Power Girl vs The Dress Code
I've been thinking a lot about Power Girl lately. Perhaps a little bit more than I should be...
Power Girl first appeared in 1976. Coincidently, this is the same year my wife was born. (Come to think of it, I've never seen my wife and Power Girl in the same room together. Come to think of it, that would be awesome to see) She was created by, among others, the late great Wally Wood. She looked like this:
Over the years, her costume was routinely tweeked, but it would always come back to the same basic look (mostly white unitard with a red cape and a strap, and oh yeah that infamous cleavage hole) because her image became as iconic as her fellow DC heroes such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Well at least on the same tier as Flash and Green Lantern. (Definately above the Aquaman, Hawkman tier, am I right?)
In fact in the Mark Waid/Alex Ross epic tale Kingdom Come, the future armageddon for the DC heroes, there is PeeGee among the other legends in her famous tighty whities: (BTW Alex Ross art is always so good its makes me cry on the inside. And on the outside)
In recent years, under the care of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, Power Girl really found her voice and her place in the DC universe. Their take on Power Girl was pure comic book fun. She fought space gorillas and giant monsters. One of my favorite moments was when she helped out a comic nerd by escorting him to the comic book store to the amazement of all his friends. She had a pet cat. She would hang out and drink diet sodas. She went to the movies. She ran a business. Also, she was smoking hot.
Amanda Conner's version became the quintessential Power Girl in looks and personality. It inspired fan films like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZgj8UyNN9c(The actress in that one really nails PG's feisty personality.)
I met Amanda Conner at San Diego Comic Con one year. I got her to sign my Power Girl #1 and told her how much of a bummer it was she was leaving the title.
Unfortunately, PG and her costume became a running joke thanks to, in part, immature internet memes. As a backlash to the jokes, she also became the poster child for what was wrong with the portrayal of women in comics. Some have argued that her character was just pandering to perverted boys, ignoring the fact that Amanda Conner was the artist, and the fact that that PG had many girl fans out there (such as the writer behind this awesome "Ask Power Girl" Blog) I believe this played no small part in the new version of Power Girl that came out of DC's reboot of their entire universe last year.
In order to shake things up and keep it fresh, DC comics started from scratch with every character. In many ways, it was a success. Superman became a little cooler. Batman stayed as cool as always. But what happened to Power Girl will be remembered as the greatest mistake ever in the history of makeovers. Here she is:
In case you can't tell, she's the one thats flying. Yeah, the one with the 1970s hair and the 1980s body suit. I kept hearing the argument that at least now she will be judged by her personality and not her looks. Yeah, let's give Batman a crappy costume so we can judge him as a man instead of just some guy in a cool costume. Her costume was part of who she is. It reflected her over the top confidence in herself. Also, it was a great design that had more or less survived from the days of Wally Wood. That belt, the ropey thingy, and the cape to the side gave her a classic swashbuckling feel.
But it wasn't just her look that changed.
Her origin was changed too. Not only was Power Girl one of the last survivors of Krypton, she was also supposed to be the last survivor of the original DC universe before a previous reboot. I thought that was a cool way to maintain a sense of continuity despite constant universe upgrading. That connection went away. Now she was the Earth 2 Supergirl who had came to our world and said,"There's already a Supergirl here? Guess I'm Power Girl or something". (Not her actual words, but the point is being Power Girl wasn't her first choice) But that was small potatoes.
At least with the chest window closed, she can maintain a shred of dignity, right? Well, the new Power Girl comes off as more immature than the old one. And somehow her costume seems to be destroyed multiple times an issue- while shes still wearing it! Thats right, if the old costume went away in order to battle sexism, that concept was completely undermined by contrived new ways to melt her clothes off.
This I don't get. If your power is to be invulnerable to everything, why wear a uniform that instantly disintegrates upon contact with anything? Its like a fireman wearing a paper hat or something. If the argument was that the old costume was unrealistic, how does the new one make sense? So if the feminists who DC was trying to please actually read the comic, they would be just as upset anyway. Plus, they left Starfire's costume as ridiculous as ever. PG was only picked on because she got more attention, not because her costume was the worst offender. She was a victim of her own success. I think DC has some of the greatest characters ever, but in cases like this, they completely miss the point.
If I had creative control over Power Girl, here's what I'd do:
Step one: bring back the old costume! Cleavage hole and all. It's a classic and I have the feeling it's only a matter of time before it does return. Next: bring back the fun! More battles with robot dragons and alien giants! Power Girl shouldn't take herself too seriously, or insult the reader's intelligence.
I would have an ongoing subplot where she falls head over heels for a regular guy. At first she tries to sabotage their relationship because of her fear of committing to one guy and worried she'd have to choose between love and constantly saving the world. But she decides to do both because she's so crazy about this ordinary guy. He doesn't know she's Power Girl. He likes her for her, not the sexy costume. So she really has to work on the whole secret identity thing for once while also saving him occasionally from super villains. It's kinda like Lois Lane/Superman but in reverse. Meanwhile she still has to balance her time with running her business feeding the cat and her bromance with Huntress (would that be a bramance?) The point is, she has to learn to manage all the things In her life like a non super powered woman does every day. In a sense, every woman could be Power Girl.
The obligatory costume ripping wouldn't be necessary. She's sexy already in her original costume. This would satisfy both the male and female readers. You don't have to choose. Power Girl deserves more respect than she's been getting (and so do the previous creators).
Does this mean I'm a feminist? No, but I am a little feminine sometimes. Common mistake.
In closing, here's a sketch I did as a tribute to the old (and future?) Power Girl costume. I took different parts of my favorite versions and combined them. Mostly Amanda Conner. I think there's some Humberto Ramos influence in there too. (I'll do a blog soon on all my favorite artists) I liked how this turned out so much I think I'll ink and color this next rather than any of my other commitments. Drawing or otherwise.
This is perfectly healthy. Don't judge me. Stop it.
Posted by frankandjane
at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2013 2:58 PM EST