Monday, February 28, 2011

Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)



I really can’t believe that Power Girl has gotten as popular as she has. It isn’t that she isn’t worth the time- I mean, it’s refreshing to have some female lead other than Wonder Woman in the spotlight for a few moments. DC’s cast hasn’t exactly had a lot of ‘new blood’ up until just this last decade or two. It's not that they didn’t TRY, it’s just that it seemed like none of their characters could quite break out from the pack and get into the ranks of the D.C. pantheon that everybody already knew.

There’s a new -and memorable- X-Men character every year, it seems. DC superheroes that I expect to be a household name in ten years? Harder to come by. Power Girl just wasn’t who I expected! I mean- with the DC continuity shifting constantly, I wholly assumed that sooner or later Supergirl would be Supergirl and Power Girl would just disappear (maybe, even, literally when you start dealing with Infinite Final Crisis on Multiple Earths kind of situations). But there’s something about Kara Zor-L (yeah that’s Zor-L, not Zor-El) that people are drawn to lately.

Well, there’s the obvious. The superhero equivalent of Pamela Anderson, Kara makes even boldly drawn, disproportionate comic book women look asexual by comparison. So, hey she’s easy on the eyes. But I guess, what I’m shocked to find is the number of female readers who love her!

It always seemed to me that Wonder Woman had this penchant for splitting female readers right down the middle. Half seem to think that she’s the ultimate icon of empowerment and liberation and the other half seem to feel like Diana actually represents the kind of stereotypical adolescent figure that women are fighting against. It’s like women just can’t make up their mind about Wonder Woman and whether she’s a good thing to have around.

Kudos to Greg Rucka and accomplished author Jodi Picoult for what I like to call blending -not breaking- the fourth wall in this regard. How does Wonder Woman stand up as media icon in the DC universe? Is she the ultimate symbol of Feminism or is she an unhealthy role model? For that matter what IS a healthy role model, for women? Veronica Cale, a recent edition to the Wonder Woman cast, has become a sort of Lex Luthor of the book, serving as a cautionary tale of the kind of compromises that women make in the world we live in. It’s a nice touch. It raises all sorts of questions about just what, exactly, women are aspiring to be these days. But I digress.

Kara Zor-L. Like I said: women like her. There’s something about her no-nonsense, in-charge I’m-not-going-to-let-any-man-show-me-up attitude that female readers have flocked to. Kara is just so unapologetic about who she is; her power, her sexuality, whatever. And I guess that kind of freedom feels good. Of course, I may be about to plunge this post far away from the philosophical realm of ‘what is feminism’ into the annuls of DC comics continuity, but I think it’s the weird factor that the fans (male and female) have come to really love.

Kara already had a bit of her star moment in Infinite Crisis (which I love even though you need like the equivalent of literary annotations to follow what the HELL is going on in it), along with other continuity anomalies like Psycho-Pirate, Superboy Prime and Alexander Luthor. But it’s like, we just love this concept that, somehow, across time and space, Kara sort of slipped through while all of the reality she belonged to was erased. It doesn’t make sense that she exists, really. In fact, Kara has had so many different origin stories that it’s not hard to make an identity crisis a plot point in her ongoing series.

Of course, I’m probably happiest when I see Kara heading up a reunion of the Justice League International (which is a bit of what’s been going on lately, if you’ve been following along). The JLI could warrant a post all on their own. Suffice to say, I kind of love the surprising role that these guys have taken on in the last few years. Like sure, they’re not exactly the first string of superpowered crime fighting legends out there, but they’ve had this way, lately, of being right on the pulse of the DC universe. People don’t seem to notice or believe what exactly they say is going on.

Ted Kord’s death still haunts me as one of DC’s darker moments but I really love that it’s served as this kind of catalyst for the former JLI to reinvent themselves a little bit and take themselves (and their own sacrifices) more seriously- at least a little. Look for cameos (and flashbacks) in the most recent Power Girl issues as she tracks down now heinous DC villain (and former JLI benefactor) Max Lord, even with the team’s former de-facto leader, Batman. Interesting stuff…

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