the Thunderbolt. Turns out Johnny is not who he appears to be! It’s also nice to see Power Girl needling Wildcat once again, a nice nod to their earlier days as members of the All-Star Super Squad. She has appeared in JSA #s 31-40, 44-47, 49-55, 57-58, 60-65, 67, and 72-76.
JLA/JSA Secret Files & Origins #1 (January 2003). Power Girl, Wonder Woman and the Star Spangled Kid discuss how PG and WW feel about Superman on a romantic level. “It’d be like kissing a cousin,” says Karen. But the biggest revelation? Wonder Woman admits to reading Rolling Stone magazine. Now that is one cool Amazon princess. Diana also mentions that Rolling Stone voted Power Girl as sexiest hero of 2002. Being a collector of RS, I know I’ve got that issue around somewhere! PG also receives an informative profile page, and her Atlantean origin is once again suspect. It also states that Superman discovered her in a spacecraft and took her under his wing before introducing her to the JSA for additional guidance. Her discovery by Superman (not the Superman of Earth-2) must have been one of those falling “through a crack in reality as it reset itself” theories that Alexander Luthor mentioned in Infinite Crisis #2.
The answers to the trivia questions posed in my first “Crisis In Continuity” column:
1. New Teen Titans #21
2. Batman #390 and Detective Comics #558
3. Solovar to Dawnstar in Crisis On Infinite Earths #1
4. Batman and the Outsiders
5. DC Universe: Crisis On Infinite Earths
6. DC Comics Presents #78 (Superman and the Forgotten Villains)
This column’s round of questions:
1. Who created Power Girl?
2. In Arion’s Atlantean version of Power Girl’s origin, who was Kara’s grandmother?
3. Though Power Girl was supernaturally impregnated, who was considered the ‘father’?
4. Who gravely injured Power Girl in her early days with Justice League Europe?
5. Which member of the Justice League did Power Girl share a brief intimate moment with?
6. Besides Power Girl, name the members of Sovereign Seven.