Monday, August 10, 2015

Secret Origins Podcast #11: Power Girl

I was honored to be asked by Count Drunkula to be a co-host on the Secret Origins podcast, a show looking at the Secret Origins book from the post-Crisis 1980's.

I was asked to co-host the show for Secret Origins #11 looking at Power Girl's origin. In this time, Supergirl was simply gone, erased from continuity by the rejiggering of the post-Crisis timeline. Somehow Power Girl survived the new history. But with one universe and one Kryptonian in the new DCU, who is Power Girl? What is her origin? Head over to the site to hear me talk about Kara and Karen.

I am a Power Girl fan but I don't feel like I have as much of a grasp on all her history like I do Supergirl. But if I was going to be a co-host an early issue, this would be the one. In many ways, Power Girl was shoe-horned into Supergirl's history, taking her place in some old adventures.

Hopefully I don't embarrass myself! Be kind in your comments.

For those who aren't listening or want to follow along, here is a bullet review.

Ancient Histories was written by Paul Kupperberg with art by Mary Wilshire. It is very good creative team. Kupperberg had shepherded Supergirl through the early 80s and so was a natural choice to be the primary creator for Power Girl moving forward. And while I haven't seen much of Wilshire, her fine pencil art works well with the material here.

The story starts out with a great action pose of Power Girl leaving the scene of a bank robbery after foiling the crooks. The perspective here is great as we look down on the scene from an extreme angle as Karen streaks practically straight up.

But she has a stern look on her face and seems almost emotionally lost. She gets the accolades when she saves the day but feels that people want her to leave immediately and forget her. It resonates nicely with her new reality, lost in a world she doesn't know.

We briefly get a rundown of her presumed history. And what I find interesting here is that her origin mirrors the origins of the last two incarnations of Supergirl very closely. Kara was born on Krypton before Kal. She is slightly older. And when Jor-El was making his rocket for Kal, Zor-El was making his rocket for Kara.

This idea of Kara being technically older than her super-cousin was a big plot point in both the Loeb/Turner Supergirl and the New 52 version as well.

As far as I know, this is the only visualized appearance of the Earth 2 Zor-El and Allura.

Unfortunately Zor-El's flight path is a bit off. It takes Kara's ship 60 years to get to Earth (hence Superman being about 60 on Earth 2 when she lands). But the 'symbio-ship' ages her more slowly. She arrives at around age 20. And the ship has fed her knowledge during the trip, raising her in a sort of virtual reality.

I think this is a weird sort of image. Seeing Kara now grown, stretching out and filling her baby onesie in this cradle of a ship is a little weird for me.

However, in the post-Crisis world she is lost. She has lost all her friends and family. People don't know where she came from. Only the heroes at the end of time even remember the Crisis. This is a emotionally gut-wrenching to Karen Starr. She is depressed ... angry ... all those early stages of grief.

Lashing out at the symbioship seems to activate some sort of magical AI as a vision of Arion appears.

He calls Karen his granddaughter and tells her a story of the end of days in Atlantis when magic was dying.

Now Arion was a title Kupperberg created and wrote. We get a lot of Arion history and story here, almost as if Kupperberg wanted one last chance to write these characters. Arion is older and sorcery is nearly extinguished.

To try to make his progeny more powerful, and since magic is waning, we learn that Arion has been conducting 'genetic manipulations' on Kara. He hopes these will make her stronger and more durable.

Unfortunately, her heritage and these experiments have made her a decent conduit for Garn Daanuth, the big bad in the Arion universe to seemingly possess her. Daanuth had been banished to the 'dark' by Arion earlier (in my mind a sort of magical limbo). But Kara has given him a toehold into reality. And he is going to use her like a portal to bring all the evil from the dark back to Earth.

I don't know if it sounds very grandfatherly to be experimenting on your granddaughters DNA.

Arion has little choice but to try to sever the tie between Kara and Daanuth and to get her away from any chance of him returning. He asks that a paper weight from his desk be brought to the fight.

It turns out the paperweight is actually the crystallized soul of Calculha, the most powerful of Atlantean gods. Flinging the crystal cuts the ties between Daanuth and Kara. It magically sends Arion away to supposedly fight Daanuth. And the crystal encases Karen and takes her to the 20th century where temporally she should be safe. The crystal is the symbioship.

So, in a place where magic is dying, Arion kept the most powerful magical relic as a paperweight on his desk?

Beautiful art here.

And then, to ease the transition to this new time, Arion embeds false memories into his now grown granddaughter. But recognizing her need for the truth, this vestige of him unlocks these memories.

So let me see if I get this straight.
Genetic manipulation.
Advanced aging, robbing Kara of her childhood.
Fake memories.

It doesn't sound too loving to me. I suppose her powers are a mix of genetic experiments and magic.

But Power Girl takes it all in stride. Know that she knows the truth, that she has a real family (even if in the way way way distant past), she can move on in life. Her belt buckle becomes the amalgam of triangles that Arion is known for.

In the post-Crisis world, I guess creators needed to think outside the box to tie up loose continuity ends like this. But this seems like an odd stretch. I suppose this is a way for Kupperberg to link a lot of his personal loves. (He ends up having Power Girl interact with his Doom Patrol as well.) This also reads much more like an Arion story than a Power Girl story, although she is the key character for the plot to revolve around, even as a baby.

Hope you enjoy the show and this mini-review!

1 comment:

Uncle Screensaver said...

You're correct at how Supergirl's origins today mirror Power Girl. Also Power Girl's Post-Flashpoint origin begins more like Pre-COIE Supergirl, as she was Supergirl, a secret weapon, and is known to use the word "stodgy."
Zor-El and Alura were seen before this.
For a more in-depth look at the origin of Power Girl see Carol Strickland's "Power Girl Index":
Oh, and yes, the baby outfit turning into her adult uniform is kind of disturbing. It also retconned away her original "boob window" costume.