Last month, Marvel Comics stirred up a lot of comment by announcing that there was going to be a new THOR, who would be female; and almost immediately following that up with the announcement that the new CAPTAIN AMERICA would be black.
Well, DC Comics is not one to pass up a possible marketing gimmick, and this week an interview with writer Paul Levitz on the comics website Newsarama reveals that the new version of DC hero Power Girl is going to be... flat-chested.
I'm kidding, of course. She has a perfectly normal bust-size so far as I can tell. Smaller than the original Power Girl's Most Prominent Super-Powers, but then it would be hard to get much larger without becoming ridiculous. Oh, and the new PG is black, which I suspect might be a reaction to the criticism DC had gotten over the past year over its "whitewashing" of black characters.
Who is Power Girl and why should you care? I probably don't have a good answer for the latter question, but for the first one, follow me over the jump.
For starters, you can blame Roy Thomas. Roy was a writer at Marvel and later at DC during the '70s and '80s who loved the Golden Age comics he grew up with, and loved bringing elements from them into the comics he wrote and later edited.
Years earlier, DC had established that it's Golden Age Characters, such as the original incarnations of the Flash and the Green Lantern, existed in an alternate universe which they cleverly named "Earth-2". (Although you'd think that since the Golden Age came first, that they'd get to be "Earth-1"; but nobody asked them, I guess). For a while there was a kind of tradition that every year the Justice League would cross over into the other dimension to have a team-up with their older counterparts in the Justice Society of America.
Since the Earth-2 heroes were a generation older than the heroes of Earth-1, Roy began playing around with creating a next generation. His comic INFINITY, INC. was a team consisting of descendants and newer versions of the older heroes. Huntress, the daughter of Bruce and Selina Wayne (yes, Bats and Catwoman got married in this universe) was one of these.
Another was the Earth-2 analogue to Supergirl, who was named Power Girl. She had shorter hair and a different costume, but the same basic powers. She also was an outspoken feminist; (or at least what a male writer in the '70s thought of as feminist).
According to legend, Wally Wood, who was drawing the comic at the time, and who was very good at drawing sexy girls, started making Power Girl's bust a little bigger, and the decolletage of her white costume a little bit deeper, each issue, to see if his editors would notice. The adolescent fanboys buying the comic certainly noticed, and Power Girl's bustline became her most noticeable feature.
At some point, I'm not sure when, her costume became modified so that instead of having a low scooped neckline, it sported a "boob window." Possibly because the scoop front had already gotten silly and this was the only way to show more cleavage.
In the mid-'80s, DC decided that it's multiverse of Infinite Earths was getting too confusing, and so they created a huge mega-series to clean it all up. This was the infamous CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS; (it's title a reference to the old JLA/JSA team-ups which had titles like "Crisis on Earth-2" or "Crisis on Earth-X"). The end result was that all of the redundant Earths were folded into the one and there were no more alternates. Theoretically, this was supposed to make the DC Universe less complicated; in actuality, DC spent the better part of the next decade or two trying to chase down loose ends created by their house-cleaning.
One of these loose ends was Power Girl. She was the younger cousin of the Earth-2 Superman, (as Supergirl was the kryptonian cousin of the Earth-1 version). Only there was no more Earth-2 Superman. What's more, as part of the re-vamp it had been decreed that Superman would be the only survivor of Krypton, and that there would be no Supergirl at all. (Supergirl was killed off during CRISIS and probably the iconic image from the series is the cover depicting Superman crying in anguish as he cradles her lifeless body in his arms).
So where did Power Girl come from?
Writer Paul Kupperberg came up with a convoluted backstory in which Power Girl only thought she was Superman's cousin, and that actually she was the granddaughter of an Atlantean wizard named Arion (a sword & sorcery character Kupperberg created in the '80s inspired by Michael Moorcock's Elric) who had been placed in suspended animation for several thousand years. But pretty much everybody ignored this origin story.
In the late '80, she joined JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE, a spin-off title from JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL. Her strident feminism got ramped up in the name of comedy, and she became cursed with a succession of bad costume changes, each one of which kept the boob window.
In the late '90s, she was treated with a bit more respect and began appearing in BIRDS OF PREY, a very good team book with a female cast. She also re-joined the Justice Society, which had gone through a couple deaths and revivals of its own.
That was about when I dropped out of comics, so I'm a little fuzzy on what happens next. But some years back, DC decided to give the Multiverse another spin. Instead of having potentially an infinite number of Earths, though, they said there would be exactly 52. Because 52 is DC's special number now. Because... reasons.
So now there is once more an Earth-2 adjacent to the mainstream DC Universe, and DC publishes a couple books set in it. One of them is WORLD'S FINEST, featuring the adventures of Power Girl and Huntress. Remember Huntress?
Apparently in a recent storyline, Power Girl and Huntress become stranded on Earth Prime, the main DCU. (Although back in my day "Earth Prime" was the name of our universe, not the DC Universe and... dang kids. Sorry.) There they meet a brilliant 17-year-old girl named Tanya Spears who helps them figure out a way to get back home. Somehow in the process, Tanya gains super-powers of her own, (writer Paul Levitz is not yet revealing where her powers have come from), and before Power Girl returns to Earth-2, she "bequeaths" her hero name to Tanya.
Levitz says that DC has "Special plans" for Tanya. Levitz is a good writer and I'll be interested to see what comes of this. You can read the whole Paul Levitz interview and take a look at Tanya at the Newsarama site
I just hope they can resist giving her a boob window.