Monday, May 08, 2006

Power Girl: You Be the Judge!

It's no secret that I'm a Power Girl fan. I have been since I first saw her guest-star in Peter David's 1990s Supergirl series. I can't remember the issue number (my sister has it somewhere), but it was cute and funny. I remember Power Girl lifting a truck or something at the end of one issue, and then helping out in the second. There was a joke about pointy sticks. There was one point where she told Linda (this was the Linda Danvers Supergirl) she had an idea, and it cut to a panel of both women bracing their shoulders against a spaceship or a flying city or something like that. I just remember it looming over them, Linda asking "Now what?" and Karen remarking "Unfortunately, here endeth the plan."

I liked her immediately. She was an older, gutsier version of Supergirl. Unfortunately, she was appearing only Sovereign Seven and I had no money (and my sister wasn't shelling out for that series), so I didn't get to see her in action for a while (I wasn't disappointed when I did). In the meantime, I did search online, and found a scan of her first appearance somewhere. She earned my Eternal Fanitude right there.

Of course there's more!

She was just what a teenaged girl living in our society would want to grow up like. Beautiful and alluring (Everybody by that age wants to be pretty) by the traditional standards, but uncompromising, brave, superstrong, supertough, respected by all the old men around her, and able to fly. I'd even go so far as to suggest that Power Girl is why the fear of feminism thing never took hold of me as a teenager.

I like how she was classy, brassy, and outspoken. Her easy banter with some of the guys and her complete lack of fear in drawing the line when it came to sexism. It's tough in a mostly male workplace. You always wonder if they don't trust you to do the job because you're newer than them or because you're a woman. You don't want a hostile workplace, so you let things slide that really do bug you. I loved how she just showed up and laid down the law. It was awe-inspiring.

And yes, her character design did help. At least, Wally Wood's original Power Girl design did. She's busty, slightly chunky (as comic book ladies go), and straight-backed. She stood like Superman. She was definately feminine, though. Her hair and eyes had the softness, and she was shaped that way. (And before you start in on me for liking traditionally feminine characteristics, I'm going to tell you right here I'm well aware of the unrealistic appearance and bullshit beauty standards modern society shoves down our throats and I know that that's what's affecting my assetment. Awareness of this influence, knowing why I like it, just doesn't change the fact that I like the character design). To me, the hole in the chest-fabric worked much better than the simply white costume, because of her body type. With the little window, I get the impresson of a bra.

I get that impression because yes, I'm busty (and somewhat chunky in belly area), a bit topheavy so to speak. Power Girl is probably the ideal for my body type and I like how she looks with the little window costume. Especially the new design (I think Amanda Conners came up with it) with the visible seams on the outfit. It looks like a sports bra to me. And because it's so obviously not spandex, and because of the way the cleavage shows up in the little window, I know that she's wearing an underwire with very tough fabric and a racerback -- the same sort of bra I don't feel comfortable unless I'm wearing. So, yeah, there's a little self-projection here.

I don't think that's all there is to her, but I do think her appearance, like any well-designed comic book character, emphasizes her personality.

Anyway, I've been following the recent round of posts set off by Savage Erik Larsen (No, I'm not telling you where I got that) and found two that stood out to me. One included Redlib's latest anti-Power Girl jibe, which put me in the mood to defend her, and the other was the one Kalinara posted on Power Girl while I was in Mississippi, where one of the comments caught my attention.

"I dunno, maybe you need to talk to more women. :) The thing I dislike was that Wally Wood (I think it was him) deliberately drew her breasts bigger in each succeeding issue just to see if anyone would notice. He was basically taunting editors (and of course completely ignoring even the possibility of female readers). PG's breasts started out as an ARTIST IN-JOKE. I dunno about you but I find that kind of offensive on its face."

Ignoring the first sentence (which actually kind of offends me), we see a rumor I've seen pasted all over the internet, but never seen confirmed. Mr Wood is no longer with us, so everything we really have is second-hand. I asked Cronin over at CSBG to look into it, but he hasn't gotten around to it.

Well, to paraphrase my mother, if you want something done right, do it your own damned self. I've gotten my hands on a few back issues of All-Star Comics form the 70s, and of course there are scans of Power Girl's first appearance all over the internet. In effect, I have samples of artwork from all five issues of All-Star Comics that had Wally Wood drawing Power Girl. I selected the clearest full frontal body shot of Power Girl seen in each issue, and have posted them here for comparison. If you don't believe me DC is collecting these issues into a trade paperback in August.

So anyway, without further ado, I bring you...

The Power Girl Breastrospective

(All-Star Comics #58)

(All-Star Comics #59)

(All-Star Comics #60)

(All-Star Comics #61)

(All-Star Comics #62)

(All-Star Comics #63)

(All-Star Comics #64)

(All-Star Comics #65)
(I needed to tilt this one on its side.)

(Once again, the term "Breastrospective" courtesy Chris Sims)

It was particularly annoying in 60, 62, and 65 where she seemed to be at an angle everywhere, but I did the best I could. I think we have enough data. What do you guys think of the Wally Wood legend? Fact or Fiction?


  1. I vote myth. To me, they look pretty consistent from panel to panel.

    I would pay good money for an Amanda Conner-drawn Power Girl series.

  2. Don't know either way, but for whatever reason he drew PG the way he did, it seems like he actually paid attention to the way women are built.

    Bone-structure, musculature, hip/waist measurements all seem fairly (for comics) realistic at being able to naturally support a rack that size.

    To me, it looks like whatever else someone might say about Wood, he'd at least seen a real woman naked at some point in his life.

  3. Anon -- That would be fun. I remember the Barbara Kesel/Amanda Conner Lois Lane one-shot a few years back, she'd seemed to disappear until JSA: Classified after that. I'd like her to stick around this time.

    Kali -- I know, I love that she's large framed! How many women in comics have shoulders to match their bosum? And are drawn that way at least 90% of the time?

  4. Oh yeah, I remember that Peter David run on Supergirl... that steady income was the best!! I should have quit my job back then and gotten a better one, Rob's place on the book was so secure...

  5. I think it's a myth, too. A quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance fits, here: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

    Thanks for providing me with an excuse to revisit PA David's marvelous Supergirl run. PG appears on the last page of issue #15, and helps Supergirl take down "The Extremists" in #16. During the adventure you describe, she gets decked by a tree limb (which the villain then sharpens and stabs her with), and is forced to explain to Supergirl that she's now got a vulnerability to "any raw, unprocessed natural material. So sticks and stones really can break my ---"

  6. I've become a real Power Girl fan in the last several months--mostly just by sampling the admiration for the character prevalent on the internet, granted, but since most of my working knowledge of the DC universe comes from reading Who's Who and Secret Origins back issues, that seems appropriate.

    Anyway, I like her for the same reasons already described. Doubly agreed on the way Wood portrayed her. Heroically proportioned in an almost classical sense. Sure she's got a wasp-waist...but at least her arms aren't scrawny, she has hips, by God, and appears to have the correct number of vertebrae.

    But more than that, at her best she just kicks ass in the attitude department.

  7. I have a vague recollection of Giffen confirming this in an interview somewhere, but that was a long time ago... does anyone have an idea of where to find the interview from 1998/1999ish where Giffen confirmed the "hat trick" rumor?

    (The hat trick was a story Giffen wanted to do on the Legion, where the adult Legion and the "SW6 Legion" would battle to the death and Giffen would determine the survivors by drawing names out of a hat. When the title's new editor, KC Carlson, vetoed the idea Giffen quit the book... but not before blowing up the earth in his last issue.)

  8. I've actually heard two versions of this legend -- the other version was that Wood planned to make the "window" on her costume bigger every issue. But either way, the panels you collected show that it didn't happen. Either it's a false rumor, or someone at DC was catching it and retouching it before the books went out.

  9. It looks to me like he was pretty consistent with her.

    You're right, I didn't and don't like her.

    Probably because she seems a bit like a washed-out version of Superman, and when I was starting to read, DC was in the middle of their greatest "Superman as Christ Figure" period, wherein NOBODY gets to be Kryptonian. So she was absent, underused, badly characterized in all the books I was reading.

    That and I hate the name.

  10. I'm surprised you namechecked me in this way and grouped me with Erik Larsen.

    As a librarian, I don't see the definitive source about Wally Wood, but Adam Hughes did confirm this story at a con.

  11. I've tried to check up on it, promise!

    There just isn't enough out there to call it one way or the other. A LOT of people have repeated it, but each time, it's been, "I heard" type stuff.

    I even asked one of Wood's studio mates, and all he could say was, "I don't know, but sounds like something he would do."

  12. Elayne -- Holy cats! That did say Riggs on it. I'm sure your husband gets praise like this all the time, but man, that was a beautiful book!

    Melchior -- Thanks, I've got to track those issues down.

    Chawunky -- You're like me, I sometimes know characters through the Internet long before I can find the issues they show in. Sometimes it's a disappointment but in Power Girl's case, the actual appearances just made me like her more.

    Lyle -- Never seen it, but if you find it please come back and tell me.

    J. -- It's possible it got caught, but to me it just sounds like an offhand joke someone made that became repeated so much everyone believed it.

    Sin -- Well, now I'm all grown up and have my own money so there! *Pbbblllttt!*

    Redlib -- Actually, I had no intention of lumping you in with Larsen at all, and I'm sorry this link offended you. I was linking you, and Elayne's comment, as examples of women who disagreed with me and as background to why I felt this post was necessary. With you, I was even hoping to make up for ranting in your commentary on Power Girl with an elaborate explanation of why she's one of my favorites.

    Brian -- That's okay, I was just trying a little good natured ribbing (I actually wasn't even sure you saw my comment requesting you look into it)

  13. i believed the myth, but the images seem clear -- if the breasts were drawn bigger with every issue, it was barely enough for anyone, including editors, to have noticed.

  14. Name's still stupid. They should give her a better name.

  15. "Sometimes it's a disappointment but in Power Girl's case, the actual appearances just made me like her more."

    Indeed. My first conscious exposure to her in comics was the unfortunate JLE interlude, where she doesn't come off all that well, but it turns out my very first time seeing her was way back in a Captain Carrot two-parter where she gets right up in the Zoo Crew's face wanting to know where the JLA is so they can have their annual team-up. (-:

  16. Jenn -- *Nod* It's probably just from an offhand joke.

    Sinspired -- Like what?

    Chawunky -- I remember that JLE stuff, she came off totally abrasive and unreasonable. I like her best in JSA, where her crusading is protrayed as banter with the older, set-in-their-ways men that doesn't hurt the group's effectiveness.

  17. I have only seen Power Girl on the internet, never read a single issue containing her (sorry I don't buy that much DC) BUT for what I've read, seen and heard on the 'Net PG is a nice interpretation of the Supergirl archetype: female kryptonian, is nice to hear that not all kryptonians are "boy scouts" by nature like Kara and Kal-El but that you can be more interesting and still be from the doomed planet. On the topic of her body...compared to other costumes I guess hers is not that "over-the-top" as people say there are others that are way more revealing, (Vampirella anyone?) and as for her breasts, again the are larger girls out there (Red Monika?) maybe is the combination of big and the "window" in the costume that somehow screams "We're here!!" but that a reflection of her as a person (for what I read) she appears to be the kind of girl thatr when the grown ups start ignoring her she would scream "I'm here!!" which denotes a self-confidence always appealing in any female....

    -Bruce Wayne

  18. Power Girl is now on Facebook. Visit her ( o )( o )!

  19. Power Girl is one of my favorites, also, and yes, I'm a tall, busty woman, too.

    Back in '76 to '79, I worked in comics myself, out on the fringes. The way I heard the story originally was that Wood (who was the inker on the book, not the penciller) had enlarged Karen's chest from the way it was drawn by Ric Estrada and had made the joke that if he made her bigger every issue, how long would it be before the editors noticed?

    The other joke at the time was that when she showed up in #64 without the window, her teammates didn't recognize her.

    - Betty

  20. I'm one of those skinny Bi***'s that give you the wrong impression of beauty. What I wouldn't give to be a curvy woman like Power Girl. My mom is curvy so is my sister, why the heck did I get to be a Supergirl clone? it's not fair.

  21. I am male, and I'm a huge Power Girl fan.My Myspace Page is dedicated to her. As for your question, I have noticed changes, but it's in her styles of outfits. I can understand why you would think what you do. Her cleavage is either covered or keyholed, and I wish they'd make up there minds on that, and also it would be nice to have a finalized version of her background.

  22. I am a male, aged 25, stated to merely see where I am coming from and an avid DC fan. So, Wonder women, supergirl and Power Girl are kind of the big 3 "Super" females in the dc verse, so not couting any of the other ones. And I think Powergirl has a proper place in the universe and deserve to be there in a kind of "Big girls can do it too" kinda way. supergirl is strong, but often depicted thin or girly and wonder women varies in how muscley they treat her, but PG is big-ish in a voluptious and some might argue "real" way, she often is very muscled and the boob thing i like to think of almost as a big finget to people who enforce the stick figure, then model look, she is a real looking women and while her costume may not be logical, its bra-like enforced and she is (usualy) depicted as having the sexuality and mentality to go with her modern day weapons of mass destruction

  23. I'm a Power Girl fan the beauty and the brains together i love it

  24. PowerGirl brestrospective? That's hilarious. Used to read these comic books when I was little. It`s so funny to see it here now. Thank you for the nice post.

  25. i used to remember the power girl comics, haha

  26. Long time has passed since a power girl comic was released..

  27. In any case, I can understand and empathize with PG resonating with you and other women. But for myself, all I have to so is look at the women I choose to surround myself with, and every one of them is a Power Girl. Any woman can be a PG. You just have to believe in yourself as a person. To be fair though, to paraphrase a woman on a youtube video I saw recently "If you want to be treated as more than a pair of tits on a vagina, you need to act like more than just a pair of tits and a vagina, and stop expecting men to pamper you like a baby"

  28. I read with interest your reasons for admiring Power Girl, and I find they resonate. The way you describe her, the attitude and the thick and powerful frame and proud presentation and unashamed embrace of her sexual womanhood remind me very much of why I like Carol Danvers, Ms Marvel, so much. I never realized the two had so much in common until I read your words about PG and saw in them the echo of how I feel about Ms Marvel. I don't know the character nearly as well as you do, being much more a Marvel fan, but I always did at least kind of like her and now you've given me more perspective into why she's cool and why I should become more of a fan of hers.

    It's also refreshing to see a modern feminist not fall into the prudish and repressive "sexy woman = sex object, sexist objectification BAHHD!" rut that seems to have caught on in the last decade or two. We need more sex-positive feminists out there who can say "women can be sexy, feminine, and strong without compromising any of them or there being a contradiction between them". There's nothing wrong with butch, androgynous, or modest female image types, but to enforce them as the only feminist way to be runs counter to everything I believe feminism should stand for. Isn't the point to empower women's choices, not restrict them? There's just as much room in a feminist spectrum for women like PG and Carol Danvers as there is for ones like Manhunter.

    I do still dislike the name though. I like the DCAU name for her, "Galatea" much better. I also like the 90s style aspect of Kal-El being the only Kryptonian survivor and the others being clones or otherdimensional dopplegangers etc. It just makes more sense to me. Then again I'm a fan of the Matrix shapeshifting Supergirl, so maybe I'm just weird.

  29. You have made some interesting comparisons to yourself and PG. I wonder if everyone has a secret super hero that they admire

  30. I was happy to find this article from the ancient past, and I appreciate it muchly. Power Girl is awesome, to say the least, and it was nice to read something that is positive about the character.

  31. I don't know if anyone is still reading the comments here, but I found a copy of Mark Evanier's 2003 book Wertham Was Right! which collects various Point of View columns he did for Comic Buyer's Guide. In one section (entitled "This and That") Evanier mentions:

    "One of the few times I met Wally Wood, he had just handed in an issue of All-Star Squadron (the second, I think) he'd inked over Ric Estrada breakdowns. The most notable thing in some very fine artwork was the depiction of Power Girl."
    "Someone made a comment about how it looked like her chest was a little larger than in the previous issue. Woody said that he'd decided to make it a little larger each issue and see how long it took before someone stopped him."

    This particular segment is dated July 7, 1995 so I assume it was also in the July 7, 1995 issue of Comic Buyer's Guide as well.

  32. As we all know artists never make bad jokes, your printed anecdote is certainly more reliable than actually comparing the pictures.