As 2002 comes to a close, I’m taking a little holiday vacation time, so here’s my official unofficial researcher, John Wells, with an answer to a recent question….
DC continuity is a nightmare where residents of the former Earth-2 are concerned. The Huntress was re-launched in a fairly clear version, but I can’t keep track of all the revisions done on Power Girl. These days, who the heck is she? Where did she come from? Powers? Secret identity?
Originally, Power Girl was the Kryptonian cousin of the Golden Age Superman and was the Earth-Two version of Supergirl (revealed in ALL-STAR COMICS #58 and elaborated on in SHOWCASE #s 97 and 98). After CRISIS, there was only one Superman and it was decided that he would be the lone survivor of Krypton.
1987’s SECRET ORIGINS #11 claimed that Power Girl was actually Kara, born some 45,000 years in the past as the granddaughter of Arion, Lord of Atlantis. When Kara was threatened with bodily possession by Arion’s evil brother, Garn Daanuth, Arion sent her through time to the late 20th Century, aging from infancy to her teens en route. Because of Arion’s well-intentioned “tampering” with her genetic structure, Kara possessed Superman-like powers. Recent medical tests in JSA #32 (2002) suggest that Kara may have been deceived into believing the connection with Arion. Her powers, according to Doctor Mid-Nite are biological in nature, not magical.
The account from SECRET ORIGINS #11 can’t be regarded as binding in other respects, either. There was still a lot of overlap with the original continuity at that point, notably Kara’s recollection therein of Earth-Two and her status as the cousin of “a middle-aged hero the world knew as Superman.” Later, in the 1987 and 1990 incarnations of WHO’S WHO, it was suggested that, in current continuity, Kara thought she was Superman’s Kryptonian cousin until the events of CRISIS raised doubts in her mind. Gerard Jones even made a few throwaway references to that in JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE.
Eventually, Roger Stern pointed out that Superman and the world didn’t learn that of Krypton’s existence until after the Crisis (in 1986’s MAN OF STEEL #6 and SUPERMAN [second series] #1; reaffirmed in 1995’s MAN OF STEEL ANNUAL #4), making it unlikely that Superman would have embraced Kara as his cousin beforehand. In the Stern-scripted ACTION COMICS #650, Power Girl told her fellow Justice Leaguers that “I first met Superman on the way to a JLA/JSA get-together. In those days, I was a sort of 2nd generation member of the Justice Society, and I didn’t impress easily … but that day had my head spinning.”
Kara then went on to describe the post-Crisis version of the Justice League and Justice Society’s first encounter with the New Gods (based on 1980’s JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #s 183-185). “No one, not even Orion, fought harder than Superman. That battle took place before he learned of his Kryptonian parentage. I sometimes wonder if he suspected that his origins might trace back to New Genesis …”
In the past few years, most of DC’s writers seem to have forgotten the time frame in which the Man of Steel discovered his roots and there have been several references to Superman’s early familiarity with Krypton, from THE SILVER AGE to the Superman issue of MARTIAN MANHUNTER to the origin of Dick Grayson’s new alias in NIGHTWING SECRET FILES. Be that as it may, the sheer lack of interaction between Power Girl and Superman over the past fifteen years made a strong case that they never believed they were relatives in current continuity.
So who was Power Girl related to and how did she end up as “a sort of second generation member of the Justice Society”? That question was finally answered in the recent JLA/JSA SECRET FILES & ORIGINS (and you may as well forget Kara’s comments from ACTION #650).
When Kara’s Symbio-ship crashed on Earth, she was discovered by Superman and placed the super-girl in the guardianship of the most seasoned super-heroes he knew — the Justice Society of America. “Thriving under the mentoring of Superman, Karen believed she was somehow related to the Last Son of Krypton.” And having imagined this supposed family bond, she rejected any sort of romantic relationship with the Man of Steel. “It’d be like kissing a cousin.”
Kara took a costumed identity known as Power Girl eight years ago on the DC Universe timeline. She became part of the Justice Society of America’s newly-created youth auxiliary, the Super Squad (ALL-STAR COMICS #s 58-59) and was quickly promoted to full membership in the JSA (# 64). Six years ago, Power Girl also helped found Infinity, Inc. (II #s 1-2) but soon left in deference to her JSA duties (#12). Her JSA membership ceased when nearly all of its members were trapped in another dimension (LAST DAYS OF THE JUSTICE SOCIETY #1).
With the aid of the Justice Society, Kara acquired the civilian identity of Karen Starr and some computer know-how (SHOWCASE #99). Eventually, she founded a software enterprise known as StarrWare. “I was never a computer whiz,” she’d later claim, “but I knew how to surround myself with the right people” (JSA #38). [For reasons unknown, Chuck Dixon referred to her as Karen Steele in BIRDS OF PREY but Starr is still her last name.]
Except for the obvious exceptions (team-ups with people like the Earth-Two Huntress and Superman), Power Girl’s pre-Crisis catalog of adventures hasn’t changed appreciably. At least some of the Earth-One Supergirl’s cases could now be ascribed to Power Girl but it’s only actually happened in one instance: DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL #s 8-9’s Supergirl-Doom Patrol tale became a Power Girl-DP adventure in the post-Crisis account (SECRET ORIGINS ANNUAL #1).
Around the same time that the JSA went into limbo, Kara learned of her Atlantean roots (SECRET ORIGINS #11) and made a brief visit to Skartaris, an offshoot of her original race (WARLORD #s 116-121 and ANNUAL #6).
Five years ago, Power Girl returned to group activity as a charter member of Justice League Europe…International II (JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #24), remaining until the international branch was dissolved (JLI #67). Early in her JLE tenure (JLE #8), Power Girl was struck and gravely injured by the Grey Man (“It wasn’t so much the blow … as the magic behind it.”) and Superman was called in to perform life-saving surgery. The injuries had taken their toll and Kara, after sneaking out of the hospital, made a brief assessment of her reduced powers at the end of JLE #9: “A lot IS gone, especially the cosmic end of all my powers. But the speed and the strength are still meta-human, still cooking … Faster than a speeding bullet … more powerful than a locomotive … able to leap tall buildings … I can live with it!”
In JLE #40, Doctor Light diagnosed Power Girl’s frequent bursts of bad temper as the result of artificial additives in the diet soda she drank. “Paranormal powers can trigger certain rare syndromes and allergies in women’s bodies.”
Soon after, Power Girl shared a kiss with Aquaman, then estranged from his wife Mera (JLE #46). He immediately backed away from the prospect of a relationship, regarding a romance with a teammate as inappropriate.
Nonetheless, two years ago, Kara found herself inexplicably pregnant only a short time thereafter (JLI #52) and gave birth to a blonde-haired son during a temporal crisis (ZERO HOUR #1 and 0). Kara was deeply protective of the child but was appalled when she learned that it had all been a ploy conceived by Arion and other sorcerers to create a champion to destroy the demonic Scarabus. Because it had been prophesied that Arion’s great-grandson would defeat the monster, the Atlantean mage ensured it by creating the supernatural pregnancy. Since she and the child were being threatened by Scarabus, Kara accepted protective custody with Justice League America (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #94).
In JLA #107, Power Girl learned that “Arion and his mages wanted to combine the power of light and darkness to create their ultimate champion. So they took the body of a good little girl and mystically impregnated it with the stolen genetic material of a bad big boy” — Scarabus. Kara’s rapidly aging son surged to adulthood, christened himself Equinox, destroyed the evil one and informed his mother that she’d fulfilled her destiny (JLA #108).
“Are you saying, it’s done ?! Where do I go from here ?! If this was all I was made for — sent to this era for — and it’s over — what now?!”
“Your life is your own now.”
“My life has never been my own. I don’t even know what that means!”
Equinox vanished and Kara was left in a deep state of depression: “I used to think something was chemically wrong — now I wonder if it’s because I had Scarabus’ genes inside me — if my rage was his bloodlust. Do you know how horrifying it is for me to ‘get mad’?!” (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #111). Power Girl joined Justice League America for what proved to be its final mission. After the entire team was captured and shackled, Blue Devil prodded Kara until she finally released the rage she was holding. The livid heroine broke her bonds and helped lead the team to victory (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #113). She remained part of the Justice League Reserves (JLA/TITANS #s 2-3 and JLA #s 27, 39-40).
After being possessed by the spirit Nike (SOVEREIGN SEVEN #25), Power Girl took refuge with Sovereign Seven and eventually became a full member when she replaced the slain Rampart (S7 #31). The final pages of the series in S7 #36 suggested that the entire series had been something of a bedtime story and, apparently, is not regarded as being part of DC continuity (though nothing has yet been written to contradict it).
Power Girl was working with Sovereign Seven when the radiation belt known as the Godwave began to contract, causing fluctuations and alterations in the powers of Earth’s heroes (see GENESIS #1; SOVEREIGN SEVEN #27). Soon after, Kara took a punch from Warrior and gasped, “That actually — hurt! But how can that be — I’m supposed to be invulnerable. … Ever since Genesis, something about me has changed” (S7 #31). In Bullets still bounced off of Power Girl’s chest … but an energy beam left her in excruciating pain (S7 #34). “Maybe,” Cruiser suggested, “you’re vulnerable now to certain kinds of energy.” In SUPERGIRL #16, Power Girl was knocked for a loop by a tree branch and then impaled by it. Supergirl asked if she was now vulnerable to wood and Kara replied, “Worse — to any raw unprocessed natural material. So sticks and stones really can break my — ”
That vulnerability wasn’t mentioned in the aforementioned JLA/JSA SECRET FILES & ORIGINS, which includes this inventory of Power Girl’s abilities: “super-strength, flight, fantastic speed, and a high degree of resistance to physical harm. She possesses other powers that she has yet to discover, or perhaps remember, as her exact origins remain a mystery even to herself.” Incredibly, in the recent SUPERMAN #189, Power Girl was once again susceptible to Kryptonite!
At the end of BIRDS OF PREY #12, Oracle called in Power Girl to investigate the disappearance of Black Canary and a train of convicts. Power Girl and the Canary worked together again in BOP #s 16 and 17. In the latter, Kara told Dinah of “the last time I worked for your girlfriend. I failed then. I still see the faces in my sleep. Or did you think you were her first partner ?” That story was eventually recounted in BOP #42, explaining how Power Girl found herself forced to choose between saving the lives of a ship of refugees or protecting a political leader from assassination. The tragic consequences had a profound effect on Kara, who severed her ties with Oracle immediately.
Today, Power Girl is a member of the Justice Society once more, having returned at the request of the departing Black Canary (JSA #31). As Karen, she began selling shares in StarrWare on the Stock Market and sold the company for a small fortune soon after. Today, with her civilian identity now public knowledge, she oversees the Starr Foundation, an organization intended to help orphaned “children who fall through the cracks” of the bureaucratic system (JSA #38). And she’s still tougher that Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles combined!
Thanks, John, for another superb job of research. Next week (which will also be next year), lots of questions with much shorter answers. Meantime, don’t forget my daily Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia.
Happy New Year!
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